[How to Reach Roman Catholics with the Gospel is a long article. We are publishing it in parts. For Part 1, click here; For Part 2, click here; For part 3, click here. We welcome your questions or comments.]
Last time we talked about some important similarities between the RCC and the Bible. These are important, I believe, as an antidote to an attitude that we see sometimes that everything about the RCC is wrong and evil. Remember, we are trying to win lost individuals to Christ (like you and I were one day). Evangelizing Roman Catholic people is not our contribution to bring down the RCC.
However, we do well in considering the most important differences between RC beliefs and the teachings of the Bible. When you live in a predominantly RC country, there is one question you will hear a lot. Actually, it is my favorite question in the whole world. People ask, “So…, what is the difference between the Catholic Church and the Baptist Church?” We all know that there is no Baptist Church, in the sense of a centralized organization. There are only Baptist churches. But that is the way they see the world. Whoever asks that question is probably expecting to hear “we don’t have images in our churches” or “in Baptist churches the pastors get to be married.” We should not waste the opportunity this question gives. Who knows when a better opportunity will come.
Whenever I’m asked about the difference between us and RCC. I always talk about the Bible. The importance is not on styles and cultures. We will all be judged according to the Bible. So I always say, “the RCC says this, but the Bible…”
This brings us to the two most important differences between the Bible and the RCC.
The exclusive authority of the Bible
The Bible is the Word of God. The creator chose to reveal Himself and His will for us through a written revelation. He is sovereign, He could have chosen to reveal Himself in other ways. But He didn’t. The Bible is it. The RCC believes that the Bible is not the only authority. They teach that the tradition of the church is on the same level as the Bible. That creates a very complicated system of truth. There are many writings, by the RCC fathers that need to be considered (some even contradict each other). This makes it almost impossible for an individual to know what is true. He has to trust the church. The RCC is the only interpreter of God’s will.
I’m glad this is not true. God chose to speak to us individually and meet us where we are. The Bible allows each person to find for himself what is true and what is false. Each individual will be judged by this one Book.
The doctrine of Salvation
The other major area of difference between the Bible and the RCC has to do with the doctrine of salvation. The Bible teaches that:
- The blood of Christ is sufficient to cover all of our sins.
- That we are born again through faith in Jesus and what He did on the cross.
- The we can know, and should know, whether we are already saved or not.
- That there are only two places where to spend eternity: Heaven for those that have trusted in Jesus alone, or Hell for those that have rejected Jesus and chose to trust other things.
This is what the Bible says. The RCC has a completely different view on these vital issues.
- The blood of Christ is only part of what is needed for salvation. You also need baptism, good works, etc.
- We are born again through baptism, which should be done to babies.
- We never know that we are already saved. Only God knows.
- Most people will not go to Hell. There is a place after life where you can get purified in preparation for Heaven – it is called Purgatory.
These two areas (authority of the Bible and the doctrine of salvation) are the two most important differences between the Bible and the RCC. A working knowledge of these will help us to help our RC friends find the only One that can give them a new life, a new heart and place them in a walk with their Creator.