This is the last of a series of posts and interactions I have had with a few Roman Catholics. Please do take a few moments to read and think through the things previously said, although this post will be pretty much self-contained.
There could be few things more opposed to true Christianity than Roman Catholicism. True Christianity is unique and wonderful in the claim to a salvation completed, granted by grace through faith alone; all in and through the God who became Man, Jesus Christ alone. Roman Catholicism is the most potent force of Satan on earth in that the best deception always appears as truth – and Romanism uses the currency of truth to sell her lies. Satan’s favorite tactic is not booze, prostitution, and murder, but rather religion, dressed up in robes, smells, and rules to keep the people occupied… and looking anywhere but the finished work of the cross of Christ.
Ah yes… the cross.
The End of Counterfeit Religion
What happened at the cross? In general, torture. There are not too many historical examples of anything worse for capital punishment… but beyond the physical suffering of Jesus, why does His cross-work set His religion apart from everything else? Let’s contrast the cross with a general group of religions:
Buddhism = struggle to be a good person, and to be free of desire… (do)
Atheism = struggle to find reason within non-reason, and be a good person although “good” must be borrowed from theism… (do)
Hinduism = struggle to practice the never-ending rituals of appeasement for your 300,000,000 gods… (do)
Roman Catholicism = struggle to remain faithful to an institution which governs and doles out the bits and pieces of grace necessary to earn right standing with God, which apparently Jesus earned, but you must earn through doing the sacraments enough and by not sinning… (do)
Mormonism = struggle to follow the rules, believe and work hard enough – temple rites, sacraments, works of piety, etc… (d0)
Jehovah’s Witnesses = struggle to do enough of a number of things in order to receive the bits and pieces of grace necessary to not be eliminated by God at the judgment… (do)
New Age Mysticism = struggle to free oneself from ego and illusions, be a good person, find peace with the Universe through rejecting bad energy and attracting/producing good energy… (do)
Judaism = struggle to keep the Law and practice lots of rituals, be a good person… (do)
Legalistic, counterfeit forms of Christianity (can come in any package under any label) = because of what God did for you, now get to work to earn the receiving of salvation, be a good person… (do)
Get the picture?
However, Christ crucified, bare-naked faith in Him (the gospel) = be saved by a gracious act of divine, free-will sovereign grace…
And then live in a growing state of freedom from sin because everything necessary for your salvation is finished for you by Christ.
How Does it Happen?
From my previous posts, I show a little of how the Bible indicates that salvation is initiated, carried out, secured, and done for the glory of God, all by God without a splinter added to it by us, the redeemed. Yet the central question of the ages is how does God solve this problem:
Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.
Romans 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.
If you don’t see God’s problem, it’s this:
man is wicked, God hates when the wicked is counted as just, and then God counts the wicked as just simply on the basis of faith.
HUH?! HOW DOES GOD REMAIN JUST WHEN HE JUSTIFIES THE WICKED?!
The entire host of heaven and hell is left breathless: the One who is righteousness and perfection has justified (counted as if righteous) the men and women who are anything but righteous. Everything outside of the gospel of Christ leaves us in the lurch, needing our effort and accomplishment to be made right… but in the truth, the gospel, God freely justifies and makes us righteous apart from who we are, what we have done or will do, and any other condition in us.
In Roman Catholicism, the basics of who Jesus is and who God is have really been kept intact.
Remember that the best, most effective lies present a large part of the truth as the sugar coating on the poison.
Yet in Rome the work of God in Christ is absolutely destroyed and replaced with a sacramental systems of works salvation. It’s the ol’ switcheroo – we’re told it is the same as the original, but when we go to the original source (Bible), our Roman Catholic friends tell us there is a better source… which is of course secondary and different than the Bible (Church teachings), but which they say trumps the original (but we can never admit it).
But in total contrast, Jesus says “this is the work of God; that you believe on the One whom He has sent.” John 6:29 Faith alone accomplishes the “work” of salvation in us. Faith in what, though? Should we exercise faith… in our faith?
No – our faith is to be in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. That is what God counts as just. When Jesus became a Man, He was worth an infinite value – no limit to His worth. He lived a perfect life and was worthy to then willingly lay down His life as a substitution for the redeemed people of God. When Jesus was tortured and crucified, He somehow took into Himself the actual guilt of all of the sins of all of His people who would ever live before, during, or after His life on earth. When Jesus became our guilt in a mysterious, perfect work of selflessness – the Father then broke fellowship with Jesus as would have happened to each of us in hell – but Jesus carried the burden of our sin debt, paid the penalty for it in our place, and absorbed all of the justice and anger of God against sinners.
Jesus died physically by willingly paying with His life the entire debt of our sin by becoming a curse for us. God treated His Son like He would have justly treated us for eternity in hell – and because He is infinitely valuable, Jesus was able to offer Himself for a period of 3 – 6 hours under that holy wrath of God… and the entire penalty for our sin and rebellion was completely paid and finished.
John 19:30 “It is finished.”
When He died, Jesus declared that the entire payment was complete. What would have taken Justin Esposito a trillion years times a trillion trillion years times infinity to pay off (the debt of having rebelled against a perfect, holy, lovely Creator), Jesus paid for me and completed the entire work of salvation there. Nothing left to pay. No religious piety to count for a penance or for the expiation of sins. Jesus paid it all, and to Him I owe all.
Yet there is more. In order to have all of the credit for salvation given to God, even our entry into covenant with God is secured by His decision and act of free-will grace. Our will is always to rebel and run from Him – yet in unfathomable love He rescues us from that blind, dead revolt by giving us a new heart in regeneration. While we would look at the cross of Christ and call Him a fool and spit on Him, God decides to call us out of our insanity by the proclamation of the good news – everything I just spelled out about the cross… and the fact that He rose from the dead three days later. When men and women hear that gospel, the Holy Spirit gives new life and new hearts to His elect people – those whom the Father has given the Son (John 17:2, 6). This is all to the “praise of His glorious grace,” as Paul says in Ephesians 1.
Elsewhere, Paul puts it very, extremely, absurdly clearly in Titus 3:
3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs [a]according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. (NASB)
The cross of Jesus was the end of man’s climb to God, and the revelation that God, although high and mighty, decided to come down to us in grace and love. From that day on, (and in reality, from the beginning), the works of man became and have always been futile and vain. Nothing can repair our relationship with God except the blood of Christ Jesus – and nothing can make us stand right before Him except Him standing in our place at the cross, guilty, condemned, and slain in our place.
Do you not see the freedom and beauty here? Please look carefully – go deep in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are still determined to live out your Roman Catholic faith, be assured you will stand before God uncovered in guilt, offering up the filthy rags of your religious piety as an attempted sacrifice – blasphemy in the face of Jesus’ finished work at the cross. Turn from the way of works righteousness, turn from the sin of self-morality, and place your full faith and confidence in the crucified Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Take us home, brother Paul… from Romans 3
21 But now apart [k]from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [l]who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all [m]have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a [n]propitiation [o]in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, [p]because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who [q]has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28[r]For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works [s]of the Law. (NASB)
Find out what “propitiation” means, and revel in the joy.
Thanks for reading,