Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #46: “It Is Finished”

Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next installment, the Catholic apologist continues his section on “Catholic Life and Practice” as he responds to Protestants’ objections to Catholicism’s notion of performing penance for sins, when Jesus said on the cross, “It Is Finished.”


Not only does the Roman Catholic church teach its members that they must regularly confess their mortal/major sins to a priest to obtain absolution, it also teaches they must then make amends for their sins by doing one of the three forms of penance – prayers, fasting, or almsgiving.

“Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must ‘make satisfaction for’ or ‘expiate’ his sins. This satisfaction is also called ‘penance.'” – CCC 1459

In contrast, born-again Christians believe, as the Bible states, that Jesus Christ’s salvific work on the cross was complete and sufficient and nothing more can or need be added for those who place their trust in Him as their Savior. Protestants often cite John 19:30 and Jesus’s last words on the cross as their support:

“It is finished.” – John 19:30

Broussard responds with three arguments:

(1) Broussard suggests the possibility that by saying, “It is finished,” Jesus simply meant that His earthly ministry was complete, which would not preclude the obligation of performing penance. A second possibility, according to Broussard, is that Jesus meant “the human race is reunited back to God” by His completed sacrifice and that “saving grace is made available for all humanity” (p. 249). In the confessional, the priest, as alter Christus, “another Christ,” absolves the sinner, thereby remitting the eternal consequences of sin, but penance must still be done to atone for the temporal consequences of sin.

(2) Broussard offers three passages as proof-texts that “the New Testament reveals that penance is a part of Christian life”:

  • Hebrews 12:6,10 (…he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness…)
  • Luke 12:47-48 (…that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating…)
  • Matthew 6:16-18 (…when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites…)

(3) Broussard then presents six passages that he alleges involve penance and sanctification.

First regarding penance:

  • Matthew 6:16-18 (…when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites…)
  • Proverbs 16:6 (By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for.)
  • 1 Peter 4:8 (…love covers a multitude of sins.)

Then regarding sanctification:

  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 (…let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit…),
  • James 1:2-4 (…let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete…)
  • Philippians 2:12 (…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.)

Broussard concludes by arguing that (A) since continuing sanctification is necessary for salvation “after being initially saved by the completed work of Christ on the cross,” and (B) since “penance is one of the ways by which we can be sanctified,” therefore (C) “penance doesn’t undermine the sufficiency of Jesus’ death on the cross.”

Let’s now respond to Broussard.

Because this lengthy (7 pages) chapter deals largely with the penance associated with the sacrament of reconciliation/confession, Broussard would have helped his readers by grouping it with the preceding chapter #26 and chapter #27 that dealt with that topic.

I observe that Broussard covers a lot of Catholic theological territory in this chapter by defending both post-confessional penance and by defending sanctification as a requirement for salvation. The average reader is undoubtedly thoroughly confused by Broussard’s arguments and his accompanying proof texts, so I will attempt to cut to the chase as briefly as possible.

Yes, evangelical Protestants believe that by saying, “It is finished,” Jesus Christ was declaring the completeness of His salvific work on the cross. A supporting passage in Matthew 27:51 states that immediately after Jesus uttered those words and died, the veil of the inner sanctuary of the Jerusalem temple was miraculously torn in two, from top to bottom, indicating mankind now had direct access to God and His salvation through the mediation of Jesus Christ. Jesus had accomplished His earthly mission and His perfect and complete saving sacrifice could not be added to.

Let’s touch upon the two major themes presented by Broussard in this convoluted chapter:

Penance: The RCC teaches that while eternal punishment for mortal/major sin is remitted by the priest in the confessional, the temporal punishment remains and must be atoned for by the supplicant via acts of penance in this life or expiated via the fires of Purgatory in the next. We have already thoroughly examined Catholicism’s false teachings regarding the confession of sins to a priest and Purgatory and there is no need to backtrack. The average Catholic could not explain this notion of temporal punishment and its atonement via penance.

Sanctification: In chapters 12 through 17 of this series we thoroughly examined the irreconcilable differences between Gospel Christianity and Roman Catholicism regarding the roles of justification and sanctification in connection with salvation. Gospel Christians believe, as the Bible teaches, that we are justified and made righteous only by Christ’s perfect righteousness that He imputes to us when we accept Him as our Savior by faith alone. After we are saved, we follow the Lord in obedience (albeit imperfectly) as we become increasingly sanctified in our thoughts and deeds. Ephesians 2:8-10 states the correct relationship between faith and works:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

We are justified only through our faith in Jesus Christ and His imputed perfect righteousness. Our subsequent good works attest to our salvation in Christ, they are not the basis of our salvation.

Roman Catholicism puts the cart before the horse by teaching that sanctification merits salvation. The RCC teaches a person must become subjectively, intrinsically holy enough to merit their salvation. Broussard states the Catholic position, that sanctification, including penance, leads to justification and salvation, but, of course, Gospel Christians disagree. We cannot merit our salvation in any form or fashion. Jesus paid the entire debt for our sin on the cross.

Our bottom line to this convoluted chapter: The RCC’s doctrine of penance, as well as most of its other doctrines, certainly do undermine the sufficiency of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

86 Bible Verses about Jesus Sacrifice Being Sufficient

17 thoughts on “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #46: “It Is Finished”

  1. This chapter is too long! I agree with everything you have said about justification and righteousness. I did a google search to see if Broussard had any comments on Pope Francis and same sex civil unions. He didn’t from what I can tell. I did find any interview from 10/28/2020 in which he promotes his new book, “Purgatory is for real.” I read the transcript and it is awful the heresy that he is promoting. Talk about twisting purity in every way, shape and form. Solomon is right, as knowledge increases, so does sorrow (Ecc 3:13). Love and blessings to you and Corinne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mandy! I’m going to listen to Broussard’s discussion of purgatory this afternoon.
      The doctrine of purgatory is an essential element of Catholicism’s works-righteousness soteriology; a “safety net.” Not quite good enough to merit Heaven like a saint? Well, there’s purgatory for all those who are “pretty good,” but not quite saint-like.
      This was a discombobulated chapter about penance and temporal punishment. It’s almost a moot point because only 25% of Catholics go to confession at least yearly as they’re required to and I would hazard that 95% of Catholics could not even explain what temporal punishment is.

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    2. Got a chance to listen to Broussard’s interview/book promo about purgatory. Every Gospel Christian who has been grounded in the Word could refute his/Catholicism’s claims about purgatory and works salvation. I noticed Broussard didn’t mention anything about the suffering in purgatory. Modern Catholic apologists portray P almost as some kind of delightful waiting room, but that was not the case in the past. Up until 60 years ago, Catholic theologians and clerics taught that the agonies of purgatory were the same as in hell.
      Anyway, thanks for passing this along and love and blessings to you and Nathan.

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      1. I had heard growing up that people experienced torment in purgatory. Again, I only read the transcript I didn’t listen to it but I don’t like his tone. Maybe his speaking voice is less arrogant/condescending than his writing voice. Even in Meeting the Protestant Challenge there are times when I think he is more flippant/arrogant/condescending than is necessary.

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      2. I’ve seen a lot of arrogance and condescension on the part of Catholic apologists, and also from evangelical apologists. Especially in a debate setting. I know I can get a little “edgy” with my commentary at times. When commenting on Catholic theology, I may write things that I would say differently in personal conversation. There are many examples of Catholic theology that are so anti-Biblical and ridiculous that I let the barbs fly. I guess there’s some anger involved because the doctrines are so spiritually deadly.

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  2. What does scripture say?

    1 John 1:7‭-‬9 ESV
    But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

    Chrysostom would also disagree about the Romanist teaching on confession and penance.

    John Chrysostom (349-407): And even if you do not confess, He [i.e., God] is not ignorant of the deed, who knew it before it was committed. Why then do you not speak of it? Does the transgression become heavier by the confession?””nay, it becomes lighter and less troublesome. And it is for this reason that He would have you confess, not that you should be punished, but that you should be forgiven; not that He may learn thy sin, (how could this be, since He has seen it,) but that you may learn what favour He bestows. He wishes you to learn the greatness of His grace, that you may praise Him perfectly, that you may be slower to sin, that you may be quicker to virtue. And if you do not confess the greatness of the need, you will not understand the exceeding magnitude of His grace. I do not oblige you He [God] saith, to come into the midst of the assembly before a throng of witnesses; declare the sin in secret to Me only, that I may heal the sore and remove the pain. F. Allen, trans., Four Discourses of Chrysostom, Chiefly on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, 4rd Sermon, §4 (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1869), p. 102. Cf. Catharine P. Roth, trans., St. John Chrysostom On Wealth and Poverty, 4th Sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man, §4 (Crestwood: St. Vladimir´s Seminary Press, 1984), p. 89. See also Concionis VII, de Lazaro 4.4 in Migne PG 48.

    John Chrysostom (349-407): (56) Therefore, I exhort, I entreat, and I beg you never to stop confessing your faults to God. I am not leading you onto a stage before your fellow servants nor do I force you to reveal your sin to men. Open your conscience before God, show him your wounds, and beg him for medication to heal them. Do not point them out to someone who will reproach you but to one who will cure you. Even if you remain silent, God knows all things. Tell your sins to him so that you may be the one who profits. Tell them to him so that, once you have left the burden of all your sins with him, you may go forth cleansed of your faults and free from the intolerable need to make them public. The Fathers of the Church, Volume 72, On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, Translator: Paul W. Harkins, Against the Anomeans, horn. 5:7 (MPG 48. 746); Homily V Paragraph 56, Catholic University of America Press, 2010, Pg 160-161

    Footnote 97 This paragraph (as do numerous other places in Chrysostom’s works) seems to show that auricular confession to a priest was neither required nor practiced at Antioch in the fourth century. In his De Sac, 3.5,6 (PG 48.643—44), Chrysostom tells us that the priest can absolve sins twice: once through baptism and then, if one has sinned afterwards, through the last anointing. But he often speaks of a third kind which takes place between God and the sinner alone, if the sinner repents and shows a firm purpose of amendment. As well as the present paragraph, there are many other passages in the same vein. See, e.g., Hom.Vl (On the Blessed Philogonius) below, paragraphs 30-37; ACW 31, p.38; FOTC 68, pp. 61 n.; De Laz. Hom IV .4 (PG 48.1012). The question of whether Chrysostom can be taken as a witness for auricular confession has been disputed. p. Galtier, “St. Jean Chrysostome et la Confession,” Recherches de sciences religieuses I (1910) 209-240; 313-50, thinks he can. But Baur 1.361-62 finds his arguments unconvincing, and actually summarizes the present paragraph (p. 362) as part of his own proof. Also on the negative side is H. Keane, “The Sacrament of Penance in St. John Chrysostom,” Irish Theological Quarterly 14 (1919) 305-317. G. Bardy, “St. Jean Chrysostome,” DTC 8.1. 683 also states that Galtier’s arguments are inconclusive. The Fathers of the Church, Volume 72, On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, Translator: Paul W. Harkins, Against the Anomeans, horn. 5:7 (MPG 48. 746); Homily V Paragraph 56, Catholic University of America Press, 2010, Pg 161

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      1. RE: Winter
        Yeah, I’m guessing more than a few older Northeasterners have walked outside during the winter and ended up with injuries from falling. But my sturdy boots are a big improvement.
        I hear your about the inaccuracy of the fitbit. Sometimes my iPhone doesn’t seem to pick up all of my steps..4.5K’s a good start! With your schedule, you have about 15 more hours to get the other 5.5K! 🦉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. lol yeah still some time; going to be driving to drop off sweets and Chapel Library booklets to our kids in youth group today so it will be a lot of driving and hopefully not too much traffic since COVID has made traffic lighter here in LA

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This post shows the importance of systematic theology, one that is Biblically based. Careful distinction between sanctification and penance is important. In light of that I think this apologist’s reference to Scripture about fasting and loving others doesn’t prove penance per se.

    Liked by 1 person

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