Are Catholics Christians? Are Catholics saved? Catholics go to confession before a priest; is this wrong? Can Catholics ever be sure that the sacraments can save them? How can Christians know if Catholics are saved? Can a Catholic ever be sure of their salvation?
Roman Catholicism: What is it?
The word Catholic literally means universal. It does not mean a specific denomination per say. It refers to a generally held and universal belief more than it does refer to a denomination. The Catholic Church was the dominant force when it was able to convert the old Roman Empire, from the inside out. During the many early years of Christianity, the church at Rome defended the veracity of the Bible, protected the belief of the Trinity, upheld the truthfulness of Jesus’ birth from the Virgin Mary, and built these beliefs in what is commonly called the Creed. The Creed was a multifaceted document that stated the untenable beliefs of the Bible, of the holiness of God, and the prevention of heresies that came from many different sects.
Many of the early church patriarchs stated that these foundational beliefs were “catholic”; that is they were held universally in the church. If any of these beliefs were not held by a church, then that particular faith or church was said to be heretical. In other words, in a religious denomination or church did not believe that Jesus was both God and man, that the Bible is the perfect and infallible Word of God, and that God was three personages in One (the Trinity), then that church or denomination was a false church teaching a false gospel.
Catholic Church Doctrines
The Pope is said to be infallible. Catholics confess their sins to the priest. This church believes that is it the one and only true faith. They understand that baptism saves, even in infancy. They think that the sacraments are essential to salvation and that the Eucharist keeps them from sin. And they believe that Mary is the co-redeemer and that they need to make intercessory prayer to her to reach God. This seems to tie works to their salvation. That is, works alone are not enough to save. Even so, the doctrines of the church may not be perfect, but God can still save those with imperfect understanding since Jesus alone saves. What church has perfect understanding of all scripture? What church is without error? What believer knows all biblical doctrine without fault? None do.
Are Catholics Saved?
I have heard other Christian’s state that since Catholics depend upon works they are not saved. Other believers say that since they believe in works they are not truly Christians. In fact, God alone knows for certain if they are saved or not. I have known Catholics that live out their faith and profess a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I have also known Catholics that show utterly no belief in God by their behavior or language. I am not in a position to say whether a person is saved or not saved. God is the only One Who knows their heart. I will not venture to even guess because this is none of my business.
I had a co-worker who was a devout Catholic. Last year she committed suicide and her church family at the service stated that she was going to hell…some thought she would be in purgatory for thousands of years. Ironically, I asked this lady if she believed in Jesus Christ, if He was born of a virgin, if she believed that He died for her sins, if He died and was resurrected. She believed all of these things, so in my humble opinion, I believe that I will see her someday in heaven. The question of whether a believer can commit suicide and still be saved will be in a future article but from my understanding of the Bible, I believe that someone who accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior is securely saved.
Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” John 6:37 and 10:28-29 states, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” and “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
The Final Judge
No human alive can look into the heart of another. Only God alone knows the heart and He alone knows for certainty whether they have saving faith. I am a finite being. I am in no position to know if a particular Catholic is saved or not. That is God’s prerogative alone. Yes, some Catholics may not be actually saved, but I can also say that there are some who profess to be Christians who may also not be saved. We are told to work out our own salvation, to make our profession sure, and to depend upon Jesus Christ and His atoning work at Calvary to save us. We are saved by faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. And if a Catholic believes that Jesus Christ died for their sins, that He rose again, that He was both God and man, and that He alone can save, who am I to question anyone’s profession of faith. Here by the grace of God am I.
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1. Understanding Roman Catholicism, ©1995 by Rick Jones. Chick Publications
Ontario, CA. (p 252, 125).