Who Is Really Saved?
Question: If a Roman Catholic believes wholeheartedly in the Lord Jesus Christ and is committed to serving Him as his Lord, and if he believes that the only way his sins can be forgiven is through Christ’s death as atonement for those sins, and the believer’s repentance—isn’t he saved? Suppose a person has salvation by faith alone; does he lose that salvation by believing in infant baptism? Does he lose his salvation by believing that communion is really the body and blood of Christ, as the Lord said it was? Does he lose his salvation if he believes in purgatory?
Response: Anyone who believes the gospel, which is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Romans:1:16), is saved, whether he be called Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, or whatever. If, however, a Roman Catholic “believes wholeheartedly in the Lord Jesus Christ,” as you suggest, then he would find himself in irreconcilable conflict with the doctrines and practices of his Church. It is logically impossible for a Roman Catholic to truly believe the gospel that saves and to believe the tenets of Catholicism at the same time, because they are diametrically opposed.
For example, how can a person believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins is an accomplished fact of history and that He is now at the Father’s right hand in heaven in a resurrected, glorified body and at the same time believe that He exists bodily on Catholic altars as a wafer, perpetually suffering the agonies of the cross (as Vatican II says) “in the sacrifice of the Mass”?
Quite clearly, both of these contradictory beliefs cannot be maintained at one time. How do we know which one is truly believed by Catholics who profess both? To remain in the Roman Catholic Church and to continue to participate in the “sacrifice of the Mass” would surely indicate faith in the Roman Catholic Church and its dogma rather than in the true biblical gospel.
How can anyone believe that Christ through His sacrifice on the cross “obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews:9:12) and at the same time believe that “the work of our redemption” is still in the process of being accomplished through the Eucharist (as Vatican II says)? How can a person believe that Christ’s redemptive work on the cross is “finished,” as He himself said (John:19:30), and at the same time believe that the Mass is a perpetuation of Christ’s sacrifice? No thinking person could believe both at once.
Vatican II states that in the Mass “Christ perpetuates in an unbloody manner the sacrifice offered on the cross….” How can one “perpetuate” an event that was completed in the past? It is logically impossible. One may remember or memorialize a past event, but one cannot perpetuate it in the present. How can anyone believe that through Christ’s death and resurrection more than 1900 years ago the debt of our sin has been paid in full and at the same time engage in the Mass, which purports to be additional payments on that debt?
The Code of Canon Law declares that “the work of redemption is continually accomplished in the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice….” Vatican II says that the Mass is “a sacrifice in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated” and in which “our Lord is immolated…offering himself to the Father for the world’s salvation through the ministry of priests.”
Christ said, “Come unto me and I will give you rest. I give my sheep eternal life and they will never perish.” One cannot believe in Christ while looking to a church—Catholic or other—for salvation. The many prayers to Mary to “obtain for us forgiveness of sin and eternal life” are in themselves proof that the Catholic has not trusted Christ for his salvation. If I offered to pay in full a debt you owed, would not your continual petitioning of someone else to pay it be sufficient evidence that you neither believed nor accepted my offer?
One cannot believe in Christ alone and at the same time believe in Christ plus baptism and the sacraments and good graces of the Roman Catholic Church. Paul wrote: Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed [anathema]. As we said before, so say I now [for emphasis], If any man preach any other gospel unto you…let him be accursed [anathema] (Galatians:1:8,9).
Paul was referring to and cursing those known as Judaizers because they taught that in addition to faith in Christ’s finished work one also had to keep the Jewish law. That small addition destroyed the gospel. Yet the Catholic Church has had 1500 years to add far more to the gospel than the Judaizers ever imagined. That false gospel cannot save, and it merits Paul’s anathema.
Yes, Catholics believe the basics of the gospel: that Christ is God, who came to this earth through the virgin birth, lived a perfect, sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, rose from the grave the third day, and is coming again. But that is not all Catholics must believe. To the true gospel Roman Catholicism has added the Mass (as a propitiatory sacrifice by which sins are pardoned), purgatory, indulgences, intercession with Mary, and the necessity of baptism and being in the Church and participating in the “sacraments of the New Law,” which Trent and Vatican II say are essential for salvation.
One must believe in one or the other of the conflicting gospels: the biblical gospel or the Roman Catholic gospel. One cannot sincerely believe two contradictory propositions at the same time. Anyone who trusts in Christ alone is saved. Sadly, it is at the same time possible to give lip service to the false teachings of one’s church, or not to fully understand its false teachings. God alone can judge such hearts.