Roman Catholicism - Apostolic or Apostate?by Mike Gendron
Is the Roman Catholic Church the one true church founded by Christ, or an apostate church that has departed from the faith of the apostles? This question had a very clear-cut answer 400 years ago when the Reformers departed from the heretical teaching of Popes. Today, however, there are many evangelicals who are not so sure.
Jude warned the church to contend for the faith against apostates who attempt to steal away disciples. In verse 4 of his epistle, he wrote, "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord." Jude identifies the apostates by certain characteristics. They are ungodly because they supplant God's sovereign authority with an authority of their own. Apostates turn the grace of God into a commodity that can be bought, bartered or merited. They pervert the gospel of grace into a gospel of works. They deny the supremacy and sovereignty of Christ and give His divine attributes and titles to others. They deny the sufficiency of the word and work of Christ. It is these impostors who lead people away from "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." Do any of these characteristics convict the Catholic Church of being apostate? Let us compare them with teachings from the new Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph numbers are in parenthesis).
Apostates teach a different gospel
The Catholic Church has nullified the Gospel of grace by adding additional requirements for salvation. It teaches baptism (1257), church membership (845), the sacraments (1129), obeying the commandments (2068), good works (1821) and the sacrifice of the mass (1405) are all necessary for salvation. This is another gospel, and those who teach it are condemned as severely as Paul condemned the Judaizers for teaching a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). Catholic priests are needed to dispense salvation through seven sacraments. From baptism through purgatory, Catholics are taught they can gain a right standing before God by what they do instead of believing what God has done for them through Christ. Catholics are taught they "can merit the graces needed for the attainment of eternal life" (2027). Each Catholic must attain their own salvation (1477).
Apostates deny salvation on the merits of Christ alone
The Catholic Church teaches that through indulgences "Catholics can attain their own salvation and at the same time cooperate in saving their brothers" (1477). The pope claims to have the power to transfer the merits of one sinner to another to reduce their punishment for sin. "An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment due to sins which the sinner gains through the Church, which... dispenses from the Vatican treasury...the prayers and good works of Mary and all the saints" (1471-79). Rome also "commends almsgiving and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead" (1032). From Scripture we know that "no man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him, the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough" (Psalm 49:7-8).
Apostates condemn the Gospel of grace
For over 400 years Rome has not only preached a different gospel but also has condemned anyone who believes the glorious Gospel of grace. Many Christians are unaware the Councils of Trent and Vatican II issued over 100 anathema's (condemnations) on anyone who believes salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. All these condemnations are still in effect today as evidenced by these two examples:
"If anyone says the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, let him be anathema."1
The Catholic Church, "condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them."2
Rome also condemns anyone who believes they are assured of eternal life. This anathema denies the words of Christ, who said, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28). For those who reject the words of Christ, Jesus said, "there is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day" (John 12:48). Catholics must recognize there are more serious consequences for being condemned by the infallible Word of God than by the fallible teachings of their church.
Apostates deny the sufficiency of Christ's atonement
Catholic teaching denies that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to expiate all the guilt and punishment of sin. Instead they teach a cleansing fire is needed for "those who are expiating their sins in purgatory" (1475). The doctrine of Purgatory is an utter denial of the sufficiency of Christ's perfect sacrifice for sin, yet Catholics are asked to accept it as a grace (1473). The pope has the power to bring them out of purgatory, but refuses to do so, unless indulgences are offered in their name.3 "All who die still imperfectly purified undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven" (1030).
Rome teaches that Catholics can carry their own cross to expiate their sins and the sins of others (1474-77). What a glaring contradiction this is. The cross of the sinless and perfect savior is said to be insufficient to expiate sins, yet the cross of lowly sinners is said to be sufficient to do what Christ could not do. No priest can tell Catholics how many indulgences are needed or how long one has to suffer for each sin. This only perpetuates a religious system that holds Catholics in bondage and at the mercy of their church indefinitely. However, the writer of Hebrews declared, "For by one offering He [Jesus] has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (10:14), and "after [Christ] had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty in heaven" (1:3).
Apostates deny Christ's sacrifice is finished
The Catholic Church teaches the sacrifice of Jesus must continue daily on its altars for the reparation of the sins of the living and the dead (1414). This is done so that sins may be expiated and the wrath of God may be appeased. Although Scriptures teach the Lord's supper is a memorial, Rome declares it is a real sacrifice and asserts Jesus is immolated (killed) as a sacrificial victim each time the Mass is offered. "The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice" (1367). Rome claims the priest has the power to call Jesus down from heaven, and transubstantiate a wafer into his physical body, blood, soul and divinity. After almighty God has been reduced to a lifeless, inanimate piece of bread the priest lifts it up to be worshipped. The priest then re-presents Jesus Christ as a sacrifice to the Father. This practice is strongly rebuked by Scripture. Paul wrote "we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again...the death he died, he died to sin once for all" (Romans 6:9-10). In anticipation that apostates would declare Christ is present when He is not, Jesus warned us, if anyone says to you, "'Look here is the Christ,' or 'There He is!' do not believe it" (Matthew 24:23). When Jesus "offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God...there is no longer any sacrifice for sin" (Hebrews 10: 12,18). To deny the words of our blood stained Savior, who said "It is finished" is to reject the essential doctrine of the Gospel (John 19:30). For if the work of redemption is not finished then all humanity remains condemned to hell and dead in their sins.
Apostates deny the sufficiency and authority of God's Word
Rome declares that Scripture along with "tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence." Pagan traditions and practices began tainting the doctrinal purity of the early church when it ignored the rebuke of Jesus concerning tradition. Jesus firmly denounced religious leaders for allowing their traditions to nullify the Word of God (Mark 7:6-13). Apostates show a lack of awe and reverence of God's sovereign power by supplanting His authority with an authority of their own. They do this by removing, adding, and altering the inspired Word of God.
Catholic Bishops have removed the 2nd commandment of God in their new Catechism (page 496). It is no wonder Rome removed the commandment, which forbids the making and worshipping of statues. There are huge profits that have been made from the sale of statues. In the 16th century Rome added the Apocrypha to its canon of inspired books in an attempt to justify its doctrine of Purgatory. Rome should take heed of the warnings God gives to those who add to His word. "Do not add to his words or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar" (Prov. 30:6).
Apostates demand submission to mediators other than Christ
Catholics must submit to the pope who "by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, has full supreme and universal power over the whole church, a power he can exercise unhindered" (882). They must also submit to The Magisterium, which is said to be the infallible teaching authority of the Church. Catholics are taught they cannot receive forgiveness for mortal sins unless they confess to yet another mediator, a priest. Catholics also seek Mary as a mediator who has been elevated to Mediatrix, Co-redeemer, and Advocate by Rome. Yet Scripture reveals Jesus is the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus alone is "holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, [and] exalted above the heavens" (Hebrews 7:26).
Is the Roman Catholic Church guilty of apostasy? The evidence is overwhelming. The truth must be told in love with courage and conviction. The eternal destiny of millions of precious souls hangs in the balance. The Catholic Church has fallen away from the faith of the apostles and gone the way of apostates.
How are Christians to respond? Toward individual Catholics we must obey the Scriptures, and call them out of their apostate churches (Revelation 18:4). We must proclaim the true Gospel and make disciples of them! Toward the religious system that holds Catholics in bondage, we must expose their unfruitful deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). We must correct and rebuke their false teaching (2 Tim 4:2) and contend for the faith (Jude 3). And finally we must avoid those who oppose sound doctrine (Romans 16:17). This means refusing to join hands with apostates "to advance the mission of Christ." It means rebuking the ecumenical thrust for unity at the expense of truth. We must obey the Scriptures for the glory and purpose of Christ. May He be exalted and praised in all that we do!
1 Canon 9, Sixth Session, Council of Trent
2 Sacred Liturgy, Chapter IV, paragraph 8, Vatican Council II
3 Sacred Liturgy, Chapter IV, paragraph 7, Vatican Council II
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