Thursday, December 9, 2010


Sola Scriptura (Latin for “Bible Alone”) is the teaching that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith for the church today (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Catholics reject this teaching for several reasons, but this particular article will address only one of those Catholic objections. That tired, overused, but ever-so-popular Catholic argument is this: Sola Scriptura is “unworkable” as a rule of faith because it uses “private interpretation,” and this causes divisions / arguments / disagreements in Protestantism. But is this sound reasoning? Is this a fair argument?

Well, it is no secret that there are many divisions within Protestantism. Some estimate that there are 25,000 different denominations, some 30,000, others 33,000, etc., etc. One popular Catholic apologist claims that there may even be MILLIONS of Protestant denominations. While we believe that all of these numbers are wildly exaggerated, the focus of this article will not be on how many denominations there really are, nor on who has “more unity.” The focus is on the hypocrisy of Catholics who make the claim that Sola Scriptura is false because of divisions within Protestantism, while knowing that they, too, have divisions.

The Catholic Church claims to be “one” (i.e., unified), yet there are also many divisions / arguments / disagreements within its own ranks. This fact is undeniable. A little time spent searching on the internet will demonstrate that point. And some of these disagreements are on major, essential issues… even between higher officials in the Church. Even some of the early church fathers had disagreements with each other. There have been disagreements on all levels in the Catholic Church, from amateur lay apologists, to priests, bishops, cardinals and popes. Some modern points of disagreement between Catholics include the issue of contraception, the significance and effects of Vatican II, the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), Traditionalists, Novus Ordo (New Mass), evolution, Charismatic Catholics, and the concept of “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” (Latin for “no salvation outside the [Catholic] Church”) … to name just a few.

So, if Sola Scriptura is disqualified as a rule of faith because Protestants have divisions, then the Catholic Magisterium must also be disqualified. If “Bible Alone” is negated due to the existence of disagreements, then so is Catholic Tradition. If divisions cancel out one rule of faith, they cancel out all of them, making this Catholic argument self-refuting. This is certainly a double standard.

Just because you may not have “physical” divisions (denominations with separate names) doesn’t mean you don’t have divisions. And if Sola Scriptura is the cause of disagreements, then how is it that YOU have them, also? Apparently, the Catholic rule of faith is not as “clear” as many Catholics claim it to be.

Someone may respond that Catholic divisions simply stem from those who disagree with the Church’s clear and official teaching and are thus actually heretics, and not true Catholics; therefore they “don’t count” when comparing disagreements.

But, first of all, Protestants could use this same argument and say that Protestant divisions also occur because of disobedience to the Bible’s clear teaching, and that those who disagree with us are not true Sola Scriptura believers, either.

Secondly, if these Catholic “heretics” are never excommunicated, and they continue to attend and participate in Catholic services, give financially to the Catholic Church, partake of the sacraments, and continue to identify with the Church, then it certainly does not appear that the Church, herself, considers them “heretics,” does it?

So, the “heretic” argument doesn’t prove anything, nor does it erase the fact that Catholicism has its divisions.

Catholics may say, “But we have a leader (the pope) who can decide infallibly for us when disagreements arise.”

And how many times have popes “infallibly” decided anything? It is an extremely rare event. But this just causes more confusion, because Catholics can’t even know exactly how many times this has happened in history. There is no “official” list of infallible statements, so an appeal to this supposed infallibility does little or nothing to help this Catholic argument.


Unfortunately, disagreements in interpretation are inevitable in this life; it’s something we just have to learn to live with. Remember, there were many who saw Jesus Christ, Himself, face to face, and they still disagreed among themselves on what He taught. Does this mean that Jesus’ teachings were also “unworkable”? Of course not. The ABUSE of a sufficient rule of faith does not void that rule of faith.

Dear Catholic friends, I am not trying to justify Protestant divisions, but I’m simply challenging the idea that disagreements cause a problem for the Protestant rule of faith, but not for the Catholic rule of faith. This idea is inconsistent on the part of Catholics.

Yes, of course Jesus wants Christians to have unity in the truth (John 17:11, 21-23), and we should always strive for it, yet we ALL fall short… some of us more than others. But, please don’t pretend you have no divisions in Catholicism, or that your rule of faith is somehow exempt when you use the “disagreements nullify Sola Scriptura” argument.

Catholics lose credibility each time this argument is used. So, let’s put this faulty and deceptive argument to rest, once and for all.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


In her quest for “common ground” and unity with other religions, the Catholic Church assures Muslims that the God of Christianity and the god of Islam are one and the same. Lest anyone say that this is not an actual teaching of the Catholic Church, note these quotes from official sources:

“As I have often said in other meetings with Muslims, your God and ours is one and the same, and we are brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham. Thus it is natural that we have much to discuss concerning true holiness in obedience and worship to God.” (Address of Pope John Paul II to the participants in the Colloquium on “Holiness in Christianity and Islam” in Rome, Thursday, 9 May 1985)

“Today I would like to repeat what I said to young Muslims some years ago in Casablanca: ‘We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection’.” (John Paul II to a General Audience, Wednesday, 5 May 1999)

"This year is also the 40th anniversary of the conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate, which has ushered in a new season of dialogue and spiritual solidarity between Jews and Christians, as well as esteem for the other great religious traditions. Islam occupies a special place among them. Its followers worship the same God and willingly refer to the Patriarch Abraham." (Benedict XVI, to a General Audience, World Youth Day in Cologne, Wednesday, 24 August 2005)

“The Church's relationship with the Muslims. ‘The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #841)

The above quote from the Catechism is referencing two major documents (Lumen Gentium and Nostra Aetate), both given by Pope Paul VI from the Second Vatican Council (a supposedly infallible Council of the Catholic Church). So, here we have the Catholic Catechism, three different popes, and an “infallible” Catholic council clearly telling us that Muslims and Christians worship the SAME God. But, can this possibly be true? Do Muslims really worship the God of the Bible? No, they don’t.

The Christian Bible teaches that God is a Trinity. The Muslim Bible (the Qur’an / Koran) teaches that Allah (the Muslim god) is NOT a Trinity (Surah 4:171). The God of Christianity has a Son. The god of Islam has NO SON (Surah 4:171). The Christian Bible teaches that God shares His Deity with His Son, Jesus Christ. The Qur’an DENIES the deity of Jesus Christ (Surah 23:91). The Christian Bible teaches that Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified and died on a cross. The Qur’an DENIES that Jesus died on a cross (Surah 4:157). And this is only a partial list of key differences. So, they can’t both be right, since they teach opposites. God does not have two sets of conflicting Scriptures.

Muslims claim to worship the God of Abraham, yet they reject God’s chosen lineage through Abraham (it is Isaac who possessed the covenant and the promises, not Ishmael - Genesis 21:12; Romans 9:3-8). It is interesting that the Pharisees ALSO claimed to be children of Abraham (John 8:33), but they certainly were NOT (Matt. 3:7-9). Although the Pharisees THOUGHT they were worshipping the God of Abraham, Jesus told them, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father” (John 8:44). Like the Pharisees, true Muslims worship the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and will never truly worship the God of Abraham until they renounce Islam.

The issue is not, “We worship the same God, but it’s just that Christians know God ‘more fully’ than Muslims.” No, the issue is the fact that Christians worship the God Who inspired the Bible, and Muslims worship the god who inspired the Qur’an. Surely, two different Gods.

Dear Catholic friends, this article is more about you than it is about the Muslims. You’re not helping Muslims when you claim that they are worshipping the God of the Bible… you’re deceiving them. As we said before, if Christians and Muslims worshipped the same God, our Bibles would not contradict each other. In your zeal to appease the Muslims, you’re not only deceiving them, but you are deceiving your fellow Catholics and your own selves, as well.

You can give two different people the same name, but that doesn’t make them the same person. Again, Christians and Muslims do NOT worship the same God, as the Catholic Church teaches. We want (and need) to reach out to Muslims, yes, but with the truth… with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Catholics, we sincerely urge you to not let your desire for “unity” override the simple truth.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? (The Ecumenical Movement)

This article is intended to deal with not just Catholics, but all those who claim to be Christian. It concerns the prevailing Ecumenical Movement. This movement is generally defined as a campaign aimed at promoting understanding, cooperation, and unity among Christian groups. But many in the church world today have gone far beyond biblical Christian unity, and have embraced the idol of “tolerance,” where we are told to respect (and accept) the differences of even those who hold the most unscriptural teachings. Today, it seems that correct doctrine is far less important than “unity” (another god of the Ecumenical Movement), since many will seek unity at any price.

It is the Catholic Church who seems to be spearheading this movement. In 2002, former Pope John Paul II led a special prayer meeting in Assisi, Italy. The event was the “World Prayer Day” that consisted of 200 of the world’s religious leaders, including Christians, Muslims, Jewish rabbis, Buddhists, Sikhs, Bahais, Hindus, Jains, Zoroastrians, and witch doctors, who all came to “worship together.” This same pope had previously held similar meetings in Assisi in 1986, and again in 1993. All for the sake of “peace” and “unity.”

But consider the example of Jesus Christ - the Author of the prayer for true unity (John 17). We see no biblical evidence whatsoever of Jesus trying to unite the religious leaders of His day. He made no appeal to the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, Essenes, Herodians, and Zealots, along with the neighboring heathen nations, to join together in “common prayer,” and “fraternal knowledge” of each other. Why not, if that kind of unity is so important? He didn’t try to point out all the good qualities of each group, nor focus on what they had in common. He did, however, tell them to repent (Matthew 4:17), and pointed out their sin (Matthew 23:1-36) and their doctrinal error (Matthew 15:1-9). He never advocated unity with those promoting false doctrine, but instead, He called for unity in the TRUTH, as revealed in His Word. (John 17:17)

So, as Christians, what about our relationship with people from other religions, or with Christians who embrace error? Should we seek to correct and / or convert them? Or must we accept them the way they are, welcoming their “diversity”? As some may ask, aren’t we all one big family? Are we not all God’s children? Aren’t there many paths to God? No, indeed. Jesus’ words were plain and simple:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

This is not rocket science. There is only one way to Heaven. And it is not through Buddha, Mohammed, Mary, the pope, or anyone else. Nor is it through any particular church. It is through trusting in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and that, alone. Non-Christian religions do not offer the truth, but rather, deception and eternal damnation. How can we, as Christians, walk together with them? (Amos 3:3) As far as doctrine goes, what can we have in common with them? (2 Corinthians 6:14-17) And Christians who embrace error need to be firmly, but lovingly, shown their error. This is true love.

But the “Christian” church today is afraid to offend sinners, and its quest for “common ground” has seriously compromised the gospel. It does matter what we believe. All religions are not ok. Let us not embrace the “herd mentality” of the Ecumenical Movement, and don’t be taken in by the large numbers or the impressive membership of ANY group. Jesus said:

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Mankind has already attempted such an ecumenism long ago, but God thwarted their plans (Genesis 11:1-9). Yet, another (final) attempt is being made in these last days to unify the world’s religions (Revelation 13:8, 12-15) against the will of God; and although it will last for a short while, this attempt will also ultimately fail.

The Catholic Church and all others pushing the Ecumenical Movement are ushering in the man of sin, the son of perdition, the antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Christians, take heed! Those who continue to embrace the false unity of this movement will one day find themselves neck-deep in the one-world church, wearing the mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:8, 16-18) - and then, it will be too late…

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4)

Sunday, August 1, 2010


We previously shared a three-part article on the topic of “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone), but we now want to focus specifically on one aspect of that topic in Romans chapter 3, 4 & 5. In Romans 3:28 the apostle Paul says that we are justified by faith “apart from works of the law.” The question is, exactly what works was Paul talking about? Many (if not most) Catholics would argue that he is here referring to ONLY the works of the Jewish / Mosaic Law. But we believe he was saying apart from any and all good works.

Let’s Suppose…
For the sake of argument, let’s assume for now that the verse is only about the Jewish Law. Ok, but what was Paul’s reason for saying that we’re saved “apart” from its works? Was something wrong with the Jewish Law? Are the oracles of God (Romans 3:2) somehow defective? Not at all, remember, salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22). If any works were able to save, surely it would be those of the God-given Jewish Law.

So, it is understandable that the people in the Old Testament and in Paul’s day would think that following the works of the Mosaic Law could save them. After all, wasn’t this law the very highest law around? Indeed it was. It was God’s standard of morality.

The Problem
But the problem is not the Law. No, the problem is with US! The purpose of the Law was to act as a “tutor,” to show us that we are not able to follow God perfectly, and to show us that we could only be saved by faith / trusting in Christ (Galatians 3:24). The Law was “weak” (Romans 8:3), but not because of some inherent flaw; it was only weak because of man’s sinful heart. Therefore, salvation has always had to be by grace through faith, and never by good works… not even the works of the Jewish Law… which includes the Ten Commandments (Romans 7:7).

New Works?
But according to Catholics, the Old Testament “works of the Law” (which don’t save) were replaced with works of the “New Law,” “works of grace” and “charitable acts” (which supposedly do save, or at least, contribute to salvation). But were there no “charitable acts” in the Jewish Law? Indeed, there were. Wouldn’t Jesus’ summary of the Jewish Law cover every good work or “work of grace” that we could possibly think of? It certainly would. He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself… On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40). Sounds to me like that would cover every possible work. In fact, there is no good work (of the Old or New Testament) that won’t pertain to one of these two commandments. This Catholic distinction of “New Testament works that save” versus “Old Testament works that don’t save” is a false one.

We are saved by faith APART FROM works, whether it is the “ceremonial works of the Mosaic Law,” the Ten Commandments, “works of grace,” “works of charity,” or any “new” works – it is apart from ALL works. Does this mean we should avoid good works? Of course not. As Dr. Joe Mizzi says, salvation is by faith, apart from the merit of works, but not apart from the presence of works.

The Context
What evidence is there in Romans chapters 3-5 that would lead a person to believe that there are any works at all which save us? If Catholics are right, it certainly seems strange that Paul would never list the “works that save” in the context in which the doctrine of justification is defined. If these “saving works” exist at all, Paul would be seriously lacking as a teacher if he mentions none of them when he’s teaching us how to be saved! Where is baptism, or giving to the poor, or helping your neighbor, etc., in the context of Romans 3 thru 5? Over and over in this context, he only mentions faith as that which saves.

Catholics sometimes argue against Sola Fide by saying that Romans 3-5 does not use the words “faith alone.” That may be true, but we can use this same type of argument against them and say that Romans 3-5 doesn’t use the words “apart from only the Jewish Law,” either.

In denying salvation by deeds, sometimes Paul just uses the word “works” (as opposed to “works of the law”), e.g., in Romans 4:2, Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Timothy 1:9, and Titus 3:5. But notice that the contexts of these last three are NOT about Jewish law at all. So the Catholic argument fails completely here.

Only Two Options…

Consider this:

Romans 4:4 - Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due.

Romans 4:5 - But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. (NASB)

Notice that this passage offers only two choices: the one who works, and the one who believes (without working); one trusts in the merits of his work, and the other trusts only in the suffering of Jesus on the cross. There is no third choice and no distinction between “types of works” here.

Galatians 3:2 - This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (NASB)
Notice here also that Paul, when asking this question, does not give the Galatians a third option. They were saved either by works of the Law, or by faith. Again, only two choices. It is one or the other. He doesn’t add the merits of baptism or any “new” works to their faith as a third choice. This indicates that any and all works would fall into the “works of the Law” category. All that’s left is faith alone (i.e., apart from the merits of any work).

Some may still insist that there is a third option… the “Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). No, the concept of salvation by faith apart from works IS the Law of Christ. It is a law that freely saves the undeserving sinner and then gives him the desire and ability to do works that are pleasing to God.

In conclusion, consider the example of Abraham. Not only was Abraham not saved by the works of the Mosaic Law, but according to Romans 4:2, he was not saved by any of his works. Likewise, for David, it was “apart from works” (Romans 4:6). And the same goes for Gentiles, since God is the God of both Jew and Gentile, alike (Romans 3:29), saving both by faith, apart from their respective works.

So, once more, when the context of Romans 3, 4 and 5 says that we are saved “apart from” the works of the law, it is NOT just referring to those of the Mosaic Law, but every work. And the good works we do, we do out of love for God… not to try and earn / merit salvation.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


The Bible tells us of only one inspired (God-breathed) and absolutely trustworthy source of information for the church today. Only this source can infallibly (without error) supply us with doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. And this source is Scripture, itself (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It equips us for every good work. As our ultimate rule of faith, it is more than sufficient. It is God, Himself, speaking to us (Matthew 22:31-32).

However, Catholics have another source, or rule of faith, along with, and supposedly EQUAL TO, the Scriptures. According to the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move towards the same goal…Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit…As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.'" (CCC #80, #81, #82)

So we see that in Catholicism, “Sacred Tradition” is on the same level as the Bible. Therefore, according to the Catholic Church, Tradition must also be infallible, since both it and Scripture are to be honored with the SAME level of “devotion and reverence.”

The Big Question

But how does the Catholic Church define tradition? They speak of small “t” traditions, which are only “disciplines,” like not eating meat on Friday, or observing certain holy days, etc. These can be changed by the Church, if they so desire. But they also have big “T” Traditions, which are the main and binding teachings (doctrines) that allegedly cannot be changed.

But, what about an actual, meaningful definition of Tradition from the Catholic Church? What is it, precisely? What does it consist of? And where can we actually find all of it? Some Catholics will say that Tradition is the “living and growing truth.” Or it is the “common teaching, common life, and common worship of the whole Church.” Still, others say that it is the “sense of the faithful.” The Second Vatican Council says that tradition is “all that she herself [the Catholic Church] is, all that she believes.” (Dei Verbum, 8, 1) Or, maybe it is what former Pope Pius IX arrogantly proclaimed: “I AM TRADITION!” In light of these extremely vague definitions, it seems that Tradition can become anything that the Catholic Church wants it to be. The Catholic concept of Tradition is so broad and so vague that it seems to be a subjective assortment of teachings, practices, historical events, and interpretations of fathers, along with an unknown number of doctrinal "developments.” But, what are the parameters of such a rule of faith? How does one know if he goes beyond the borders of Tradition? And how can the Catholic Church answer these questions without using circular reasoning?

So again, we must ask, “What is it?” Is there an official, unchanging, “infallible” list of Catholic Traditions that we can turn to, so that we can know for sure? No, there isn’t. Interestingly, the Catholic Church claims that only she can authentically interpret this Tradition (CCC #100). Suspiciously convenient, isn't it? But this is simply circular reasoning…like saying, ”It is true, because we SAY so.” In this way, the Catholic Church can force new (and false) doctrines onto the people at will. So, it is just too dangerous to ascribe infallibility to something so vague, so unclear.

Tradition in the Bible

But, tradition (Greek, “paradosis”), according to Scripture, is simply the biblical principles and teachings that were handed down from the apostles to each successive generation. The Bible does use the word in a positive way, but more often in the negative sense. There is good tradition (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 3:6), and there is bad tradition (e.g., Mark 7:1-13; Colossians 2:8; 1 Peter 1:18). Acceptable tradition is linked with the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:14-15). Traditions that are acceptable will either be in the Bible, or they will line up with the principles of the Bible; and those that don’t, should be rejected.

The “Oral” and the “Written”

There is a popular response from Catholics who try to defend their Tradition’s “equality” with Scripture. They contend that we don’t have ALL of God’s Word unless we have the “written” (Scripture), and the “oral” (Sacred Tradition), and they quote 2 Thessalonians 2:15, where Paul tells the Thessalonians:

"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth, or by letter from us."

Catholics often use this verse in an attempt to show a distinction or a difference between “infallible oral" teachings and "infallible written" teachings, insisting that they are EQUAL and we need BOTH today. According to them, the Bible is not enough as a rule of faith.

First of all, Paul's "distinction" here was NOT to emphasize a difference in content between the two, but rather, to demonstrate the unity of his message in both forms. Here, Paul was addressing the fact that someone (an imposter) had apparently written a letter in Paul’s name to the Thessalonians, saying that they missed the Day of the Lord (2:2), causing the Thessalonian church to be shaken and disturbed. He is now writing to correct that false letter and to bring comfort and strength to the church. So, Paul was basically telling them, "Why are you disturbed by this letter that was supposedly from me? Any true letter from me will agree with the message I already gave to you personally / orally. I wouldn't contradict that message, or give you two different gospels."

So, when Catholics use 2 Thessalonians 2:15 in this way, it is out of context and they are misusing and abusing this verse. It is NOT AT ALL saying that we need two infallible sources today. There is no need for an “infallible” Tradition to supplement the Bible.

Secondly, the Catholic Church claims to have this Tradition (that is supposedly different from Scripture) which Paul said to hold on to. Yet, what infallible information do we have from Paul that is not found in the Scriptures? None. Does the Catholic Church have any infallible statements from Jesus (or any of the apostles), apart from the Bible? No, they don’t. Then why do they claim to have this extrabiblical (i.e., outside of the Bible) Tradition that they say Paul is speaking of, if they can’t tell us what it is? Remember, we don’t have access today to all of the information that Paul taught them.

It is not that God was unable to infallibly preserve all this information, it's just that He chose not to. There may even be other writings that Paul sent them that we don't have access to today. But we don't NEED to know every single thing he told them. We can know the essence of what he taught them by looking to God-breathed Scripture, which we do have available to us. But we can be sure that the things that Paul wrote to them will not contradict the things he spoke to them. This is his whole point. They would be the same basic message, the same Gospel.

The Test

But this Catholic argument just begs the question. It's easy to say, "Oh, yeah, that was us back then and that was our tradition, and that was the same church as ours, back in Jesus’ day", etc. It's easy to claim a traditional "link" to the past, but it's another thing to prove the legitimacy of that "link"… especially when it contains teachings that contradict Scripture.

If Catholics want to claim that Paul was speaking of infallible Tradition as something different from Scripture, then they have the responsibility to do three things:

1) Identify exactly what that "Tradition" is,
2) Demonstrate that it is indeed DIFFERENT from Scripture, and
3) Demonstrate that it is Apostolic and infallible...


Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. But we don’t see this type of proof from the Catholic Church. In fact, we don't see anything near "extraordinary proof." Remember, any message today claiming to be "Apostolic Tradition" must line up with, and be tested by, Scripture (Mark 7:1-13).

History has shown us that when anything is considered “equal” to Scripture, it will eventually, and inevitably, override Scripture and produce unbiblical doctrines (like the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, Purgatory, indulgences, the Treasury of Merit, etc.). Catholic Tradition supposedly complements the Bible, but has actually steered multitudes away from the pure truth of the Scriptures… perhaps gradually, yet surely.

Long ago, the Lord Jesus Christ showed us that the Pharisees and the scribes were guilty of usurping the authority of Scripture with their own traditions (Matthew 15:1-9). The Catholic Church is guilty of that same error today.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Different types of rosaries have been used throughout history and in many cultures. Shamans, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Wiccans (witches), and other Pagan religions used them, and still do today. By no means is the rosary a biblical concept, but sad to say, rosaries are even sometimes used by some who claim to follow Jesus Christ: Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and even some Lutherans and Methodists. But this article will deal specifically with the Catholic rosary.

The word “rosary” comes from the Latin term “rosarium,” meaning “rose garden,” and later came to mean “garland of roses.” The traditional Catholic rosary is a stringed loop of different-sized beads (each bead representing a particular prayer) with a crucifix (cross) on the end. The beads are used to keep track of the number of prayers said during the many repetitions. Rosaries are not only used to make supplication (prayer requests), but are also supposedly an aid to “contemplative prayer.” They are sometimes worn around the neck, and can often be seen hanging from a vehicle’s rearview mirror.


The first, and greatest, problem with the Catholic rosary is its frequent repetition of the “Hail Mary” prayer. It is a fact that this rosary is dedicated to the veneration of the “Virgin Mary.” The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary. (CCC #971)

If there is any doubt as to the purpose of the Catholic rosary, and its devotion to Mary, read the following quotes from “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” an official “apostolic” letter on the rosary, written by former Pope John Paul II:

…With the Rosary, the Christian people sit at the school of Mary... Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer… In the recitation of the Rosary, the Christian community enters into contact with the memories and the contemplative gaze of Mary… In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin... Never as in the Rosary do the life of Jesus and that of Mary appear so deeply joined… The Rosary is both meditation and supplication. Insistent prayer to the Mother of God is based on confidence that her maternal intercession can obtain all things from the heart of her Son… The Rosary is at the service of this ideal; it offers the “secret” which leads easily to a profound and inward knowledge of Christ. We might call it Mary's way… To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother…

This is totally unscriptural, and should be deeply disturbing to every true, God-fearing Christian. Nowhere, in all of Scripture, are we encouraged to pray to ANYONE other than God. Prayer to anyone else is nothing short of idolatry. The Psalmist said of God, “Whom have I in heaven BUT THEE? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. (Psalm 73:25) This point, alone, should cause every Catholic to put away his rosary and leave the Catholic Church.

Furthermore, the great majority of the rosary’s prayers are “Hail Mary’s,” (which request her “help”). But the Catholic Church has given Mary a role that Scripture does not give her. The Bible nowhere tells us of Mary, or anyone else, who intercedes for us from Heaven, with the exception of Jesus Christ, Himself (Romans 8:34). We are never told that Mary prays for us, and the Bible will never encourage us to pray to her. Let us remember that the Lord God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:15).


Another prayer that is recited in the rosary is the “Lord’s Prayer” (or the “Our Father”). Catholics will often be quick to point out that this prayer is found in the Bible (Matthew 6:9-13). Although it is in the Bible, it was never meant to be used as a specific FORMULA (a fixed, mechanical prayer to be repeated over and over), but rather, as an outline, a guide, as an example of how to pray.

But, because of its specific number of repetitions, reciting the rosary more closely resembles some sort of self-hypnosis technique, or the casting of a spell, rather than any prayer request found in the Bible. Using the rosary is worship that is reduced to a formula, which is not true worship of God at all. (John 4:23-24)


We mentioned that the rosary is a string of beads used to help keep track of the number of prayers that one says while reciting it. But this raises some important questions: Why would anyone need to keep track of the number of prayers said? What happens if someone says “too few” or “too many” prayers while reciting the rosary? Why is the number of repetitions even an object of consideration? Does the number of prayers matter, as in some sort of magical formula or spell? If the number doesn’t really matter, then why use the rosary at all? The truth is, the counting of prayers is a PAGAN practice.

Jesus said: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7)

Some will consider this verse to be a condemnation of the rosary, and it may well be, but there is debate over what the Greek word “battalogeo” actually means. While the King James Version says “use not vain repetitions,” some Bible versions say “do not keep on babbling” or “do not heap up empty phrases.” Unfortunately, the Lord Jesus gave us no specific examples of this type of praying, so the debate remains. Now, not all repetition in prayer is bad, but we see no one in the New Testament using pre-fabricated, mechanical prayers, much less in continuous repetition.


However, a Catholic may say that he is simply being “persistent in prayer” when praying the rosary. But using multiple repetitions of prescribed, fixed prayers is NOT the same as biblical persistence in prayer. In the Bible, persistence is simply “not losing heart / not fainting,” but trusting God and continuing in faith, even when we don’t see the answer. (Luke 18:1-8)

We need to remember that Christianity is based on a RELATIONSHIP with God. Constant repetition of the same pre-packaged, mechanical “prayers” does nothing to nurture a true relationship. As parents, would we want our own children to ask us for something by using a fixed number of repetitive requests? Of course not. So, why should anyone think that God would respond to such prayer?


While the Catechism of the Catholic Church claims that the rosary is a Christian concept (CCC #2708, #1674), we must realize that:

1) The concept of the rosary is totally absent from the Scriptures
2) Tradition tells us that the Catholic rosary did not come along until about 1200 A.D.
3) Rosaries have been used by pagans long before Christianity began.

Interestingly, in “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” (mentioned above) the pope links the rosary with a prayer “rhythm(paragraph 12), with prayer repetitions (paragraph 26), and with the “rhythm of breathing(paragraph 27). Taken together, these concepts tie in with the OCCULT, and can be found within the schools of Transcendental Meditation (TM), Yoga, and Wicca (Witchcraft), in which an altered state of consciousness can be obtained. But the Bible warns us against such activity (Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6, 27).

On the one hand, the Catholic Church condemns occult activity (CCC #2116, #2117), and yet, on the other hand, it encourages the use of occultic concepts in using the rosary. This would be like a dad telling his teenage son that he must totally abstain from sexual activity, but then turn around and give him condoms. Why does the Catholic Church forbid its people to engage in something, but then give them the tools and the encouragement to do that very thing?


In the above-mentioned letter by Pope John Paul II, the rosary is considered a tool for unity, and is called “an aid…to ecumenism.” The rosary is one of the things that the Catholic Church and many pagan religions have in common, so it is very likely that the rosary will play a significant role in the end-time Ecumenical Movement. This movement (spearheaded by the Roman Catholic Church) is an attempt to draw all the religions of the world together in the name of “peace.” But this is a totally unbiblical “unity”, and the beginning of the one-world church that the Bible describes in Revelation 13.

The problems associated with the rosary cancel out any Catholic claims of “benefits” for the one who would pray the rosary. Bottom line: Christians should have nothing to do with any kind of rosary… Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Priesthood

“If any one saith, that there is not in the New Testament a visible and external priesthood; or that there is not any power of consecrating and offering the true body and blood of the Lord, and of forgiving and retaining sins; but only an office and bare ministry of preaching the Gospel, or, that those who do not preach are not priests at all; let him be anathema.” (The Catholic Church’s Council of Trent, Session 23, Canon 1)

While many of the world’s religions have an ordained priesthood, the concept of a Christian ministerial priesthood is not found in the New Testament, but is something that has evolved over time. There are a number of groups who claim to follow Jesus Christ that maintain a priesthood. For example, the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and even some Protestant churches, like Anglican / Episcopalian, and some Lutheran churches. The Mormon Church also has a priesthood. Yet, none of these “priesthoods” are valid (according to the Bible), but we will focus on the most prominent: the Catholic priesthood.

The Catholic Church insists that we must have a distinct, ordained, “hierarchical” priesthood today. But, the truth is, the only types of Christian “priesthood” that we find within the pages of the New Testament are the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:17; 3:1), and the “universal priesthood” of all believers (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6). While we are able to find Jewish and pagan priests mentioned in the New Testament, we don’t see any Christian “ministerial” priests to mediate between God and man (as we find in the Old Testament).

The Apostle Paul mentions the functions and offices of the New Testament church in chapters 3 and 5 of 1 Timothy, and Titus chapter 1. He also gives specific instructions for ministry, church order, gifts and service in 1 Corinthians chapters 11-14, and in Ephesians chapter 4… and yet, the ministerial office of “priest” is strangely absent. There is not a single mention of a “priesthood” in these contexts. If God had intended a Christian ministerial priesthood for today, one would think that such a critical position should be evident in the New Testament. But it isn’t there.

But, let’s look at some of the Catholic arguments for the priesthood:


We agree that there was a “high priesthood” and a “ministerial priesthood” in the Old Testament. But it is wrong to think that Exodus 19:6 proves that there was a “universal priesthood” in Old Testament times. Let’s look at the context:

Exodus 19:5 - Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

Exodus 19:6 - And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

Yes, God promised Israel that they would be a “kingdom of priests” and a “holy nation.” But, this is a yet UNFULFILLED promise to the Jews. Notice that God’s promise to Israel was CONDITIONAL; that this would happen IF (and ONLY if) they would obey God’s voice and keep His covenant (Exodus 19:5). But they didn’t. Over and over, Israel had broken God’s covenant and disobeyed His commands (e.g., Jeremiah chapter 11, 13, 22, 34, etc.). This continued even until the very end of the Old Testament period, where even the “ministerial” priests had profaned the covenant (Malachi 2:8-10). Even to this day, Israel (as a nation) is disobedient and blinded to the truth (2 Corinthians 3:12-14; Romans 11:25, 31).

Therefore, Israel could not claim that it was a “kingdom of priests” and a “holy nation,” and thus, has not yet become that “universal priesthood.” This will not happen for the Jews, as a nation, until Jesus Christ returns, as Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 61:6). So, since the “universal priesthood” never happened in the Old Testament, this “three-fold priesthood” concept didn’t exist then, and there is no reason to think that it must be a model for the church today.


While it is true that our modern word “priest” is derived from the Greek word “presbuteros”, it does not mean that the two words are the same. Derivatives are not definitions. The modern word “Presbyterian” is ALSO a derivative of “presbuteros”, but I don’t think any Catholic would try to say that the New Testament “elders” were Presbyterians. Anyway, the New Testament ALREADY has a Greek word for priest, “hiereus,” not “presbuteros,” and these two Greek words are never used interchangeably. So, this argument certainly does not prove that biblical “elders” were priests.


“Hiereus” does indeed refer to the priests of the Old Covenant, but not just to the Old Testament priests. It ALSO refers to the New Testament universal priesthood of believers (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). Furthermore, asserting that “presbuteros” is the “new” term for priest is simply begging the question, i.e., just an assumption without proof. We also believe that the fact that “hiereus” is used to describe priests from both Testaments is further evidence that the priesthood has changed from a “ministerial” form (Old Testament) to a “universal” form (New Testament).


There were plenty pagan priests in the time of the Old Testament. But it seems that neither the Lord nor the Jews had any problem calling their own ministers “priests” at that time. They didn’t seem to be concerned about any confusion that might arise between the names of the two groups. Furthermore, the term “elder” was kept over from the Old Testament. The New Testament word used for the Jewish elder (“presbuteros”) is exactly the same word used for the Christian elder. If confusing terms were an issue, why didn’t the early Christians avoid the term “elder” altogether? So, this Catholic argument is just too weak to be credible.


But one could argue that many of today’s Protestant pastors / ministers ALSO serve the same function as the New Testament “elders” did, because they also preach the gospel and administer communion, baptism, etc. So this claim proves nothing.

Another thing… if Catholic priests (especially those of the Latin rite) are supposed to be the same as New Testament “elders,” then why are they not allowed (required?) to be the “husband of [but] one wife” (Titus 1:6)? We know that there are exceptions in the Catholic Church, but Paul is speaking of the NORM for elders, here. And the norm is to be married. (We are not debating the virtues of celibacy, but our point is simply that, according to Titus, the great majority of Roman Catholic priests cannot be biblical elders). So, it can’t be said that priests and elders are one and the same.


First of all, Paul never uses the word “priest” to describe his own office, but considers himself an “apostle.”

Secondly, in NONE of his epistles does he call any leader in the church a “priest,” when he had ample opportunity to do so.

Thirdly, this “priestly service” is simply describing the work of spreading the gospel, which ALL Christians are commissioned to do.


Ok, first, just because there are no ministerial priests, this doesn’t mean that there are no church leaders to minister to the people.

Furthermore, without getting into the concept of “sacraments,” and any role they might play, the point still remains that ministerial priests are NOT found in the New Testament, regardless of whether someone believes they should be there.

And finally, the only sacrifices that need to be offered today are spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5), our praise (Hebrews 13:15), our bodies (Romans 12:1), our finances (Philippians 4:18), etc. Concerning the Sacrifice of the Mass, see our two-part article on the Eucharist, elsewhere on this blog.

Note that the author of the book of Hebrews takes great pains to distinguish the difference between the Old Covenant (types and shadows) and the New (and better) Covenant. The main function of a ministerial priest of the Old Testament was to offer sacrifices (repeatedly) to God in order to atone for sin. But Hebrews 10:10-12, 18 tells us that the price has now been paid, and there is “NO MORE offering [sacrifice] for sin.” Therefore, no more atoning sacrifices are needed. Jesus Christ has paid the full penalty on the cross of Calvary. We now have a perfect atonement to embrace, once for all (Hebrews 9:12, 28; 10:10). No ministerial priests are needed now to offer sacrifice to God. Their “job” is cancelled out. This was demonstrated by God’s tearing of the veil in the temple (Matthew 27:51). It means all believers now have direct access to God without “ministerial” priests. Jesus Christ is the FULFILLMENT of the Old Testament type of priesthood and its sacrifices.


We are not saying that there are no leaders in the church today, just that there are no “ordained / ministerial” priests. As important as the priesthood is to Catholics, it is hard to ignore the fact that this priesthood is never mentioned in Paul’s writings. To emphasize the point once more, it is not as though it is absent from only a tiny letter in the Bible, like Philemon or 3 John, but it is absent from the WHOLE New Testament. This is too much of a glaring omission to ignore.

The life, the very core, of a priestly system is the sacrifice. The sacrifice is the whole focus of the priesthood. If you remove the core of any such system, you take away the life and purpose of that system. If there is no more sacrifice, there is no more system. Its purpose has been served. This is the Achilles’ heel of the Catholic priesthood. Not only is the priesthood NOT in the New Testament, but it also contradicts the New Testament, since Hebrews tells us that there is NO MORE SACRIFICE for sin (Hebrews 10:18).

According to its Catechism, the Catholic Church makes some very special claims about its priests. For example, they are supposedly able to absolve (forgive) a man’s sins (CCC #1495); they have “a ‘sacred power’ which is none other than that of Christ” (CCC #1551); they “possess the authority to act in the power and place of the Person of Christ, Himself” (CCC #1548); and the priest “divinizes” and he “is divinized” (CCC #1589), i.e., he makes divine and is made divine…

Once again, we see the Catholic Church making some extraordinary claims about itself, and then it asserts that these claims have (at least some) biblical support. But upon examination, these claims are found to be just that… mere claims, and not truth; they are deceptive claims that actually deny biblical truth.

So, this creates some serious implications for the Catholic faithful, and should be disturbing to those Catholics who would take an honest look at the evidence presented. We have to ask ourselves: Are we going to believe the Catholic hierarchy, or are we going to believe God’s infallible Scripture?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


One of the arguments that Catholics will use against the Protestant teaching of Sola Scriptura (“Scripture Alone”) is the “canon” argument. The “canon” refers to the list of inspired books that belong in the Bible. The Catholic argument is that Protestants can’t even know which books belong in the Bible without the help of the Catholic Church, since the Catholic Church is the one that “infallibly determined” which books go into it. Without this guarantee, Protestants can’t be sure that they have the correct canon. At least, that’s what Catholics believe.

Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox all have a different canon, but the purpose of this article is not to address the precise books that fall into this list, but rather, whether or not a person can know infallibly (i.e., without the possibility of error) which books make up this list. Many Catholics seem to think that we can have “infallible certainty” on this, and in fact, insist that we must have this level of certainty. One Catholic source says:

"Only the Church, the infallible bearer of tradition, can furnish us invincible certainty as to the number of the Divinely inspired books of both the Old and the New Testament." (Online New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, under “Scripture”)

Concerning the canon, and how we know which books are inspired, we all realize that no one alive today had anything to do with the formation of the canon, and therefore, we are dependent on others for this information. And, of course, we get this information from the writings of the early church. Now, the church did not “determine” the canon… the canon was “determined” by God. The early church fathers simply “recognized” the inspired books. But it doesn’t mean that recognizing the inspired books made those fathers infallible, nor that they needed to be infallible in order to recognize those books. Catholics just assume that the church is infallible, when there is no biblical evidence for it. (Another topic for another day)

But the truth is, we are all fallible creatures with fallible minds and hearts, and we all make fallible decisions. No matter what we end up choosing, or who we end up trusting, we all start out with fallibility… including the final authority(ies) that we choose to follow.

But we have to ask, how did the Old Testament saints know that Deuteronomy or Isaiah or Malachi were inspired books, when they didn’t have the Catholic Church there to tell them? Just like the fathers who recognized the books of the New Testament, they too, had to use their discernment, evaluate the available evidence, and reason with their fallible minds to come to a conclusion on their canon. But God does give us sufficient certainty on the canon today, just as He did for the Old Testament believers then. Once again, we don’t need to be infallible to recognize “the Infallible,” or else none of us would ever be able to recognize God and His dealings with us.

We so often see Catholics presenting a false dilemma concerning the canon: They say that either,

1) the early church fathers must have INFALLIBLY chosen the right books, or
2) they must have been WRONG in their choices

But these two are not the only options. The truth can be found somewhere in between those two extremes. For example, it is certainly possible to be fallible, yet correct. But I don’t believe that any human can have infallible certainty on the canon (or on anything else, for that matter). Infallible certainty is strictly God’s domain. But again, that doesn’t mean that He won’t give us sufficient certainty about the things of God.

Now, let us pose this important question: Is it mandatory for EVERY believer to have INFALLIBLE certainty on the FULL canon in order to be saved and to live for God?

If the answer is yes, then wouldn’t we have to say that out of the multitudes of godly people who lived before the fourth century, that not one was saved, or not one could live for God, until after the Councils of Carthage and Hippo (which supposedly settled the canon issue)?

If the answer to the above question is no, then why do Catholics put so much emphasis on INFALLIBLE certainty of the canon in the first place?

Actually, according to another Catholic Source, the first time that the canon of Scripture was infallibly declared was at the Council of Trent (1546):

“According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon.” (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 3, page 29, Copyright 1967; Under “Canon, Biblical”)

The online “New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia” (Under “Canon of the Old Testament”) also confirms the above source:

“The Tridentine [i.e., from the Council of Trent] decrees from which the above list [of books] is extracted was the first infallible and effectually promulgated pronouncement on the Canon, addressed to the Church Universal.”

So, if these Catholic encyclopedias are correct, and if we really do need infallible certainty on the canon of Scripture, we find it strange that the Catholic Church waited for 1500 years before giving an infallible judgment on the canon.

But, Catholics can’t have it both ways. You can’t INSIST that we “really need” infallible certainty on the one hand, and on the other hand, say it’s no big deal that we DIDN’T have it until Trent in 1546. Again, the truth is, “infallible certainty” was not needed then, and is not needed now. If it were, then the Catholic Church has done a very poor job of providing this “certainty” for its members.

Another question is, why does the Catholic insist on the need for infallible certainty on the canon of Scripture for Protestants, when he (the Catholic) can’t have anywhere near this level of certainty on HIS OWN “canon” of Sacred Tradition… since he really doesn’t even know what it is? “Sacred Tradition” is supposedly equal to Scripture and is a critical part of the Catholic’s rule of faith, but can anyone tell us exactly what its contents are? No, they can’t. They always seem to dance around this question, when asked, and seem to purposely use extremely vague definitions for it. What kind of “certainty” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #82) can be derived from such a mysterious and nebulous Tradition? Does the Catholic Church have an official, infallible, and unchanging list of all of its “Sacred Traditions”? No, they don’t. We’re still waiting for a clear and meaningful defintion of “Sacred Tradition” before anyone can ever claim that it is “inspired.”

So, if the Catholic can demand from us an infallible list of the full contents of Scripture, then Protestants can also demand that Catholics provide an infallible list of the full contents of “Sacred Tradition” – so, please show us the list. Otherwise, demanding “infallible certainty” from anyone else, when you, yourself don’t have it, is hypocrisy.

So, the concept of “infallible certainty” on the canon is just another inflated Catholic claim that actually hurts the Catholic Church more than helps it. And furthermore, this canon argument does nothing to disprove “Sola Scriptura.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010


The First Attempt

The story of the offerings of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-5), the first sons of Adam, is very revealing to us, and relevant to this topic. It demonstrates the fact that, since the beginning, God never intended that man’s works would ever contribute to his salvation. Both Cain and Abel brought a sacrifice to God: Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground (i.e., the labor of his hands), while Abel brought an innocent animal, an unblemished victim, of his flock. And of course, the Bible tells us that God accepted Abel’s offering, and not Cain’s. Cain’s offering is man’s first recorded attempt to earn salvation.

The very fact that the work of Cain’s hands was rejected, indicates that God wants us to trust in the Innocent Substitute in order to be saved, rather than our good works. Abel’s sacrifice represents Jesus on the cross, an innocent and perfectly unblemished and righteous Person to die in the place of sinful man; while Cain’s sacrifice represents all of man’s energy, work, and suffering in his futile attempts to become right with God. But that didn’t save anyone at that time, and it doesn’t save today. If “faith PLUS works” is what saves (as Catholics believe), then why didn’t Abel offer fruits and vegetables ALONG WITH the animal sacrifice? No, there is only one thing that saves, and that is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, to which Abel’s offering pointed.

Cain’s offering was rejected for the same reason that the fig leaves were taken away from his parents, and replaced with animal skins (Genesis 3:7, 21). That is, an innocent one had to shed his blood and die to cover their nakedness. The fig leaves were not good enough, because they too, represented the work of man’s hands. Cain was not recognizing the seriousness of his condition as a sinner and the need for an innocent life to be sacrificed. Once again, if man is saved by “faith plus works,” then why didn’t God just ADD the animal skins to the fig leaves?

To Work or Not to Work...


No, Paul is talking about the outworking, or the “living out” of our salvation. Once again, the context is not “how to be saved,” but Paul is describing the glorious Second Person of the Trinity, what He gave up for us, and how we should live, in light of that. It’s not about doing works in order to obtain our salvation, but it’s about our time of growth, our sanctification. We are not saved “by good works,” we are saved “in order to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10).

Catholics speak of their works being done in a “state of grace.” That is, if one does good works in this state of grace, his works will then count toward his salvation. According to them, God still gets the credit, since HE gave them the ability to do the good works in the first place. Therefore, it is “all God,” they say. And since God does these grace-infused works through us, He is glorified when we are justified through those works, right? Well… not exactly.

It is true that God is glorified when we do good works. And yes, it is true that everything good comes from God, but that doesn’t mean that everything good is salvific, (i.e., has the power to save us). God is the One Who determines what saves and what doesn’t save… and He tells us in His Word that we are justified (in the “saving” sense) – not by works – but by faith APART FROM WORKS (Romans 3:28; 4:4-6; Titus 3:5). [See Part 2 of this series]

Someone once said that people who think that these ‘grace-infused works’ will save them, will either:

1) downplay God’s demand for PERFECTION, or
2) exaggerate on their OWN righteousness

I happen to agree with that. None of us are perfect in our good works, so we must trust in that perfect work of Jesus and HIS righteousness, not ours.


No, the apostle Paul said:

“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by HEARING WITH FAITH? Are you so foolish? Having BEGUN by the Spirit, are you now being PERFECTED by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1-3 NASB)

Paul is saying that the thing which has “birthed” us into the body of Christ (faith / trust in Jesus), will be the SAME THING which will MAINTAIN us in our Christian walk. Yes, we will have to endure to the end, but it is the maintaining of our FAITH that brings this about, and works are just a natural by-product of that (true) faith. Remember, our good works do please God, and we will be rewarded for our good works, but they are the result, not the cause, of salvation. Faith is what “gets” us saved, and faith is what “keeps” us saved. Not works.


But there is absolutely nothing lacking in the afflictions of Christ, concerning His payment for sin. So, Paul is speaking of what is lacking in the church and is reminding us of his (Paul’s) suffering for them. But Paul never says that man’s suffering justifies anyone.

Jesus suffered for a DIFFERENT reason than we do. He suffered to pay for the sins of mankind, but we (the church) suffer in the sense of bearing each other’s burdens, and laboring to win souls.

Again, there is no “lack” in Christ’s work. Sadly, this verse is so often twisted by Catholics to say something that it doesn’t say.


But those who say this miss Jesus’ whole point. Jesus was NOT defining faith as a “work” at all. The Jews were the ones who first brought up the subject of works. So Jesus just uses this as a springboard and responds to them on that topic. He is basically saying, “You’re asking what WORKS should be done to be right with God? This is the only so-called ‘work’ that God requires: You must BELIEVE IN ME. You’re looking for works, but God is requiring faith.” Jesus is actually re-directing their misguided view of works.

We believe that all of the verses that Catholics use when defending their “faith plus works” view, can be explained and reconciled with the Protestant understanding of "Faith Alone." However, we don’t believe that Catholics can reconcile their view of “faith plus works” with the context of Romans 3, 4, and 5, which clearly teaches the “Faith Alone” view.

Probably the most devastating argument in the Bible against the “faith plus works” concept can be found in the book of Galatians. The apostle Paul was dealing with the error of the Judaizers, who convinced the Galatian churches that one must not only believe in Jesus’ work on the cross to be saved, but must also be circumcised. (Galatians 6:12) We see these same Judaizers in Acts 15:1, also.

Paul’s whole point was that they were (wrongly) adding to the work of the cross. They were teaching salvation by their works IN ADDITION TO faith in the cross, just as the Catholic Church does today (and unfortunately, many Protestants, also).

So, what’s the big deal? Why was Paul so disturbed by this? Isn’t it enough that Jesus’ work is being recognized? And can’t WE get at least some credit for our salvation?

Absolutely not! It’s either ALL Jesus, or not Jesus AT ALL. It can never be “Jesus PLUS my works.”

Notice the phrases used by Paul in Galatians to describe those who would add any works to the cross:

1) They NULLIFY / FRUSTRATE God’s grace (Galatians 2:21)
2) They have been SEVERED FROM CHRIST and have FALLEN FROM GRACE (Galatians 5:4 NASV)
3) They have DESERTED JESUS for a DIFFERENT GOSPEL (Galatians 1:6)
4) They are ACCURSED (Galatians 1:8-9)
Does anyone STILL want to claim that he can add to the cross, or cause some type of “increase” in his justification, through his works? [as the Council of Trent, Session 6, Canon 24 teaches]

Finally, we have actual examples of people who were saved by faith, apart from their works.

Romans 4:2-3 tells us that Abraham (who lived before the Mosaic Law) was justified by faith alone, and just a few verses later (verse 6), we see that David (who lived under the Mosaic Law) was likewise saved.

Jesus also told the story of the Pharisee and the publican (tax collector) in Luke 18:9-14. In this short story, it is the unlikely (and usually hated) tax collector who goes home justified, simply because he humbled himself, knowing that he was an undeserving sinner, and he surrendered to God. The bragging Pharisee, who thought surely that God would be impressed with his works, made sure to tell God how great he (the Pharisee) was. The whole reason that Jesus presented this story is to caution against the attitude of those who “trusted in themselves” (verse 9).

And of course, we have the classic example of someone saved by faith alone: the thief on the cross (Luke 23:40-43). He was one of two thieves hanging on their own crosses on either side of Jesus. At first, the “good thief” (as he came to be known) was mocking and ridiculing Jesus, like everyone else was (Matthew 27:38-44), but a little later, had a change of heart, defended Jesus, and condemned the other thief for his attitude (Luke 23:39-40). Then, with repentance, he uttered those immortal words, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom” (23:42). And of course, Jesus tells him, “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” Jesus didn’t say, “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to come down from that cross, get baptized, participate in the Eucharist, and do this list of works I’ll give you…” No, He recognized the man’s change of heart (repentance and faith in Him) and accepted him on that basis. And He does the same for us today.

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church has a number of teachings that put too much emphasis on works. Teachings like Purgatory, the Treasury of Merit, Indulgences, the idea that man can atone for sin by almsgiving (giving money), and mixing / confusing justification with sanctification… these all detract from the work of Jesus on the cross. These teachings are telling us that His suffering and dying was just not quite enough to pay the penalty for sin. WE must ADD something to make salvation complete. Catholics may not say it in these words, but this is truly the bottom line in their logic. In other words, they are saying that Jesus’ words, “It is finished,” (John 19:30) were not true. He apparently needs our “help” (according to the Catholic Church). Can any honest person deny that this is blasphemy?

But to be fair, the Catholic Church is not the only church that teaches that works contribute to a person’s justification. Sadly, there are also some Protestant churches that believe this teaching. It is also a fact that most (if not all) other world religions believe this same concept, in one form or another. You see, man (because of his nature) wants to take credit for things that he shouldn’t.

I pray that no one reading this will ever think that on Judgment Day, he will be able to stand before Jesus Christ and say, “Yes, Lord, You did Your 99% and I did my 1%, so I helped to pay for my own salvation...” God forbid.

It is my sincere prayer that no one (Catholic or Protestant) would ever fall prey to the deception and half-truths of this “faith plus works” doctrine. And may God have mercy on those who teach it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


In part 1, we shared some basic thoughts on the doctrine of “Sola Fide” (faith alone). Today, we will focus on some common Catholic objections to this teaching and see how they hold up. So, let’s jump right in.


James and Justification

At first, this sounds like a good argument. But the Apostle Paul tells us that a man is justified by faith APART FROM (i.e., WITHOUT) WORKS (Romans 3:28; 4:4-5). Are James and Paul contradicting each other, or is something else going on?

This can be easily cleared up by looking at the CONTEXT in each passage. James is dealing with members of the church who claim to be Christian, yet are not showing the evidence of it. He is asking, “Where is the demonstration of your Christianity? Are you ‘walking the walk’ or just ‘talking the talk’?” James is demanding PROOF of a man’s faith: “What use is it, my brethren, if a man SAYS he has faith but he has no works?" (Romans 2:14 NASV). "SHOW me your faith without the works, and I will SHOW you my faith by my works" (James 2:18 NASV). It's all about whether one's faith is a true (demonstrable) faith or a dead one.

On the other hand, Paul (in Romans chapter 3, 4, and 5) is specifically dealing with the issue of how a man can be made right in the eyes of God, i.e., how to become justified / saved. So, these are two different contexts altogether. Romans is about achieving justification, James is about demonstrating the proof of your justification.

But, what exactly IS James talking about in chapter 2, when he says a man is “justified” by works? In this context, “justified” means VINDICATED, or PROVEN, in the eyes of men, not God. God already knows if our faith is real. There may be someone in the church who claims to be a Christian, yet demonstrates no evidence of it. If there is no proof of his salvation, why should anyone believe that he is a Christian? But the person is justified in the eyes of man, i.e., vindicated, when he exhibits the fruit of the Spirit in his life (by good works) and other people can see this proof. This same word, “justify / justified” is used in this way (to mean “vindication”) elsewhere in Scripture (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:29, 10:29, and 16:15), so Paul’s use of the term “justified” in this way in the context of James 2, makes perfect sense.


The “Owner’s Manual” Analogy

Ok, let me ask a simple question. If you were having problems with the headlights on your car, to what section of the owner’s manual would you turn to fix the problem? Would you look under “Tires” or “Engine” or “Exhaust System”? No, of course not. You would go directly to the section on “Headlights” because that’s where the solution would most likely be found. Now, you might also find some relevant information on your headlight problem in other areas of the owner’s manual, like under “Fuses” or the “Electrical System”. But the most useful information, the most helpful, the most important info you would find would be under the section on headlights. To understand your headlights, this MAIN and primary section should be sought first and foremost, and all the other (secondary) sections that just touch on headlight information, would have to revolve around that main section.

In the same way, to understand justification (in the salvation sense), you would go to the section in the Bible that deals specifically and directly with that topic as a doctrine, and that would be Romans chapter 3, 4, and 5. This answers the question, “How is a person made right with God?” If there is any other section that mentions justification, it must be understood in light of those three chapters in Romans, because these chapters make up the most comprehensive, clearest, and longest-running, continuous passage in all of Scripture that SPECIFICALLY deals with how a man is made right with God. They DEFINE the doctrine of justification. Bible verses that specifically deal with a particular topic, in depth, have primacy over “passing reference” verses.

And the message of these chapters clearly indicates that justification is by faith, apart from works:

“Because BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW NO FLESH WILL BE JUSTIFIED in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (3:20)
“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of WORKS? NO, but by a law of FAITH.” (3:27)
“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith APART FROM WORKS of the Law.” (3:28)
“For IF Abraham was justified BY WORKS, he has something to boast about; but NOT BEFORE GOD.” (4:2)
“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. (4:4-5)
“Just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness APART FROM WORKS” (4:6)
“Therefore having been JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1)
Looking at these passages, it’s hard to ignore Paul’s message. Over and over, we see the same idea. God justifies man by faith and not by works. God justifies the Jew by faith [“apart from his works”], and He justifies the Gentile by faith [“apart from his works”, also]. (Romans 3:27-30) Very simple and very direct.

Other verses throughout Scripture that support this concept include:

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Galatians 2:16 – Knowing that a man is
not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Titus 3:5 -
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

Romans 11:6 – But
if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. (All verses above from the NASV)


Works of the Law

The “works” that Paul spoke of did indeed include those Old Testament, ceremonial works, but were certainly NOT LIMITED to those. For example, in Romans 3, he mentions “the law” (v. 21 and v.31), and “the deeds [works] of the law” (v. 28). And immediately after, in 4:1, where the same context is continued, Paul speaks of Abraham, and how he was saved by faith, apart from “the law”.

But wait a minute! Abraham lived 430 years before the Mosaic Law existed! (Galatians 3:17) So Abraham was not under that law. So why would Paul mention Abraham’s works at all, if he was limiting “works of the law” to mean those of the Mosaic Law? It was because Paul was speaking of ALL works, and not just those ceremonial laws and rituals from Moses’ time.

Paul uses Abraham (4:1) as his first example of someone saved apart from works, and then he also uses David (4:6), who WAS under the Mosaic Law. So we see here that BOTH those who were under this Law (the Jews), and also those who were not under this Law (everyone else, including us today) were ALL saved by grace, through faith, and APART from their works. That is the whole point of Romans 3, 4, and 5.
So, we see that Paul's mention of Abraham and David in the same context refutes the idea that Paul alluded ONLY to the works of the old Mosaic Law. He was, in fact, speaking of ANYONE'S works throughout history, because he included:

1) Those BEFORE the Mosaic Law existed (like Abraham)
2) Those DURING the Mosaic Law (like David), and
3) Those AFTER the Mosaic Law (like the Christians to whom he is writing in the book of Romans).


The Ten Commandments
We will demonstrate that the Ten Commandments are indeed part of "the Law.” Romans 7:7 (NASV) says, "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’" Obviously, this refers to the last one of the Ten Commandments.

Now read Romans 2:20-22 (NASV). "...having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one should not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?…" Again, these works are clearly referring to the Ten Commandments.

So here we see that the Ten Commandments ARE part of "the Law". So when Scripture speaks of works of "the Law", it refers to the WHOLE Law: the ceremonial law AND the moral law. The apostle Paul places them in the SAME category. If one saves, then they both save. If one does not save, then neither saves. If "the Law" does not save (and it doesn’t), then the Ten Commandments don't save either, and if the Ten Commandments don't save, then NO WORKS CAN SAVE, since they are God's highest standard.

So, there is no biblical distinction between “works that save” and “works that don't save,” contrary to what Catholics often assert. Therefore, justification "apart from the works of the Law" (Romans 3:28) means justification apart from ANY and ALL works. This doesn’t mean that we don’t ever do good works, it just means that our works don’t contribute to our justification.

Here is an interesting point. Romans 4:9-11 tells us that Abraham was NOT justified by his circumcision. But why not? After all, it was a God-ordained work of obedience, wasn’t it? (Genesis 17:10) It certainly was. But, the answer to this question is simply this: Abraham was not justified by circumcision, because circumcision is a WORK.


Sheep and Goats

Does anyone think that here, Jesus is providing a specific list of things to do to get saved? As a Catholic, one could not believe this, since things like faith, partaking of the Eucharist, baptism (and other sacraments), etc., are not mentioned here.

No, Jesus is speaking in a general sense, describing, on the one hand, the “sheep” as the type of people whose hearts were right, which then caused them to follow through with good works; and on the other hand, the “goats,” as those whose hearts were not right, and neglected God’s will.

The works mentioned here are not PREscribed (as criteria for salvation), but rather, they DEscribe (give a description of) the type of person in each category. The context is NOT how a person is made right with God. This whole chapter is about faithfulness, not justification. And the reason God points to their works in every “judgment scene” is because their works of obedience are the PROOF of their faithfulness, the evidence of what was already in their hearts, by faith. Wouldn’t these works in Matthew 25 be considered “works of righteousness”? Absolutely. But NO ONE is justified (in the “saving” sense) by works of righteousness (Titus 3:5)…
Remember, we WILL be rewarded for our good works, but justification is something totally different. It is strictly a GIFT. Again, it is not “works that save” versus “works that don’t save.” And neither are we justified by the works that God does THROUGH us, but only by the work that He has done on the cross. Nothing else.

See how great a love God has for His children! We DON’T have to try to gain enough “points” from our works and our sufferings to finally make it into Heaven. We must simply trust in His work at the cross. Let us rejoice in the simplicity of the gospel!

Stay with us as we conclude our series with the next post.