Reaching Catholics for Christ
By Evangelist Mike Gendron
Director of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministry
PO Box 940871
Plano, TX 75094
How do you approach Catholics who believe they are already Christians? How do you share the Gospel with Catholics who are adding to what Jesus finished on Calvary’s cross? We must begin by telling them that sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was perfect, complete and sufficient for their salvation. To add to Christ’s finished work of redemption is to nullify grace – the only means by which God saves sinners (Rom. 11:6). Most Catholics do not know God’s punishment for sin or His only provision for it. If we are to reach Catholics for Christ we must tell them God’s righteous justice requires the death penalty for any and all sin. Only then will they see how futile their works are, and only then will they turn to the Savior, who died as a substitute, to pay the death penalty sinners deserve.
There are four spiritual blessings that Jesus offers to sinners that are totally foreign to most Catholics:
- His complete forgiveness of sins;
- His imputed righteousness;
- His assurance of eternal life and
- A direct, personal relationship with God.
These precious blessings are unknown to Catholics because their church fiercely opposes them and conceals them with their traditions. The Vatican knows that if Catholics ever understood and believed these promises of God they would lose their control over their lives. The truth of God’s word would set them free (John 8:32). The doctrines of purgatory, indulgences, sacramental grace, the Mass, and the priesthood not only hold Catholics captive and dependent upon their church, but they blind them from the truth of the Gospel. Clearly, for Catholics to believe the Good News of Jesus Christ, they must repent of their own efforts to save themselves and come to Jesus with empty hands of faith. Only then can they be eternally secure in Christ and stand before a Holy God in the perfect righteousness of His Son. Let us take a close look at the four spiritual blessings Jesus offers. (The numbers in parenthesis are paragraph numbers from the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Complete Forgiveness of Sins
It is indeed good news for Catholics to know they can be completely forgiven. Throughout their lives they are burdened with a residual punishment for the sins their “Catholic Jesus” was unable to expiate. Catholics are taught they must purify themselves of these residual sins by means of purgatory, indulgences and the sacraments. An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead (1471). Rome teaches that every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory (1472). The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains (1473). The Christian who seeks to purify himself of his sin is linked with the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, and with those who are expiating their sins in purgatory. In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others. Thus the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin. (1474-75) In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers (1477).
The Roman Catholic clergy denies the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement. Paul warned us about such false teachers, who take people captive through empty deception. He then clearly proclaims the completeness of Christ’s atonement. Jesus has forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:8, 13-14). Clearly the shed blood and cross work of Christ were necessary and sufficient for the complete forgiveness of sins, for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Eph 1:7). Yet Catholics ignore these Scriptures by teaching the daily sacrifice of the Mass (a counterfeit copy of Calvary) has the power to forgive sins (1366). The “Catholic Jesus” (in the form of a wafer) is laid on an altar (not a cross) as a bloodless sacrifice, the “eternal victim” for sin (1377).
Upon reading the Bible Catholics will discover bloodless sacrifices can never remit sin. They will see by one offering He (Jesus) has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Heb. 10:14). And when He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:3). Jesus offers the complete forgiveness of sin and there is no longer any offering for sin (Heb. 10:18).
It is also good news for Catholics to know they can now have a right standing before God! Since their relationship with God is based on what they do rather than what Christ has done, they never know where they stand. A Catholic’s righteousness is based on their subjective conformity to Christ rather than an objective declaration by God. They are taught their standing before God can be enhanced by good works and diminished by sin. By receiving the sacraments and doing works of charity Catholics can merit for themselves and for others the graces needed for sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life (2010). Sanctifying grace makes us pleasing to God (2024). Catholics are taught justification is conferred in Baptism and conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just (1992). Whenever they commit a grave sin, the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification (1446).
Catholics are in the same predicament the Israelites were in. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3). Paul said those who pursue righteousness by works never attain it because they do not pursue it by faith (Rom. 9:31-32). He wrote: to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness (Rom. 4:5). Those who are in Christ Jesus, stand before God in His righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). God treated Jesus as if he lived our life so that he could treat believers as if they lived the perfect life of His Son. The righteousness of Christ, that is reckoned to believers immediately upon conversion, is never affected by sin because God does not count sins against those He justifies (Rom. 4:5, 2 Cor. 5:19). Furthermore God promises to glorify those he justifies (Rom. 8:30). This leads us to the next spiritual blessing.
Assurance of Eternal Life
Jesus promises He will never lose anyone the Father gives Him nor cast them away (John 6:37, 39). Yet Catholics can never have this assurance because their salvation is never settled in this life. In fact, it is a sin for a Catholic to know salvation is secured. Canon 16 of the Council of Trent states, “If anyone says that he will for certain, with an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance even to the end” ¦ let him be anathema.” This canon is in direct opposition to the Bible. The apostle John wrote his epistle to believers of Jesus Christ, in order that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13). The Gospel is the good news of eternal life and it is based on God’s justice and faithfulness in keeping His promises (1 John 1:9). Those who have been given the gift of eternal life cannot die again spiritually because the very life of Jesus Christ has been imparted to them. Jesus has defeated death and can never die again (1 Cor. 15:54-57, Rom. 6:9-10). When a repentant sinner has faith in God’s promises and believes Jesus has done all that is necessary for salvation, he has assurance. When one believes the objective truth of the Gospel, he will be more certain of living eternally in heaven than one more day on earth. Anyone who is involved in attaining or preserving his or her salvation can never have this assurance.
A Personal Relationship with God
Within the Catholic religion there are many obstacles that keep Catholics from having a personal relationship with God. Catholics are told they cannot go directly to God for forgiveness. They must confess their mortal sins to a priest (1456). The “Catholic Jesus” is seen as an imposing judge who will judge their sin rather than a merciful Savior who can take away their sin. As a result many Catholics would rather go to God through Mary who is said to be Mediatrix of all graces. According to the Catholic Catechism, Mary did not lay aside [her] saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation (969). Her prayers will deliver our souls from death.(966).
When Catholics trust Jesus as their only mediator and all-sufficient savior, they will have direct access to the Father (Eph. 2:18).
How do we reach Catholics for Christ? By proclaiming the glorious Gospel of grace and persuading Catholics to trust God’s promises instead of man’s traditions. Jesus offers Catholics what their religion cannot provide. Only God’s perfect provision for sin can save sinners completely and forever. Only Jesus Christ can reconcile us to God!