I love my Roman Catholic (RC) friends, and I was raised RC, and it is because of my love that I earnestly desire to share this information. Teaching on this subject has not changed since Vatican 2—and it cannot change because it was made an irreformable, de fide dogma at Council of Trent in 1500’s.
Let met state clearly that many Roman Catholics have saving faith, but it is in spite of the teaching of their church and not because of it. The true gospel was ‘anthatamized’ at the Council of Trent. And so I would urge all Catholics to consider leaving their church and to attend a loving, bible believing church. I also have a segment on Mary and the Rosary. Please see video list.
This will be a very brief summary of Roman Catholic teaching on salvation (justification) versus what God says—(I did a more in-depth study earlier). I am using justification and salvation as synonyms, but biblically, justification is more precise term. I have a video of this if you prefer to listen while driving, etc.
In RC, salvation is mediated through the sacraments of the church—particularly Baptism and Penance.
Baptism begins the justification/salvation process. They believe in baptismal regeneration in which baptism erases Original sin and infuses the grace of justification in the person’s soul. The baptized person is immediately infused with the righteousness of Christ, or justifying grace, and God sees that person as being inherently or personally righteous inside themselves. Thus, they are justified/saved in His sight. To maintain this justification/salvation is a lifelong process. (in bible, justification is instantaneous, irreversible and is a legal declaration outside of us…where ungodly are DECLARED righteous—see Romans 4). 5 And to the one who does not work but believes ina him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, (Rom. 4:5)
As the child grows older they will go through the sacrament of Confirmation, which is like a spiritual booster shot. It confirms and strengthens the grace of justification (salvation) in the soul.
Throughout life, two things are absolutely needed to be remain justified/saved: they have to continue to have faith in Christ and live a holy life in submission to Mother Church. The latter (holy life) consists of two things: regular involvement in sacraments of church, especially Mass/Confession; and adherence to Ten Commandments. So, you can see that though faith is a necessary condition for salvation, it is not a sufficient condition for salvation—they have to add their good works. This is the error so severely condemned in Galatians 1:6ff. For RC faith + good works = salvation/justification—bible teaches: faith alone in Christ = salvation/justification (good works flow naturally from a genuine faith as expression of love and gratitude).
In RC there are two kinds of sin: venial and mortal sin. Venial sin is ‘regular sin’ but mortal sin, as the name suggests, kills the grace of justification in the soul. It un-saves the person, and if they died in this state they would go to hell. Things like adultery, murder, missing Mass, Ten Commandments, etc., are examples of this kind of mortal sin, but the list is vague.
How is justification/salvation restored? Through the sacrament of Penance (RC has 7 sacraments instead of 2). RC states that: “Penance is the second plank of justification for those who have made shipwreck of their souls.” (Council of Trent) After confessing ones mortal sin, and going trough prescribed steps, the ‘shipwrecked’ believer then has saving grace re-infused back into their soul. Thus going to Confession is a vital part of a pious Roman Catholic believers lifestyle.
This is the RC system of salvation/justification. Assurance of salvation is actually deemed a sin or frowned upon—I was told it led to presumption. So, we see that salvation in RC a lifelong mediating of God’s grace through the church, and the sacrament of Penance. The vast majority of believers will die with the stain of sin on their souls, and will need to spend some time in Purgatory having their sins purged until they are ready to enter holy heaven.
To sum up summary, in RC the grace of justification is INFUSED into the soul where the person actually IS righteous enough in themselves for God to deem them as justified/saved. God deems righteous what actually IS righteous. But all that can be lost in an instant, over and over again.
In reality, whoever gets to that point of personal righteousness? Certainly not me—all I can see is the massive amount of indwelling left residing inside of me. So, this ‘gospel’ is horrible news for someone like me who is keenly aware of my sinfulness.
Thank God, the bible says that saving/justifying grace is IMPUTED to us; It is a legal declaration which happens outside of us. It is the only aspect of salvation which occurs totally outside of us. Many Protestants have never heard this from the pulpit. If you were in a courtroom and judge declared you ‘not guilty,’ it would change your legal status but would it change your character? No, not at all. Justification is God as Judge declaring people who are personally ungodly, to be ‘not guilty and righteous’ in His holy eyes—but it does not affect us internally. Sanctification instantaneously follows justification, which does begin the inside/out change of our character by the indwelling Holy Spirit. But we MUST distinguish (not separate) justification from sanctification or we will slip into error of RC. Justification in RC is inside…… but the bible sees justification as outside of us.
Hence, Romans 4 says that ‘God justifies the ungodly.’ RC confuses justification with sanctification. In biblical justification there is a double transfer: our sins are transferred to Christ, and His perfect righteousness is imputed to us. (2 Cor. 5:21) Jesus garments of His holiness cover us, so that the Father sees Jesus’ righteousness and not our sinfulness. We are simultaneously saved and sinful—THAT is good news! The BEST news!
Hence, we are simultaneously justified and sinful. ‘Simul Justus et peccator’ as Luther said. By experience, we know that to be true, and if I have to wait until I am inherently righteous enough for God to declare me righteous, then I will NEVER be righteous enough to be declared justified—too much indwelling sin remains in us. Praise God for CHRIST'S righteousness, which is in heaven—and our union with Christ unites us with all He is and has done! He sees us as perfect, in Christ!
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, wea have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1; 8:1)
Though outside of us, justification brings deep internal healing and peace of mind. Praise God!
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.