People of many denominational persuasions refer to the Gospel (Good News!) of Jesus Christ. But what is the Gospel? In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul gives us a summary:
“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” – 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
So Paul’s succinct Gospel message is that by “believing” that Jesus, the Christ, God the Son, died for your sins, was buried, and was resurrected you can be saved from the penalty for your sins and have eternal life through Him. Of course, Paul isn’t referring to just an intellectual belief. He’s talking about acknowledging that one is a helpless sinner without one plea before a Holy God and then accepting Jesus as Savior by faith. Evangelical churches preach this genuine “Good News,” that salvation is by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
But that is not the gospel taught by the Catholic church. Catholicism’s gospel is quite different. The Catholic hierarchy teaches that one must be baptized to be saved. Then one must strive towards absolute holiness by participating weekly in the sacrament of the mass. One must also obey the Ten Commandments perfectly (a ridiculous impossibility) and each time one disobeys they must confess their “mortal” sin to a priest in the sacrament of reconciliation only to start the cycle all over again, etc., etc., round and round.
Catholics believe they must perfectly obey the Ten Commandments and church rules in order to merit Heaven. They believe that, at the moment after their death, if they have even one unconfessed “mortal” sin staining their soul they will go to hell. Catholics talk about Jesus the Savior and God’s grace but ultimately it’s all about if they “cooperated with grace” and merited their salvation. Me? I break the Ten Commandments either in thought, word, or deed every single day and I’m not embarrassed to admit it.
A religious system which mandates you must earn your salvation is definitely NOT talking about “Good News.” Catholics chide Evangelicals because we say we KNOW we have eternal life because our salvation is based upon the imputed perfect righteousness of our Savior. Catholics believe no one can be sure they are saved because their salvation is based upon if a person perfectly obeys God (an impossibility) and His Catholic church and that can’t be determined until the moment after they die. But there is absolutely nothing “good” about that news. There’s nothing to rejoice about in that religious treadmill of works.
Well, the New Testament makes it clear there are none who are good. None of us are obedient. None of us have a plea. Christ came to save sinners who reach out to Him in faith, without one plea other than Him, like the tax collector in Luke 18. In contrast, Catholics are like the self-righteous Pharisee who think they are doing a decent job obeying the Ten Commandments. THEY’VE never killed anyone or cheated on their spouse! Their own “obedience” and “goodness” are their plea.
The Gospel of Evangelical Christianity is NOT the ‘gospel” of works-righteousness Catholicism.