Only Jesus and “Lordship Salvation”

Only Jesus: What It Really Means To Be Saved
By John MacArthur
Thomas Nelson, 2020, 173 pp.

5 Stars

In this small book, Pastor John MacArthur presents the genuine Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. As part of his presentation, MacArthur includes the teaching that genuine conversion includes repentance; turning from sinful rebellion against God to trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior AND also as Lord.

A little history. In the course of his ministry, MacArthur observed that MANY people had made a profession of Christ, but subsequently bore no spiritual fruit. These people lived their lives the same exact way that they did before they allegedly trusted in Christ. MacArthur believed many of these false believers were the product of “decisionism,” the evangelism tool used at some crusades and some churches whereby people are led to pray a “sinner’s prayer” followed by raising a hand or coming forward as a confirmation of their conversion. JMac stirred up a lot of controversy with his book, “The Gospel According to Jesus” (1988), in which he insisted that those who genuinely trust in Christ as Savior will also submit to Him as Lord and follow Him in obedience, albeit imperfectly while in this world.

Some evangelicals were horrified. They thought JMac was attempting to add works to the Gospel of grace and branded his message as “Lordship salvation.”* Actually, MacArthur’s point was quite Biblical (James 2:14-26). Those who genuinely trust in Jesus Christ as Savior will also desire to follow Him as Lord (albeit imperfectly) and will necessarily bear spiritual fruit. Throughout this new book, JMac once again emphasizes that obedience (always imperfect) will follow genuine salvation.

Chapters:

  1. Master and Slaves
  2. What is the Gospel Message?
  3. You Must Be Born Again?
  4. In Spirit and in Truth
  5. Good News for Sinners
  6. To Seek and Save the Lost
  7. Repentance
  8. Faith
  9. Justification
  10. The Cost of Discipleship
  11. The Cross

Order from Amazon here.

Some Christians are critical of John MacArthur for more than this “Lordship salvation” issue (which is actually a non-issue if viewed Biblically). JMac offends some for his strong stands on the following:

  • Ecumenism with Rome – He’s against it and regularly warns against Catholicism and its false works-righteousness gospel.
  • Apostolic gifts of the Holy Spirit – He teaches the apostolic gifts ceased with the deaths of the apostles.
  • Genesis – He teaches a literal interpretation, i.e., Young Earth Creationism.
  • The role of women in the church – he teaches Complementarianism rather than Egalitarianism.
  • Prosperity gospel – MacArthur teaches the prosperity gospel/Word of Faith movement is bogus, pseudo-Christianity.

I agree with JMac on all of the above. I “disagree” with him (only somewhat) on the following:

  • Calvinism – JMac is an unapologetic Calvinist and teaches the Reformed view of election and predestination.

Hang on my beloved Reformed brothers and sisters! Please hear me out. Although I’m somewhere in the middle of the Calvinism-Arminianism debate, I definitely lean closer to MacArthur’s Calvinism than to Wesleyan Arminianism. I suspend any final decision on the issue because I can. However, JMac’s approach is actually quite tolerant. He acknowledges that God somehow integrates man’s freewill into His divine, sovereign plan. I can agree with that. Watch JMac’s excellent sermon on the topic, “Sovereignty and Freedom,” here. Thanks for the video, Crissy!

  • Evangelistic invitations – As I mentioned above, MacArthur is against the “sinner’s prayer” and other types of evangelistic “promptings,” e.g., walking the aisle, raising the hand, signing a card, etc. In this book, he also criticizes using such terminology as “accepting Christ as Savior,” evidently feeling it’s too Arminian.

After trusting in Christ, I was discipled at a Baptist church where an invitation was given at EVERY church service or function. Not to do so would have been considered a serious dereliction. I was initially surprised when I learned that Reformed believers objected to invitations. I now understand. Invitations can certainly lead to false, disingenuous professions. But the prohibition against invitations also has shortcomings. See my 2018 post on “Decisionism” here. Also, “accepting Jesus Christ as Savior,” a term regularly used by many Baptists, is quite Biblical as I noted in this post.

Bottom line: I don’t agree with Pastor John MacArthur on everything. There’s probably not a pastor anywhere that I would agree with 100% on every single secondary and tertiary doctrine. However, I agree with Pastor MacArthur on MOST things, especially the most important things, and I’m regularly blessed by his sermon podcasts and books.

*See the interesting Wikipedia article on the “Lordship Salvation Controversy” here. Regrettably, I still come across people here and there who falsely accuse JMac of adding works to the Gospel of grace and who also usually have a warped understanding of “repentance” as being some type of work when the New Testament clearly and repeatedly teaches “repentance to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10). Repentance (Greek, metanoia) means “change of mind”; turning from rebellion against God to Jesus Christ. See my post on Biblical repentance here.

The article below nicely clarifies the “Lordship Salvation” issue:

What is lordship salvation?
https://www.gotquestions.org/lordship-salvation.html

 

“Saved? I don’t need to be saved!”

In my Friday “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist” series, I get into some heavy-duty comparative theology, but sometimes a simple, anecdotal story can be quite illustrative.

I have five older sisters who were brought up in Roman Catholicism and attended Catholic grammar school and high school just as I did. Four of the sisters are now self-proclaimed atheists or agnostics, while the fifth sister still identifies somewhat as a Catholic and enjoys going to mass occasionally, mainly because the rituals and ceremonies evoke pleasant childhood memories for her.

One day, this sister came over for dinner and the conversation turned to spiritual matters. In our discussion, I shared that we are all sinners and deserve eternal punishment, but the Good News is that God so loved us, He sent Jesus Christ, God the Son,* to pay for our sins and that we must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith alone.

My sister immediately responded with a good measure of emotional indignation, saying, “I don’t need to be saved!” She claimed that she was a good person and did not need a Savior. Her self-righteous remarks exemplified the thinking of Catholics and Catholicism in general. While the Roman Catholic church does refer to Jesus Christ as “Savior,” it teaches its members that they must essentially save themselves via sacramental grace (for those who still bother to avail themselves of the sacraments) and good works. The bottom line for Catholics is merit. Catholics believe they are basically good people who deserve to go to Heaven. They will tell you that, while they are not perfect, they do a fairly decent job of obeying the Ten Commandments. After all, they haven’t killed anyone or robbed a bank, etc., etc.

Accept Jesus Christ as Savior? Such a thought is offensive to Catholics. They know that their church technically refers to Jesus Christ as “Savior,” but they surely don’t believe that they themselves need to be saved.

*In addition to her belief that she doesn’t need a Savior, this particular semi-practicing Catholic sister also declared that she does not believe that Jesus was/is God. Catholics generally have a very shallow grasp of their church’s theology and/or knowledge of the Bible.

“30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” – Acts 16:30-31

The Catholic Merit Game!

Back when I attended Catholic grammar school from 1961 to 1970, the nuns were quite clear about the church’s teaching on how a person could possibly attain Heaven. Yes, the church’s sacraments were important, but it was mostly about obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules. Merit was THE KEY to attaining Heaven. The emphasis was on merit, merit, and more merit.

Merit has since became somewhat of “stepchild” word within Catholicism. Is that development an ecumenical accommodation to Protestant sensibilities? I’ve even had Catholics who don’t know their own religion send in comments to this blog angrily insisting that Catholics are not attempting to merit their salvation. Yes, Catholics are absolutely still taught that they must merit their salvation as per the paragraph below and others similar to it in their catechism:

“Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2010

However, the emphasis these days is much more on the supposed graces received via the sacraments, which are alleged to enable a person to hopefully merit their salvation.

Our sister at Biblical Beginnings recently came across an excellent example of the era when I grew up when the Catholic church was much less circumspect about the role of merit in Catholic theology. There was actually a board game called “Merit: The Catholic Game,” which was designed by Edward J. Agnew in 1962 and sold by Educational Research Corp.

I did a little research on the internet and found that the game was somewhat based on Monopoly, but with Catholic themes:

“In “Merit,” two to four players work to build the six key properties (Church , Convent, Seminary, Catholic Charities, School and Foreign Missions) while maintaining their level of merits (700 points) and obtaining six of the seven sacraments. The first player to return home with the required six sacraments and at least 700 merit points after the six properties are built wins the game. The question deck is filled with pre-Vatican II trivia, but also has cards that offer the player a chance to advance via deeds rather than answers (e.g., a card that allows the player to go to any square if they promise to say the rosary).” See the article here.

So, “Merit” was a board game aimed at a Catholic audience, which unabashedly reinforced the teachings of the Catholic church, that its members needed to merit their salvation through the sacraments and obedience/good works.

I’m so grateful to the Lord for leading me out of works-righteousness Roman Catholicism and revealing to me the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone! Won’t you repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone, also? Nowadays, merit is “somewhat” downplayed as a prime element of Roman salvation theology, but if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig, and, yes, merit is STILL the bottom line for Roman Catholics.

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Postscript: It’s quite ironic that Matthew 18:3 appears on the cover of this game: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (NABRE). The simple, saving, childlike faith in Jesus Christ as Savior that the verse refers to is the antithesis of complex Roman legalism and ritualism.

Catholic apologist ridicules the Gospel of grace

In this post-modern era when plurality and inclusiveness are exalted at any cost, it’s considered distasteful and offensive to be adamant about religious beliefs. This attitude is even infecting the evangelical church. But beliefs DO matter. Greatly. As an example, Roman Catholics’ notions of justification and sanctification are quite different from Bible Christians. To put it succinctly, Catholics believe a lifetime of striving to become increasingly sanctified (holy) will hopefully merit for them justification and a place in Heaven at the moment of their death. Bible Christians, in contrast, believe we are justified only by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and receiving His imputed perfect righteousness, and we will be increasingly sanctified as we follow the Lord in obedience, albeit imperfectly. The difference in the two beliefs is huge and irreconcilable.

Most Catholics who are technically aware of the difference in belief between Catholicism and Biblical Christianity regarding justification and sanctification would term Biblical salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone as “easy believism,” but would probably view debates with Protestants over the issue as distasteful. The prevailing attitude among most Catholics is, “to each, their own” and “whatever works for you.” However, conservative Catholic apologists have no such reservations and regularly ridicule the Gospel of grace in their appeals to Protestants and wavering Catholics.

I regularly listen to the Catholic talk-radio show, “Called to Communion.” The stated purpose of the show is to try to convert Protestants to Catholicism. At some point during almost every episode, host, David Anders (above photo), disparages the Gospel of grace. Here’s an illustrative example from the 10/17/18 podcast, which begins at the 34:30 mark with moderator, Tom Price, reading a question from a listener followed by Anders’ response:

TP: This is a text we received from Sara. She says, “I’m Catholic, my roommate is a Southern Baptist. We’ve been talking about faith and theology and one of the topics we come back to is sanctification and justification. What are the differences between Catholic and Protestant understandings of sanctification and justification and where do they come from?”

DA: Great question. Here’s the main difference. Your Southern Baptist friend, more than likely, holds to the standard Protestant position, which is this: God will bring you to heaven even if you hate His guts as long as you have notional faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. That’s what it boils down to. God will bring you to Heaven kicking and screaming, so to speak, even though you are at enmity with Him in your will as long as you have the conviction that you have been saved because of what Jesus did and not what you did.

In the above segment, apologist Anders GREATLY distorts and ridicules the Gospel of grace, but as I said, he does this regularly in an effort to draw his audience to Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. His last comment is very revealing. Although Catholics often refer to “grace” and “faith,” their bottom line is, did THEY do enough to merit Heaven?

A semi-epiphany in a Catholic church vestibule in 1967

I have previously alluded to an unusual childhood experience in my “About” profile and also in a post written several months ago that I’d like to elaborate on a bit more.

I was born into a Catholic family and baptized as an infant. My parents were not rich and sacrificed greatly to send my five older sisters and myself to a Catholic grammar school and high school where all of us were thoroughly indoctrinated into the church’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit. As a young child, I was mesmerized by the ritual and ceremonialism of the mass. I observed the great respect and even adulation that adults and children extended to the parish priests and I decided to become a priest when I grew up. In fifth grade, I became an altar boy and served at masses on Sundays and weekdays and Saturdays until the end of eighth grade. Looking back, I was probably a bit more religious than your average boy at that age.

As far as I know, we didn’t have a Bible at our house. I never saw one. When I cleaned out my parents’ house four years ago, I didn’t come across a Bible. But my sisters and I received plenty of Catholic religious instruction from the nuns (technically, they weren’t nuns but “religious sisters”). There were both sisters and lay teachers at our school.

In 1967, I was in sixth grade and Mrs. Ellis was my teacher, but for religious instruction, all of her students moved next door to the classroom of the other sixth grade teacher, Sister Gemma. We had to squeeze in with the other students in those old-fashioned wrought iron and wooden desks with holes for inkwells that were created before the days of ball-point pens. There were sixty to seventy of us children packed into that single classroom like sardines.

Despite the large amount of children in tight quarters, things stayed relatively calm. Sister Gemma was not a happy woman and you definitely did not want to cross her. During one particular class, she told us a bizarre and extremely inappropriate story about an occurrence at a hospital emergency room (the details I will withhold), which caused me, even at the age of eleven-years-old, to wonder about her sanity! Anyway, I digress.

One day, Sister Gemma taught us about Luke 23:39-43 and the repentant thief on the cross. The lesson had a huge impact on me. I, like all of my classmates, had been taught up to that point the standard Catholic teaching that salvation began with baptism, which was followed by reception of the additional sacraments, followed by obedience to the Ten Commandments and church rules in order for a person to be in a mortal-sinless “state of grace” so as to hopefully merit Heaven at the moment of death. But the nun was now telling us about a man who had never been baptized and was a criminal to boot, but who repented of his sin and humbly appealed to Jesus to save him on the last day of his life. Even in my young mind, I realized this story was very significant, and the more I thought about it the more troubled I became. Soon afterward, I was standing in one of the church’s vestibules (see photo), and a question hit me full force, “If attaining Heaven is a matter of obeying the Ten Commandments and church rules as I’ve been taught, then why did Jesus have to die on the cross?”

I was totally overwhelmed by this question (I can still remember the circumstances from 51 years ago like it was yesterday) and I wondered if I was the only Catholic who had ever had this thought? I felt totally alone. Although it bothered me deeply, I knew I could not ask the question of Sister Gemma or one of the priests or even my parents because to do so struck me as being defiant and disrespectful. So I held my peace, but with the thought that I had stumbled upon something very significant, although I couldn’t be aware of the ramifications at the time.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not boasting about what happened to me. This was not something that I did. My life didn’t change dramatically after this insight. It would be another sixteen years before I accepted Christ. But looking back, I can see that this unresolved question I was given, which sharply contrasted Catholicism with God’s Word, was the working of the Holy Spirit and would grow and eventually bear fruit. Praise God for His Holy Word and for freeing me from the chains of works-righteous religion and granting me the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ through faith alone!

Catholicism is not oblivious to how Luke 23:39-43 contradicts it’s complex salvation system. Catholic apologists argue that the thief would have gotten baptized and would have received the other sacraments and would have sought to merit salvation through obedience to the Ten Commandments if he could have done so, therefore, they say he was saved by his “baptism by desire” and by his “act of perfect contrition.”

Catholic friend, salvation is not through baptism or trying to merit your way to Heaven. As the early church became increasingly institutionalized and devolved into Roman Catholicism, it replaced the simple Gospel of grace with legalism and ritualism. Follow the example of the thief on the cross. Repent of your sin and ask Jesus Christ to be your Savior today!

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” – Galatians 2:21

Postscript: The Catholic church actually identifies the penitent thief on the cross as Saint Dismas, another tradition that has its source in religious fakery.

Who would desire Catholicism’s “smells and bells” over the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone?

Via its many media outlets, Roman Catholicism likes to boast about alleged “evangelicals” who converted to the Catholic religion.* On the EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) cable channel, one particular show, “The Journey Home,” is devoted exclusively to showcasing converts and returning reverts (aka “lapsed” Catholics). The stated purpose of the EWTN radio show, “Called to Communion,” is to convince Protestants to convert to Catholicism. This all might seem a little unsettling until you check the numbers. A 2015 Pew Research study (see here) found that 10 percent of people raised as Catholics become evangelicals while just 2 percent of people raised in evangelical church culture wound up as Catholics.

I was a member of the Roman Catholic church for 27 years (1956-1983) and was educated at a Catholic grammar school and high school. In 1983, after having read the Bible for several years, I renounced Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. I no longer believed that salvation was dependent on receiving the sacraments and “cooperating with grace” by perfectly obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules in an effort to merit Heaven. Instead, I believed as God’s Word taught, that I was a totally depraved sinner destined for eternal damnation and I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone.

But we do hear about people from evangelical churches who “convert” to Catholicism. How does that happen? Could a person who is genuinely trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone choose to join Catholicism, which teaches a person must receive sacramental grace and obey the Ten Commandments in order to merit their salvation? How do we explain those who leave evangelicalism for Catholicism?

I don’t believe a person who genuinely understands the Gospel of grace and trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone would voluntarily join Catholicism or any other works religion. Yes, there are people who were brought up in evangelical church culture or who attended an evangelical church for a period of time and left without ever having actually trusted in Christ. They somehow got a taste of Catholicism and began making worldly-minded comparisons like the six below:

 

“Drawbacks” to evangelicalism “Advantages” of Catholicism
1 No elaborate ritualism and ceremonialism – just some singing and a sermon 1 Plenty of ritualism and ceremony to impress the eyes and stimulate the senses
2 The genuine Gospel seems far too easy – the natural man is inclined to attempt to merit salvation via a long legalistic laundry list 2 A massive collection of 1752 Canon Laws and 2865 numbered paragraphs in its official catechism that all testify to Catholicism’s world-pleasing complexity.
3 Little history. Nondenominational mega-churches are getting farther and farther away from mentioning the Reformation and the Five Solas 3 Oodles and oodles of history, although vast portions of it are unflattering at best
4 No “impressive” visible authority, just the Bible, Pastor Smith, and the small elder board 4 An organizational hierarchy and structure that would put to shame any Fortune 500 company. Topping it all off is an allegedly infallible leader!
5 Plain, drab church architecture 5 Grandiose church architecture and ornate decorative artistry
6 “Just” the Bible to study 6 Volumes and volumes and volumes of rich church traditions to “supplement” (aka supplant) the Bible

 

Yes, there are some people who were part of evangelical church culture but never genuinely accepted Christ, who surveyed all of Catholicism’s “smells and bells”** and decided they would rather ride in the Catholic “Cadillac” than evangelicalism’s “Hyundai.”

“For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” – Luke 16:15

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

Yes, some choose the elaborate “smells and bells” over (simple but GLORIOUS) salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Don’t make that mistake. Salvation is not through grandiose, worldly ceremonialism, but through a relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Are Roman Catholics Christian?
https://carm.org/are-roman-catholics-christian

*Catholicism likes to sound the trumpets when a quasi-evangelical joins its ranks, but, most ironically, many evangelicals think it’s ungracious, divisive, and very bad form to acknowledge those folks who accepted Christ and left Roman Catholicism because it does not preach the genuine Gospel and who testify about their experience.

**Even the Catholic church readily acknowledges that today’s elaborate mass liturgy bears little resemblance to the simple worship gatherings of the early church. Some may think I am being offensive by using the term, “smells and bells,” to describe Catholic practices, but this is a term often used by Catholics themselves.

Just in need of a little rehab or TOTALLY depraved and in desperate need of the Savior?

Roman Catholicism and Biblical Christianity use many of the same terms – God, sin, grace, faith, Jesus the Savior, Heaven, etc. – so there is a tendency on the part of many to assume they share the same basic beliefs, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Below I would like to focus on just one of many vital differences.

Wounded or Depraved?

I listen to a lot of Catholic talk radio for research purposes and the hosts regularly admit that Catholicism differs from evangelicalism with regards to the condition of men’s souls. A phrase that you’ll hear repeatedly within Catholicism is that people are born into this world with a “wounded” spiritual nature; that people are “inherently good” but are wounded by sin. With baptism, which allegedly washes away all sin, and then through the subsequent administration of the church’s grace-infusing sacraments – the eucharist and reconciliation (confession) regularly, and confirmation, anointing of the sick (last rites), and marriage or ordination only once – a Catholic is supposedly able to rehabilitate their “wounded” spiritual nature and become increasingly and subjectively good and righteous. If they persevere in their goodness and righteousness, they are told they will be able to merit Heaven at the moment of their death.

“(The Council of) Trent articulates the classic Catholic position that the human condition is not self-sufficient but a ‘fallen’ one, and yet we are not totally depraved but remain ‘inherently good.’” – from “What Makes a School Catholic” by Thomas Groom

Contrast the above with Biblical Christianity, which teaches the depravity of all humankind. Even those thoughts and actions that we might call “good” are tainted with sin. There is no absolutely no righteousness within us. When a person repents of their sinful, rebellious condition and trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone, He imputes His perfect righteousness to them. Before we accept Christ, we are NOT wounded, rather we are slaves to sin and at enmity with God.

“…to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” – Titus 1:15-16

After we accept Christ as Savior, we follow Him in obedience as Lord, albeit imperfectly.

So, are people “inherently good but wounded” and able to rehabilitate themselves with the help of the sacraments in order to merit Heaven as Catholicism teaches…

or

…are people totally depraved and without any hope unless they trust in Jesus Christ by faith alone and receive His imputed perfect righteousness?

One way is right and one way is wrong. Both ways cannot be right!

David Anders (photo below), host of the ”Called to Communion” Catholic talk radio show, regularly disparages the Biblical view of the total depravity of man and propagates the Catholic view of “good but wounded” souls rehabilitating themselves through the sacraments and good works. That is not Christianity, folks, but a very dangerous false gospel. Although I am vehemently opposed to his false gospel, I do “respect” Anders in a certain sense for constantly and uncompromisingly pointing out the unbridgeable differences between his Catholic false gospel and Biblical Christianity. It’s unfortunate that many evangelical Christians are not as uncompromising in regards to the genuine Gospel of grace as Anders is in regards to his false gospel.

Postscript: “Catholic guilt” is legendary, but Catholics generally have a veeeeeery low view of sin. If asked, most Catholics will say that they do a pretty good job of obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!). After all, they will say, they never killed anyone or robbed a bank.

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Catholic apologist, David Anders, disparages Biblical Christianity almost every day on his talk radio show

Are some Roman Catholics Christians?

I ran across a critical comment on Word Press the other day from an ecumenical evangelical, something to the effect of, “there are jerks out there who put forth the idea that all Catholics are not Christians.”

The comment was not directed to me personally, but I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to it.

I do acknowledge that there are some hardcore fundamentalists out there who claim there are no Catholics who are Christians, but I am not one them. Please allow me to explain.

Attending or becoming a member of a particular denominational church, whether it be Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc., doesn’t make anyone a Christian. Every person must individually repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior by faith alone. No one is “grandfathered” into the body of Christ. But some churches are more helpful in pointing people to Christ than others. And there are some churches that are outright hindrances to salvation. Some churches preach the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and those in attendance are able to hear the Gospel and respond to the invitation to accept Christ. Other churches do not preach the Gospel and do not invite attendees/members to receive Christ by faith alone.

The Roman Catholic church teaches a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. It’s a complicated system with many tangents, but a succinct summary of Catholic salvation is that a person must be baptized and then participate in the church’s sacraments as required, to receive graces so they can successfully obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and remain in a mortal-sinless “state of grace” so as to hopefully merit Heaven when they die. No Catholic will deny that works play a major role in meriting/achieving salvation. None of that is the Gospel.

Now back to the original issue. Are there some people who identify as Catholics who are blood-bought, born-again Christians? I believe there are. There are some Catholics who were somehow exposed to the Gospel of grace, maybe by reading a book or the Bible, or watching a television show, or attending an evangelical service, or conversing with a Christian friend, and they genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. There are other Catholics, perhaps, who became so spiritually exhausted with Catholicism’s works-righteousness treadmill, that they threw themselves at the feet of Christ and asked Him to save them, much like the repentant thief on the cross and the repentant tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. These Catholics have, in essence, become Christians in spite of their church. Some of these new-born Christians leave the Catholic church immediately because they understand Catholic doctrine is not compatible with the Gospel. Others linger. Some out of fear. Some out of ignorance. Some out of stubbornness. But as they continue to read and study God’s Word and are obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit, they will eventually leave. God’s Word and Catholic doctrine are irreconcilable.

So, I would absolutely NOT claim that “all Catholics are not Christians.” There are some Catholics who are saved in spite of their church. There are many good Baptist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches that preach the Gospel, and there are many bad Baptist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches that don’t preach the Gospel (most of the bad ones belong to liberal, mainline denominations). But in regards to Catholic churches, there are ZERO good ones because NONE preach the Gospel of grace.


Is Catholicism a false religion? Are Catholics saved?
https://www.gotquestions.org/catholicism.html

How to get to Heaven? Evangelicals and Catholics disagree. Both can’t be right.

Catholics and Evangelical Protestants both agree that Jesus Christ, God the Son, died on the cross to pay the penalty for sins, but they disagree on how a person receives the gift of salvation.

“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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:8-10

Evangelical Protestants believe a person must repent of their sins and come to Jesus Christ in prayer and ask Him to save them, without one, single plea of their own. Salvation is completely by faith in Christ. After we accept Christ as Savior, then good works and charity are manifested in our lives as the fruit of our salvation.

Catholics, in contrast, believe salvation is a lifelong process.* They believe a person must firstly have all their sins washed away in baptism. Then they believe a person must participate in the other sacraments to receive graces so they can obey the Ten Commandments, avoid sin, and remain in a mortal-sinless “state of grace” so as to be able to merit Heaven at the moment of their death. Although they believe salvation is merited by obedience, Catholics can claim salvation is by “grace” and “faith” because they say it is through the graces administered through the sacraments that they are able to successfully obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!).

“We must understand that we are saved by grace through the instruments of faith and obedience. That obedience includes keeping the Ten Commandments, but the keeping of the commandments is an instrument—a necessary instrument—through which the grace of God flows and keeps us in Christ, the principle of reward for us. Thus, we have to keep the commandments to be saved, but we understand it is only through grace that we can do so.” – Tim Staples, Catholic apologist

God’s Word certainly speaks about obedience and charity. After we accept Christ we are to follow Him in obedience. But no one could ever possibly justify themselves by their imperfect attempts to follow the Law. The Law shows us that we are all sinners in need of the Savior. We could never obey our way into Heaven. I sin by thought, word, deed, or by omission every single day and so do you. The Lord, Jesus Christ, was the only person who ever successfully obeyed the Law.

“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:19-20

The only way to salvation is through accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. If any part of your salvation depends upon how well you obey the Ten Commandments, you are lost.

Remember the repentant tax collector in Luke 18:9-14 who asked the Lord to save him, without one single plea of his own? That is how we come to Christ and His salvation.

*While Catholics prescribe their sacramental system as the proper way to salvation, they also grant that non-Catholic religionists (Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants, etc.) may also merit Heaven “if they follow the light they are given.” Pope Francis has said even atheists can merit Heaven if they follow their conscience. None of this is Christianity.

Postscript: Just because a person attends an evangelical, Gospel-preaching church doesn’t mean they’re saved in Christ. Every person must individually repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Also, not every church that calls itself “evangelical” these days preaches the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone.

Lots of people call Jesus “Savior,” but…

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 

 

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’  

 

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 18:9-14

 

P&P