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I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-10)
Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was warning the Galatian church about the people who were bringing foreign teaching to the church. We see those who would dare to pervert the gospel message taught by our Lord Jesus Christ are to be accursed. When it comes to the teaching of the true gospel message, there can be no mistake because it is by the power of the Gospel of Jesus that we are saved.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes … (Romans 1:16)
Therefore, when it comes to the question whether or not the Roman Catholic Church is part of the Body of Christ, we must carefully examine their teachings to see whether or not they have changed the gospel message that can be found in the Bible.
When we carefully examine the Bible, we can know for certain what one must do in order to receive salvation. Let us consider the following passages:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:28-29)
Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:29-31)
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Therefore, we can conclude that the gospel message for salvation is to put our faith in Jesus Christ (please refer to our Statement of Faith for further detail), and we cannot possibly do any work to earn any part of it. In the book of Galatians, Paul makes it absolutely clear that, if one were to add any other condition to faith, this person would be “cut off from grace” and that “Christ will profit you nothing”.
Does the Roman Catholic Church add anything to this gospel truth? The answer can be found in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is the official teaching which every follower of the Roman Catholic Faith must accept.
Problem #1: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that water baptism is necessary for salvation.
Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 1129:
The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. “Sacramental grace” is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior.
By adding baptism to salvation, one adds a “work” to faith and thereby condemning themselves like those who attempt to add circumcision to faith as part of a “saving work”.
Problem #2: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that work is necessary for salvation. Faith alone is not enough.
Canon 14, Council of Trent:
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
Problem #3: A person must be absolved of all grave (mortal) sin before they die, otherwise, even though they may have complete faith in Jesus Christ, they cannot go to heaven. The Roman Catholic Church believes that only the church keeps a treasury of grace (merit points) and that its followers must partake in regular sacraments in order to get have enough grace to go do heaven.
Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 1472:
To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.
This is a clear contradiction to the Bible in Hebrews 7:26-28, Hebrews 9:27-28, and 1 Peter 3:18 where it talks about the fact that Jesus only needed to die once in order to cleanse us. His sacrifice at the cross was sufficient to cleanse us of all sins past, present, and future, and therefore, those that entered the covenant by faith have their sins cleaned already.
Problem #4: Human priests are required for the forgiveness of sins, and one MUST confess their sins to the priest in order to be forgiven.
Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 1456:
Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 1461:
Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation, bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops’ collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 1462:
Forgiveness of sins brings reconciliation with God, but also with the Church. Since ancient times the bishop, visible head of a particular Church, has thus rightfully been considered to be the one who principally has the power and ministry of reconciliation: he is the moderator of the penitential discipline.66 Priests, his collaborators, exercise it to the extent that they have received the commission either from their bishop (or religious superior) or the Pope, according to the law of the Church.
The Bible is clear that “there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
The Bible also teaches that we have a High Priest in Jesus Christ and that praying and confessing our sins to Him is sufficient for all forgiveness (Hebrews 4 & 5).
Problem #5: The Roman Catholic Church promotes the worship of Mary and elevates her to the status of Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.
Mother, I commend and entrust to you all that goes to make up earthly progress, asking that it should not be one-sided, but that it should create conditions for the full spiritual advancement of individuals, families, communities, and nations. I commend to you the poor, the suffering, the sick and the handicapped, the aging, and the dying. I ask you to reconcile those in sin, to heal those in pain, and to uplift those who have lost their hope and joy. Show to those who struggle in doubt the light of Christ your Son. Amen.
– Pope John Paul II
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful; O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
– St. Bernard of Clairvaux
The prayers here spoken by the Pope John Paul II and St. Bernard of Clairvaux are just examples of how Mary has been exalted to the status of the divine. Catholics may claim that they do not worship Mary, but in their own words, they consider Mary to be as important as Jesus Christ and in some cases may be even greater (cases where people pray to Mary to protect them from Jesus). The Bible is absolutely clear that no one is to be worshipped but God. This is seen when people wanted to worship the Apostles (ref.). Angels too shun away from accepting worship even though they often carry out the will and work of God. Finally, Mary did not accept nor asked to be worshipped anywhere in Scripture. Therefore, one can conclude it is wrong to so.
Our position then is as follows:
If a Roman Catholic believes in the official Roman Catholic teaching on salvation, then he is not a Christian since the official RCC position is contrary to Scripture as demonstrated. Therefore, as a whole, Roman Catholics need to receive the gospel, and they need to hear to hear that they are not made right before God by being a member of the Roman Catholic Church or by being baptized. They need to know that salvation comes only by receiving Christ (John 1:12), believing that Jesus has risen from the dead physically (1 Corinthians 15), and that justification is by faith (Romans 5:1) and not by our works (Ephesians 2:8-9).