Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that he alleges validate Catholicism and “confound” Protestants.
Last week, we rebutted Armstrong’s claim that James 2:24 teaches merited salvation (see here). In the same chapter, Armstrong continues with his argument that salvation is ultimately merited by presenting the following five Bible verses/passages. Since I already responded in length to Catholicism’s claim of merited salvation last week, I will address each of these passages only briefly.
#30) Luke 18:18-25: 18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have observed from my youth.” 22 And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. 24 Jesus looking at him said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Note: All of Armstrong’s Bible quotes are from the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE).
Catholics interpret this passage to mean that the ruler had successfully obeyed the five commandments that Jesus had cited, and they therefore conclude that obeying the commandments as a means to merited salvation is not only possible, but required. In contrast, Bible Christians interpret the passage as follows: Jesus starts off by saying, “No one is good but God alone,” hence all are sinners and no one can justify themself. The ruler attempts to do exactly that by claiming he has obeyed the five commandments that Jesus cites, but Christ immediately cuts through all of his deceitful self-justification by exposing the ruler’s true heart; wealth was his idol.
After the four verses below, Armstrong writes, “These verses have to do with the controversy among Christians concerning human free will, and whether the belief in cooperation with God, entirely enabled by His grace, amount to works-salvation. Catholics accept this cooperation, as explicitly described in Holy Scripture.” – p.71.
#31) 1 Corinthians 3:8-9: 8 He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Catholics like Armstrong would interpret “wages” in this passage as rewards for works that contribute to merited salvation, which is certainly not the case. Catholicism quite often confuses the Bema/Judgement Seat of Christ, where believers will be rewarded for their service, with the Great White Throne Judgement where the unsaved will be judged by Christ according to their works.
#32) 1 Corinthians 15:10: But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.
Paul stated that he worked harder than all of the other apostles, but he is not claiming that his work was meritorious towards salvation. Such an interpretation is patently false. Bible Christians believe that, yes, the fruit of good works come only through God’s grace, but that such works are the evidence of salvation in Christ, never the justification for salvation.
#33) 2 Corinthians 6:1: Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.
It’s obvious that Armstrong was attracted to this verse because “working” and “grace” appear together, but in no way can we construe from this verse that works are meritorious. Paul is stating that he is doing the work of the Lord in bringing the Gospel of grace to the Corinthians. Armstrong is also attracted to this verse because he suggests that it implies that salvation can be lost. Paul’s letter is written to all of the individuals in the church at Corinth, which undoubtedly included both saved and unsaved members. Paul is imploring all those who have not done so to choose Christ. It’s obvious why Armstrong omits the following verse, 2 Corinthians 6:2, which states, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” That verse exhorts the unsaved in the Corinthian church to accept Christ at that moment and be saved, contradicting the Catholic teaching that salvation is a lifelong process predicated on obedience and good works.
#34) 2 Peter 1:10: Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall.
Again, many people gather at Bible-preaching church fellowships and they include the saved and unsaved; the wheat and the tares. Peter exhorts each one to examine themself whether they have truly accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Those who eventually fall away had never genuinely accepted Christ.
While Armstrong points to the above five verses/passages as irrefutable “Catholic verses,” we find instead that Armstrong awkwardly attempts to distort the simple meaning of the passages and pull them out of their context to support his works-righteousness false gospel.
For more on the difference between Catholicism’s and Bible Christianity’s views on good works, see the article below: