March 1, 2017

Which Jesus does your Roman Catholic friend believe in?

by Jordan Standridge

rosaryAs we celebrate the 500th year of the reformation this year, I’ve been very encouraged by the fact that there are so many in the church who understand that the reformation is not over.

Coming to America after growing up in Italy was very interesting. The world has a lot to learn from the American church, who, for so many years, has supplied the world with most of its Christian missionaries, and yet the American church has a lot to learn from the rest of the world when it comes to being able to condemn false religions.

This year is an opportunity for the American church to really explore what the Roman Catholic church actually is, and ask whether or not it teaches the truth. Secondly, each believer must ask himself whether, when speaking with the Catholic individual, they are asking the right questions.

Many Christians may accept the fact that the Roman Catholic church is a false church that teaches works-righteousness, but may have “the neighbor” who says he really loves Jesus, making it very difficult to figure out how to really know if they believe in grace or if they believe in works.

I understand the dilemma. I have had many conversations recently during which someone, either Mormon or Catholic, who had all the same words until we got to the heart of the Gospel, and then simply denied it. I think that, and perhaps this sentence will be controversial, when you are dealing with a Roman Catholic, you must begin from a skeptical position when it comes to whether they are saved or not.

The church, as we know, has made salvation very easy. Over the years, many evangelists and pastors have boiled it down to just saying a prayer; perhaps, out of a desire to see more decisions for Christ, they have lowered the bar. Over the years, this way of evangelism has trickled down to us. So many believers, out of a godly desire to be encouraging, have perhaps neglected questioning and embraced accepting people at face value.

As I was teaching Luke 9:18-22, I was overwhelmed with the fact that Jesus doesn’t accept the crowd’s response to His question. He is dissatisfied with their answers. He asks his disciples the question, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Peter’s answer is discouraging–a prophet! John the Baptist risen from the dead! Elijah! Jesus knows that these answers not only don’t justify but rather damn those who hold these positions. Not because doctrine saves, but because without doctrine you cannot be saved.

On the other hand, Jesus is very excited about Peter’s answer to the question. In the parallel passage of Matthew 16:16-18, Peter says to Jesus that he is “the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Jesus’ answer is telling. Not only does He tell Peter that he was incapable to come to this conclusion by himself, but had to have his eyes open by God, He also emphasized that the Church would be built on the foundation that Jesus is God, and that only those who have the right view of Jesus would be part of the Church and spend eternity in Heaven with Him. That means that even if you believe in Jesus but don’t believe in the correct Jesus, you will be accursed.

We must establish the fact that Jesus cares about what you think of Him. But He also cares about what your Roman Catholic friend thinks about Him. And so, it naturally follows that you should care, also. Asking someone whether they believe in Jesus simply doesn’t cut it. For the sake of Christ and our friends, we must get to the heart of which Jesus they worship, because, like it or not, the world is filled with anti-Christs (Matt 24:24, 1 John 2:18) who seek to deceive even the elect.

So, for the sake of your Roman Catholic friends’ souls, here are three follow-up questions you must ask to see which Jesus they believe in.

1) Do You believe that salvation is a process?

In the past few years, I have come to realize that I have wasted a lot of time discussing secondary issues with those who are part of false religions. Our goal must be to show them that they are in a works-based religion, and that they must trust solely in Christ. Of course, the devil is a master liar (John 8:44), and he has done a great job blinding the eyes of those caught up in these systems of this obvious truth. The Roman Catholic church may be the devil’s masterpiece because it has all of the Biblical lingo like grace, faith, church, Jesus, and even trinity. Ultimately, the problem is that the Roman Catholic church denies the Christian understanding of sanctification and really replaces it with salvation. In other words, most Roman Catholics reject the idea of instantaneous salvation, and therefore salvation is earned over an entire lifetime. This is the definition of a works-based system. The Bible says that one must repent and be saved (Acts 3:19). Jesus tells Nicodemus that salvation is being born again (John 3). Being born happens in the blink of an eye and therefore it is not something that takes months, years, or decades to happen. Whether your Roman Catholic friend understands or accepts it, this implies that he is trusting in works for salvation and reject the Gospel of Christ. It’s critical that you show him these truths from Scripture, and, if he is sensitive to what the Bible says, then it would be a good sign that he does have the Holy Spirit and that He is working in his heart.

2) Do you believe that Jesus must die every week?

Perhaps there is no greater blasphemy around today than what occurs each time a mass takes place. In the Roman Catholic mindset, Jesus must continue to die each week because, each week, you continue to sin and need to be “re-saved” or “re-justified.”  That’s why most Roman crucifixes have Jesus still on the cross. The Roman Catholic system is dependent on the continual purification from sin, and the whole system would break down if confession became unnecessary and if the mass became null. The Christian knows, though, that Peter declared that Jesus died once and for all (1 Peter 3:18). The writer of Hebrews wrote in detail as well about the need for an offering, and declared that the Jewish priesthood is over when he said, “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God… For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:11,12,14) The writer of Hebrews concludes this section with the final blow against the need for an offering for sins when he says, “Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.” (Heb. 10:18)

This should cause any Roman Catholic who possesses the Holy Spirit to be, at the very least, perplexed and bothered by this blasphemous sacrament the Catholic church does on a daily basis around the world. If he or she partakes in it and sees nothing wrong with it after being confronted with God’s Word, you can be concerned for them that they believe in a different Christ.

3) Do you have assurance of salvation?

This leads us to a final question, and that is, does your friend or family member have assurance of salvation? The Roman Catholic church clearly teaches that, not only is it impossible to have confidence in your salvation, but that it is a sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says it best when it says,

The first commandment is also concerned with the sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption (C. of the C. C. 2091).

Presumption… hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit (C. of the C. C. 2092).

Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification  (C. of the C. C. 2010).

It is a system that holds its people captive and blinds them to the truth of the Gospel. If you can convince your people that they can’t ever be sure of their salvation, then they become dependent on you for life, and not only you, but your children, grandchildren, and generations to come. But the fact that the devil is involved does not get the individual off the hook. If they trust in a works-based system, then they will be accountable before God one day, because they have denied the Christ of Scripture who is able to instantly wipe away sins once and for all, and they have replaced Him with a cheap, impotent Christ whose death on the cross was powerless to justify any sinner. When your friend answers this question in the negative, affirming the fact that salvation must be earned over an entire lifetime and therefore assurance of salvation is impossible, then you must know, whether you like it or not, that this friend needs to be born again for the first time and must hear the Gospel.

I understand that posts like these can be frustrating to read. I just pray that you will consider what the Bible says when it comes to salvation and the cross of Christ. Evangelism is the most difficult thing Jesus has called us to do in this life; in fact, it is impossible, because we are completely dependent on Him every step of the way. One of the saddest realities we face every day is the fact that we are surrounded by people who are headed toward an eternity in Hell, and sometimes they are our family members and friends. The worst thing we can do for our own hearts, for our friends’ souls, and for our Savior is to dumb down the Gospel and over-simplify it. This action does not change the reality that Jesus demands to be worshiped for who He truly is, and He will not accept anyone who denies his Divinity or adds to Scripture regarding what He has done. I pray that this year, as we celebrate the 500 years of the reformation, believers will be brought to a real examination of what the Bible says about salvation and Christ, and that it will cause them to see Roman Catholics’ desperate need to believe in the Jesus of the Bible.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion.
  • John

    I commend your heart to seek and save Catholics, but I would like to suggest some potential enhancements to the thoughts you shared…

    I really enjoyed your introduction. It was very good in highlighting the potential difficulties of having meaningful discussions with Catholics and why they are important.

    However, I’m not sure points 1 & 3 of your argument will be as helpful in achieving a fruitful discussion. They lack a critical distinction: Namely the difference in how God percieves salvation and the way we experience it. From God’s perspective it is “once saved, always saved”. From our perspective, we know people who “fall away from the faith”. This means that we experience salvation in some sense as a lifelong process (“Work out your salvation with fear & trembling”, as one example).

    Your third point suffers from a similar problem. Salvation is assured based on Christ’s perfections, but our assurance is somewhat conditional – we must remain in the faith. Our assurance is therefore not based on works, but our works act as an indicator of whether or not we are “in the faith”.

    I am not trying to say that the Catholic position on these matters is correct (they aren’t and should be accordingly criticized), but that your questions/points may have the unintended effect of swaying a person from one false position to another (“cheap grace”) if the person going through these points isn’t careful or aware of the potential pitfalls.

    Just my thoughts… =) Keep up the good work though! I really do enjoy reading your evangelistic contributions here!

    • Jordan Standridge

      Thanks for your comment John and I definitely appreciate your thoughts. I think I understand what you are saying but I would have to disagree. Paul’s whole argument in Galatians is to expose the fact that there are those twisting the gospel with works and using that as a way to warn them. As to the third question 1 john’s whole premise is to establish the fact that you can know that you are saved. regardless this post is directed towards those in the church who would be confused as to whether their Catholic friend is saved or not, who perhaps might believe that they are not but don’t know the questions to ask in order to expose this. I hope this post helps in that regard. thanks John!

    • Craig Giddens

      “we must remain in the faith. Our assurance is therefore not based on works, but our works act as an indicator of whether or not we are “in the faith”.

      If you’re having to do something to remain in the faith then I would say you haven’t experienced salvation, but probation. Our salvation is secured the moment we believe.

      We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1: 3)
      Some of these blessing include:

      Our sins are forgiven – Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14 and 2:13, Galatians 1:4
      We have peace with God – Romans 5:1
      We have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us – 2Corinthians 5:21
      We are a new creature in Christ – 2 Corinthians 5:17
      We are baptized into the body of Christ – 1 Corinthians 12:13
      We are indwelt with the Holy Spirit – 1 Corinthians 6:19
      We are sealed with the Spirit – Ephesians 1:13
      We are sealed with the Spirit unto the day of redemption – Ephesians 4:30
      We are a child of God – Galatians 3:28
      We are citizens of the household of God – Ephesians 2:19
      We are in the kingdom of God’s Son – Colossians 1:13
      We are preserved in Christ – Jude 1
      We will be confirmed to the end by Christ – 1 Corinthians 1:8

      We are complete in Christ – Colossians 2:9-10

      Romans 5
      9. Much more then,
      being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
      10. For if, when
      we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more,
      being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

      • Jane Hildebrand

        What a beautiful summary! Perfect to copy/print to keep in my Bible. Thank you.

      • Matt Rolfe

        Thank you for these encouraging verses

  • Dave

    Thanks for the post, especially today. From my own standpoint, at no time will I ever be prepared to stand before Almighty God and tell that the gift of his Son — tortured, bleeding, agonizing — was not enough; or that my frail efforts could make up for any supposed deficiency of the Cross of Calvary.
    No! God’s grace is sufficient.
    Ephesians 2:8-9 / 2 Corinthians 12:9 / Romans 5:8 / 1 Corinthians 2:2

  • Jane Hildebrand

    “It’s critical that you show him these truths from Scripture, and, if he is sensitive to what the Bible says, then it would be a good sign that he does have the Holy Spirit and that He is working in his heart.”

    Such an important point, and yet so difficult against the Catholic mindset that interpretation belongs to the magisterium only.

  • NJ Treadnotter

    Now this took some guts to write and I am thankful you did.

  • hopechurch

    Great article. It is always when they say “I love Jesus.” In my conversations with folk offense rises fast. anyways. Thanks
    Am I correct but do you have Peter saying Jesus is just a prophet and not “some” Luke 9:19?

  • Diane

    This is so helpful, Jordan. Thank you.

    Years ago I talked with a dear Catholic friend about the means of salvation as she was dying of cancer. At the time, I felt confident from her responses that she agreed that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. Not through any works. She spoke like a believer who understands the true Gospel message and loved the same Jesus. But after things I’ve read since her death, I have wondered if her words had a different meaning to her and I somehow missed it because of the shared lingo. I sure would not ever, ever want to make that same mistake again. Can you please speak on that a bit for me? What do Catholics mean when they speak of grace? If she agreed it was not through any works, might that have a different meaning? Thanks.

    • pro31lady

      I’m sure Jordan is crafting a thorough reply. But as a former Catholic myself, let me attempt to answer your questions.

      Catholics have become VERY adept at hijacking biblical lingo and using them in unblblical ways. You hit on probably the most egregious example. Grace.

      For you and I, Grace is unmerited favor. The fact that my salvation is zero % my efforts and 100% what Jesus accomplished on the cross is humbling and motivating. IT makes me WANT to serve and obey the God who loves me and gave himself up for me. Titus 2:11-14.

      For the Catholic, Grace is a substance God gives to help someone obey.

      Look at paragraph 2010 or 2027 of the current Catholic Catechism.
      “We can merit for ourselves and others the GRACES needed to attain eternal life” They basically argue that since the good deed was INITIATED by God, that if we follow through and obey…. it counts as grace because it was ultimately GOD that did the good work and not us. So Grace is something that helps you obey and therefore that obedience is meritorious.

      Titus 3:5 and Romans 11:6 shatters this concept. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us not because of any deeds DONE IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, but because of His mercy.”

      “For if it is by grace, it is no longer by works.”

      Hope that helps.

      At the end of the day it boils down to this:

      What is your Catholic friend trusting in? If its their good works? Problems abound.

      If its in the completed and finished work of Christ ALONE? no problems.

      • Diane

        Thank you for your reply, pro31lady. That was very helpful.

        What a sobering explanation. So very grievous. I sit here crying as I remember my dear friend who encouraged me tremendously in my faith through her love of prayer and always looking forward to her “time alone with the Lord” as she spoke of often. One of the kindest, most grateful people I’ve ever known.

      • Diane

        Have you ever spoken to a practicing Catholic who somehow they were trusting completely on the finished work of Christ? And if so, how could that be and they stay in that fakse system? I’ve had conversations with another christian who is convinced her Catholic friend is a true believer. I just don’t understand how that could be.

        • pro31lady

          There is a lot of ignorance in Catholic circles.

          So yes, its very possible for a Catholic to be a Christian. But its about the same percentage as a mormon or a JW being a christian in my experience.

          They would be Christian IN SPITE of their upbringing, not because of it.

          For my own testimony, I was a Christian for roughly 2 years before I finally left the RCC. There is great family pressure to remain a Catholic in name no matter what your differences are.

          I know many that completely disagree with the church on many many things, but because the cultural ties are so strong, they remain in the church.

          Once i understood what the Mass really was I couldn’t stay long. But it was difficult to admit to my parents and family.

          • Diane

            I’m so glad the Lord brought you into a saving faith and out of that environment. And the courage to tell your family of your decision. I cannot imagine the difficulty of that.

            You’ve been a great help to me in finally understanding some things I’ve been questioning a long time. Thank you so much.

          • Archepoimen follower

            I was also raised Catholic, spent 12 years in Catholic schools as well.
            I desire to see all Catholics recognize these truths that Jordan has raised. Unfortunately, for almost all Catholics, their salvation is in the Church itself. The Catholic Church teaches that it alone has the truth. While they refer to us as separated brethren, do not believe that by this they believe any other Christian is saved. Pro31lady has hit the
            nail on the head, it may take time, but any Catholic who actually comes to saving faith, will realize that the Catholic Church is not the Church founded by Jesus and the Apostles and leave it!


          • Diane

            Thanks for this, Tim.

            I had tried to find answers to my questions on both
            Catholic websites and christian sites a number of times. The Catholic site explanations were never susinct or simple, in my mind, and it added to my confusion. The christian sites I rely on almost always have Catholics commenting that their beliefs are being misrepresented. It’s not been easy to sort out what the RCC today actually teach their people. It sometimes seems the official doctrines are different than what the followers are taught or understand.

          • Archepoimen follower

            Your last point is exactly on point. additionally, the teaching in the RC churches varies widely and is often drastically different than even the Catholic catechism. I have found throughout the years, that each Catholic has their own view of doctrine, but consistently they all understand their salvation is with and in the Catholic Church.
            May our God and Jesus His Son bless you, and the Spirit, Himself direct your quest for knowledge and desire to bring people the Good News, who is Jesus!


      • bs

        pro31lady, isn’t the section from the Catechism on grace that you want to refer to 1996-2005? Does a careful reading of these paragraphs give a better understanding of grace in the RC Church? I understand that you might have experienced the teaching differently, but don’t we need to read these documents sympathetically?

        • Jane Hildebrand

          When you can find a Catholic that is assured of their salvation based upon the finished work of Christ and confirmed by the Holy Spirit in their lives, then we can read those documents sympathetically. Until then, it is false gospel.

          • bs

            Jane,I have known a number of Christians in the Roman Catholic church who are as you say.

          • Jane Hildebrand

            Good! What a perfect opportunity then for you to share with those Catholic friends that the RC church teaches that they are “anathema” for claiming assurance. Perhaps then they can begin to wrestle with other RC teachings against the scriptures.

          • bs

            Jane, is it ‘assurance’ or is it ‘presumption’?

          • Jane Hildebrand

            Let’s play a different game. Why don’t you tell me how/if a person can have the assurance of salvation.

        • Archepoimen follower

          Of course we want to read what others write with a sympathetic eye, yet when it is about the Gospel, we must read what is written against the scriptures. This is where the Catholic catechism falls short on any reading.


          • bs

            Tim, I wonder though whether we are reading the catechism “against he scriptures” or sympathetically. When I read through the paragraphs on grace I find myself hearing a number of scriptural echoes and not just those verses which evangelicals have highlighted in their Bibles or referenced in their sermons..Of course there are places where the RC church has gone wrong — as we all have.

  • Randy

    Wow, I would sure suggest you all try getting your information regarding the Roman Catholic faith from a Roman Catholic source, rather than from a Baptist Pastor who appears to be an opponent to the Roman Catholic faith. It’s really quite easy. I’m sure any local priest would be happy to discuss your concerns about the faith with you, if your curiosity is genuine and you are willing to listen with an open mind. If that doesn’t float your boat, check out Catholic Answers on the web…it’s an excellent source for Roman Catholic apologetics. Here it is:

    • Jordan Standridge

      Thanks for your comment Randy. Is there a specific part of the post that you think was incorrect? Most Roman Catholics I’ve talked with agree with me that this is their position. Of course they don’t have any concerns with their beliefs and they would disagree with my conclusions but most would say I have represented the Roman Catholic position accurately. I most definitely don’t want to build any straw men here, but I am concerned for the souls of Roman Catholics as it is something that I have spent much time thinking and praying about.

      • Randy

        Hi Jordan. I won’t argue there are many Catholics misinformed about their faith…which is why I suggested you get your information from a reliable Catholic source like your neighborhood Catholic Priest or Catholic Answers.

        Catholics believe faith without works is dead…even demons believe! That doesn’t mean through charitable works we ‘earn’ salvation, it just means if we don’t feed the hungry, cloth the naked, or shelter the homeless, in other words, if we don’t actively participate in our faith, we need to reassess the viability of our Christianity. Would you agree?

        Catholics don’t believe Jesus is re-crucified at every Mass. Double check your source for that information. Look up the Sacrifice of the Mass to learn how the one sacrifice that Christ offered on our behalf is sacramentally re-presented or made present anew at every Mass, in as much as it was with the Apostles at the last supper. Christ’s died only once…

        As for salvation being ‘assured’ or a ‘process’…Jesus himself tells us, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13; cf. 25:31–46)

        Even Paul wasn’t sure of the infallibility of his salvation, “I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27)

        There’s so much misunderstanding already about the Catholic Faith and publishing more misinformation, such as this article, as if it were truth, doesn’t serve either one of us well.