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What the Roman Catholic Church Teaches About Salvation
Updated December 18, 2013 (first published July 9, 2008) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article)

Because of the ecumenical movement, a growing number of Roman Catholics are familiar with biblical terminology about salvation, such as
born again, and some have been trained to reply affirmatively to the question, “Are you saved? Have you been born again?”

The problem is that they do not mean by this what the Bible means. Rome’s doctrine of salvation is not the the true gospel of complete and sure salvation through personal faith in Christ. It is a gospel of works that is sometimes presented under the guise of grace.

THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH’S DOCTRINE OF SALVATION CAN BE SUMMARIZED AS FOLLOWS:

1. Rome teaches that Christ, having purchased redemption by His blood and death, delivered it to the Catholic Church to be distributed to men through her sacraments.

Rome’s gospel centers in the Catholic Church, the pope, and the sacraments. While Catholicism teaches that Christ died on the cross to purchase man’s salvation, it is not satisfied simply to invite men to receive this salvation by faith directly from the resurrected Christ.

Consider the following quotes from the Vatican II Council:

For ‘God’s only-begotten Son ... has won a treasure for the militant Church ... he has entrusted it to blessed Peter, the key-bearer of heaven, and to his successors who are Christ’s vicars on earth, so that they may distribute it to the faithful for their salvation. They may apply it with mercy for reasonable causes to all who have repented for and have confessed their sins. At times they may remit completely, and at other times only partially, the temporal punishment due to sin in a general as well as in special ways (insofar as they judge it to be fitting in the sight of the Lord). The merits of the Blessed Mother of God and of all the elect ... are known to add further to this treasury’” (ellipsis are in the original) (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, Chap. 4, 7, p. 80).
“For
it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help towards salvation, that the fulness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God” (Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, chap. 1, 3, p. 415).

2. Rome’s plan of salvation has several steps

The First Step is Baptism. According to Rome, salvation begins with baptism. It can be infant baptism for those born into Catholic homes or adult baptism for those who approach the Roman Church later in life. Either way, the Catholic Church teaches that through baptism a person receives spiritual life.

“By the sacrament of Baptism, whenever it is properly conferred in the way the Lord determined and received with the proper dispositions of soul, man becomes truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ and is reborn to a sharing of the divine life” (Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, chap. 3, II, 22, p. 427).

The next steps are the other church sacraments.

After baptism a person is considered to be born again and part of the Church. This new life is said to be nurtured and kept alive through Confirmation, Mass, Penance and the other Catholic sacraments.

“Just as Christ was sent by the Father so also he sent the apostles ... that they might preach the Gospel to every creature and proclaim that the Son of God by his death and resurrection had freed us from the power of Satan and from death, and brought us into the Kingdom of his Father. But he also willed that the work of salvation which they preached SHOULD BE SET IN TRAIN THROUGH THE SACRIFICE AND SACRAMENTS, around which the entire liturgical [ritualistic] life revolves” (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Chap. 1, I, 5,6, pp. 23-24).

“THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS ARE THE NECESSARY MEANS ESTABLISHED BY CHRIST THROUGH WHICH HIS REDEEMING, LIFE-GIVING, SANCTIFYING GRACE IS IMPARTED TO INDIVIDUALS’ SOULS. You must centre your life upon the sacraments established by Christ if you want to save your soul. means of salvation. ... The sacraments are the source of your real life, the divine life that will unite you with God in this world and in eternity. Let nothing make you think that you can get along without the sacraments. Without them your soul must die. ... IF YOU DON’T RECEIVE THE SACRAMENTS AT ALL, YOU DON’T RECEIVE GRACE. If you don’t receive them properly, that is, if you receive them seldom and with little devotion, you receive less grace” (L.G. Lovasik, The Eucharist in Catholic Life, pp. 14,15).

Thus we see that the Roman Catholic plan of salvation is faith in Christ PLUS baptism PLUS continuing in the sacraments.

3. Rome teaches that salvation is by the grace of God through Christ and is received by faith, but it denies that salvation is by grace ALONE and faith ALONE.

The following statement is made by a modern Roman priest well known for his emphasis upon the necessity for personal faith in the exercise of the sacraments, yet he is careful to say that the sacraments are as necessary as faith.

“In recent years the church has reiterated again and again that we are saved by faith AND the sacraments of faith. BOTH ARE NECESSARY” (J.D. Crichton, Christian Celebration: The Sacraments, p. 65).

The Catholic Church redefines grace.

When a Roman Catholic priest speaks of salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ, he does not mean the unmerited, free grace of Christ whereby a believing sinner is eternally and completely and once-for-all saved from sin. By “grace,” the Roman Catholic Church means God’s help to live a righteous life.

Consider the following quote from Vatican II:

“All children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be the more severely judged” (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 2, 14, p. 337).

This is a strange kind of grace. It is a grace that does not result in eternal certainty, but only the POSSIBILITY of living up to God’s requirements. It is a subtle and unscriptural MIXTURE OF GRACE PLUS WORKS that is condemned in Galatians 1:6-8.

THE BIBLE’S ANSWER TO ROME’S DOCTRINE OF SALVATION

1. Sacramental salvation is contrary to the examples of salvation in the book of Acts (Acts 10:43: 11:16-18; 14:27; 15:9-11; 16:30-31). The souls that were saved in the early churches were saved once and for all by putting their faith in Jesus Christ. Their salvation was not a process of sacramentalism.

2. Sacramental salvation is contrary to the teaching of the book of Romans. This book is written expressly to reveal the way of salvation (Romans 1:15-17).

Consider Romans 3:21-24; 4:4-6; 11:6. Notice in the last reference that God says it is impossible to mix grace and works for salvation. We are saved by grace or we are saved by works; it cannot be a mixture of the two as the Catholic Church teaches!

3. Sacramental salvation is also contrary to the Gospel of John, which was written expressly to lead men to eternal life in Christ (John 20:31).

The first twelve chapters of John describe Jesus’ ministry to the world of lost men. In these chapters, we are shown by unmistakable emphasis that eternal life and salvation are received by faith in Jesus Christ and faith in Christ alone. “Believe” is the key word in these chapters. See John 1:12; 3:16-18, 36; 5:24; 6:28-29; 7:38-39; 8:24; 9:35-38; 11:25-26; 12:36-37. Notice that in all of these verses we are told that salvation is obtained through faith in Christ and there is no hint of sacramentalism.

4. Sacramental salvation is contrary to the summary of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Here Paul summarizes the gospel that he preached, and it is faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Period. There is no sacramentalism whatsoever. No priests; no church; no works; no sacraments.

5. Sacramental salvation is contrary to the summary of the gospel in Ephesians 2:8-10. This passage teaches that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace and that works follow as the evidence. This puts everything into proper order and perspective. It is God’s will that men live holy lives, but holy living is the product of salvation and not the way of salvation.

6. Sacramental salvation is contrary to the summary of the gospel in Titus 3:4-8. This passage also teaches that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace and that works follow as the evidence and product.

This is true Bible salvation. Eternal life, forgiveness of sin, righteousness, and the Holy Spirit are received when an individual acknowledges his sinfulness, repents of his sin and trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is only after this that a person can do any work to please God. Works and ceremonies, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, in themselves have nothing to do with forgiveness of sin, eternal life, the new birth, or becoming a child of God. Rather, obedience to God follows salvation as naturally as living follows ones natural birth. First we must receive new life through personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Then, having life, the regenerated believer serves his Master.

QUESTIONS TO ASK A PERSON WHO CLAIMS TO BE A SAVED ROMAN CATHOLIC
By Alex O. Dunlap

Occasionally, some well-meaning Christian thinks he knows a “saved Roman Catholic.” We invite such a person to introduce us to his friend so that we may, in his presence, ask the Roman Catholic these questions. His answers will easily determine that he is not saved in the true, biblical sense. The new “accommodation” approach of the Roman Church in these ecumenical days of apostasy is to use the same expressions as Fundamental Christians. Christian love is not shown by permitting these people to believe they are saved, when they are not. Christian love is shown by making the true Gospel plain and clear so that the “religious but lost” person will realize his unsaved condition and his need of a Saviour. He must receive the true Christ of the Bible, not a counterfeit, as in the Roman, Greek and many other churches. The Apostle Paul said that he was free from the blood of all men because he did not withhold from them all truth. May the same be true of every genuine witness for Jesus Christ! Here are the questions:

1. When were you converted?
2. How were you converted?
3. To what, or to whom, were you converted?
4. What do you believe now that you did not believe before your conversion?
5. What does it mean to be saved?
6. On what scriptural promises do you base your salvation?
7. What does it mean to be born again?
8. Are you sure today that if you die tomorrow, or at any time in the future, you will be in heaven immediately after death?
9. What do you believe about Purgatory?
10. What do you believe about the Mass?
11. Do you still participate in the Mass?
12. Do you believe that any sinner can be saved who dies without trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the salvation of his soul and forgiveness of his sins?
13. Do you believe that Mary and Roman Catholic saints can answer your prayers or help you get to heaven?
14. How do you believe that the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ is applied to your soul?
15. Have you told your priest you have been saved?
16. Do you believe you will still go to heaven if you leave the Roman Catholic Church, receive believer’s baptism and join a fundamentalist Bible believing, non-Catholic church?
17. When and where do you plan to do this?

As questions such as these are discussed in detail, it will become evident that the person is trusting in his works, merits, baptism, confirmation, sacraments, or something BESIDES OR PLUS, Jesus Christ, and not in Christ and Christ ALONE. He can then be shown the difference between his unbiblical form of salvation and the saving faith of the Bible.

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