One of the great differences between Protestant and Catholic doctrine is in
the area of Tradition. The Protestant church maintains that the Bible alone is
intended by God to be the source of doctrinal truth (2 Tim. 3:16). The
Catholic Church, however, says, "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture
make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God . . ." (Catechism of the
Catholic Church, paragraph 97. Note, all citations in this article are from this
Catechism). The Catholic Church reasons thus:
1. "The apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them ‘their own
position of teaching authority.'" (Paragraph 77)
2. "This living transmission, accomplished through the Holy Spirit, is called
tradition..." (Par. 78)
3. "Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal
sentiments of devotion and reverence." (Par. 82).
Within the Catholic scope of Tradition, many doctrines have been "revealed"
to the Church over the centuries. For example, there is the veneration of
Mary, her immaculate conception and her bodily assumption into heaven.
There is also the apocrypha, transubstantiation, praying to saints, the
confessional, penance, purgatory, and more. Protestantism as a whole differs
with Catholicism in these additions.
Tradition in the Bible
The Bible speaks about tradition. Some verses speak for tradition and others
speak against it. Of course, the contexts are different and carry different
meanings. For example:
2 Thessalonians 3:6, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an
unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us."
Matthew 15:3-6, "And He answered and said to them, And why do you
yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your
tradition? For God said, Honor your father and mother, and, He who
speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death But you say,
Whoever shall say to his father or mother, Anything of mine you might have
been helped by has been given to God, he is not to honor his father or his
mother. And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your
2 Thessalonians 2:15, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the
traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter
Mark 7:8-9, "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the
tradition of men. He was also saying to them, "You nicely set aside the
commandment of God in order to keep your tradition."
1 Corinthians 11:2, "Now I praise you because you remember me in
everything, and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to
Colossians 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy
and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the
elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."
In the discussions regarding Tradition between Protestants and Catholics both
sets of scriptures are often quoted in order to establish their respective
positions. The Protestants often quote Matt. 15:3-6 in opposition to Sacred
Tradition. In an appeal to be biblical, many Catholic apologists cite 2 Thess. 2:
15 to validate their position on Sacred Tradition. Unfortunately, this amounts
to is using the Word of God against itself. Clearly, God's word is not
contradictory. Rather, it is our understanding that is in error.
The Bible is for tradition where it supports the teachings of the apostles (2
Thess. 2:15) and is consistent with biblical revelation. Yet, it is against
tradition when it "transgresses the commands of God" (Matt. 15:3). By Jesus'
own words, tradition is not to transgress or contradict the commands of God.
In other words, it should be in harmony with biblical teaching and not oppose
it in any way.
Though the Catholic Church officially states that Sacred Tradition should not
and does not contradict Scripture, Protestants see much of the teaching from
this Sacred Tradition as doing just that. It isn't enough for the Catholic to say
that their church is the true church, that they have the apostolic tradition, that
they hold the keys to the truth, and that they have revealed doctrines
consistent with biblical revelation. Likewise, it isn't enough for a Protestant to
pass judgment upon Catholic doctrines simply because they are Catholic and
are derived via Sacred Tradition.
Are Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition Really Equal?
To me, it is not enough to simply say that Sacred Tradition is equal to
Scripture based upon the decree of the Catholic Magesterium. Like any
spiritual teaching, I must compare it to the Bible. Jesus own words in Matt.
15:3 lend support for myself and many non-Catholics to subject the fruit of
Sacred Tradition to the pruning of God's word. In other words, do the
teachings of the Catholic church that are derived through tradition transgress
the commands of God? Of course, the Catholic will say that they do not.
When Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees in Matt. 15:1-6, He reprimanded
them for not understanding God's word. They were appealing to the tradition
of the elders, those who had passed down oral and written tradition. Jesus, on
the other hand, exposed their error by citing scripture. Please take note of
what He said in Matt. 15:1-6:
Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying,
Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do
not wash their hands when they eat bread. And He answered and said to
them, And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for
the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,'
and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.' But
you say, ‘Whoever shall say to his father or mother, Anything of mine you
might have been helped by has been given to God, he is not to honor his
father or his mother.' And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake
of your tradition.
Whatever might be said about this passage, at least one thing must be
observed: The tradition of the religious leaders was subject to the Word of
God. Are the religious leaders of the Catholic Church exempt from subjection
to the Word of God? And likewise, is their Sacred Tradition also exempt? I
Where the Protestants would interpret Tradition in light of Scripture, it seems
that the Catholic Church does the opposite. Consider the following, "The
Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in
accordance with the Spirit who inspired it. 1. Be especially attentive ‘to the
content and unity of the whole Scripture.'. . . 2. Read the Scripture within
‘the living Tradition of the whole Church.' . . . 3. Be attentive to the analogy
of faith." (Par. 111, 112, 13, 114).
It is number 2 that is the main concern here. What does it mean to read
Scripture "within the living Tradition of the whole Church?" If Scripture is
"within the living Tradition," then Tradition encompasses Scripture. In other
words, it is the tradition of the Church that interprets Scripture. This is in
contradiction to the Word of God spoken by Jesus in Matt. 15:1-6.
Some object and say that the Pharisees didn't have apostolic authority and
succession that was ordained by the apostles as does the Catholic Church
and, therefore, Matt. 15:1-6 cannot be used to nullify Sacred Tradition.
But the issue in Matt. 15:1-6 is not succession of authority but the traditions
of men being used in opposition to the truth of the Word of God. Essentially,
the Pharisees were seeing the Word of God "within" their sacred tradition.
Jesus, in contrast to this, cited the Word of God to judge their traditions. The
apostles, likewise, continuously admonished their people to check their
teaching against the Scripture (Acts 17:11), thereby substantiating the position
that even what they taught was subject to God's Word. After all, no doctrinal
teaching should contradict biblical revelation and the Sacred Word of God
was and is the final authority in all things spiritual. The Catholic Church's
position and teaching is based on Sacred Tradition are no different. They
must be compared to Scripture.
My desire in writing this is not to alienate Catholics nor belittle their beliefs. I
believe that there are some Catholics who love the Lord and are saved. But I
would like to add that I believe it is in spite of official Roman Catholic
doctrine. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that the Catholic church has added
teachings that are not consistent with biblical revelation.
If you are a Catholic, I hope my words do not offend you. Rather, I hope
and pray that you would consider what this site has to say and compare it
with the Word of God.
This list of terms used by the Catholic church is brief and succinct. It should
help those who are learning about Catholicism and who desire to be
conversant with Catholics on their terms.
Absolution - the act of releasing someone from their sin by God, through the
means of a priest.
Actual grace - God's interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or
in the course of the work of sanctification
Actual sin - any sin that a person commits.
Annunciation - When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was to be the
mother of the Messiah.
Assumption - the taking of the body and soul of Mary, by God, into glory.
Catholic doctrine, apparently, does not state whether or not Mary died, but
tradition holds that she died and was immediately afterward assumed into
heaven both body and soul.
Baptism - One of seven sacraments that takes away original sin and actual
Bishop - the head of a diocese, successor of the apostles.
Blessed Sacrament - the elements of the communion supper, bread and wine,
which become the body and blood of Christ. It is offered at the altar in the
Capital sins - the seven causes of all sin: pride, covetousness, lust, anger,
gluttony, envy, sloth.
Confession - telling sins to a priest and the Lord forgives the person through
Confessional - a small compartment where the priest hears the confessed
sins of a sinner.
Confirmation - a ceremony performed by a bishop that is supposed to
strengthen a person and enable him to resist sin. It is usually done at the age
of 12. The Bishop dips his right thumb in holy oil and anoints the person on
the forehead by making the sign of the cross and says, "Be sealed with the
gift of the Holy Spirit."
Consecration - a moment during the ceremony of the mass where God,
allegedly through the priest, changes bread and wine into the body and blood
Contrition - extreme sorrow for having sinned with a deep repentance
concerning that sin.
Diocese - an area of many parishes presided over by a bishop.
Eucharist - The elements of the communion supper where the bread and
wine are the body and blood of Christ.
Extreme Unction - A sacrament given to a person who is ill or in danger of
dying. It is intended to strengthen the person's soul and help his love be pure
so they may enter into heaven. It is done through prayer and the anointing of
oil. This is also known as Anointing of the Sick or the Sacrament of the Sick.
Guardian Angel - a special angel assigned by God to each person in order to
protect and guide that person with the goal of reaching heaven.
Habitual grace - the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with
Heresy - denial of the truths found in the Catholic Church.
Holy Chrism - the special oil used in the sacraments of Baptism,
Confirmation, and Holy Orders.
Holy Orders - one of the seven sacraments by which men, bishop, deacons,
and priests, are given the power and authority by a bishop to offer sacrifice
and forgive sins.
Holy Water - Special water that has been blessed by a priest, bishop, etc. or
a liturgical ceremony. It is used to bring a blessing to a person when
Host - the bread in the communion supper that is changed into the body of
Immaculate Conception - The teaching that Mary was conceived without
Indulgence - a means by which the Catholic church takes away some of the
punishment due the Christian in this life and/or purgatory because of his sin.
Laity - the members of the Catholic church who are not in the clergy.
Lent - a forty day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
Usually it is accompanied by some form of prayer and fasting.
Mass - a reenactment of the sacrifice of Christ cross in a ceremony
performed by a priest. This ceremony is symbolically carried out by the priest
and involves Consecration where the bread and wine are changed into the
body and blood of Jesus.
Mortal Sin - a serious and willful transgression of God's Law. It involves full
knowledge and intent of the will to commit the sin. If left unrepentant, can
damn someone to eternal hell.
Original Sin - the inherited sin nature of Adam that resulted from Adam's
Parish - a subdivision of a diocese with the priest as its head.
Passion - The sufferings of Christ from the time of the Last Supper to His
Penance - a means by which all sins committed after baptism are removed.
The means are assigned by a priest and usually consist of special prayers or
deeds performed by the sinner.
Peter - the first pope.
Pope - Christ's representative on earth. He is the visible successor of Peter.
Priest - one who mediates between God and man and administers the
sacraments and graces of God. He has received the Holy Orders.
Purgatory - a place of temporary punishment where the Christian is cleansed
from sin before they can enter into heaven.
Relic - a part of the body of a saint including clothing, jewelry, etc. The relic
is considered holy due to its association with the saint.
Rosary - A string of beads containing five sets with ten small beads. Each set
of ten is separated by another bead. It also contains a crucifix. It is used in
saying special prayers, usually to Mary where the rosary is used to count the
Sacrament - an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.
Sacramentals - Special prayers, deeds, or objects used to gain spiritual
benefits from God.
Sanctifying grace - a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the
soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love.
Saint - A very holy person. Usually, it is someone who has been dead for
many years and has been canonized by the Catholic Church. Saints do not
have to pass through purgatory.
Scapular - two small cloth squares joined by a string. One cloth is positioned
in the front and the other in the back. Indulgences are attached to the them.
Sign of the Cross - A sacramental. It is the movement of the right hand from
the forehead to the chest and then left and right upon the shoulders.
Tradition - handing down through the centuries from mouth to mouth of the
teachings of Jesus. It began with the apostles and continues unbroken to the
present bishopric of the Catholic Church.
Transubstantiation - The teaching that the bread and wine in the communion
supper become the body and blood of the Lord Jesus at the Consecration
during the Mass.
Venerate - to honor, admire, and regard with respect.
Venial Sin - A sin but not as bad as Mortal Sin. It lessens the grace of God
within a person's soul.
Vicar of Christ - the Pope.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1030, "All
who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are
indeed assured of their eternal salvation, but after death they undergo
purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of
The Second Vatican Council, p. 63, says, "The truth has been divinely
revealed that sins are followed by punishments. God’s holiness and justice
inflict them. Sins must be expiated. This may be done on this earth through
the sorrows, miseries and trials of this life and, above all, through death.
Otherwise the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and
torments or purifying punishments."
This process of purification occurs in a place designated by the Catholic
church as purgatory. According to Catholic doctrine, purgatory is not
supposed to be a place of punishment, but of purification. The nature of this
purification, according to different Catholic theologians, ranges from an
extreme awareness of loss to an intense, excruciatingly painful "purifying fire."
According to Roman Catholic Doctrine, though a person may be in a state of
grace, he may not enter heaven until he is purified from sins that were not
dealt with on earth. Baptism remits sins committed up to that point, but
prayers, indulgences, penance, absolution, and the Mass are means by which
the sinner is able to expiate sins committed after baptism. If sins are not
remitted, after death he must suffer the flames of purification until he is
sufficiently cleansed and pure so as to enter into the presence of God.
Additionally, intercession can be made by Catholics on behalf of those who
are presently in purgatory. This is also done through saying the Mass, certain
acts of penance, saying the Rosary, or by indulgences where the benefit is
applied to the dead in purgatory.
But purgatory is not for everyone. Baptized infants who have died before the
age of accountability and Catholic saints who lived such holy lives are
excused from the "purifying fires."
The length of time that someone must suffer in this state is never known, but
it is considered to be proportional to the nature and severity of the sins
committed. Therefore, it could be anywhere from a few hours to thousands
Problems with the Doctrine of Purgatory
As a Christian who bases spiritual truth on the Bible alone, I see problems
with the doctrine of purgatory. For example:
1. It is not explicitly found in the Bible.
2. It implies that the righteousness of Christ does not cleanse from all sin.
3. It implies that justification is not by faith alone.
4. It implies that there is something we must do in order to be cleansed of sin.
The Catholics will disagree with my perceived problems of the doctrine of
purgatory. That is to be expected. They will cite church Fathers, the
apocrypha, and various biblical references to fire and purification. Which
ever side of the argument you fall into, my goal here is to present a biblical
argument that examines the doctrine in an attempt to determine if it is biblical
Of course, the Catholic will say that as a Protestant, I come to the argument
with the preconceived belief that (1) Purgatory is unbiblical, (2) that I am
biased against it, and (3) that I have an agenda to accomplish. To each of
these accusations I admit guilt. None of us are perfectly unbiased and most
everyone has personal beliefs that are reflected in their actions and words. In
this case, having read and studied the Bible thoroughly, I find no place in it
for the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.
Does Purgatory Deny the Sufficiency of Christ’s Sacrifice?
According to the Handbook for Today’s Catholic, page 47, "If you die in the
love of God but possess any ‘stains of sin,’ such stains are cleansed away in
a purifying process called purgatory. These stains of sin are primarily the
temporal punishment due to venial or mortal sins already forgiven but for
which sufficient penance was not done during your lifetime."
The Catholic Catechism, paragraph 1030, says that purgatory is for "All who
die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed
assured of their eternal salvation, but after death they undergo purification, so
as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven."
Among the many doctrines that Catholicism claims to be derived through
Sacred Tradition, purgatory is one of the most interesting and puzzling,
particularly to a Protestant. In light of the Pauline doctrine of justification by
grace through faith, how is it possible that an afterlife cleansing through
punishment is necessary for a Christian who has trusted in Jesus to cleanse
him from all His sins? Wasn't Jesus' punishment for our transgressions
sufficient? Didn’t He take our place in that He suffered our death? It would
seem that the words of Christ, "It is finished" (John 19:30) do not mean that
the cleansing of our souls was completed on the cross.
Of course, Roman Catholic doctrine states that eternal life is bestowed upon
the one who receives baptism (Catechism, par. 1265 - 1266, 1992). It is the
stains of the sins committed after baptism and not removed through penance,
good works, prayers, the Mass, etc., that are removed in the fires of
purgatory (Handbook for Today's Catholic, page 47).
In light of the doctrine of justification by faith (Rom. 5:1), where Jesus bore
all of our sins, purgatory would seem to have no theologically justifiable right
to exist. But the Bible alone is not appealed to by Catholic theologians in
support of Purgatory. By far, the main support for Purgatory is found in the
Catholic doctrine of Sacred Tradition. Nevertheless, what does the Bible say
about justification, punishment, and our sins?
What is justification by faith?
To ‘justify’ means ‘acquit’, ‘declare righteous’, the opposite of ‘condemn’. It
means to not be guilty of breaking the Law and to be deemed as righteous by
the standard of the Law.
God gave the Law, i.e, the 10 commandments. The Law is a reflection of
God’s character and it is a perfect standard of righteousness which no one
can keep. Since no one is able to keep God’s Law, no one can be justified by
the Law (Rom. 3:20). There is, therefore, none righteous (Rom. 3:10-12).
This is the problem of all people. We have all broken God’s Law and are in
need of justification, of being declared righteous in God’s sight. This can only
be done through the Messiah, our sin bearer.
Jesus is the one who took our place on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24), became sin on
our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21), and turned away the wrath of God from us (Rom. 5:
9) by being a propitiation (1 John 2:2) that turned away the wrath of God. He
was punished in our place. Therefore, Jesus was our substitution. The
righteous work of Christ is imputed to the believer by grace (Titus 3:7) and
through faith (Rom. 5:1). This justification is a legal action on the part of God
‘reckoning’ the believer as having satisfied the Law — all of the Law.
It necessarily follows that to be justified in God’s eyes, is to be fully justified.
It is not ‘part’ of the Law that must be satisfied, but all of it. Perfection is the
standard. Likewise, it is not ‘part’ of our sins that were born by Christ, but all
of them. This justification includes all of the sins of the believer (past,
present, and future) or else we could not be justified.
What does the Catholic Catechism Say?
The Catholic Catechism (paragraphs 1990-1992) says, "Justification detaches
man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin.
Justification follows upon God’s merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It
reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it
heals"...."Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s
righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ..." and "...justification is conferred
in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of
God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy."
Of particular interest is the reference that "justification is conferred in
Baptism, the sacrament of faith." There are many verses in the Bible that
deal with baptism and ‘putting on Christ’ (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:1-11). This
paper is not intended to discuss the nature of baptism. Nevertheless, I
strongly affirm that baptism is a covenant sign for the believer who is already
justified by faith and for the children of believers who are under the covenant
headship of the family. Baptism is not what justifies a person. Rather,
Justification is a gift by His grace through Jesus Romans 3:24
Justification is by grace Titus 3:7
Justification is by faith Romans 3:28; 5:1; Galatians 3:24
Justification is by Jesus’ blood Romans 5:9
Justification is in the name of the Lord Jesus 1 Corinthians 6:11
Justification is not equated with baptism, but with grace, faith, and the
blood of Jesus. Jesus said, "It is finished," John 19:30
Jesus bore our sins in His body, paid the penalty for them, and died. He said,
"It is finished." In Greek, the phrase, "It is finished" is one word, tetelestai. In
ancient Greek papyri texts that were receipts for taxes, when a debt was paid
in full, the word tetelestai, was written on the document. This meant that the
debt had been paid in full. In other words, Jesus had finished the work of
atonement. But not only atonement (to make amends, to make right), but
also of propitiation (turning away God’s wrath). He had fully paid the debt
invoked by the sinner. There was nothing more to be done... It was finished.
Yet, the doctrine of Purgatory, in effect, is saying that we must suffer in
purgatory for sins not ‘covered by baptism’ and not covered by the cross. It
is to say that the work of Christ is not finished and that there are things we
must do to complete the sacrificial, cleansing work of Christ. This amounts to
earning heaven by our good works, albeit, a work of suffering. Additionally,
the doctrine of Purgatory implies that a person must atone for his own sins. It
implies that the person must do more than what the Law of God requires of
him. This is called supererogation.
When Jesus said, "It is finished," all that was necessary in the atonement was
concluded and all in Christ were justified. We cannot complete or add to
Christ’s work through our suffering. Purgatory is not only unnecessary, but it
contradicts God’s word.
The Roman Catholic view on justification:
Justification is a divine act where God declares the sinner to be innocent of
his sins. It is a legal action in that God declares the sinner righteous -- as
though he has satisfied the Law of God. This justification is based entirely on
the sacrifice of Christ by His shed blood: "...having now been justified by His
blood..." (Rom. 5:9). Justification is a gift of grace (Rom. 3:24; Titus 3:7) that
comes through faith (Rom. 3:28; 5:1). Christians receive Jesus (John 1:12)
and put their faith-filled trust in what Jesus did on the cross (Isaiah 53:12; 1
Pet. 2:24) and in so doing are justified by God. The Bible states that
justification is not by works (Rom. 3:20, 28; 4:5; Eph. 2:8-9) because our
righteous deeds are filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, we are
saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Those who are justified are saved and salvation is a free gift (Rom. 6:23),
something we cannot earn (Eph. 2:1-10). However, Roman Catholic doctrine
denies justification by faith alone and says:
"If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as
to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining
the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be
prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be
anathema" (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).
"If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified,
because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one
is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith
alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema." (Canon
Anathema, according to Catholic theology means excommunication, "the
exclusion of a sinner from the society of the faithful." The Greek word
anathema is also translated as "accursed" (Rom. 9:3; Gal. 1:8-9, NASB &
KJV), "eternally condemned" (Gal. 1:8-9, NIV), and "cursed" (Rom. 9:3,
NIV),. We can see that Roman Catholic theology pronounces a curse of
excommunication, of being outside the camp of Christ if you believe that you
are saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus.
Does the Roman Catholic Church specifically state that we are "saved by
grace and works"? Not that I am aware of and neither do the above Catholic
Canons state such a thing. But, when the Roman Catholic Church negates
justification by faith alone, it necessarily implies that we must do something
for justification, for if it is not by faith alone, then it must be by faith and
At this point many Catholics appeal to James 2:24 which says, "You see that
a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." But the context of James
is speaking of dead faith as opposed to living, saving faith. James states that if
you "say" you have faith but have no works (James 2:14), that faith cannot
save you because it is a dead faith (v. 17). In other words, mere intellectual
acknowledgement of Christ is a dead faith that produces no regeneration and
no change in a person's life. This faith does not justify. Rather, it is only that
real and believing faith in Christ that results in justification. When someone is
truly justified, he is truly saved and regenerate. Therefore, we see the results
of true saving faith as they are manifested in the changed life of the one
justified by faith alone. Real faith produces good works but it isn't these
works that save you. Good works are the effect of salvation, not the cause of
it in any way and they certainly do not help anyone keep their salvation. For
more on this, please see "Are you justified by Faith (Romans) or works
Protestant theology, as a whole, appeals to the Bible alone for spiritual truth
and maintains that justification is not by works in any way but is by grace
through faith in Christ and His sacrifice alone. After all, the Bible says "But
if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no
longer grace" Romans 11:6. Furthermore, the Bible says:
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his
sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" Romans 3:20
"being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in
Christ Jesus" Romans 3:24
"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of
the law" Romans 3:28
"For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted
unto him for righteousness" Romans 4:3
"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the
ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" Romans 4:5
"For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of
the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith"
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our
Lord Jesus Christ" Romans 5:1
"Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be
saved from the wrath of God through Him" Romans 5:9
"that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your
heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved" Romans 10:9
"so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith"
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is
the gift of God" Ephesians 2:18
I am bewildered when I read Catholic theology that denies justification by
faith alone and requires human effort in addition to God's grace to be saved.
Of course, Catholicism denies that it is works that save us and rightly so.
But, it contradicts itself when it teaches that certain things must be done by
people in order to be justified and to keep that justification. Whether or not
Catholicism calls these works acts of faith or not is immaterial. The label
doesn't change the substance. We are either saved by grace through faith
alone or we are not.
Of the acts to be performed by Catholics for justification, baptism is the first
requirement. Please consider these quotes:
". . Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it
unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so
that 'we too might walk in newness of life'" (Catechism of the Catholic
Church par. 977).
"Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us
through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies
us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal
life. It is the most excellent work of God's mercy" (CCC, par. 2020).
I do not see the Bible saying anywhere that we are justified by baptism. Yes,
there are verses that can be interpreted that way, but if they were then they
would contradict the clear teaching of Rom. 3:20, 28; 4:3; 5:1; Eph. 2:8
which says salvation by grace through faith, not grace through faith and
baptism. For a discussion of this subject please see Is Baptism necessary for
However, according to Roman Catholicism even faith and baptism aren't
sufficient in themselves for you to be saved. It says that baptism is only the
first sacrament of forgiveness. Good works, according to Roman Catholicism,
are also required and are rewarded with going to heaven:
"We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those
who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should
hope, with the grace of God, to persevere 'to the end' and to obtain the joy of
heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the
grace of Christ" (CCC, par. 1821).
The above quote clearly states that heaven is the "eternal reward for the good
works accomplished with the grace of Christ." Catholic theology asserts that
works are a predecessor to justification in direct contradiction to God's word
which states ". . .that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law"
(Rom. 3:28). What are the deeds of the Law? Anything we do in hopes of
getting or maintaining our righteousness before God. In the CCC, par. 2010 it
"Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves
and for others the graces needed for our sanctification."
How does anyone merit for himself the underserved kindness of God's grace?
Grace is by definition unmerited favor. To me this is an utterly false teaching.
So how does the Catholic church get around this apparent dilemma that grace
is unmerited but it is obtained through our merits? It states that...
"Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is
infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it"
(CCC, par. 2023).
This is the crux of the problem. Roman Catholic theology asserts that God's
grace is granted through baptism and infused into a person by the Holy Spirit.
This then enables him or her to do good works which then are rewarded with
heaven. Basically, this is no different than the theology of the cults which
maintain that justification is by grace through faith and your works whether it
be baptism, going to "the true church," keeping certain laws, receiving the
sacraments, or anything else you are required to do. In response, I turn to
God's word at Galatians 3:1-3:
"You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus
Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to
find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by
hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you
now being perfected by the flesh?"
Does not the above scripture clearly state that receiving God's Spirit is by
faith and not by what we do? Does it not teach us that we cannot perfect our
salvation by the works we do in the flesh? To receive Jesus (John 1:12 )
means to become the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) which means a
person is saved, justified. Is this salvation something we attained through our
effort? Of course not! Is it something we maintain through our effort? Not
at all. It is given to Christians by God and assured by God because it rests in
what God has done and not in anything we have done -- that is why salvation
is by faith and not works. If it did rest in anyway in our works, then our
salvation could not be secure and we would end up trying to be good enough
to get to heaven. That only leads to bondage to the Law and the result is a
lack of assurance of salvation, a constant worry that you are not good
enough, and a repeated subjection to the Church's teachings and requirements
about what you must do to be saved. The only natural effect of such a
teaching would be that you can lose your salvation over and over again and
that you must perform the necessary requirements of the Catholic church to
Catholic Theology teaches you maintain your justification
Because the Catholic view of justification is a cooperative effort between
God and man, this justification can be lost and regained by man's failure to
maintain sufficient grace through meritorious works. Now I must admit that
within Protestant churches there are different opinions on this very matter of
eternal security. Some believe salvation can be lost while others do not. I am
not here attempting to address this issue. Rather, I seek to point out that
Roman Catholicism teaches that works are necessary for this "re-attainment"
of justification. This is how...
According to Catholic theology, penance is a sacrament where a person,
through a Catholic priest (CCC, par. 987), receives forgiveness of the sins
committed after baptism. The penitent person must confess his sins to a
priest. The priest pronounces absolution and imposes acts of Penance to be
Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his
Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin,
and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It
is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert
and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present
this sacrament as 'the second plank (of salvation) after the shipwreck which is
the loss of grace" (CCC, par. 1446).
The Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, c. i) declared regarding Penance:
As a means of regaining grace and justice, penance was at all times necessary
for those who had defiled their souls with any mortal sin. . . .
Acts of penance vary, but some of them are prayer, saying the rosary,
reading the scripture, saying a number of "Our Father's" or "Hail Mary's"
prayers, doing good works, fasting, and other such things. Is it by doing these
acts of penance that the Catholic is able to regain his justified state before
God? I am astounded to think that they are taught to believe that by their
works of penance justification is regained. In essence it is earning one's
salvation. Think about it. If you do not have it and you get it by saying
prayers, fasting, and/or doing good works, then you are guilty of works
righteousness salvation which is condemned by the Bible.
I confess my sins to God. He forgives me (1 John 1:9). I do not need a
Catholic priest to be my mediator of forgiveness. I need the true mediator and
High Priest, Jesus. He alone is my mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). He has all authority
in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18) to forgive my sins and intercede for me.
He finished the work on the cross (John 19:30) so that I do not need to
perform any work in order to gain, maintain, or even regain my salvation.
That is why the Bible teaches that we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1) apart
from works (Rom. 3:28).
To say that we can add to the finished work of Christ on the cross is to say
that what He did was not sufficient to save us. May this never be! We are
saved by grace through faith, not grace through faith and our works. If it
were, then grace would not be grace.
"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace
is no longer grace" Romans 11:6
Relationship, not Ritual
Salvation is a free gift from God given to us by His awesome Grace and is
based upon the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Christians receive this by faith
because faith is all we have left since my works are excluded, by God, as
having anything to do with attaining salvation.
|Roman Catholicism, the Bible, and Tradition