“Stop saying Catholics believe they must MERIT their salvation!”

Over the past two years, MANY Catholics have written to this blog objecting to my frequently repeated charge that Catholicism teaches its members must MERIT their salvation. They claim their church teaches salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But is that REALLY true? I’m no stranger to the Catholic faith, after having been a Roman Catholic for twenty-seven years and studying the religion quite a bit subsequent to my departure, and I know for a fact Roman Catholicism teaches its members must ultimately MERIT their salvation. So why the disconnect? How can myself and other ex-Catholic Bible Christians charge that Catholics believe they must MERIT their salvation while Catholics emphatically deny it?

This controversy is a slippery eel and I must cut through the semantics fog, so I ask the reader for a little patience as I state my case.

The Roman Catholic church (RCC) is fully aware of the many Bible verses which declare that salvation is a free gift and cannot be merited, and yet it is a religious system which demonstrably relies heavily on works. How does it address this dichotomy?

The RCC teaches that all sin is washed away by the sacrament of baptism. If a Catholic is baptized and dies immediately after baptism, the church teaches they will go straight to Heaven, which is why the emperor Constantine gambled by postponing his baptism until he was on his deathbed. However, the vast majority of Catholics are baptized as infants. Because the act of baptism is non-meritorious (the baptized infant is obviously quite helpless), Catholics can claim their initial salvation is an absolutely free gift.

After a Catholic is baptized and matures from a child to an adult, they must regularly participate in the church’s clergy-administered sacraments (confirmation, the eucharist, confession). Catholics are taught the church’s sacraments confer grace (in much the same way that water flows from a tap), which allegedly equips the Catholic to obey the Ten Commandments and avoid sin. The goal of every Catholic is to be holy – without any serious (mortal) sin on their soul. They refer to this as a sinless “state of grace.” Catholics are taught they cannot attain Heaven if they have any unconfessed serious sins on their souls. So, Catholics will readily admit they must obey the Ten Commandments in order to attain Heaven, but attribute the ability to obey the commandments and avoid sin to the grace they receive from the sacraments. They object to anyone who accuses them of trying to merit or earn their salvation because they ascribe their ability to obey the commandments (impossible!) to grace.

So what’s the bottom line for this discussion? Catholics believe obedience to the Law is required for salvation, with the caveat that obedience is dependent on sacramental grace. Evangelicals would rightly counter that obedience to the Law as a means to salvation, whether qualified as dependent on grace or not, is anti-Gospel, not to mention, impossible.

Catholics will eagerly agree that “salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ” but will NOT agree that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ ALONE. They would say instead that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ AND works.

Having said all that, Catholics will STILL insist their salvation is NOT merited or earned, although they undeniably believe that obeying the Ten Commandments is a requirement for salvation. Despite the caveats, qualifications, and double-speak, Catholics believe they must obey the Law (impossible!) in order to attain salvation.

Catholics counter by saying Bible Christians propagate easy believism; i.e., just say a prayer and live like the devil the rest of your life. Genuine Bible Christians would reply that we came to Christ as helpless sinners, without a single plea of our own, and accepted Him as our Savior by faith ALONE. After we accepted Him as Savior, we follow Him in obedience, albeit imperfectly. Any good works we manifest are the fruit of our salvation, not the cause. Catholics hope to die in a “state of grace” and appear before the Lord without any sin on their souls (or only minor “venial sins). In contrast, Bible Christians will appear before God covered by the imputed perfect righteousness of our Savior. The two approaches are worlds apart. One leads to hell, one leads to salvation.

“For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” – Romans 10:3-4

Although “merit” is a dirty word in contemporary Catholic parlance, the official Catechism of the Catholic Church actually DOES recognize works and merit, yes merit!, as parts of its salvation system. See here and here.

Catholic friend, turn from institutional religion, repent of your sins, and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith ALONE.

Is Catholicism a false religion? Are Catholics saved?

Trying to nail down the elusive Catholic “gospel”

It’s a question that’s on the back of most everyone’s mind, even atheists if they were honest: “What’s going to happen to me after I die?” The vast majority of people on this planet believe in some kind of afterlife and they generally believe that “good” people will go to a good place (and most people would claim they are “good”) and “bad” people will go to a bad place.

If you were to ask 100 Roman Catholics how to get to the good place – Heaven – probably around 70 to 80 would answer something along the lines of, by being a “good” person. The remainder, who take their religion more seriously, would attempt to briefly describe the complicated salvation process put forward by their church: Get baptized, receive the sacraments, cooperate with sacramental grace by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules and performing works of charity, and hope at the end that they’ve done enough to merit entrance to Heaven or, at least, to purgatory.

Because the Catholic concept of salvation is a complicated, lifelong process with many caveats and pitfalls, it’s very difficult to find a succinct summary of “How to get to Heaven” or How to be saved” on a Catholic website. After all, Catholicism has 1752 Canon Laws and 2865 numbered paragraphs in its official catechism.

Because clear and succinct explanations of the Catholic process of salvation are soooooo hard to come by, I really do appreciate the 2013 article below from Catholic apologist, Brantly Millegan; “What must I do to be saved?” I enthusiastically invite my Christian brethren and sistren to check out this 1800-word article. After reading Millegan’s account, do you really think the Catholic system in any way resembles the simple yet profound Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone?

“Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe (πιστεύω. Greek transliteration: pisteuō – to believe, put one’s faith in, trust) in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31

Roman Catholics are a mission field, my friends.

What must I do to be saved?
By Catholic apologist, Brantly Millegan

“Faith alone will not save a person. To attain salvation, a person must, in response to God’s grace, fulfill the following: believe in God, put his faith in Jesus, repent of his sins, be baptized, remain within the fold of the Church, hope in God, persevere in charity, and finally, die in a state of grace….”

Are Catholics “born again”?

It seems to me the term, “born again,” isn’t as popular in Christian circles as it was, say, thirty or forty years ago. Christians these days will say, “I’m an evangelical” rather than “I’m a born-again Christian.” Back when I was a Catholic teenager and young adult, Catholic friends, family, and myself were bemused by all the people claiming to be “born again.” “That’s so ridiculous,” we said. “Is a person supposed to crawl back into their mother?,” we mocked, not realizing we were repeating Nicodemus’ question in John 3:4. As Catholics, we had very little Bible knowledge because our church never encouraged us to read Scripture.

Several years later, through God’s Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, I came to the knowledge that I was a sinner on my way to hell and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. At that wonderful and blessed moment, I was born again! My Savior’s perfect righteousness was imputed to me, I had no righteousness of my own. I have eternal life and fellowship with God through my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. All genuine Christians understand a person is born again, spiritually reborn, at the moment they accept Christ.

However, Catholics have an entirely different concept of what it means to be “born again.”

On the Catholic talk radio show I listen to, you’ll periodically hear the following question and answer:

Caller: Father, I was talking to my Protestant friend the other day and he asked me if I was “born again.” What should I tell him?

Priest: [with indignant anger] You tell him you were born again when you were baptized!!!

The Catholic church teaches that baptism (which occurs at infancy for the vast majority of Catholics) washes away all sin and then by subsequently participating in the church’s sacraments (eucharist, confession, confirmation, last rites), a Catholic allegedly receives graces which allegedly give them the ability to avoid sin so that they can hopefully be in a “state of grace” (without serious sin) immediately prior to death so as to merit Heaven. For Catholics, salvation is a process, which involves a lifelong effort to “cooperate with grace” and obey the Ten Commandments and church rules. But a Catholic can never have assurance of salvation because they don’t really know if they’ve done enough to be in a “state of grace” from one day to the next. Bible Christians know we could never be in a Vatican-defined “state of grace.” The only person who ever walked this Earth who was without sin, “serious” or otherwise, for even one hour was Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God.

The Catholic definition of being born again (i.e., baptism followed by a lifelong process of ritual and works) is antithetical to the Biblical teaching of accepting Jesus as Savior by faith alone in a moment of time (and then following Him as Lord).

I’m sure there are some Catholics who become so discouraged by trying to obey their church’s religious laundry list that they finally just collapse at the feet of Jesus and beg for His forgiveness and salvation. They’ve been saved in spite of their church, not because of it. No Catholic will find salvation by adhering to their church’s standard faith-works theology.

Of course, sitting in an evangelical church pew doesn’t make anyone a Christian, either. Everyone must individually accept Christ as Savior by faith alone.

Question: “I am a Catholic. Why should I consider becoming a Christian?”

Is salvation a process where we must constantly pull out the weeds in our “soul’s garden” or is salvation coming to Christ the Savior by faith without a single plea of our own?


“The truly Catholic view is that we are created in God’s image and therefore we are good.” – Catholic priest, Dwight Longenecker

“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10-12, God’s Holy Word

There are many people who call themselves “Christians” but their beliefs are outside of Biblical orthodoxy and their faith is in their religious system rather than in Jesus Christ. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are obvious examples. Roman Catholicism is a bit trickier because it has a pretty solid Christology (unlike the LDS and JWs) and it often refers to “grace,” “faith,” and “Jesus the Savior,” just as evangelical Christians do. But the difference between Biblical Christianity and Catholicism become clearer when we discuss HOW a person appropriates the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Catholics will always vehemently object to claims that their religion is works-based. They will freely acknowledge that salvation is a gift by God’s grace but what they really mean is salvation is a process by which a person regularly participates in the church sacraments and receives sacramental grace so that they can abstain from sin and subsequently merit Heaven. Catholics are taught they must “cooperate with grace” received from the sacraments by obeying the Ten Commandments and church rules.

Catholicism is a very complicated legalistic religion and it’s always difficult to peel through the double-speak and nail down exactly what the church teaches regarding salvation, which is why I very much appreciate the recent article below from Catholic priest, Dwight Longenecker (pictured). Every evangelical who wonders about the fundamental difference between Catholicism and Biblical Christianity should read this short, revealing article. Longenecker gives the Catholic view that people are basically good and with the help of the Catholic sacraments, which allegedly infuse God’s grace into the recipient’s soul, the Catholic can become holier and holier in order to eventually merit Heaven (*although they can never be sure if they have done enough to merit Heaven).

In the article, Longenecker pooh-poohs the Biblical doctrine of “Total Depravity,” which states that no one is good and could never merit Heaven. We come to Christ and accept Him as our Savior by faith alone without one, single plea of our own. Our only plea is the perfect righteousness of our Savior. At the moment we accept Christ, His perfect righteousness is imputed to us. That is how a person is saved.

Although we use a lot of the same terminology, the Catholic view of salvation is diametrically opposed to the Biblical Christian view. They are not compatible.

Please take a few minutes and read Longenecker’s article below and hopefully you’ll get a basic understanding of why Catholicism and Biblical Christianity are at loggerheads.

*Catholics have no assurance of their salvation. They are taught they commit the “sin of presumption” if they assume they are going to Heaven. This is a clear cut indication that Catholics are trusting in their own allegedly meritorious works rather than the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Protestantism and Pop Psychology

Is it really, “Whatever works for you”???

Unbelievers look around at all the various “Christian” denominations and groups andcd shake their heads in bewilderment. There’s Roman rite and Eastern rite Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, thousands of mainline Protestants and evangelical groups, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many more smaller groups. They all claim to teach the truth about God and spiritual matters. But they can’t all be right. How can a person sort through this tangled mess? The answer is easier than you might think.

Evangelical Christians are unique in a couple of important ways. Evangelicals believe the Bible is God’s authoritative Holy Word and that it teaches everything necessary regarding spiritual matters. The other groups either do not genuinely accept the Bible as God’s Word (most mainline Protestantism these days) or they attempt to add to God’s Word with their own traditions or with additional “scripture.”

Evangelicals also believe, as God’s Word proclaims, that salvation is only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The other groups all teach salvation depends upon following their religious protocols, beginning with baptism into their specific group followed by participation in various sacraments and then obedience to religious laws along with acts of charity towards others. Evangelicals believe we are justified by faith in Christ alone and then sanctified by the Holy Spirit to walk more closely with Jesus, our Lord and Savior. The other groups teach the reverse; that sanctification (impossibly trying to live a “holy” life) is rewarded with salvation.

Every group uses the Bible so why do evangelicals read the Bible differently than the other groups? Great question!

“Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” – John 5:28-29

There are many verses and passages in the Bible, like the one above, that seem to indicate those who are “good” and “righteous” will merit Heaven. But passages in the Bible must be understood in context. Scripture clarifies Scripture. A few verses before the above passage we read:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes (“pisteuo” Greek: to believe, put one’s faith in, trust) him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” – John 5:24

Those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior pass from death unto life.

The theme of the entire Bible – Old and New Testament – is Jesus Christ. We are all sinners and we all deserve eternal judgement. We could never become good enough to meet God’s holy standard. But God loves us so much he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross. Jesus conquered sin and death when He rose from the grave and now offers the free gift of eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who repent of their sins and accept Him as their Savior. The Lord imputes His perfect righteousness to us when we accept Him. We have no righteousness of our own.

All counterfeit forms of (c)hristianity insist you must join their group and follow their rules so that you may “possibly” merit Heaven. That’s very, very bad news because no one can earn Heaven. Genuine Christianity says you can’t merit Heaven because you disobey God every single day, but Jesus Christ died for your sins and offers you forgiveness for all your sins, eternal life, and fellowship with God. That’s VERY good news. In Bible-based evangelical Christianity, it’s ALL about Jesus Christ. But wait, you say. Why are there so many different evangelical churches? Evangelicals may differ on minor secondary issues but we are united in our belief in the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. But aren’t Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy much older than evangelical Protestantism? The early church gradually became institutionalized and fell into compromise and apostasy but there have always been those who upheld the Gospel of grace. The Holy Spirit used the Reformation to return the church to the Gospel of grace proclaimed by the New Testament church.

No, not all “Christian” groups are the same. Most say “our way” but genuine Christianity proclaims faith in Jesus Christ alone is the ONLY way.

Pray to Jesus today and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord. Then ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that proclaims the Gospel without compromise. What are you waiting for?

Uh-oh. I don’t think I’m going to make it.

It’s hard for me to believe but I’ve been working at Kodak for close to 41 years. When Idi started there in 1976 it was still a Dow Jones dynamo with 60,000 people employed locally. Back then the cameras and film flew off the store shelves faster than we could re-supply them. My, things certainly have changed! Goodbye film and cameras! Hello cellphones! The company is now just a shell of itself with only about 3000 employed in the Rochester area.

I started in the company with a guy named Doug who was a few years older than me. After working at Kodak for about a year, Doug got the idea of joining the Marine Corps. and going to law school on their dime. Doug didn’t strike me as someone who could survive 13-weeks at Parris Island boot camp but I kept my mouth shut. On his last day, the department threw a big going-away party for Doug at a local restaurant. There was toast after toast. Back in the 1970s, with money coming in hand over fist, they didn’t need much of an excuse at Kodak to throw a work party.

Well, after about a month, there was Doug back at the time clock punching in again, a little slimmer and with a Marine crew cut. Nothing needed to be said and nothing was said. The look of shame and embarrassment on his face said it all. He obviously didn’t make it through the agony of boot camp.

The Marine Corps. has some pretty high standards. Not every Tom, Dick, and Harry (or Mary) can waltz in off the street and make the grade. But as I read God’s Word, I began to understand how impossibly high God’s standards are. Parris Island is a cakewalk in comparison. God is absolutely perfect. God is holy even beyond our comprehension.

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! – Isaiah 6:5

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48

Me? Oy vey! I fail God every day in either thought, word, deed, or by omission. I could never measure up to God’s standard, not in a million years of trying. Only one person in the history of mankind ever met God’s holy and perfect standard and that was His Son, Jesus Christ. God knew we could never cut it on our own but He loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this world to live a perfect life and then take the punishment for our sins by dying on the cross. But Christ didn’t stay dead. He beat sin and the grave when He rose from the tomb. He offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all who repent of their sins and ask Him to save them by faith. Won’t you pray to Him today?

Last week I was driving home from work and I tuned into the local Catholic radio station. Talk show host, Al Kresta, and his guest were talking about Islam. Al stated that he felt sorry for Muslims because they had no joy. Allah seemed so stern and demanding unlike the (c)hristian’s God. But Catholics don’t have any true joy in the Lord, either. Not really. They have been taught they must constantly receive grace from the sacraments and then obey the Ten Commandments and church rules perfectly right up until the moment of their death. They can never be sure of their salvation because it all depends on how well they perform. Catholics are even taught that if they think they’re going to Heaven they commit the “sin of presumption.” They’re like Doug at boot camp; trying hard to make the grade but constantly worrying if the demanding drill instructor is going to send them away in defeat and humiliation.

I tried and tried but I couldn’t meet God’s holy standard. The Ten Commandment DIs were all over me: Not good enough. Too soft. No discipline. Caves easily to temptation. Disgusting. Shameful. A failure. Arrrgh!

I’m sooooooo happy my Savior stepped in and unlocked my fetters and pulled me out of the chain gang. He imputed His perfect righteousness to me, the last person who deserves it. I can offer no plea, no righteousness of my own, only the perfect righteousness of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Jesus, for saving me!!! Now that’s true JOY!!!

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

We’ve all heard of “good Catholics” but are there “good Christians”?

Yesterday, I was listening to Catholic talk radio and I heard a phrase that’s quite commongc within Catholicism: “He’s (or she’s) a good Catholic.”

What is meant by a good Catholic? A good Catholic is someone who obeys all of their church’s requirements. They go to mass and receive the eucharist every Sunday and the holy days of obligation. They go to confession regularly. They are able to recite all of the prescribed prayers by memory. They don’t eat meat on Lenten Fridays. They were married in the church and their spouse is probably Catholic also. Their children were all baptized as infants and if they’re unable to send them to expensive Catholic schools they at least make sure they attend CCD/CCE classes. There’s usually more than a few sacramentals (blessed statues, rosaries, candles, palm fronds, etc.) situated around their home.

Catholics use the term, “good Catholic,” to distinguish practicing members from the majority, non-practicing members who only show up at church for weddings, funerals, Christmas, and Easter; otherwise known as “cultural” or “cafeteria” Catholics.

Calling someone a “good Catholic” is congruent with Catholic belief. Roman Catholicism teaches salvation comes through grace dispensed through its sacraments which enables the partaker to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules so they can merit their way to Heaven. So Catholics who follow the rules are “good” and those who don’t are “bad” or more graciously referred to as “lapsed.” Catholics generally believe that “good” people, good Catholics and good non-Catholics, will merit Heaven.

How does all of this compare with Biblical evangelical Christianity? Do we call someone a “good” Christian? Well, that seems a bit incongruous, doesn’t it? A Christian is someone who realizes they are not good; that they are a sinner in need of the Savior, Jesus Christ. After they have accepted Jesus as Savior, a Christian understands that any goodness they possess is from the Lord. There is no good in my flesh. Any good I do is from God. I am not good. I am saved by Jesus Christ.

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.'” – Luke 18:19

But now I try to please and obey Him because He saved me. My faith is in Jesus Christ and His perfect, imputed righteousness, not in my own sorry efforts.

Catholic friend, you cannot merit your salvation. None of us are good. Only God is good. We all deserve eternal punishment. But Jesus Christ, God the Son, lived a perfect life and died on the cross to pay for your sins. But He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all who accept Him as Savior by faith. Repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. Then ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” – Romans 7:18-25

Dear Catholic friend, How good is “good enough”?

Dear Catholic friend, I have a question about one of your church’s teachings that I’m veryge curious about. But I need to flesh this out a bit before I get to my question.

First of all, we recognize that Roman Catholicism teaches that baptism is absolutely essential for salvation.

“Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament” (CCC 1257).

The church then says after a person is baptized a Catholic they must regularly participate in the church’s sacraments in order to receive grace so that they can successfully obey the Ten Commandments and church rules so they are able to merit Heaven.

“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” (CCC 2010).

In previous centuries, Rome insisted that only baptized Catholics could merit Heaven but then widened its restrictions after Vatican II and recognized as valid the baptisms of approved Protestant “ecclesial communities” (Rome will not call them churches) as well.

At this point some people might say, “Wait! Doesn’t the Catholic church also now teach that everyone on Earth can merit Heaven?” Yes, it does. We know that since Vatican II, Rome teaches that people of all non-Catholic religions and even atheists can merit Heaven if they “follow the light they’ve been given,” although they have never been baptized. If someone has never heard or understood the Catholic gospel – salvation by sacramental grace and merit (aka “cooperation with grace”) – through no fault of their own, Rome says God will judge them according to how well they obeyed the estimable portions of their religion or conscience.

I think we can at least agree everyone is a sinner and follows their religion or conscience only imperfectly. So here’s my question about this philosophy: At what point will a non-Catholic or atheist be able to merit Heaven? Do they have to follow the precepts of their religion or the dictates of their conscience at least 50% of the time? No, that seems too low. Is it 75% of the time? 90%? What is the cutoff? At what point exactly will God say, “Good enough”?

Okay, it’s a rhetorical question. I don’t expect an answer because there is none. Yes, we are all sinners and because we are sinners none of us can possibly merit Heaven. I break God’s commandments in thought, word, deed, or by omission every single day. But God loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the debt for our sins. Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross and offers eternal life and fellowship with God as a free gift to all who repent of their sins and accept Him as Savior by faith. Once you have accepted Christ as Savior, then you can follow Him, albeit imperfectly.

When are you going to accept Him? A church that teaches people can earn salvation by being “good” is a false church. God’s Word says no one is good. Accept Christ and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches and teaches God’s Word without compromise.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-24

Am I good enough to go to heaven?

Yes, I am “in Christ.” No, you’re not “in Christ.” Yes, I AM! No, you’re NOT!

Last night, I was reviewing some discussions I had with a couple of Roman Catholics backss when I began this blog over a year ago. The dialogue reached a point where the Catholics claimed to be “in Christ” just as much as I claimed to be “in Christ.” I was a Catholic for twenty-seven years; educated in a Catholic grammar and high school, and I’ve learned even more about Catholicism since I left that church and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1983. I’m fully aware that Catholic parlance is filled with references to “Jesus the Savior,” “faith,” “grace,” and the like, but when Catholics use such terms, they mean something entirely different than what evangelicals understand.

In my exchanges with the Catholics about being “in Christ,” I said the term referred to a believer’s position before a Holy God; covered in Christ’s righteousness. I have no righteousness of my own. When I accepted Jesus as my Savior, His perfect righteousness was imputed to me. In Holy God’s perfect court of Law, I stand completely condemned by my sin, but my Savior took my place and bore the penalty for my sin on the cross. I am washed and redeemed by His blood and I’m able to go free ONLY because of His righteousness.

In contrast, Rome teaches that God’s grace is infused into the Catholic through its sacraments, empowering them to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and live an increasingly sanctified life, enabling them to merit Heaven. So a Catholic faithful to their church’s teachings cannot rightly say they are “in Christ,” because their salvation depends ultimately on how well they obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) right up until the moment of their death. Positionally before God, they are NOT “in Christ,” they are “outside of Christ” because they are attempting to merit their own salvation rather than accepting Jesus as Savior by faith alone.

My Catholics friends were quite taken aback that I would dare to suggest that they were not “in Christ.” Who was I to tell them that? Was I making myself out to be God Almighty by deciding who was going to Heaven and who wasn’t? How rude! How narrow-minded and judgmental!

But God’s Word says there is only one Way to salvation, and that’s Jesus Christ. Christ is either your Savior or He is not. It’s not enough to call Christ your Savior, you must be trusting in Him by faith alone. If you tell me that salvation is merited by obeying the Ten Commandments through grace (impossible!), as Catholicism teaches, then I can tell you with absolute confidence that Jesus is not your Savior and you are not “in Christ.” To illustrate, let’s suppose you’re on a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean, and I show up in my rescue boat and beg you to get in. Praising and admiring the rescue boat for its wonderful qualities won’t save you. You have to abandon your ship and get into the rescue boat. You have to be in the rescue boat for the boat to save you. Likewise, gushing about “Jesus the Savior,” “faith,” and “grace” won’t save you when you’re still trying to merit your own salvation. You’re not “in Christ,” you’re denying Christ and trusting in your own abilities and “goodness.”

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

In today’s climate of plurality and tolerance, theological debates such as the one above are widely frowned upon and are to be avoided at all costs. The only requirement, according to Rick Warren and friends, is that we all “just love Jesus.” That’s a sinking ship, friends.

What does it mean to be in Christ?

Meriting eternal life?

I have a few Roman Catholic publications that I keep for reference purposes includingsm the “New Saint Joseph Sunday Missal: Prayerbook and Hymnal for 2016.” The missal contains the Bible readings for every Sunday mass during the year along with some of the prayers of the priest during the mass and the responses from the congregation. I rarely refer to the missal but for some reason I pulled it off my bookshelf this morning.

This coming Sunday, September 18th, at thousands of Catholic churches across the country, the mass will begin with the following exchange:

Entrance antiphon: I am the salvation of the people, says the Lord. Should they cry to me in any distress, I will hear them, and I will be their Lord forever.

Collect: O God, who founded all the commands of your sacred Law upon love of you and of our neighbor, grant that, by keeping your precepts, we may merit to attain eternal life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Did you all catch that?

Rome gives lip service to grace and faith but the bottom line is every Catholic is instructed they must ultimately merit their salvation by obeying the Ten Commandments, an impossibility. Millions of Catholics throughout the nation will be praying this same prayer this coming Sunday in the hope that they will be able to merit eternal life by obeying the Law.

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:20

Yes, Roman Catholics are a mission field.

God’s Word is an inexhaustible fountain of wisdom. How many times have you read a familiar Bible passage or verse and one day the Holy Spirit fully illuminates it to you for the first time? It’s a WOW! moment.

“And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” – Luke 5:39

I’ve read Luke 5:39 many times before, but when I read it two nights ago the blinders finally fell off. Oh, I get it now! Jesus is saying we’d much rather hang onto our cherished religious traditions and rituals than accept Him as Savior by faith. Becoming born-again? Accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior? Catholics laugh at all that talk as being Bible-belt gobbledygook. I know. When I was a Catholic I used to chide Christians and laugh at it too. Catholics say, “Don’t give me that “born-again” stuff. You take religion way too seriously. What was good enough for Grandma and Grandpa and Mom and Dad is good enough for me. Just give me those Ten Commandments to follow and I’ll be fine.”