You Work Your Way To Heaven. I’ll Rest In Christ.

…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free...” -John 8:32

**Endnotes are provided in order to keep this post short and readable to the passerby-er, but at the same time offer a more in-depth analysis for those interested in where I am getting sources or how I’m defending myself from Scripture**

I don’t think many Roman Catholics will dispute the fact that, to them, justification before God is summed up as follows:

That justification is a combination of both faith and works (some might add, made possible by God’s grace).

Of course, that summary may in fact give too much to the RCC.  Because if this were truly what most RCs meant by their justification then perhaps the only thing differentiating Protestants from RCs would be semantics.[i]

A more precise summary might be:

Justification comes by our cooperating with God’s grace in faith and works.[ii]

Now, to be fair to the Catholic, they would say a Protestant is wrong to say that they preach a works-based salvation, since to them justification is not a one time deal made by God, in which God declares a person righteous in Christ, and adopts them as children eternally into His kingdom.[iii] But to the Protestant, who believes the RC preaches counter to Scripture, it is works-based.

The reason that this note is titled what it is, is because from a Protestant standpoint the Roman Catholic position is nothing more than bondage, leading to legalism (or licentiousness for that matter, as most “RCs” make clear by their living), and closer to Old Testament Judaism than New Testament Christianity.

The RC knows that they can never for certain know if they are actually saved; scared everyday- whether they admit it or not– that their works are not beneficial or good enough to please God and gain admission to heaven.([iv] & [v])

One major doctrine of Christianity, namely, that salvation is apart from all works (not just works of the law as they contend), based solely on the work of a Mediator, and attained by faith alone, is now diminished and made nothing more than any other religion.  Why is it that a Muslim or Jew should leave their religion of bondage and works, for another that is identical, only now it goes by a different name?  It is no wonder that many places in which Roman Catholicism has had its reign are now rampant with superstition and many have simply blended their old religion with Papal formalities.

I- with all my heart- do not believe that Christ Jesus came to earth to introduce another religion that was just like every other.  Or that He came to return us to bondage and superstition, such as 7 sacraments, bead counting, repetitious prayers, saint/Mary exaltation (worship), pilgrimages, etc.

No instead when Jesus says:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” –Matt 11:28

I believe He is calling us to rest in Him, to rest in His work on the cross, to lay aside our striving to please God in order to be justified in His eyes, because it will never be good enough.  I don’t continue to write these notes about Catholics out of any spite for individuals, but because I despise their religiosity and rule keeping and the way in which millions are enslaved to a church, to duty, to works, thinking that it will benefit them and please God, all the while ignoring Jesus Christ and the work He accomplished in their stead.[vi] Holiness does not justify us; justification makes us holy, sanctified, and fit for good works.  Because of Jesus.  Always pointing to Jesus.  Never to us.

From the Baptist Confession of Faith (1689 Chapter 11 on Justificaiton):

Those whom God effectually calls He also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting them as righteous, not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone. They are not justified because God reckons as their righteousness either their faith, their believing, or any other act of evangelical obedience. They are justified wholly and solely because God imputes to them Christ’s righteousness. He imputes to them Christ’s active obedience to the whole law and His passive obedience in death. They receive Christ’s righteousness by faith, and rest on Him. They do not possess or produce this faith themselves, it is the gift of God.

I recommend the rest of that chapter to you…


[i] It is not that there is nothing wrong with the above summary of the RCC position, but that this summary makes the RC position look permissible/acceptable to an unknowing Protestant, at first glance.  For, if both the faith and works are made possible by God’s grace, then the Protestant does not dispute the fact that both are made possible by- and are in fact gifts of- God.  Only we make the distinction that faith precedes justification, and works are a result.

[ii] “Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1993)

[iii] Although plain and simple readings of Scripture will prove otherwise: Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.”  Ephesians 1:4-5 “even as [God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…”  John 6:40 “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (emphasis is mine).

[iv] Thus the creation of two significant heresies: (1) the downplaying of sin.  In order to ever think that maybe your works are “good” enough to warrant such and such a thing, you have to have a pretty low standard for sin, resulting in an even more alarming belittlement of God’s holiness.  (2) The creation of the damning doctrine of Purgatory.  Which is the Papists’ number one way to make good money and the Catholic’s fallback plan in case they aren’t as good as they had hoped.

[v] Don’t take it from me though, the Catholic Church speaks well for itself (speaking against the “vain confidence of heretics” -in other words, Protestants, who believe that you can be assured of your salvation- Council of Trent, Sixth Session, Chapter IX):

“…[A]lthough it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted, nor ever were remitted save gratuitously by the mercy of God for Christ’s sake; yet is it not to be said, that sins are forgiven, or have been forgiven, to any one who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the remission of his sins, and rests on that alone…But neither is this to be asserted,-that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubting whatever, settle within themselves that they are justified…and that absolution and justification are effected by this faith alone: as though whoso has not this belief, doubts of the promises of God, and of the efficacy of the death and resurrection of Christ. For even as no pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, even so each one, when he regards himself, and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace; seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God” (emphasis mine)

There are a few things to note in my emphasis on certain statements in that article:

1) Trent straw-manned the Protestant position.  Making it appear as though the Protestant position were that our justification rested upon our assurance of it.  And those who are not assured of it are not actually justified.

2) The above remark, “as though whoso has not this belief, doubts of the promises of God, and of … no pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ…when he regards himself, and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace,” is just the kind of statements that could make a Protestant balk, because of its implicit reliance upon our own good merit.  Basically the argument is: You can’t know if you’re justified, because you will fail and you are weak.  When what should be being said is: You are justified because although you are weak, Christ is strong, Christ is perfect, Christ is what your justification rests upon.

3) The fact that justification/salvation cannot be known is ignorance of all passages where salvation can be a known fact and one can be assured of his inheritance (i.e. Eph 1:13-14, 1:18-20, 1 John 1:4, 5:13).

[vi] I submit to you Isaiah 53.  And hope that you would see the double imputation…our sin laid upon Him, His righteousness accounted to us.  And that from this would flow a thankfulness and gratitude that would spill out into good works that glorify God…Through/Because of His Son…


~ by TSL on February 18, 2010.

2 Responses to “You Work Your Way To Heaven. I’ll Rest In Christ.”

  1. The five-century-old debate between the Church and freelance theologians of various stripes was dead on arrival, as anyone familiar with the Bible’s teaching on God’s Judgment knows very well. We are told repeatedly that we will be Judged according to our works (Matthew 25:31-46, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, Revelation 20:11-15, etc). To insist that works do not factor into salvation is to profess a gospel apart from that of Christ, and no twisting of Saint Paul can negate this brutal fact of reality. In short, the Church’s position is exactly what the Church says it is, and not what you misunderstand it to be.

    Your assertion that the Church ignores the passages which mention salvation in the past tense could not be further from the truth. Indeed, the Church embraces these passages wholeheartedly, as well as the passages your theology ignores, which speak of salvation in both the present and future tenses, such as Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13, Mark 16:16, Acts 15:11, Romans 5:9-10, Romans 13:11, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 3:15, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 2 Corinthians 2:15, 2 Timothy 2:11-12, Philemon 2:12, 1 Peter 1:6-9, etc. What the Church actually does teach is that salvation is not one static moment in time; we were saved by Christ’s one and only Sacrifice, and we are being saved by the grace of God, but the process is not complete until God has Judged us accordingly. This is why the protestant game of theological “jenga” (scrapping disliked portions of the Bible with no concern for the resulting inconsistencies) is so dangerous. The heretical doctrine of instantaneous and permanent self-determined salvation leaves no room for the life-long process of salvation, man’s ability to opt out (Matthew 7:21, John 15:1-10, Romans 11:22), or the Divine Judgment of God that all men must face. For one to merely decide himself to be saved, while continuing to dwell in a sinful world surrounded by sin every day and always in need of forgiveness is just as delusional as it is dangerous.

    Although you clearly do not understand the Church, Purgatory, the Communion of the Saints, the Sacraments which Jesus personally instituted for our benefit, and other subjects that you briefly treated rather unfairly such as “Papist” psychology, I would prefer to leave those for another time so that you can explain how your theology could possibly begin to be reconciled with the teachings of the Church’s Bible.

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