To all of my friends who happen to be Catholic. I love you. Most of my family is Catholic. I was a Catholic until I was 27 yrs. old, which is most of my life. I went to Catholic school in Watertown, WI until I was in 6th grade. I love Catholics. I have lived in and ministered in a country that is predominately Catholic. They are some of the most humble and beautiful people I have ever met. This is why I feel it is my love bound duty to speak the truth. I hope you will be open minded and that we still can be friends no matter what. I also hope you will test what I say with Scripture and that you will ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth.
Many, many Catholics are saved by a true faith in Christ. But that is not because of their religion. It is despite their religion. Because I am afraid many Catholic people do not even know exactly what the Catholic hierarchy believes. I think many people who go to a Catholic church do so because they were born into a Catholic family and though they do not know any different, then to belong to the that Church, they really do have a true faith and really have trusted in Christ alone for salvation.
So what I am trying to say is, I love Catholic people and that is exactly why I have a problem with the Catholic religion and want to say something. Again this should in no way be seen as a personal attack against anyone who identifies as Catholic. I know it is somehow hard to differentiate, but there is a difference. I just want to simply to point out some things that I have personally seen in Scripture that I believe are of eternal importance that do not go with what I learned in the Catholic religion.
At its core, Catholicism teaches that men/women must not only believe in Christ to be saved but that they also must do good things. This is not something hidden in their religion. It is the crux of their religion. Faith in Christ + Good works = Salvation. The good things include such things as the sacraments; baptism, communion, confession and being a part of the Catholic Church. As well as any other good thing you can add on top of that. And they really do believe these things are needed for salvation. So to say Catholics believe baptism, the Lords supper and other things is needed for salvation is not bashing, nor is it a lie. It’s what they believe. It’s what the Catholic Church will tell you they believe. Look it up. Google it.
Baptism to a Catholic is not the same as a baby dedication. Baptism to a Catholic is something needed for salvation. The Lords supper is not just symbolic to them. They believe they actually turn the bread into Jesus’s body and they turn the wine into his blood. They call this transubstantiation. Now an individual Catholic might not believe this but that doesn't mean that this is not what the Catholic Church believes and teaches.
And if you believe that these things are something other than a rite needed for salvation it means you believe differently than the Catholic Church. And that is a good thing.
In the Catholic way of thinking, as long as you have done more good things than bad, than you can go to Heaven. But if you don't quite make it, than you go to purgatory. And depending on how many good things you did, or how many good things your loved ones or the church is doing on your behalf after you died is how much sooner you will get out. And by the way, you will never, ever find this idea of purgatory in the Bible anywhere. Scripture to the Catholic is not the highest authority. Church tradition is. Again I am not lying or making false accusations. It’s what they believe. It’s what their confessions say they believe.
Is only the Catholic Church guilty of this? No. I believe this works based mentality is the scourge of many a so called other churches and religions as well. Anybody that teaches any work is needed for salvation, no matter how much they say they believe in Jesus, is just not helpful, and it is not Christianity.
The best way to witness to a Catholic or any other works based religionist is not to show them how good you are and how many good things you do. Man, that’s what they eat for breakfast.
The best way to witness to a Catholic is in whatever way you can get them to understand, that it does not matter what they have done, or will do, all their good works will not bring them one iota closer to salvation, in fact if they are trusting in their good works at all, they do not but help only to condemn them.
But to the Catholic Church, to the Catholic Hierarchy, they want to tell you that good works are needed and then they want to tell you what those good works are. So they can enslave and control and yes even make lots of money. Isn’t this what the Pharisees did. Now granted they might not actually have bad intentions. They might not be out to enslave and control, they might be just deceived. But let me ask you, what is the deceivers intentions? Yes, the deceivers intentions are exactly that; to enslave, control, and keep people away from the way of salvation found in Christ, and Christ alone.
The Bible says that all our good works trusted in for salvation before God are nothing but filthiness to Him (Isaiah 64:6)
In fact there are many stories in the Bible were Jesus turns people a way, and they all seem to have the same theme. They were trusting in themselves, holding on to what they got, pointing to what they did for salvation.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:22-23) And another one:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)
Who is the one who was justified, declared right and accepted? The one who cried out for mercy. Who is the one who will enter the kingdom of Heaven?
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
And what is the will of the Father? Ah, his disciples asked him that very question.
“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:27-29)
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:38-40)
So what must we do? We must believe. Who is the one who enter the kingdom? Who is the one who has eternal life? It is not the one who points to himself, not even in the least. But the one who points to, who looks to, who trust in Christ.
If you try add anything to Christ and His finished work, you lose the gospel. The Apostle Paul was so adamant about this, that he said that if even an Angel were to appear to you and preach a different gospel than this, that that Angel should be accursed. (Galatians 1:8) What was the gospel that Paul preached:
“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)
The message of the gospel is not, "believe in Christ and than do good things (church things or whatever) to be saved"
No. The message of the gospel is, "trust in Christ and Christ alone" Nothing more. Nothing less. Jesus Christ is the gospel.
He is the epitome of all of God’s promises. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
It is finished. He paid it all. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
What more could we add to what Jesus has done. Jesus stood in our law place, and took the punishment for our sins, the wrath due to us, so that we would receive His righteousness.
The great exchange. The only thing we bring to salvation is the sin that makes it necessary. Our sin to Him. His righteousness to us. Salvation is a gift. It is by Gods grace and it is received through faith.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
And I am sorry, the Catholic Church just does not believe this. People who go to the Catholic Church might but the Catholic Church does not. You can search their writings over or talk to their hierarchy until you are in blue in the face, and you will never find that you can be saved apart from works.
This is where the battle lays. That is where the battle has always laid. Much of the reformation was based on these two verses, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)
We are justified by faith, that is made right before God, by faith, and by faith alone. We don't become righteous by doing good things. We don't even become righteous when we believe in Christ. We don't even become righteous by adding works to our faith.
We are declared righteous. We don't become actually righteous. God declares us righteous based fully on what Christ has done. His righteousness is credited to our account.
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. (Romans 4:2-5)
But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord (Romans 4:23-24)
And then out of that faith we live, we live by faith that we are perfectly accepted by the Father and looked upon as perfectly righteous, just as if we had never sinned, fully and totally because of what Christ has done. Free from condemnation, free from guilt, free from the penalty of sin. Totally loved and accepted by the Father and we live by that.
And by the way the charge is always made then, “Well if this is true does that mean good works do not matter then?”. This charge was even made against the Apostle Paul who clearly said that if you preach any different gospel then him, you should be accursed. And what was his gospel, ah man the Apostle Paul so very clearly preached that we are totally justified by faith in Christ apart from any works of the law whatsoever.
And what did he say, when people laid the charge, “well does that mean I can do whatever I want?” He said, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:2-4)
And by the way, isn’t this the essence of living by faith anyway. Walking in newness of life. We don’t do good works to be saved but because we are saved. The Apostle Paul said in another place, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
The Bible is very clear, justification is by faith, and by faith alone but that faith is never alone. The same grace that is powerful enough to save us, is the same grace that is powerful enough to change us and thrust us into a new life with Christ. And there lies the difference, a huge difference, a Grand Canyon type difference from teaching we have to do stuff in order to be saved. If we believe we have to do in order to be saved, we will never be able to do enough. When will we know we have ever arrived.
But if we believe it is done. And it is done. Oh man, does that free us up to live a life of gratitude and worship for the salvation that He so freely gave to us. It is never to earn it. If we could earn it, then Jesus did not have to come. But He did come. We can cease from our striving. He alone conquered death. He conquered Hell. And He conquered Sin.
“you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2;13-15) You are free to live for Him. With all your imperfections, and warts, and what have you. You are free to live for Him. Why submit to the slavery of works righteousness of man made religion again.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)