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 allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.
This week we will examine the first passage Armstrong presents in chapter twelve of his book in which the Catholic apologist attempts to prove the existence of purgatory and the need to pray for the dead.
#91) 1 Corinthians 3:11-15: 11 For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble— 13 each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Following this passage, Armstrong writes, “It will be an extremely serious business when we meet God face-to-face. There will be no more “imputation” – merely “covering over” of sins – then. No, to stand in his presence we must be literally, actually sinless, because that is how we were created to be in the first place, in his image. We have to be cleansed of actual sin (“sanctification” in Protestant theological language). There is no Protestant Catholic difference on this particular point, from either side. The only difference is a quantitative one: Catholics think this cleansing will involve a process, like our life on earth. And that process of sanctification can continue after death: in purgatory. Protestants, on the other hand, seem to think this all occurs in an instant.” – pp. 157-158.
Catholic apologists misinterpret 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 as a reference to purgatory, but of course Paul is referring to the Bema Seat of Christ where believers will be judged according to their service. The existence of an intermediate, purgatorial state is to be found nowhere in the Bible. In contrast, the Bible teaches, without any ambiguity, that upon death a believer will immediately be with the Lord:
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 5:6-8
“I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” – Philippians 1:23
Purgatory is an essential cog in Catholicism’s false salvation system of sacramental grace and merit. Catholics are taught they must become intrinsically and subjectively good and righteous in this life in order to merit Heaven at the moment of their death. That’s a tall order, so the Roman church has broken sin down into two categories; major/mortal and minor/venial. It teaches that if anyone has unconfessed mortal sin on their soul when they die, they will go straight to hell. But any minor sin will consign a person to purgatory for a period of time. Catholics augmented their doctrine of purgatory with a number of ancillary teachings including the granting of indulgences to reduce time spent there. Catholics prelates of old taught that the suffering in purgatory would be equal to that of hell, but contemporary clerics liken purgatory to the comfortable waiting room of a train station.
Bible Christians believe, as the Bible states, that we cannot become intrinsically and subjectively good. We are all sinners and even the things that we do that we call “good” are tainted with sin. We are made righteous before God ONLY by repenting of sin and accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith alone. It is the perfect righteousness of Jesus that is imputed to us when we accept Him as Savior that justifies us before a Holy God.
“And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” – Philippians 3:9
The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses a believer not of just some sin, but of ALL sin.
“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.” – 1 John 1:7
Praise my Savior that I don’t have to merit my salvation as Catholicism teaches!!! I can’t possibly merit my salvation and no one else can either.
Armstrong presents three more Bible passages as proof-texts for purgatory and prayers for the dead and we’ll examine another one next week.
For more information on purgatory, see the article below:
What does the Bible say about Purgatory?