The Catholic Church: A Friendly Discussion with Our Catholic Friends (4c)

 

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church

 A Friendly Discussion with Our Catholic Friends

(Part 4c)

 

  1. Christ or the Church?

Frequently in our reading, we see evidence that many or most Catholics think that the Church will save them from eternal destruction.  By this, they mean the Roman Catholic Church.  Thus, we read, “Jesus Christ founded the Church to bring all men to eternal salvation.”[1]  If they meant by this that the people of God must take the message of salvation to the lost, this would be accurate, but generally the Catholic Church means more than this.  They contend that the Catholic Church is Christ’s Church that is essential for salvation: “The one true Church established by Christ is the Catholic Church.”[2]  They say that the Catholic Church cannot be wrong and that it is “infallible” in all of its teachings.

The Catholic Church is catholic or universal because, destined to last for all time, it never fails to fulfill the divine commandment to teach all nations all the truths revealed by God. . . . It alone is the Church Christ founded. . . . the Church, by the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, cannot err when it teaches or believes a doctrine of faith or morals. . . . The Church teaches only truth. . . . The Church teaches infallibly when it defines, through the Pope alone, as the teacher of all Christians, or through the Pope and the bishops, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by all the faithful.[3]

Teaching such as this, regardless of how false and misleading it is, has the power to bind the faithful Catholic to a false system and make him or her a slave to Rome.

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church also is thought to have all authority on earth.  By this, they mean not the Church (the members), per se, but the Pope and the Bishops.  “By the authority of the Catholic Church is meant that the Pope and the bishops, as the lawful successors of the apostles, have the power from Christ Himself to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful in spiritual matters.”[4]  This is further explained: “Authority is the power to command others.  All authority is from God, and He gives it to the Church in spiritual matters.  To refuse to obey the authority of the Church is to refuse to obey Christ.”[5]  We must never overlook that Jesus declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).  This “all authority” was given to Christ, and Christ alone, and not to the Church!  The Church is under God’s authority; it does not exercise it!

Notice this strong Catholic assertion: “to refuse to obey the authority of the [Catholic] Church is to refuse to obey Christ”!  This is how the Catholic Church can reign supreme in spiritual matters in the life of the loyal member!  They believe that they cannot violate the will of the Pope, exercised through the Bishops, for in doing so, they actually violate the command of Christ Himself!  How many Catholics are Biblically literate enough to be able to see through this faulty reasoning?

As we noticed, many or most common Catholics are led to believe that the Church is virtually the way of salvation.  Catholicism teaches, “All are obligated to belong to the Catholic Church in order to be saved. . . . When we say, ‘Outside the Church there is no salvation,’ we mean that Christ made the Catholic Church a necessary means of salvation and commanded all to enter it, so that a person must be connected with the Church in some way to be saved.”[6]  Do not overlook this significant statement: The Catholic Church is “a necessary means of salvation” and there is “no salvation” outside the Catholic Church.  This is why many Catholics are so bound to the Catholic system and assume that this is the only way to heaven!

Bible teachers often liken Noah’s ark to Christ and we must enter that ark in order to be saved from destruction (cf. Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 3:20-21).  However, the Catholic Church changes the analogy by stating, “No one can be saved except by being united to the Catholic Church.  It is like Noah’s Ark which saved men from the flood.  Only through Christ and His Mystical Body can men be saved.  They must be either in the Ark of the Church or at least hanging onto the ropes which trail from its sides.”[7]  To the faithful Catholic, the Roman Catholic Church is the means of salvation itself—it is the “ark” that can save us from the “flood” of sin and destruction.

There is some small truth in this.  Indeed, we must belong to the body of Christ in order to be saved from sin now and eternally.  The reason for this is that the body of Christ is composed of the people of God, those who are in Christ Jesus.  This body of Christ  or community of God is not an entity or institution to which people join.  Instead, the body is composed of members and these members are in Christ Jesus and in His body: “You are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).  This community (ekklesia) comprises true believers or those who are in Christ Jesus.  In other words, the body or “church” is not an empty building that believers enter.  Instead, it is a building or temple and individual believers are “stones” that God uses to build the house itself.  “You also as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).  We are “God’s household”:

Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

The Catholic needs to ask himself whether he or she is devoted to the Church—the Roman Catholic Church—or is devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  If you know God through Jesus Christ, you will be in His own spiritual body, but if you don’t know Him, you may profess to be part of the Catholic Church but this will not avail at all.

Christ Jesus is our Savior and Lord and He alone is our Savior (cf. Acts 4:12).  The early Christians understood this and made sure that their message was Christ Himself—and not a religious institution.  Paul wrote, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).   Ne said, “No man can lay a foundation other than the one which is land, which is Jesus Christ” (3:11).  Jesus Himself said that eternal life comes in personally and intimately “knowing” “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom [He] has sent” (cf. John 17:3).

The question we ask is whether you personally know Jesus Christ the Lord—not just through religious information and not just second-hand, but personally and spiritually and truly.  This is the only way to be saved from sin, death, and hell.

A Message to our Catholic Friends

On the foregoing pages, we have covered many different points in our study of Roman Catholicism as it compares to God’s truth found in His inspired Word.  We must always use God’s Word in our evaluation of every church, every movement, every doctrine, and every aberration from the true teaching of Scripture.  As God’s
Word says, “From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. . . . I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Your law” (Psalm 119:104, 163).

If you are a Roman Catholic reader, you probably fall into one of at least five different categories.  Each one has a positive feature and each one has a serious danger.

First, you may be a devoted traditional Catholic.  You may regularly attend Mass—maybe even daily.  You may regularly pray the Rosary, contribute to the Church, and have committed yourself to the sacraments.  You may have images of Mary and the Catholic saints in your house or on your lawn.  Maybe you don’t read the Bible, the Word of God, very much, but you are willing to take the word of the priest as your final authority.  Whatever he says, you are willing to do.  Whatever the pope states, you take as God’s will for you and your family.  Whatever the Church forbids, you will keep away from, and whatever it commands, you will obey.  You are offended when anyone criticizes the Church in any way.  You may be very traditional and even grieve some of the changes that Vatican II brought.  You would prefer the Latin Mass, you continue to abstain from meat on Friday, and you are grieved that the contemporary Church is open to teaching the lie of evolution.  In all ways, you are committed to the Roman Catholic Church and don’t doubt that it is Christ’s true Church and the only way of salvation.  All of this shows your devotion to the Church and you have assumed that it likewise shows your devotion to God, to Christ, and to Mary.

The Catholic Church

Therefore, we do commend you for your dedication and zeal.  However, we must remember that devotion to the Church cannot save you or anyone else.  Paul the apostle wrote about his contemporaries, “I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.  For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:2-3).  This shows that having a great religious commitment is insufficient to save us and take us to heaven.  In fact, it may send us to hell all the more directly since religious zeal that is wrong cannot save and is an offense against God. If we are zealous for something that God hates and abhors, we displease Him and prove that we are more committed to our religious traditions, our Church, our family, or our own views and doctrines than we are to God and His saving truth!   Just remember, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

You have been exposed to a great amount of truth in this booklet.  You have seen that in dozens of ways, the Roman Catholic Church violates basic teachings of Scripture.  In many ways, the Catholic Church differs from the body of Christ depicted on the pages of your own Bible.  In numerous ways, the Catholic Church fails to obey God’s teachings and chooses to follow the fallible human traditions of man that, in effect, nullify the commandments of God.  You must now ask yourself what you will do.  Will you continue to follow your empty traditions and show a loyalty to a church that cannot save you?  Or will you choose to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus by obeying His divine Word (Mark 8:34-38)?  The choice is yours.

Second, it could be that you are what may be called a cultural Catholic.  You were raised by Catholic parents, you went to a catholic elementary school, maybe you even went to a Catholic high school or university, and you have breathed the atmosphere of Catholicism.  Your closest friends were Catholics, your holidays were infused with Catholic elements, and your way of life has been dictated by Catholic forms.  It may be that you come from Poland, the most Catholic country in Europe, or maybe you came from Ireland where the vast majority are Catholic in background, or perhaps you are an immigrant from Mexico or another Latin nation, thus your whole way of looking at life is Catholic in orientation.  In one way, this is commendable for it shows that you are not one to be easily swayed by the winds of religious doctrines that you are not convinced are right.

We hope that you will thoughtfully consider whether this is the essence of life and religion.  There is a place for culture and fitting into society, providing that it is wholesome and pleasing to God.  But if your life is just a matter of cultural forms and you live the way you do just because “it’s expected of you” or “this is the way your parents taught you,” then you should carefully listen to Jesus Christ who says life is a matter of denying self, carrying the cross of discipleship, and following Jesus wherever He chooses to take you (Mark 8:34-38).  You need to realize that culture and societal expectations are often (even usually) wrong and outside the kingdom of God.  If all we do is follow the way of life that our family took or that our religious friends take, we are seriously deficient.  Instead, choose to ask, “What would God want me to do?  What does His written Work say to me, my heart, and my life?  How can I really be sure of my salvation?

Third, you may be a more contemporary Catholic who is open to reading your Bible personally.  Unlike the former categories above, you are a Catholic who is fully a child of the times, open to the changes that Vatican II introduced.  You like using the language of the people rather than the Latin.  You may possibly read your own Bible daily and enjoy studying it to learn what Jesus has said.  You are not very interested in the traditions of Catholicism and don’t like the ornate cathedrals.  You are embarrassed by the presumed appearances of Mary and doubt that they even have existed.  You are embarrassed by the Crusades and the Inquisition.  Perhaps you are even open to the Catholic Charismatic movement.  You may have various Protestant friends and feel a sense of comradeship with them.  You enjoy listening to “Christian” radio and like the contemporary “Christian” music.  Your openness may be a grief to your more traditional family members.

We commend you for your interest in the Bible and searching it for yourself, and not surrendering your right to understand it personally, apart from someone standing over you and telling you which parts of Scripture to accept and which parts to reject.  We also like to see your desire to know God personally and not second-hand.  This is so important, since eternal life depends on our knowing God and the Lord Jesus Christ personally and intimately (John 17:3).

However, there are also dangers in your position.  Since you have been reading the Bible yourself, your responsibility is greater.  You are more responsible to believe the Bible and respond to it since you have been given more light.  Jesus declared, “He who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:21).  If God has given you more “light” of truth and righteousness from His Word, He expects you to act on this truth and walk in the light.  As you have been reading this book, you have come to see numerous ways that the Roman Catholic Church differs from the body of Christ revealed in Scripture.  You have seen that most of the Catholic teachings more completely reflect human traditions that arose after the New Testament era than reflect the simple word of the Living God.  You may have noticed some of this disparity in the past as you have read your Bible, but for some reason, you have not responded to the truth God has revealed to you.

Now is the time to ask yourself why you have not responded until now.  Maybe you were afraid to deviate from the Catholic Church that has nurtured you.  Perhaps you didn’t think it was that important to carefully follow the Word of God, thus you chose to just go along with your priest and the official Catholic teachings, even though deep in your heart you have questioned the rightness of it all.  Some of you have attempted to harmonize certain Biblical teachings with the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Thus, you maybe try to grow in your own spirituality even when you continue to observe the Mass.  Or you try to pray to God more, while you are even more devoted to the prayers of the Rosary.  You may have an interest in reading the Bible more, but at the same time you want to read more Catholic literature to support your Catholic faith.  Whatever the reason, you seem unwilling to take a decisive stand for truth and take a strong stand against error—even the error you have discovered in the Catholic Church.  Now is the time to take the Word of God more seriously and choose to believe it, apply it, and obey it—regardless of the cost.

The Catholic Church

Maybe there is a fourth category, that of the genuinely confused Catholic.  You may have been in the first category above, that of the devoted Catholic who didn’t read your Bible very much and who was committed to Marian devotion, to papal pronouncements, and to the Rosary and regular Mass.  On the other hand, you may have been a more Biblically oriented Catholic who was not very interested in the religious traditions and images of the traditional Church.  Whatever your background and orientation, maybe you have just been confused about where you should be spiritually.  You haven’t been able to pull away from the Catholic Church for you thought that it was truly Christ’s Church and there is no way you could be saved outside the church.  Yet the more you read your Bible, the more convinced you are that you have been deceived and deluded by religious leaders.  You have seen that the magisterium is wrong in their teachings, that the traditions are wrong since they deviate from God’s own Word, and the Church itself is wrong since it differs so radically from what the early Christians were 2,000 years ago.

But what should you do?  Where should you go?  You look out on the religious landscape and wonder.  Surely the Buddhists can’t be right for they don’t even believe in a personal god.  The Hindus can’t be correct for they believe in millions of false gods and refuse to give exclusive devotion to the true and living God.  The Muslims surely are wrong since they totally reject that Jesus is the divine Son of God, that He was crucified for our sins, and that God raised Him from the dead.

But what about the Protestants?  You’ve seen many of the Protestant Churches but you may not know much about them.  You may assume that they are somewhat similar to the Catholics, but you aren’t sure.  Or you may be convinced that they are very different from the Catholic Church and this troubles you.  You have seen the church buildings along the streets and roads, but you know very little about the Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Lutherans, the Pentecostals, or the Charismatics.  All of this adds to your quandary.  Your solution is to read the Bible for yourself—and believe its message, obey its teachings, and choose to put Jesus Christ first in life.  This present booklet may have been an eye-opener for you.  Now is the time to apply these truths to your own life.  God will help you to escape this religious confusion and give you the spiritual answers you need.

A fifth and final category would be the sincere seeker of truth.  You may remember the account of Cornelius who lived in Caesarea in ancient Israel.  He is described by Luke as “a devout man and one who feared god with all his household, and gave many alms to the people and prayed to God continually” (Acts 10:2).  He is described as “a righteous and God-fearing man” who apparently was eagerly seeking God’s will and praying for His help and enlightenment (vv. 3, 22).  This was a man who must have believed in God, observed the moral commands of Scripture, and wanted to please the Creator.[8]  Are you a person with an “honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15), who really want to know God’s will and His truth?  Do you earnestly seek to please God and are open to the Scriptures in all things?  Are you willing to stop at nothing to examine the truth of Scripture and determine what is true and false about the Roman Catholic Church?

The Catholic Church

This book is particularly suitable for you, if you definitely fall into this fifth category of reader.  If you honestly want to know what God thinks of the Roman Church, be willing to examine its teachings in light of God’s inspired, infallible, inerrant, and authoritative Word.  The present book that you are reading has hopefully opened your mind to the truth of Scripture and the problems associated with the Roman Catholic Church.  Paul wrote to Timothy, “You have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15; cf. vv. 16-17; 4:2-4).  Realize that your eternal salvation is in the balance, with both eternal life and eternal death lying before you.  Prayerfully examine this book with an open Bible, seeking for God to show you where you have been deceived in the past and what He wants you to do in the future.  Be willing to check the Word of God more fully so that you can see the many false ways within Catholicism, and then be willing to come to the Lord Jesus Christ for His full salvation.

What Should You Do?

Since we don’t really know where you are, we can’t give precise counsel on how to resolve your dilemmas.  However, we can offer the following Scriptural advice whoever you are:

First, you need to have ultimate faith in the reliability and authority of the Word of God.  Jesus said, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48). This says that the words of Christ (and God) will judge us on the great Day of Judgment.  We won’t be judged by the words of religious men, the religious traditions of our church, or the standards of our families, but we will be accountable to the Word of God—the Bible—and will give account about whether we have believed and obeyed what it says.  Are you willing to do this—regardless of what your Church, family, friends, or others say?

Second, you must be willing to step out in faith and submit to all that God tells you in His Word.  You may not know much at this point. You may have some confusion as to what is God’s will.  There may be portions of this book that are unclear to you at the present time.  But Jesus said, “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17).  If you are “willing to do His [God’s] will,” God will reveal His truth to you and show you how to proceed in the future.  He is looking for an “honest and good heart” that is willing to respond to His truth regardless of who else chooses to obey or disobey it (Luke 8:15).  Are you willing to commit yourself to seeking God’s will beyond everything else?

Third, you must live up to the light that you have and obey to the extent that you see and understand God’s will.  As we said, you may not know everything that we have covered in this book.  We have examined many of the leading Catholic teachings.  But you do understand some of this.  You may now see the sin of praying to Mary and the Catholic saints.  Are you willing to repent of this in your past and renounce it as grieving to God?  Maybe you now can see that the Mass is an offense against Christ and His once-for-all sacrifice.  What will you do about this?  Will you repent of this sin of your past and choose to forsake this leading Catholic practice?  Or it may be that you can now see that the Catholic priesthood rests on a foundation of sand and has no Biblical support.  What will you do about this?  Will you repent of this devotion to devoted but deceived clergymen and refuse to express loyalty to these false teachers and religious leaders?

Fourth, refuse to commit any sin, whether in the moral realm or the religious realm.  Paul wrote, “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:34).  You need to be a man or woman of integrity and refuse to commit any sin in regard to your past Catholic commitments.  Absolutely refuse to sin in any way to the extent that you understand that any doctrine or practice is sinful in the sight of God.

Fifth, renounce the Catholic system, to the extent that you can see this.  Since you have learned that the Roman Catholic Church is a false way, promoting a false way, teaching false doctrines, practicing false rituals, led by false leaders, committed to false traditions, and supporting a false religious system, you need to leave it immediately.  As we have said, we must immediately cease sinning.  You know enough by now to see that you cannot remain in the Roman Catholic fold and live without sin.  Those who say that one can remain a Catholic and just begin to obey the Bible, just don’t understand the extent to which Catholicism deviates from God’s Word.

The Word of God says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14a).   Although there are many Catholic people who believe the major Catholic doctrines, Paul is speaking of those who have a saving faith in Jesus Christ and those who do not have such a faith.  The apostle goes on to command, “’Come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you’” (v. 17a).  We can’t continue to be united with those who refuse to believe and obey the Lord as found in His written Word.  We need to come out and be separate.

Sixth, you need to make sure of your own salvation.  It is not sufficient to leave a false religious system and renounce the sin involved in that system.  That is only negative.  It is utterly important for you to learn what it takes to become a truly saved person and a child of God.  From what you have learned in this book, you can see that one doesn’t become a Christian and can’t be born again (regenerated) by receiving a religious ritual called “baptism” when you are a little baby.  If that is not how one is saved from sin and forgiven by God, then how can you be genuinely saved?

In very brief form, the Scriptures teach that you must repent of all known sin and renounce it completely, choosing to forsake this sin to live a new life of righteousness (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; 20:21; Romans 2:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 1 Peter 2:24).  You must believe in God the Father as the Creator and source of life (Hebrews 11:6; Acts 17:24-31; John 4:24).  You also must place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, believe in His deity and humanity, trust in His willingness to save you through His vicarious death and resurrection (John 1:12-13; 3:14-18, 36; 5:24; 11:24-25; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 3:24-25; 4:24; 5:1; Ephesians 2:1-10).  You must confess Jesus as the risen and living Lord (Romans 10:9-10; Philippians 2:5-11).  You must die to sin, be buried with Christ in baptism [immersion in water] and into His death, and rise to live a new life in the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38-41; 8:12; 22:16; Romans 6:1-11; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:11-13; 1 Peter 3:20-21).

We hope that you will request some of the booklets we have listed at the end of this book for these will explain the basic truths of salvation in clear manner for your help.

Seventh, you must continue to learn and fortify yourself with the truth of God.  What you have learned in this book is only a beginning.  Depending on how deeply you have been subjected to the life and teachings of the Catholic Church, you will probably need to totally immerse yourself in the Word of God so that you may be convinced of its truthfulness.  God’s truth is not hidden, but it open for you to read and understand—if you are willing to lay aside your preconceived views and are willing to take the simple truth of God for what it says (2 Corinthians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:7).  We are not only “born again . . . through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23), but we also “grow in respect to salvation” through that same Word of God (2:3).  As you learn more and more from the Scriptures, you will come to see more and more ways that the Catholic Church differs from the ways of the Lord revealed in His Word.

We are glad that you have chosen to read this long presentation of such a sensitive subject, especially if you have been deeply enmeshed in Roman Catholic teaching all of your life.  Consider this exposure to the truth as God’s merciful provision to you!  He loves you and has given you this opportunity to read and understand more of His truth and more about the false ways of Catholicism than at any earlier time of your life!  Thank Him for this wonderful opportunity to forsake a false way and embrace God’s true way of salvation and eternal life!

 

Please check all of the articles in this series on the Catholic Church:

Part 1a

Part 1b

Part 1c

Part 2a

Part 2b

Part 2c

Part 3a

Part 3b

Part 3c

Part 4a

Part 4b

Part 4c

 

 

[1] The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Revised, p. 72.

[2] Ibid., p. 77.

[3] Ibid., pp. 78-79.

[4] Ibid., p. 79.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., p. 80.

[7] Ibid.

[8] The term, God-fearer, referred to “one who was not a full Jewish proselyte but who believed in one God and respected the moral and ethical teachings of the Jews” (NASB Study Bible note).

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