Tuesday, March 27, 2018
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CHURCH AT ROME?
It has been said that the epistle of Romans, written by the apostle Paul, is one of the greatest and most sublime books of Scripture. It is his masterpiece. It is one of the most profound and influential books ever written. This book is called “Romans” because it was, of course, written to the first-century church (that is, the assembly of Christians) in the city of Rome.
It is a unique book, at least partly because no other book in the Bible deals specifically, and at such great length, with the doctrine of justification like this book does. As we have said before, when discussing justification, this is the book to which one must go. It does not deal with justification only as a passing reference, but in great detail. All other references to justification should revolve around this context, namely, chapters three through five of Romans.
Again, this message was written to the early Roman church. But the church that most people identify as the Church of Rome today is the Catholic Church, or the Roman Catholic Church, headquartered in the Vatican. But the “gospel” of the modern Roman Catholic Church is not the same gospel as that of the first-century assembly of believers to whom the apostle Paul wrote in Rome. The gospel that Paul delivered has the power to save:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:16-17 - KJV)
Notice that the just “shall live,” i.e., shall obtain eternal life and make it to Heaven – by his faith, rather than by his works. Paul goes on into the next few chapters to make this concept abundantly clear.
But the gospel of modern Rome is “faith plus works equals salvation.” It seems to ignore the clear message that Paul stressed 2000 years ago:
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (Romans 3:28)
Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. (Romans 4:4-5)
Just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: (Romans 4:6 - NASV)
Justification happens that first moment when a man recognizes his desperate spiritual need, when he surrenders to God, and allows Him to change his heart. At this point he is made right with God. He is now eligible for Heaven. Although the man will now go on to do good works, notice that justification is APART FROM the merit of any of those works. It cannot be any clearer from the passages above.
So, again, the “gospel” of the Catholic Church (modern Rome) is not the one that Paul shared with the original church in Rome. The Catholic gospel does not have power to save, since it’s power depends (at least partially) on the works of the individual striving for salvation. This causes a man to trust in his own labor to “help” Jesus save him. But Jesus doesn’t need any help from us. There is nothing that we can do to “supplement” His work. It is utterly blasphemous to think that His work is lacking in any way. In saying this, they are denying the full atonement of Jesus Christ. Remember, we (corrupt mankind) are the very reason that He had to go to the cross in the first place!
No, His suffering and work on the cross is fully sufficient (all by itself) to redeem us.
Whatever happened to this critical, foundational teaching given to the church of Paul’s day at Rome? Somewhere along the way, something seriously went wrong. Paul’s message was changed. Mostly because man wants to take credit where he should not.
But note this claim from the Catholic Church. According to the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, titled “Dei Verbum,” the task of the Catholic Magisterium concerning the Word of God is:
“…guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully…” (chapter 2, paragraph 10) See also CCC #86.
But have they really guarded Paul’s original sacred message, the inspired gospel of Jesus Christ? Are they “explaining it faithfully” today? Indeed not. Once again, what the Catholic Church is telling us today is not what Paul told the church at Rome back then. What we have is a different and unbiblical message from modern Rome.
The word “gospel” means “good news.” And Paul’s words concerning justification are indeed good news. They can be summed up in this way: Jesus Christ is powerful and His work is absolutely sufficient. He has mercifully and graciously paid the full penalty for sin on the cross, so man doesn’t have to attempt to work his way into Heaven. He doesn’t have to wonder if he did enough good deeds or earned enough “brownie points.” He doesn’t have to worry about whether his good works outweigh his bad works. He can rest assured of his salvation by simply maintaining his faith, by trusting only in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
The great apostle Paul had quite a resume concerning his religious achievements. But his resume meant nothing when it came to meriting salvation! He considered all his achievements as dung (Philippians 3:4-9). Even Paul did not trust in his works, so how much more should we avoid trusting in ours?
On the other hand, the “gospel” of modern Rome is another gospel, with another Jesus, and another spirit (2 Corinthians 11:4). The poor faithful member of “Holy Mother Church” serves a weak Jesus who is not able to fully pay sin’s penalty, and the Catholic therefore needs to “cooperate with the grace of God” by maintaining his duty to perform the sacraments – and it is indeed by his works that he must merit eternal life (Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter XVI). Talk about bad news!
To make matters worse, he is also surrounded by a multitude of unbiblical teachings from his leaders. Yet, one of his leaders (Pope Pius X), in an official Catholic statement says that the Catholic’s “one duty” is to obey his leaders [apparently, no matter what they teach] (Vehementer Nos, paragraph 8).
We would encourage everyone from ANY church (whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant) to do what the Bible says and test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21) with Scripture. That even includes testing what your own church teaches.
The ancient Roman church of the first century had it right. But somewhere along the way, that simple gospel message got corrupted. Although they try, the modern Roman church cannot rightfully claim to be the historic Christian church. Because of their many false teachings, they are disqualifying themselves as the church that “guards” and “faithfully explains” the Word of God.
By the way, there is no group today that can rightfully claim that they are the original, or first, Christian church. The best they can do is to be faithful followers of the original church’s teachings found in God-inspired Scripture.
We will end on this point. The Judaizers were another group that Paul contended with. And they were committing the same error as the Catholic Church - the error of adding their works to the cross (Acts 15:1, 5). And Paul strongly condemned them:
But 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. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9 - KJV)
For more info. on Rome’s weak view of the work of Christ, see this link: