"Has God indeed said...For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."? (Eph. 2:8-9)
The Roman Catholic church teaches another gospel (faith plus works) and worships a different 'Jesus' (the dead, joyless one on their cross). Therefore, those who believe in the Roman Catholic 'gospel' cannot be saved.
What you believe on this issue places you on one side of the great dividing line between the apostate "Protestant", and apostasying evangelical, Pentecostal and fundamental church; versus the true remnant church.
If you can't discern a false gospel and a false church, then you can't discern the true gospel and the true church. If you cannot discern a false gospel and a false church, then you are in very serious spiritual trouble...
This issue is very divisive in these last days. On the one hand you have Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). On the other hand, you have many teachers and prophets within the evangelical church who say the true Christian church can never join together with Roman Catholics until they become Christians.
Who is right? After all, there are almost one billion people who take the label "Roman Catholic" and who look to the Pope in Rome for spiritual direction.
Fortunately, this issue is not complicated! The question of this article, "Are Roman Catholic’s Christians", is too broad. The same could be asked of people who label themselves as evangelicals i.e. "Are Evangelical’s Christians?" The precise question that needs to be asked is "Are people who believe the teachings of the Roman Catholic church (the doctrine in the latest catechism, for example) Christians?" This question can be evaluated by examining the doctrine of the Roman Catholic church and comparing it to Biblical doctrine regarding the essentials of the Christian faith [link to, Defining Essential Doctrine].
The dividing line between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of Light is salvation. All the other doctrine could be described as "non-essential" from the standpoint of salvation [link to Defining Essential Doctrine]. Thus, the question must be asked, what does the Roman Catholic church teach is the way of salvation?
The Roman Catholic Church’s Doctrine Regarding Salvation:*
page 320, paragraph 1257, "The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation…Baptism is necessary for salvation…The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude…"
page 292, paragraph 1129, "The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation."
page 487, paragraph 2010, "…we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed to attain eternal life…"
page 336, paragraph 1332, "Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth of the faithful…" [link to The Roman Catholic Mass Exposed!]
page 356, paragraph 1414, "As sacrifice, the Eucharist is also offered in reparation for the sins of the living and the dead…" [link to The Roman Catholic Mass Exposed!]
page 224, "Outside the [Roman Catholic] Church there is no salvation", r. 846, "Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the [Roman Catholic] Church…is necessary for salvation…Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse to either enter it or to remain in it."
* The above quotes are taken from "Catechism of the Catholic Church", copyright 1994. In the Catechisms preface, Pope John Paul II says in reference to this Catechism, "The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved June 25th last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith…This catechism is given to them [all the Church’s Pastors and the Christian faithful] that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine…"
In summary, the above Roman Catholic doctrine teaches that one is saved by being baptized; performing the sacraments, particularly partaking in the Mass and thereby trusting in the sacrifice of the Eucharist to take away one’s sins [link to The Roman Catholic Mass Exposed!]; and being a member of the Roman Catholic church. By doing these things, a Roman Catholic believes that he "merits the grace necessary to attain eternal life". In short, doing all those good works (religious activities), along with your "faith", will earn you salvation.
In stark contrast, there is...
The Bible’s Doctrine Regarding Salvation:
John 6:28-29, "Then they said to Him (Jesus), ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
John 5:24, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life".
Acts 16:30-31, "And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household’".
Romans 3:20-22, "Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe."
Romans 3:28, "Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law."
Romans 5:1-2, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand…"
Galatians 2:16, "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified".
Galatians 3:11, "But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘The just shall live by faith.’"
Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved though faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
Titus 3:4-5, "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit."
1 John 5:1;4, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…for whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith."
In summary, the above Biblical doctrine teaches that one is saved by believing (or having faith) in Jesus Christ, apart from doing any works in an attempt to merit salvation - for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. In short, you are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
What Do You Think?
Upon reviewing and comparing the two sources of doctrine regarding salvation, one should immediately recognize that two very different views of receiving salvation are presented. When you recognize this fact, questions should arise in your mind, if you are seeking truth, as to why they are different and which way of salvation is correct. Can both be correct?
Truth and Contradictions:
People are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). What precisely does "image" and likeness" mean? Well primarily with a mind to reason and a moral conscience to know right from wrong. Other Biblical terms synonymous with mind and conscience would be spirit or soul or heart. All these terms denote a uniqueness that sets man apart from the animals by an impassable gulf.
One of the most unique characteristics God has given people is the ability to reason – to use language to communicate facts and principles to one another about the universe around us, or about what we think about this or that. Reason is governed by certain laws, just like we have physical laws to govern the universe, or societal laws to govern society. The most important law regarding reason is the law of non-contradiction. To paraphrase this law, it states that two singular precepts or facts cannot contradict each other and both be true. Thus, if you ask a class of young students if one plus one equals two, and two children raise their hands and one says, "yes" and the other says, "no", both answers cannot be correct, for they are different answers to the same singular question.
Or another example would be if you were walking down the street and you see a husband and wife who you know and you stop and ask the wife, "how are you folks doing – I guess congratulations are in order because I heard that you were pregnant?" And the wife says, "No I’m not", and the husband says, "Yes she is". One singular question was given to the two people, ‘is the wife pregnant?’, and you get two answers that cannot both be right. The wife cannot be both pregnant and not pregnant. The answers are contradictory and therefore both cannot be true – one must be false.
The same is true of historical truth. If you ask the question, ‘was George Washington the first President of the United States?’, there is only one correct answer. Both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cannot both be true, for only one answer corresponds with the facts. The laws of logic do not create or put forth original truth precepts or facts, but the laws of logic can and do eliminate competing truth claims that already exist about established facts or teachings. For example, logic did not cause George Washington’s parents to have a baby and name him ‘George’. The law of non-contradiction did not cause George to choose to be a military leader, nor did it cause George to have in interest in pursuing a political career. However, the laws of logic can determine truth against falsehood regarding claims like, "George Washington cut down an apple tree", or "Samuel Adams was the first President of the United States". Again, logic does not create facts, it just sorts through existing factual claims or observances to determine which are true and which are false.
The law of non-contradiction is particularly important when dealing with spiritual issues and "religious" truth, especially since most of the major events of "religion" have already occurred in history, and most of the major "religions" teachings have already been given and recorded for all to examine in their sacred writings.
For the issue before us, it should be clear to the reader after examining the doctrine about salvation from the Bible versus Roman Catholic dogma, that the Bible teaches one thing, while the Roman Catholic church teaches something different ABOUT THE SAME SINGULAR PRECEPT, SALVATION. The Bible teaches that salvation is given by God to those who believe in their heart (not intellectual assent in one’s mind, link to Defining Essential Doctrine) in Jesus Christ. Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, teaches that salvation is both given by God to those who have faith, AND earned by those who do the works the Roman church requires. So the Bible teaches that salvation is by "faith alone", whereas Roman Catholicism teaches "faith plus works". Which is correct? They are mutually exclusive truth claims. That means that there is an absolute source of truth with which to judge that the correct answer cannot encompass both claims as true. The key is, where do you look to for your absolute authority on which to know absolute truth?
For example, there is only one fuel which will enable your car to run - gasoline. You may want to mix water with your gasoline to bring down the cost of the gasoline, but your car will not operate on water and gasoline. The question, "what fuel properly operates your car" has only one correct answer, not two. The answer is "gasoline", NOT "gasoline plus water". The answers are mutually exclusive even though both answers include an identical component, gasoline. The same is true of salvation. The Bible teaches that to add anything to "faith" as salvation’s justifying means, is to destroy faith as a valid means (Eph. 2:8-9). Faith plus works will get you to heaven about as well as gasoline plus water will get you to your next vacation destination via your car! God requires true faith alone, to justify the sinner, and good works are simply a fruit of that true faith.
As another illustration, let’s say you want to go to a musical concert. The promoters of the concert are selling tickets, and you must purchase a ticket for $12 to attend the concert. Someone else you respect tells you that to attend the concert, you must both purchase a ticket AND bring a sheet of music that you have written, and play it before the concert starts. The folks who promote, organize and stage the concert have put no condition except purchasing the ticket. You, however, have been given two mutually exclusive truths or methods regarding how one can gain entry into the concert. One method is to purchase a ticket alone, while the other method is to purchase a ticket AND write, bring and play a sheet of music in order to attend the concert. The methods by which you have been told you may attend the concert are mutually exclusive. That is to say, you cannot do one or the other to gain entry – rather you must do the correct one, because in reality, there is only one way to gain entry into the concert! If all you are expected to do is present a ticket at the door, yet you insist on playing some music you wrote, you will be thrown out for the disturbance!
The same is true regarding salvation, or how one enters into heaven. The Bible says by faith alone can one enter into heaven. The really good news is that unlike the concert example above, you don’t have to purchase the ticket to heaven since Jesus already purchased all the tickets, and now gives them as a gift to those who simply believe in Him (Rom. 6:23). Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, teaches that faith plus works (write, bring and play music!) is the way one gains entry into heaven – that one must purchase the ticket through good works and play the music. However the "promoter" of getting into heaven (the Lord) has said that the one requirement to gain entry into heaven is to believe in Jesus Christ. He has said this clearly in His Word, the Bible (John 6:29).
Roman Catholicism does teach with their lips that the Scripture is Inspired of God without error. However, Roman Catholicism has added to the Instructions many qualifying footnotes (called Tradition), and in so doing they contradict and thereby nullify the real Instructions with their own, non-inspired false instructions. Thus, they contradict Scriptural doctrine with their teachings (Mark 7:6-13).
What the Roman Catholic Church has to say about Your Biblical Beliefs
One of the most obvious features of those attempting to defend roman catholic doctrine against Biblical doctrine, is the use of deceitful double-talk. Double talk is saying two contradictory things in a way that is difficult to perceive. This is completely exposed in my critique of a leading roman catholic apologist's defense of the mass [link to The Roman Catholic Mass Exposed!]. For example, "The manner in which the sacrifices are offered is alone different:..." OK, the manners are different, but a sacrifice is still offered! "The Mass is the renewal and perpetuation of the sacrifice of the Cross in the sense that IT OFFERS ANEW TO GOD THE VICTIM OF CALVARY..."[emphasis mine] OK, so O'Brien says that their is "no real death" in the first sentence, and then says the above e.g. that a sacrifice is perpetuated in that it offers anew the victim of Calvary. Can you reconcile these two statements? A great example of double talk and definition changing to suit your dogma." [taken from The Roman Catholic Mass Exposed!]
Perhaps the ultimate example of roman catholic double speak is found at the highest levels. Roman catholic apologists tell evangelical apologists that they are really "brothers in Christ". Sadly, and tragically many listen (Geisler, Passantinos, Hannegraff). But wait a minute. What about Vatican II's teachings which re-affirm and hold as true the teachings of the Council of Trent? Please carefully examine the following four "canons concerning justification" - which canons still stand as roman catholic dogma:
9. If anyone shall say that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will - let him be anathema (or cursed to hell).
11. If anyone shall say that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the righteousness of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and charity that is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Spirit and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God - let him be anathema.
12. If anyone shall say that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence [fiducia] in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone which justifies us - let him be anathema.
24. If anyone shall say that the justice [righteousness] received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase - let him be anathema.
If you are a Bible believing Christian, then you are claimed to be cursed of God by roman catholic dogma, and this in spite of the friendly smiles and powdery words of the roman catholic apologists. The foundation of roman catholic salvation is the denial and refutation of the Biblical truth that the sinner is justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. This is not some minor issue - this is salvation itself! Ironically, by cursing those who believe the Bible's teachings on salvation, the roman catholic church places itself under the apostle Paul's curse in Galatians 1:8-9. The roman catholic church does in fact teach a false gospel of faith plus works - a gospel that damns people to hell just as quickly as a gospel of pure works (James 2:10; Gal. 3:10).
The Truth about the Roman Catholic church:
The reader should understand that for the sake of brevity, I have only considered the doctrine of salvation in this article, and then only one aspect of salvation, justification. There are many other doctrine of the Roman Catholic church which contradict Biblical doctrine. The Roman Catholic doctrine of Mary is nothing short of rank idolatry – she is already their queen of Heaven, Co-Mediatrix, and they are considering making her the Co-Redemptress! There are many other false doctrines upon which the Roman Catholic church is built – purgatory, forced celibacy, etc.
A true Christian who is mature and thereby is well grounded in the doctrine in God’s Word, cannot carefully examine the Roman Catholic church and arrive at the conclusion that it is Christian. The contrast between the poor, persecuted, simple, humble church based on faith portrayed in the New Testament versus the billion dollar, popular, complex and mysterious, pompous Roman Catholic church based on fear and power, could not be greater.
Roman Catholics who believe their church’s teachings regarding salvation cannot be Christians since their church’s doctrine contradicts the Biblical doctrine of salvation. If a person does not know how to be saved, they cannot be saved. And if they do know how to be saved, they could not stay in a "church" that teaches a false gospel since the Word commands that they not remain (Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:9; 1Tim. 6:3-5). It is that clear and simple [link to Be Sure You Are Going To Heaven]. If you believe the teachings of the Roman Catholic church regarding salvation, you cannot be saved (be a true Christian) since Roman Catholicism’s doctrine of salvation contradicts the Scripture and is therefore wrong. It is a false gospel and falls under Paul's curse in Galatians 1:8-9.
If you are seeking the Lord with all your heart and you use the mind He gave you to reason, you will be able to clearly see the contradictions put forth above, between Roman Catholicism’s doctrine of salvation and the Bible’s doctrine of salvation. For an understanding of where the average person in the Roman Catholic church is spiritually, link to Are God Fearer’s Christians.
Many in the Roman Catholic church do not understand their church’s teaching (in fact I’ve experienced that most priests don’t understand their church’s teachings), but this certainly does not mean that they are Christians! Not believing falsehood does not mean one embraces the Truth. Roman Catholics who believe their church's teachings are lost, plain and simple. A Christian could not continue in the Roman Catholic church, for to do so would mean partaking in idol worship and being among those whose offenses are contrary to Biblical doctrine (1 Cor. 10:14-22; Rom. 16:17-18). Sadly, those who claim to be born again believers, and who also say they are going to stay in the Roman Catholic church in order to witness to people, are deceiving themselves. Usually the reason for the self deception is to avoid the separation from family that would inevitably occur if they were to actually, faithfully, persistently, acknowledge the Lord in all their ways, preach the true gospel and confront the falsehood of the Roman Catholic church (link to Familyolotry).
I hear many times in these last days, folks say, "We’ll, as long as they love Jesus…" regarding anyone claiming some "Christian denominational" label, and the implication is that someone can believe just about anything, but as long as they "love Jesus", they’re a Christian. Nonsense! One must believe the Biblical gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, and that faith must be in the Biblical Jesus! Jesus Christ reveals Himself in the Bible, and He says He is the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by Him. There are many false Jesus’ – I hope you aren’t trusting in one of them.
Last Days Winds are Blowing:
The ecumenical wind is powerful, and those that stand uncompromisingly on the Word of God will be increasingly hated by both the secular world AND that which calls itself the church, even much of that which calls itself the evangelical church. There are many in these last days, including many who label themselves as Christians, who teach that there are many ways to heaven, and any evaluation of another person’s faith and doctrine is ‘unloving’, 'harsh', 'negative' and ‘judgmental’. This seems to be especially prevalent among those who claim some Christian denominational label. By God's grace, the apostle Paul disagrees with these folks (2 Tim. 4:2-3). If you are one that is quick to label someone 'judgmental' at any disagreement over truth, please take heed to these verses, "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed…The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved." (2 Thess. 2:3-10)
Perhaps one of the most tragic aspects of the apostasy, is when those who label themselves as evangelical Christians, refuse to acknowledge the truth about the Roman Catholic church, due to ignorance or perhaps due to political or financial gain. Many God Fearer's, who label themselves as evangelical Christians, join with the Roman Catholic church to fight moral evil [link to Are God Fearer's Christians? and Christian Politics? Rights? Abortion]. I personally know an elder with the Christian & Missionary Alliance who heads an anti-abortion organization and the majority of the board which runs the organization is Roman Catholic. This evangelical elder proudly receives awards from the Roman Catholic church for his anti-abortion activity, and he scolds the evangelical church for not fighting the moral evils of our day like the Roman Catholic church does [link to Christian Politics? Rights? Abortion]. How utterly tragic for the people he is confusing and possibly leading away from the Lord.
What to Do?:
If the leadership of your church cannot discern that the Roman Catholic church is a false religion preaching a false gospel that damns people to hell; and they will refuse to acknowledge the truth on this issue after you gently approach them with the facts; then you should leave that church (1Tim. 6:3-5; Rom. 16:17). For if they cannot discern that the Roman Catholic church's formal teachings are a false gospel of works, then they may not be able to discern the real gospel either (Titus 1:9), and if this is the case, then they are on the road to apostasy or perhaps they are even lost, evangelical God Fearers [link to Are God Fearers Christians?]. If that is the case, then you are being lead by the blind, and Jesus says you will both fall into a pit.
The issue of the nature of the Roman Catholic church is increasingly bringing division among those who label themselves as Bible believing, evangelical Christians. This division is sadly necessary (1 Cor. 11:19). The evidence could not be clearer. The Evangelical and Catholics Together (ECT) document signed over five years ago by many prominent "evangelical leaders", is one of the stronger confirming signs that the apostasy is well under way. A ministry that is doing an absolutely outstanding job at proclaiming the truth of God’s Word in these dark last days, is a ministry called, The Berean Call. A prophet by the name of Dave Hunt, is one of the men at the Berean Call, that the Lord is using to try to fight against the tide of falsehood sweeping over the true church of Jesus Christ. I exhort you to review their web site thoroughly, explore the links, get on their mailing list, and read their books and materials. Truly, you must be a Berean to survive the apostasy.
At the end of His passion and His work of paying for the sins of the world on the cross, Jesus said the following words, "It is finished" (John 19:30). The Great Redeemer says, "It is finished", and all anyone has to do to receive His glorious gift of salvation is to "believe in Him (Jesus) whom He (the Father) sent" (John 6:29). The Roman Catholic church, in grievous opposition to Jesus Christ and His words says, "It is not finished" (see quotes above from latest catechism). You would do well to believe Jesus Christ and to reject the words of Rome.
People tend to make this a complicated issue, but it is not. One either believes the Biblical doctrine of salvation – that a person is saved from their sin by the Lord’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone – or one does not believe this. It is no more complicated than that. Beware of the "theologians" and other prominent evangelical leaders who straddle the fence on this issue. Beware of those who hide behind long theological words and who equivocate on this issue. Sadly, Norm Geisler and Hank Hanegraff come to mind as people who are deceived regarding the Roman Catholic church. The Roman Catholic church must be seen for what it is. Link to The Berean Call and order Dave Hunt’s book, "A Woman Rides the Beast". The Roman Catholic church, from at least the third century, has been a persecutor of Christ and His church, not a part of His church, and certainly NOT His church. And the Roman Catholic church may well play a critical role in the Anti-Christ's coming reign.
If you have friends, relatives or family who are Roman Catholic, it is imperative that you gently and persistently witness to them the true gospel of Jesus Christ. If they do not respond to your Spirit led efforts, then your love for them should compel you to start asking them questions about their faith and what they and their "church" believes. You should do this in an effort to show them they are trusting in a false religious system that cannot save them from their sins. In the Old Testament, the Lord frequently commanded the leaders of His people to destroy the idols, false gods and false places of worship in order that the people would not be misled by trusting in those false gods. In the same way, part of your obligation to love people includes gently and compassionately informing them that they are trusting in idols that will not save them (1 Cor. 13:6; Eph. 4:15).
Your efforts to see them set free from their bondage might lead to their being hostile towards you, being cold to you, rejecting you altogether, or actively persecuting you. But this is the price that the disciple of Jesus Christ must sometimes pay for speaking the truth in love (Matt. 10:34-39; 16-22; Luke 6:22-23, 26) [link to Familyolotry].
May the Lord richly bless your efforts to lead all you know, into a real, vibrant relationship with the Jesus Christ, Who reveals Himself and His precious salvation in the Word of God, the Bible. [Source: Grace & Truth Ministries: http://www.John14-6.org ]