Originally posted 4/5/12, this was a part of a debate I had with a Roman Catholic. The original question was “Do Roman Catholics Have the Gospel?” Please read and share – I put a lot of work into this post.
The reason I deal a lot with Roman Catholicism is because we interpret the cosmos in much the same way they do – One God who is Trinity, Scripture is His Word, and His Church is the means of communing with Him on earth, etc. Yet it is in the additions to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they have departed from a true interpretation of spiritual, human reality. They lead many to damnation, tip-toeing inches from eternal life.
And so I write. Enjoy, rejoice:
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for this burden for my Roman Catholic friends
Over the course of my nine year life in Christ, my heart has become heavy for the Catholics. Each day recently I have been pondering these issues, thinking hard about both sides, and trying to pray for wisdom. To most of you dear readers, this is perhaps an intellectual, interesting, or maybe slightly dry discussion which is all probably right up your alley if you’ve read this far.
Yet I hope it is a little more than that to you – it is to me. These Catholic folks with their internet nicknames who have taken the time to talk with me… they are made in the image of God – and they are deceived by an antichrist spirit. I know that sounds harsh to our postmodern ears, but to be true to Jesus Christ I must be direct. Letting Smoke Out (my debate opponent) in particular has referred to me as a Christian who is “outside of the Church.” I appreciate his recognition of the Holy Spirit in me, but with all due respect, the Bible knows nothing of a Christian who is outside of the Church. I believe if we dig at this a little bit, maybe – by God’s wonderful grace – He may use it to unravel a little of the string holding together their bonds in darkness. I know, heavy sounding words… but this is life and death!
Daddy, what’s a Church?
One of the main problems here is that Letting Smoke Out and his Roman Catholic brethren have an unbiblical, twisted definition of “Church.” From LSO found here:
Read Matt 18:17 again. See how Jesus instructs the apostles to tell the “church”. Clearly He is not referring to some theoretical entity, but to an established organization – His church. Our Lord gave definitive instruction at this passage and yet you believe He was referring to an “invisible body”. How can someone tell or listen to an invisible body? “Tell the church”…”listen even to the church”… now that’s clear.
When I say that the Body of Christ is “invisible,” I mean that no one but God knows exactly all who is the wheat, and who are the tares. Remember how Jesus warned (Matthew 13:24-30, and basically the entire New Testament carries the same warnings) of unbelievers (hypocrites) who come into the fellowship with us, who pretend to be real Christians, but are not? We don’t really know who many of those “fakers” are… because they can look very convincing. That’s why the true Church of Jesus Christ is “invisible.” Those who have received the grace of adoption into the family of God are only known in our full number by God. This leads us to our point, namely that the Church of Jesus Christ is not a building, not an organization, but it is the Body of Christ made up of individuals.
Would any Roman Catholic really say that every single individual who claims to be a Catholic is really, truly “in the Church”?
Don’t Run Away! It’s Just an Eeeeeensy bit o’ Greek!
So what is the definition of “Church” from the Bible? The Greek word ἐκκλησία (ecclesia), from Thayer’s Lexicon:
(from ἔκκλητος called out or forth, and this from ἐκκαλέω); properly, a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly; so used.
ek, “out from and to” and 2564/kaléō, “to call”) – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.
[The English word “church” comes from the Greek word kyriakos, “belonging to the Lord” (kyrios). 1577/ekklēsía (“church”) is the root of the terms “ecclesiology” and “ecclesiastical.”] (All emphases mine).
In light of the definition of “church,” and not to mention the word comes from the same Greek word used for “elect,” should we not see the Church as the whole Body of believers, and not an organization or institution in Rome? How could LSO think of me as a sincere Christian who is simply “outside of the Church”? Being a Christian means I have been “called out” of the world and into the assembly of God’s people – it does not mean I am a Roman Catholic, Baptist, Amish farmer, or any other denomination. See the confusion of categories?
OK – so that was a bit sloggy, but I had to do it – and if you are still with me, I think this will be worth it for all involved. The Roman religion defines the Church as the Roman religion, and no other. If someone is not in the Roman religion, Rome does not see him or her as in a state of salvation. What’s that teaching called? Salvation by institution. Just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are scared stiff to even think thoughts about stepping into a real church for fear of Jehovah God annihilating them. Look here:
Classical, true Roman Catholicism has preached that there is no salvation outside of the Roman religion. From catholicism.org:
“Outside the Church there is no salvation” (extra ecclesiam nulla salus) is a doctrine of the Catholic Faith that was taught By Jesus Christ to His Apostles, preached by the Fathers, defined by popes and councils and piously believed by the faithful in every age of the Church. Here is how the Popes defined it:
- “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)
- “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)
- “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)
Let’s be honest. Rome believes that she is the one true Church of Jesus Christ as an institution – not defined by faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of sins, but only defined by belonging to its number – to be saved you have to be in the Roman organization, and then cooperate fiercely with the prescribed ladder of sacramental righteousness to “make it.” And all of this off of an obscure verse about building the church on “this rock” – which may mean Peter, or his confession of faith, or Jesus may be talking about Himself… but even if He meant Peter, this still does not demonstrate a papacy!
Most importantly though, the gospel of Christ is not found in Rome’s teachings. In some ways, it is very close – an almost gospel, yet the Apostles fiercely condemned counterfeit gospels which had merely added little bits and pieces to the gospel of Christ – while Rome has added dozens of things to it. Catholicism is a religion of lies, and it is taking its people to hell by the billions. That’s not funny – and believing Christians need to stop toying around with Rome. We are to stand up and call our Roman Catholic friends to repentance of dead works into a living, secure relationship with Christ based solely on His works and one time atonement.
Here’s the hard, cold truth: I, Justin, and numerous others like me are not Roman Catholics, and yet we are the Body of Christ. I do not believe and in fact vehemently reject Romanist theology – I am walking in the footsteps of the millions who have gone before me, and in the footsteps of the Reformation Christians who shed their blood to salvage the gospel out from Rome. I have these convictions because of the gospel, because of God’s Word, and because He has chosen me unto an everlasting salvation, accomplished by Christ outside of and before me. I do not merit the grace He gives, otherwise it would no longer be grace but a debt He would owe. God will be no man’s debtor, believe that.
So that is all to say to LSO and my other Roman Catholic readers; you may feel yourself generous and magnanimous for granting to me that I am a Christian, just simply outside of the Church, but your own papal doctrines really don’t allow for such. Either I, as a gospel believing Christian, am wrong and outside of His Body, or you are, or we are both in mythology. It cannot be that our mutually exclusive truth claims are the same gospel or ecclesiology!
Finally, and most importantly, what does God’s Word say?
What does it take to become a part of the Church of Jesus Christ invisible and universal?
Belief in who Jesus is and what He has done, is doing, and will do. A very few of the many Scriptures on this subject:
- Romans 10:8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9[e]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, [f]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [g]resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE [h]DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
- John 6:28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
- John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were [i]born, not of [j]blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
- John 5:37 And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. 39[i]You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive [j]glory from one another and you do not seek the [k]glory that is from the one and only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
- Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [h]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.(All Scripture NASB)
What does becoming a member of the Church/the Body of Christ result in?
Justification, sanctification, and glorification. Good works which justify the reality of faith.
- Romans 8:28 And we know that [k]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was [l]raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of [m]Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written,“FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (real faith which saves will always produce good works as a fruit).
- James 2:14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can [n]that faith save him? (No!)
- James 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is [p]dead, being by itself. (saving faith is always accompanied by works)
- James 2:18 But someone [q]may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that [r]God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and [s]as a result of the works, faith was [t]perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (Context and harmony with the entirety of Scripture!)
Thanks for reading an extremely long, but heartfelt post.
P.S. I am aware that the Reformation was only 500 years ago and that Roman Catholicism has been in its present form for over 1,600 – but when I say “Reformation” in reference to the true Church, it is a synecdoche for Apostolic, original Christianity.
P.P.S. I know that this in not the world’s greatest apologetic attempt, and that many of you could do better, but in all sincerity it is dedicated to the beautiful lover of my soul, Christ Jesus. May He do with it as He wills.