Catholicism and Biblical Salvation

A Contrast of Two Means of Salvation:

Presented by Richard Bennett, Former Dominican Missionary Priest of 21 Years


I.     Introduction


The Bible teaches that the sins of a Christian are “expiated” totally, having been paid for in full by the blood of Jesus Christ, and that through Christ’s perfect keeping of the Law, His righteousness is then fully credited to the believer.


II. The Bible’s Position


1.      Romans 3:21-26  But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

2.      2 Corinthians 5:21  For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

3.      Romans 4:5  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

4.      Ephesians 2:8,9  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

5.      Romans 11:6  And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

6.      Galatians 2:21  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

7.      Isaiah 61:10  I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.


III. The Roman Catholic Church’s Official Position


A.  The need to pay for our own sins. The sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world is not sufficient to completely pay for our sins. We must therefore expiate for our own sins. The penance, satisfaction, and merit of others, especially Mary and the saints, can also save us.


1.      Vatican Council II Documents [1]


a.   No. 6, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, 1 Jan. 1967, Vol. I,

      Sec. 5, p. 65  “... They [the saints] have carried their crosses to make expiation for their own sins and the sins of others. They were convinced that they could help their brothers to obtain salvation from God who is the father of mercies.”


b.   Sec. 5, p. 66 “... They [the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary] are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, to, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.”


2.      Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) [2]


a.   Para. 2021  “grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adoptive sons. It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life.”


b.   Para. 2025  “We can have merit in God’s sight only because of God’s free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man’s collaboration. Man’s merit  is due to God.”


c.   Para. 1521  Union with the passion of Christ. By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ’s Passion: in a certain way he is consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Saviour’s redemptive Passion. Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.”


B.  The Catholic Church Teaches that Man has the ability to pay for his own sins.


In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, man is not “dead in trespasses and sins” as the Bible teaches (Ephesians 2:1), but only “wounded” and “weakened.”


1.      Vatican Council II


a.   No 64, Gaudium et Spes, 7 Dec. 1965, Vol. I,

      Sec 14, p. 915  “...Nevertheless man has been mortally wounded by sin. He finds by experience that his body is in revolt. His very dignity therefore requires that he should glorify God in his body, and not allow it to serve the evil inclinations of his heart ... When he is drawn to think about his real self he turns to those deep recesses of his being where God who probes the heart awaits him, and where he himself decides his own destiny in the sight of God. So when he recognises in himself a spiritual and immortal soul, he is not being led astray by false imaginings that are due to merely physical or social causes...”


b.   Sec. 17, p 917  “... Since human freedom has been weakened by sin, it is only by the help of God’s grace that man can give his actions their full and proper relationship to God.”


2.      Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994)


Para. 618  “The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the one mediator between God and men. But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, ‘the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the pascal mystery’ is offered to all men. He calls his disciples to ‘take up [their] cross and follow [him],’ for ‘Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.’ In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries. This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.”


V.   The Bible’s Problem with Man paying for his own sins


The Bible teaches that before the all holy God, man is spiritually dead. The heart of man must be born again by God’s free grace - not probed into for its own goodness. It has NO goodness to offer God. Isaiah 64:6 says that ,”all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags...” in the sight of God!


1.      Genesis 2:17  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

2.      Ezekiel 18:20  The soul that sinneth, it shall die...”

3.      Jeremiah 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

4.      St. mark 7:20-23  And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”

5.      Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

6.      Ephesians 2:1  And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

7.      Colossians 2:13  And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”

8.      St. John 3:19  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

9.      Romans 3:10-11  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”

10.  Romans 8:7  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”

VI.    Conclusion


All of the Roman Catholic doctrine demanding works of expiation in peoples’ lives is totally contrary to the Bible. In adding this ‘works gospel’ to Christ’s finished work on the cross, the substance of what is then taught is that “grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6).

To attempt to pay for and therefore merit your own salvation was the sin of the Jewish Pharisees, and of the Apostle Paul before his conversion!

But the Bible proclaims the good news that Christ’s sacrifice is the full payment for our sins (see Hebrews 10:14, 17-18). Best of all, Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to the believer simply by faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross.


Clearly, “For by grace are ye saved through faith ... not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9

[1]Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, Austin P. Flannery, Editor, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. (Grand Rapids, MI), 2 Vols., 1984. Bolding in any quotation indicates emphasis added in this compilation.

[2]Catechism of the Catholic Church (Liguori Publications: Liguori, MO 63057) 1994. This edition is the same as the Veritas edition published in Ireland, 1994.