Do Catholics Believe in Jesus?
Question: I am a Roman Catholic. Why can’t you accept that Catholics believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour just like Baptists and other Christians? Why does it matter in what form we express our faith? Is it not more important that we pray to God, acknowledge Jesus as our Saviour, and try to live as a good and faithful servant?
Answer: I thank God for every evidence of faith wherever it may be found, especially among Catholics. But we should distinguish between authentic and counterfeit faith, just as the Bible does. There are many people in the Catholic Church and all Christian denominations who profess to believe in Christ and yet remain strangers to his grace.
Saving faith is a gift of God, by which his children rely on his Son for salvation. Counterfeit faith is deceptively similar, but it is powerless and useless to save. While I sincerely hope that there are many Catholics who genuinely believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, there are reasons for serious concern. May I ask you to carefully consider the following checklist and examine yourself before God whether you really believe in Jesus Christ or not.
Do you know and believe the cardinal biblical truths about Jesus Christ? Faith implies the correct understanding of, and assent to, the teaching of the Bible about Christ. The Catholic Church rejects the various heresies about the person of our Lord, such as the Arian denial of his Deity. I thank God that the Catholic Church continues to uphold the great truths on the Deity and incarnation of the Son of God, his death and bodily resurrection, and his glorious return, as expressed in the ancient creeds.
The Catholic doctrine on the person of Christ is biblical and true. Doctrinal orthodoxy is essential but it is not sufficient by itself. For salvation, it is not enough to give your assent to the truths about Christ - even the demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God. We must also entrust ourselves to him. The Christian does not merely believe something about Christ; the Christian believes in Christ.
As a Catholic you have been taught true and biblical facts about Jesus. Now, do you believe in Him? - resting by faith, trusting in, relying on Jesus for your salvation?
3. Living Faith
St James warns us against a ‘faith’ that is dead, and therefore impotent to save. His warning applies equally to all professing Christians, whether they are called Catholic, Protestants, or by any other title they may choose. Someone may say, ‘I have faith,’ even though his claim is contradicted by a sterile and godless lifestyle. My country, Malta, is predominantly Catholic with over 95% of the population professing to be Catholic. However a good number of them couldn’t care less about the Gospel or the Law of God. They are preoccupied with their business and pleasure, and have no scruples to cheat, steal, evade taxes, slander and swear. Can that ‘faith’ save them? Can such ‘faith’ save anyone? Let’s not fool ourselves!
4. Faith in a Living Saviour
Christians believe in a living Saviour. ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). Once he died on the cross, giving himself as a sacrifice for sin; now he lives in glory forevermore, enthroned at the right hand of God. He does not need to offer himself over and over again, for God forgives and perfects all his people on the infinite merits of that once-for-all finished sacrifice of his Son.
Though the Roman Church formally acknowledges that Christ offered a sacrifice ‘once for all’, yet it also teaches that the sacrifice of Christ is carried on, perpetuated and renewed daily during the mass. The need to renew Christ’s sacrifice implies that it was ineffective. If you knock on the door and nobody answers, you will have to knock again. But if your friend answers and opens the door, there will be no need to renew your effort. Your purpose would have been achieved.
Do you believe that Jesus’ sacrifice must be renewed daily to satisfy God’s justice for your sins? Or do you believe in a living Christ who took away all your sins by a single and perfect offering on the cross?
5. Faith in Christ Alone
Jesus Christ is the one and only Saviour, and therefore our faith must be exclusively in him alone. St Peter underlines this fundamental truth, saying: ‘Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).
Sadly, Roman Catholic piety leads many Catholics to turn their eyes from Jesus towards Mary. They still believe in Jesus, of course, yet their heart is not reassured. They are encouraged to look elsewhere. ‘St John Damascene had no hesitancy in addressing our Lady in these words: Pure and immaculate Queen, save me, and deliver me from eternal damnation. St Bonaventure called Mary the salvation of those who invoke her’ (The Glories of Mary, St Alphonsus Liguori).
Will you follow the advise of Catholic saints who tell you to invoke the name of Mary for salvation, or the inspired words uttered by the apostle Peter who solemnly warns that Jesus is the only name given among us whereby we must be saved?
6. Complete Faith in Christ
True faith in Christ is manifest in good works, love and a holy walk, yet the believer does not rely on the merits of his works for salvation. It is ‘to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness’ (Romans 4:5). That does not mean that sterile and idle ‘faith’ can save. The apostle Paul does not contradict his own writings where he insists that faith works by love, and that those who continue to live in sin will not inherit the kingdom of God. Rather, Paul is speaking about the Christian’s motive for doing good works. Paul asserts that the Christian ‘does not work’ for the purpose of justification. ‘God imputes (ascribes, reckons, credits) righteousness apart from works.’ The Christian rests by faith in Jesus, and not in the least on his own merits. God reckons the believer ‘righteous’ for Christ’s sake, and not on account of the believer’s works.
Do You Believe in Jesus?
A mountain climber is stranded on a ledge in danger of loosing his life. A rope is lowered from a rescue helicopter hovering above him. He grabs the rope with one hand, but with the other hand he keeps holding on firmly to the rock. His ‘trust’ in the rescuers is as good as no trust at all. Unless he lets go of everything and latches onto the rope, he cannot be saved.
Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Is there evidence in your life that your faith is genuine? Do you believe that his work on the cross is perfect and finished? Do you trust in Christ alone? Do you trust in him completely? Are you holding on to anything or anybody else, or are you embracing him by faith as your Lord and Saviour?
Copyright Dr Joseph Mizzi. Updated Sep 2011.