We are a Christian Fellowship meeting in North London with a strong interest in teaching
the Bible and understanding our time in
the light of Bible prophecy
Roman Catholicism and the Bible
Is Roman Catholicism a faith based on the Bible? Was the Reformation a mistake which
split Christendom or an act of God to rescue true Christianity from a false church?
In asking these questions I do not wish to stir up hostility to Roman Catholics as
people and I am not doubting that many Catholics are sincere in their faith. However
sincerity is not a guarantee of truth and it needs to be recognised that there are
very significant errors in Roman Catholic teaching when looked at in the light of
the Bible. Down through the centuries true Christians who sought to bring these errors
to light have often been persecuted and even put to death by the Roman Catholic Church.
The major false doctrines of Roman Catholicism are:
Justification by works
Article 135 of the Catholic Catechism says, ‘Faith alone will not save us without
good works.’ The Bible teaches we are saved by faith in the work of Jesus Christ
dying as a sacrifice for our sins. Good works are the result of our faith, but they
do not save us: ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we
are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand
that we should walk in them.’ Ephesians 2.8-10.
Article 256 of the Catechism says, ‘Baptism is a Sacrament which cleanses us from
original sin, makes us Christians, children of God and members of the Church’ (i.e.
a baby becomes a Christian through being baptised). Article 259 says this sacrament
is given by pouring water on the head of a child. (NB the Greek word ‘baptizo’ means
to immerse in water not to sprinkle with water). It does not take long for parents
of babies who have had water poured on them in this way to discover that they are
not cleansed from original sin!
The Bible teaches that we must be born again (John 3.5-8) through repentance and
faith in what Jesus Christ has done for us, after which we are baptised. On the Day
of Pentecost Peter explained the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. His hearers
responded by asking him, ‘What shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and
let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of
sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2.38). A baby cannot
possibly make such a decision.
Use of images
Article 186 of the Catechism says, ‘We should give relics, crucifixes, and holy pictures
a relative honour, as they relate to Christ and his Saints, and are memorials of
them.’ Catholic churches are full of idols, especially of Mary, which become objects
of worship. The 10 commandments forbid idolatry and remain valid for Christians.
‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that
is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under
the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God,
am a jealous God’ (Exodus 20.4-5).
The Catechism says: ‘When I say that the Pope is infallible, I mean that the Pope
cannot err when, as Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians, he defines a doctrine
concerning faith or morals, to be held by the whole church’ (Article 93). The Catechism
goes on to say that ‘the Church cannot err in what she teaches as to faith or morals,
for she is our infallible guide in both’ (Article 100). The Bible tells us that only
God is infallible and that all human individuals and institutions are tainted by
sin and liable to error. ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’
(Romans 3.23). The sole authority for fixing Christian doctrine is the Bible, not
fallible human beings.
The hierarchy of priests going up to the Pope as ‘Vicar of Christ’ on earth entirely
conflicts with the concept Jesus taught the disciples about spiritual authority.
Jesus told us not to call any man ‘Father’ (Papa / Pope). ‘But you, do not be called
Rabbi; for one is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call
anyone on earth your father; for one is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do
not be called teachers; for one is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest
among you shall be your servant’ (Matthew 23.8-11).
Celibacy and the Priesthood
The Roman Catholic Church forbids priests to marry, thus creating a distinction between
the priesthood and the laity. The word priest is never used of special servants of
the Lord in the New Testament, but is used to describe all who believe in Jesus.
There is never any distinction in the New Testament between clergy and laity. Probably
the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, mentioned in Revelation 2.6, 2.15, as something
which Jesus hates, relates to the rise of the clergy having a special status. Nicolaitanes
is taken from two Greek words meaning ‘victory over the people (laos or laity)’.
The New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers. ‘But you are a chosen
generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people’ (1 Peter 2.9).
‘And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open
its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every
tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our
God; and we shall reign on the earth”’ (Revelation 5.9-10).
Peter, considered falsely to be the first Pope, had a wife as the following scriptures
indicate. ‘But Simons (Peter) wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told
him about her at once. So he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and
immediately the fever left her. And she served them’ (Mark 1.30). ‘Do we have no
right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers
of the Lord, and Cephas? (Aramaic form of Peter)’ (1 Corinthians 9.5).
Enforced celibacy is described as a ‘doctrine of demons.’ ‘Now the Spirit expressly
says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving
spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience
seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods
which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know
the truth’ (1 Timothy 4.1-3).
In Catholicism people are told to go to confession, where sins are confessed to a
priest who then declares absolution for those sins. The Bible teaches that we confess
our sins to God and receive forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. ‘This is the
message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in
Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in
darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He
is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ
His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive
us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not
sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these
things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate
with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for
our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world’ (1 John 1.5-2.2).
Purgatory is neither heaven nor hell, but ‘a place where souls suffer for a time
after death on account of their sins’ (Catechism, Article 106). But in the Bible
the only places mentioned where we go after death are heaven and hell. Those who
are saved in this life by trusting in Jesus to forgive their sins need no further
suffering to refine them and prepare them for heaven.
‘Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth
had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New
Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her
husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of
God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself
will be with them and be their God.” And God will wipe away every tear from their
eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more
pain, for the former things have passed away.’ … ‘But the cowardly, unbelieving,
abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall
have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second
death’ (Revelation 21.1-8).
According to this concept Jesus needs to be sacrificed continually through the Mass.
The bread and the wine are changed literally into his body and blood. Article 267
of the Catechism says: ‘The bread and the wine are changed into the Body and Blood
of Christ by the power of God, to whom nothing is impossible or difficult.’ Article
278 says: ‘The Holy Mass is one and the same Sacrifice with that of the Cross, inasmuch
as Christ who offered himself, a bleeding victim on the Cross to his heavenly Father,
continues to offer himself in an unbloody manner on the altar through the ministry
of his priests.’
But the Bible teaches that Christ’s sacrifice was complete and final and can never
be repeated. Communion or the Lords Supper is the remembrance of that sacrifice.
‘For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies
of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place
every year with blood of another. He then would have had to suffer often since the
foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to
put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once,
but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many’(Hebrews
‘For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord
Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given
thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you;
do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper,
saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink
it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you proclaim the Lords death till He comes’(1 Corinthians 11.23-26).
In the Middle Ages priests went throughout Europe persuading people to give money
to the Church claiming that as a result a persons time in purgatory could be reduced.
But since there is no such place as purgatory, this became a trick to deceive people
into parting with their money for the benefit of the church. There is no way that
we can buy favour with God. ‘Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible
things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from
your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish
and without spot’ (1 Peter 1.18-19).
It was also taught that by inflicting pain and torment on ones body one could reduce
time in purgatory. Self inflicted suffering to atone for our sins is of no value
at all, since Christ’s sufferings are enough to redeem us. ‘For Christ also suffered
once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put
to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit’ (1 Peter 3.18). Self denial from
sins of the flesh is of course taught in the Bible.
The Roman Catholic church elevates Mary to the status of ‘mother of God’ (Catechism,
Article 167) and ‘Queen of Heaven’ (Article 168a). Although the Catechism does not
say she should be worshipped and seen as a mediator along with Jesus Christ, this
is the result in practice of this teaching, as can be seen by the size of the images
of the Madonna in many Catholic Churches. Article 117 says: ‘All mankind has contracted
the guilt and stain of original sin, except The Blessed Virgin and her Divine Son.’
Mary was in fact a faithful Jewish woman called Miriam who played a vital role in
bringing Jesus into the world through the miracle of the virgin birth. There is not
a word in the New Testament suggesting she was sinless or had a different nature
from other people. After giving birth to Jesus, she had other children in the natural
way and was saved by her faith in her Son, the Lord Jesus. There are a number of
references in the New Testament to Jesus’ brothers and sisters. ‘These all continued
with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of
Jesus, and with His brothers’ (Acts 1.14).
There is no other mediator between God and man except the Lord Jesus. ‘For there
is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself
a ransom for all’ (1 Timothy 2.5-6).