Evangelicals and Catholics Divided
'Ecumenism!' is the keyword in the modern religious arena. 'Despite our differences, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ!' Since Vatican II, Rome calls Evangelicals 'separated brethren' while Evangelical leaders, returning the compliment, acknowledge the Roman Catholic Church as another Christian denomination.
There is a wholesome ecumenism among Christians. True ecumenism is work of the Holy Spirit who by the Gospel brings people from various social, cultural and national backgrounds into one family. Christians are united because they have one Father, one Lord and one Spirit. They believe the same Gospel, are baptized in the name of the Triune God, and are all members of one body, the church. It is therefore the privilege and duty of the redeemed to walk together in unity and peace, whereas the pique and bickering that is often seen among God's people is both shameful and a dishonour to our Lord.
On the other hand there is no unity between Christians and the rest of the world, including those who falsely call themselves Christians. The apostle Paul admonishes the faithful:
'Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols' (2 Cor 6:14-16)?
The Lord's command to the church regarding unbelievers (those who do not believe the true Gospel of the Bible) is twofold:
Should Evangelicals consider the Roman Catholic Church as a true church of Jesus Christ? Rome appeals to a historical succession of Popes that supposedly can be traced to the apostle Peter. However, the mere lineal succession of Popes does not guarantee the purity of the teaching of the Church of Rome. The priests and scribes of Jesus' day were also the successors of Moses, Aaron and the prophets. They prided themselves as children of Abraham and as teachers of the Law. Yet they were children of the Devil because somewhere along the line they had distorted the message of the Scriptures.
The true disciples are those who believe and obey the Word of God. Jesus said: 'If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.' The assemblies of these faithful people are the true churches of Christ. The acid test of any church is the submission to the Word of God.
Historically, Protestants (many of whom were former Roman Catholics) declared the modern Roman church 'apostate' because human traditions had undermined and ruined the apostolic faith that the church of Rome originally embraced. You may think it is a legitimate church of Christ, even perhaps the one true church. We cannot afford to be mistaken in this vital matter. We must turn to the Scriptures and compare Catholic doctrine with the teaching of the Bible, the ultimate authority and judge in all spiritual disputes. We need to test if the message of Rome agrees with the Gospel, and in particular with the crucial doctrine of justification. How can a sinner be justified before God? Is Rome's answer in agreement with the Scripture or not?
Together with the apostle Paul, 'we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.' Rome teaches that we are justified by faith insofar as 'faith is the first stage of human salvation, the foundation and root of justification.' According to Rome, faith produces meritorious works, including the reception of the sacraments, which transforms the sinner into a righteous person. Simply stated, the Vatican teaches that Faith plus Works result in Justification.
But the Bible does not speak of a Gospel that reveals the righteousness of God from faith to works! 'Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.' The sinner is justified by faith alone.
The apostle Paul clarifies the concept of saving faith in Romans 4:5. 'To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.' It is not he who believes and works, but he who does not work but believes, who is declared righteous by the Divine Judge. The life of a true believer is always abounding in good works, and yet he does not depend on his deeds for justification. The Christian rests by faith in Christ alone.
Rome condemns this kind of child-like trust. 'If anyone says that the faith that justifies is nothing else but trust in the divine mercy, which pardons sins because of Christ, or that it is that trust alone by which we are justified, let him be anathema.' What else had the poor tax collector but trust in the divine mercy? 'God be merciful to me the sinner,' he cried. The Council of Trent pronounces a curse on the man but Christ blesses him: 'I tell you, this man went down to his house justified.' Our glory is 'the divine mercy, which pardons sins because of Christ'. Rome curses us because of this belief. That does not disturb us as long as the Bible declares that 'your sins are forgiven you for His Name's sake.'
We assert that we are justified by grace alone. We are 'justified by his grace;' 'justified freely (gratis) by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.' We do not contribute part of the payment for our redemption. 'Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold...but with the precious blood of Christ.' We are justified, not because of our merit, but 'by his blood.'
Rome also teaches that we are justified by grace. However the 'grace' of Catholicism is a very strange species. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: 'Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves...the graces needed...for the attainment of eternal life.' Furthermore, the Council of Trent declared: 'If anyone says that...the justified person by the good deeds done by him through the grace of God...does not truly merit an increase in grace...let him be anathema.' As every practicing Catholic knows by experience, he has to strive to merit grace by his good deeds (prayers, charity, attending mass, etc.).
Rome has divested grace from its biblical meaning. The apostle Paul explains: 'to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.' When a man is paid for the work he has performed, that payment cannot be considered 'grace.' He deserves and merits the payment and the employer is indebted to the worker.
Contrary to merit and reward, grace is undeserved. It is self-contradictory to speak of "meriting grace." 'If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.' If we are justified by grace, as the Bible teaches, we could not be justified by the merits of our work. Rome effectively destroys biblical grace by the addition of meritorious works.
We affirm that we are saved by Jesus Christ and his blood alone. This too is effectively denied by Roman Catholic doctrine.
Rome admits that 'all salvation comes from Christ the Head.' But she immediately qualifies that statement by adding 'through the Church which is his Body.' Vatican Council II states that 'it is through Christ's Catholic church alone...that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained' The Bible teaches that 'in Christ' (not in the church) 'dwelleth all the fullness...and ye are complete in Him.' It is not the church, but the Gospel that is 'the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.'
Rome dispenses salvation bit by bit to her faithful through the sacraments and the ministry of her priests. The priest is the one who forgives them their sins in the name of God. 'Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance.' We follow our Lord's teaching regarding confession. He taught us to pray: 'Our Father which art in heaven...forgive us our debts, as we forgive out debtors.'
Furthermore the Roman Catholic priest is indispensable to offer the sacrifice of the mass. 'As sacrifice, the Eucharist is also offered in reparation for the sins of the living and the dead and to obtain spiritual or temporal benefits from God' The Roman Catechism defines the mass as a 'perpetual sacrifice.' But the true sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary is not a continuing offering. Christ 'needeth not daily...to offer up sacrifice...for this he did once, when he offered up himself.'
Roman Catholics are encouraged to seek the intercession of the saints, and in particular of Mary, the mother of Jesus. 'Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper...and Mediatrix.' According to the Bible, Christ is our Advocate; the Lord is our helper; the man Christ Jesus, the one mediator between God and man.
And to aggravate her error, Rome pursues her faithful even beyond the grave. 'After death they undergo purification (in Purgatory), so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven.' Our purgatory is Jesus Christ: 'he had by himself purged our sins.' He 'washed us from our sins in his own blood.'
The Bible teaches that a sinner is justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. This is the only Gospel that saves.
The 'gospel' of Rome is faith plus works, grace plus merit, Christ plus the church, baptismal regeneration, penance, masses, the rosary, indulgences, Mary, the pains of Purgatory, and so on. The apostle warns those who, in addition to faith in the Lord, seek to be justified by ritual or works of the Law, that they are alienated from Christ, and that He could be of no avail to them.
Rome's message is a false Gospel. The church that propagates a false gospel cannot justly be called a church of Jesus Christ. And those who follow its teaching are deceived and in peril of eternal perdition.
To Our Catholic Friends
We appeal to you, our dear Catholic friends and implore you on Christ's behalf to be reconciled to God. Reckon yourself an unworthy sinner and a rebel against the Sovereign God. Plead guilty before the Judge of the world; admit that you deserve the everlasting fire of Hell.
Yet do not despair! Look to the God of all grace and mercy. Stop trusting in yourself, your works and your merit. Salvation is of the Lord; redemption is His work; and all the glory belongs to Him alone. Neither should you rely on a church, or Mary, or the saints, or a human priest, or on the 'sacrifice' of the mass, or in an imaginary purgatory.
Rather, trust wholly in Christ, the Son of God, who is the only mediator, the only high priest, who gave himself as an all-sufficient sacrifice for the forgiveness of all the sins of his own people. Then you will see the salvation of the Lord and be united with all believers as a living member of his church.
To Our Evangelical Brethren
To my fellow evangelical Christians, and in particular to our leaders, I appeal in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to heed his command: 'Come out of her, my people.' We have no ecumenical business with an apostate church. 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.'
Each one of us must take his stand. You are either an evangelical, earnestly contending for the faith that was delivered to the saints, or an ecumenist, sacrificing Truth on the altar of a false unity. You must choose. Do you love Catholics enough to warn them of their peril and to proclaim to them the Gospel for their salvation? Or would you rather mock them, calling them 'brothers and sisters in Christ' while you escort them on their way to hell?
The choice is ours. The choice is now. The implications are eternal.
© Dr Joseph Mizzi