While many are rejoicing that the pope has visited the UK - all right thinking believers should weep. The system that the pope represents is utterly opposed to the gospel. It robs Jesus Christ of His glory at every turn. Nowhere is that robbery seen more clearly in how sinners are saved. Roman Catholicism boils down to a top up religion. It is quite happy to speak of Jesus Christ dying for sinners. But in Roman Catholicism what He did on the cross just wasn’t enough. It needs topped up at every turn with masses, prayers of the saints, intercession of Mary, penance, indulgences, baptism, anointing with oil. These additions make Roman Catholicism no gospel at all. It is a religion of works that denies the power of the life and death of Jesus Christ. The message of the Bible is so very different from the message of Rome. The Bible says that sinners are declared right with God through faith alone in Christ alone. It was that key Biblical truth that the Reformation brought again to the fore and delivered many from the darkness of the works religion of Roman Catholicism.
Below are ten ways (mainly gleaned from an Evangelicals Now article) that Roman Catholicism differs from the gospel:
1. The Bible - Roman Catholicism has a different Bible. Along with the books of the Bible that we find in ours they add 15 other books. These are called the Apocrypha. The Lord Jesus never referred to these and when the apostles made note of some verses it was only to refute false teachers. Roman Catholicism also puts church tradition on the same level as the Bible. A Roman Catholic Catechism states “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God.” Catechism of the Catholic Church This is against what the Bible says in II Timothy 3v16&17.
2. The Pope - Roman Catholicism believes that the pope is in the place of Jesus Christ. They refer to him as the “Vicar of Christ.” Vatican I claimed supreme authority and infallibility for the pope and though this was somewhat modified by Vatican II papal infallibility is still part of Roman Catholic teaching. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is the true vicar of Christ. The pope is often seen as receiving homage from his cardinals and the people. The pope fits the bill for the Anti Christ II Thessalonians 2v4.
3. Priests - At a Roman Catholic’s priest’s ordination he is said to receive special grace which he can communicate to others E.g. he can hear confession and forgive sins. The Bible makes it clear that there is one mediator between God and man I Timothy 2v5
4. Transubstantiation - Roman Catholicism believers that the bread and wine turn into the physical body and blood of Christ. This is a perversion of Matthew 26v26. The reason that Roman Catholics only receive the bread is in case the cup is spilt and the blood of Christ is therefore spilt.
5. The Mass - This is the key part of Roman Catholic worship. In it the priest offers the bread, the body, as a sacrifice to God. But the Bible says that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross never needs to be repeated.
6. Baptism - Roman Catholicism teaches that baptism make the person a Christian. Their Catechism states, “Through baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God.” The Bible says that personal faith in Christ is the way to be saved Acts 16v31.
7. Penance - Roman Catholicism teaches that the priest has the power to forgive sin and impose some task to test if the person is really sorry and make some satisfaction to God for the sin. The Bible is clear that we have nothing to offer to God to try and satisfy Him.
8. Purgatory - Roman Catholicism teaches that really good Christians go straight to heaven but that the rest go to purgatory to work their passage. Again this is directly opposed to the gospel. In Luke 23v43 the Lord Jesus promised the thief that he would be in heaven in an instant.
9. Indulgences - Rome teaches that because of unused merit built up through Jesus death and the good lives of saints they are able to offer special deals for money given to the Roman Catholic Church. In exchange for money or favours the time in Purgatory can be reduced. It was this wicked practice that Martin Luther spoke out against and kick started the Reformation.
10. Mary - Roman Catholicism claims that Mary was a perpetual virgin, that she was free from sin, was taken body and soul to heaven where she now prays for her church. Again this is contrary to the Bible. Mark 6v3 shows that she had other children. Luke 1v47 shows she was a sinner declaring Jesus as Saviour.
Roman Catholicism is a wicked and anti Christian system - at every point seeking to take glory from the Lord Jesus and His finished work. What makes it particularly dangerous is that it often uses Biblical terms, though with a different meaning.
No doubt there are true believers within the system. We would recognise also that Rome is clearer on some matters than many evangelicals, E.g. abortion and homosexuality. But in the end it is not the gospel that we find in our Bibles and is taking many people to a lost eternity.
As a denomination we hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith’s position on the pope and the system he represents, "There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ; nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God."
The majority of the people of this island have been laid astray by this deadly error. Our hearts should break at the thought of so many without God and without hope. May the prayer of Paul be our prayer, Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. Romans 10v1
Remember most of our so called Protestant neighbours are Roman Catholics at heart - believing that somehow their religious activities will gain God’s favour.
When we are witnessing to our Roman Catholic friends there are some key things to remember:
1. Roman Catholic people have often a reverence for the things of God that nominal Protestants do not. They will be willing to speak of the things of God - so do so.
2. Don’t launch in to sorting out every error in their theology immediately. Their greatest need is to see the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Encourage them to read and study the Bible with you. As you do this - they will be able to see from the pages of the Bible why the Lord Jesus is all that is needed.
4. Though most may be suspicious of coming to a meeting - they may well be open to reading a tract.
5. Tell them that you are opposed to organisations like the Orange Order and that being a Protestant Is not equivalent to being a unionist.
6. Speak to them about your own testimony and what it means for you to know the Lord Jesus in a personal way.
7. Speak to them about heaven and why you are sure that you are going there.
8. Love and care for them as you word anyone. Take time to get to know them having them to your home and with your family.
9. Ask if there are things in their lives that you could pray for.
10. Remember that once they are converted there will be many battles ahead for them. Give assurance of the love and support of you and your church.