Catholicism And The Bible
***INTRO: I originally wrote this study in 2004. I have not posted it on the JesusAlive website until now (2023). The main reason why is because the last thing I want to do is offend, or upset those in the Catholic faith. However, several weeks ago, “the question” came up again. This time from a young lady who attends a Catholic church: “Is there “really” that many differences between Catholics and Protestants?” I went on to explain some of the main differences. She seemed somewhat shocked. She really didn’t know. “This” is the reason I have finally decided to share this study.
As I have witnessed to Catholics over the years, I have found many to be just like the young lady above. They truly do not know what the “Church” (as many Catholics call it, and what I will call it going forward with parenthesis around it), and its leaders (i.e. the Pope, its cardinals, bishops, and many of its priests) have historically believed, and taught over the centuries. I am going to share these things “in depth” below (this is the longest study I have ever written).
I sincerely desire to be as sensitive as possible with what I have written. My hope is that those in the Catholic faith will come to understand some of the significant differences between Catholics and Protestants, and how many of the historic Catholic teachings go against what the Bible teaches.
Let me finish by saying that I “absolutely” believe there are practicing Catholics who are Christians (I baptized one several years ago). However, if one practices, and believes all (or most) of the historic teachings of the “Church,” which we will discuss below, “especially” in regards to its teachings on salvation, I would sincerely question if that Catholic person is indeed a Christian. So with that, let’s begin.
We will start with three positions that are held within Catholicism, from which flow the vast majority of differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. These three are:
1. Tradition holds equal standing with the Bible.
2. The pope, when speaking “ex cathedra,” is infallible in matters of faith and morals.
3. The “Church” alone can properly interpret scripture.
In contrast, Protestants believe that the Bible ALONE (Sola Scriptura) is what should be used for faith and doctrine. Much of the Catholic doctrine today is based on what was decreed at the Council of Trent (1545- 1563). From that council, which was formed in order to respond to the Protestant reformation going on at that time, came a number of decrees for Catholics to follow, which basically have no solid Biblical grounding. Two later Catholic councils, Vatican I (1869-1870), and Vatican II (1962-1965), basically reaffirmed the decrees given at Trent, and they have never been changed or rescinded by Rome or the Pope.
Let me take just a moment to share my background. I grew up in the Lutheran church. The Lutheran church came about as the result of Martin Luther, a former Catholic monk, who left the Catholic church and started the Protestant reformation, because he could not reconcile a number of its teachings with the Bible. The “Luther”an church came about as the result of this. While the Lutheran church did go in a new direction in a number of its teachings, it still shares a number of traits with Catholicism such as: baptizing infants and its importance in salvation, no emphasis (in most churches) on the need to be born again, confirmation, never knowing if your salvation is secure, an emphasis on rituals and repetition, among other things…
I state this simply because I have a bit of understanding of where many Catholics are coming from. On Oct 27, 1994, I made a decision to surrender my life to Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade. When I made that decision, my life changed dramatically. Since that time, I have felt a burden for people who have the same background that I had growing up. God has helped me to witness to a number of these people, and it has been amazing to see some of them come to understand, as I did, that they knew of Jesus, but they never had a personal relationship with Him. There has been many tears shed as a number of these people have been freed from “religious” bonds, and began a new, born again (Jn 3:3) life with Christ.
In witnessing to those in the Catholic faith, and talking with them about a number of its problematic teachings, I have found that if they try to defend those teachings, they usually do so in one of four ways.
1. They will try and support their position Biblically (often using verses taken out of context or misinterpreted).
2. They will say the Catholic Church no longer holds that position today (impossible if it has been declared by Rome, and an infallible pope).
3. They will say, that the “Church” may hold that position but I don’t (according to the “Church,” you are “anathema” [eternally condemned] if you don’t accept [most of] their doctrines).
4. They will say, “I have never heard that before” (or) “We don’t believe that” (unaware that the “Church” officially holds these positions).
Let’s now take a look at some of these issues that the Catholic Church holds. Some of you may be surprised.
#1. Tradition is equal to the Bible (decreed at Council of Trent 1545- 1563)
What the leaders of the Catholic Church (Rome) have done, in essence, is to place themselves above God’s Word. The “Church” (the cardinals, bishops, and in particular the Pope) has declared that they have the “God given” final authority to determine what course of action Catholics should follow on all matters. As stated earlier, there are three main sources Catholics use to guide their faith: the Bible, tradition, and papal/council decrees. There are times when these conflict with each other. When this occurs, the “Church” decides what its followers will believe. In a good number of cases, these decisions fall on the side of placing tradition or papal decrees above what is clearly stated in God’s word, the Bible. The Bible clearly condemns this in a number of places:
We are NOT to place tradition above the Bible: (Mk 7:8,13)(Mt 15:2-6)(Col 2:8).
The Bible is to be the ONLY authority on ALL matters: (2 Tim 3:16-17)(2 Pet 1:20-21)(Jn 17:17)(1 Th 2:13)(Ps 138:2).
We are warned about those who DO teach contrary to the Bible: (Rom 16:17-18)(Gal 1:8-9)(2 Jn 9-11).
We are told to read the Bible for OURSELVES, and interpret what it says. We should NOT let any church (leader) tell us how we need to interpret it: (Acts 17:11)(2 Tim 2:15)(Mk 12:24)(2 Tim 3:15)(Jn 5:37).
#2. Papal infallibility (decreed at Vatican I July 18, 1870)
The Catholic Church makes the claim that Peter was the first Pope. They base this solely on (Mt 16:13-20), where Jesus told Peter he was the rock on which the church would be built, and Peter was given the power to “bind and loose.” This power is said to have been passed from Peter to each succeeding pope (there have been 266 to date: 8/2023). Several things need to be understood concerning these verses, and what they mean.
First, the Bible is VERY clear that JESUS is the rock and the cornerstone on which the church is built. Jesus Himself said this in (Mk 12:10) saying, “And have ye not read this scripture; the stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:” (Also see: Mt 21:42, Lk 20:17, Acts 4:11). This was prophesied of Jesus in (Ps 118:22-23). Paul called Jesus the cornerstone of the church in (Eph 2:20) saying, “and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” Peter also proclaimed Jesus was the rock and cornerstone in (1 Pet 2:4-8). Jesus is referred to over and over in the Old Testament as the Rock. In fact, He is called the Rock that was with the Israelites in the desert, and the Rock that they drank from (1 Cor 10:4).
***Note: Did you ever wonder why Moses was not allowed by God to go into the Promised Land? It is because the Rock, from which water came was a picture of Christ. In (Ex 17:1-7), when the people needed water, Moses was told to strike the Rock with his rod, and water would come out. In (Num 20:2-13), when the people thirsted again, God told Moses to SPEAK to the Rock and water would come out. However, Moses in his anger, struck the Rock with his rod again, instead of speaking to it as he was commanded to do. In other words, Moses had symbolically struck Jesus twice, and the Bible says we cannot do this (Heb 6:6).
Biblically, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, Jesus has always been the rock and the cornerstone. The word used for rock in Greek is “petra.” Peter’s name does mean “rock” as well in Greek, but the word used is “petros,” which means a smaller rock.
Concerning the power to “bind and loose” that Jesus gave to Peter, I believe a look at the book of Acts makes it clear what Jesus was telling Peter. Jesus was giving Peter the keys to open the door to the Kingdom of Heaven to ALL believers by bringing them into God’s New Covenant group by group.
First the Jews: (Acts 2:14)
Second the Samaritans: (Acts 8:14-25)
Third the Gentiles: (Acts 10:44-48)
These believers, and ALL believers since make up the church (Acts 20:28)(1 Cor 1:2)(1 Th 1:1)(2 Th 1:1)(Col 1:24)(1 Cor 12:12-30)(1 Tim 3:5)(1 Cor 14:5,12,23). In other words, the “church” referred to in the Bible is NOT the Catholic Church, but rather all believers in Jesus Christ. A look at (Mt 18:18) also shows us that the power to “bind and loose” was not given to Peter alone, but ALSO to the other disciples. As Christians today, we can also proclaim the same Gospel that Peter proclaimed, and “loose” or open the door to the Kingdom of Heaven, or our message can be rejected, and therefore the person is “bound.”
It is also quite clear from a look at history that the Pope has been far from infallible in matters of faith and morals. Consider some of these historical facts:
1. Both Pope Honorius (625-636) and Pope Formosus (891-896) were called heretics by the popes that succeeded each of them (meaning that everything they taught and decreed was invalid, or certainly not infallible).
2. Pope Adrian VI in 1523 said the Pope could err in matters of faith, and he decreed many were heretics.
3. Pope John XXII in his “Qui Quorundam” said papal infallibility was the “work of the devil.” He also claimed that Jesus and His disciples were wealthy men (later popes denied this).
4. Pope Vigilius (537-535) admitted he was deceived by the devil.
5. Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) wrote “A Syllabus Of Errors,” in which 80 things were forbidden. Here are a few of the things he stated:
(#16) Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at salvation.”
(#21) The Catholic Church is NOT the only religion (in contrast to other “Church” teachings to the opposite).
(#55) The “Church” ought to be separate from the state, and the state from the church.
(#64) The violation of any solemn oath… (is) worthy of the highest praise when done through love of country.
6. More recently, it has been declared by different popes that evolution is a theory that should be given credence.
7. The papacy is also littered with a number of popes who broke their vows of celibacy.
The Bible tells us plainly that NO MAN is infallible or perfect in ANY area: (Rom 3:10,12)(Rom 3:23)(Eccl 7:20).
The Bible also makes it clear that Peter (the first “Pope”) was far from infallible:
i.e. Paul rebuked Peter for sin (Gal 2:11), and Peter denied Jesus three times (Mt 26:69-75)(Mk 14:66-72)(Lk 22:54-62)(Jn 18:17)
#3. Purgatory (formulated at the Council of Lyon 1274, decreed at the Council of Florence 1439, reaffirmed at the Council of Trent 1545-1563)
Purgatory is a Catholic teaching which states that there is a place existing between Heaven and Hell that nearly every person who dies in a state of grace must go to in order to pay for venial or mortal sins, and have their souls cleansed and purged. It is also taught that people can help their departed loved ones get out of purgatory more quickly through such things as: prayer, masses, alms, or other good works. These are called indulgences, and were a major reason why the Protestant reformation occurred.
Sadly… the Catholic Church preys upon grieving people by leading them to believe that they can hold masses (by paying money to the Church, and the more money they give, the faster their loved one will get out), and do other works to help them get to Heaven.
In my own life, I have seen the danger of this doctrine of purgatory. Years ago, I had a friend who said he believed and trusted in Christ, but whose way of living did not line up with the Bible. (I found out later just how bad it was.) In addition, his mother was devoted to the Catholic Church. When confronted with the fact that he needed to change the sinful things in his life, he responded that he wasn’t worried about it because, if he died, his mom was such a strong Catholic that she would be able to get him out of purgatory very quickly… (***Note: He later surrendered his life to Jesus, and is now mightily serving the Lord.)
Most Catholics will readily admit that the doctrine of purgatory has no Biblical basis whatsoever, although some will try and defend it Biblically (with verses that make no sense to me to use in defending it). The Catholic Catechism also clearly states that the “Church” created this doctrine (see #1030-1031). The Bible refutes this doctrine saying:
When a believer dies, he goes DIRECTLY to be with the Lord: (2 Cor 5:8)(Phil 1:23).
If we are in Christ Jesus, we will NOT be condemned in any way for our sins: (Rom 8:1)(Heb 10:14-18)(Jn 5:24)(Jn 3:36)(Mt 25:46)(Col 2:14).
#4. Justification vs sanctification
To begin, let’s look at a Biblical definition of these terms. Justification is a judicial act of God, whereby a sinner is declared righteous in the eyes of God, not by ANY works or good deeds he has done (Gal 2:16)(Rom 3:28)(Rom 4:4-5)(Gal 5:4), but rather, he is justified ONLY by grace (Rom 3:24) through faith in Christ alone (Rom 5:1)(Gal 3:24)(1 Cor 6:11). When we place our faith in Christ, at that very moment, the righteousness of Christ’s sinless, perfect life is imputed or credited to us. His righteousness becomes our righteousness.
(2 Cor 5:19,21) says it like this, “to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them… (21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (Also see: Rom 4:7-8,24-25) Our sins are pardoned, cancelled, and forgiven. From that moment onward, we have access to the Father through Jesus Christ FOREVER (Jn 14:6)(Mt 11:27)(Heb 10:19-20). No Christian is more or less justified than another.
As for sanctification, the word “sanctify” comes from the Greek word “hagiazo,” which means “to make holy” or “to set apart for God.” While justification is a one time act that happens in an instant, sanctification is a “process” that follows being justified. This “process” is to become more and more holy (1 Pet 1:15-16)(1 Th 4:7)(Lev 11:44-45). To become more and more like Jesus everyday (Eph 4:13,15)(Phil 3:12-14)(2 Cor 3:17-18)(Rom 8:29).
The moment we are born again (justified), God comes to live inside of us in the form of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13-14)(Eph 4:30)(2 Cor 5:5)(2 Cor 1:22). The Holy Spirit helps us become sanctified (2 Th 2:13)(1 Pet 1:2) by changing all of the sinful areas of our lives that need to be changed. In addition, Jesus (1 Cor 1:2)(Acts 26:18)(Heb 2:11)(Heb 10:10), and the Father (Jude 1:1) also help to sanctify us. All Christians are at different stages of cleansing and growth in our Christian faith.
***Note: The process of “sanctification” is finished at “glorification,” which takes place after death, and we are made absolutely perfect.
It is important to note that these are two separate and distinct processes. First, we are justified in an instant by Christ, then we spend our life being sanctified. Catholicism teaches a different view of justification and sanctification. It is taught that sanctification is a PART of justification, and they are not two separate and distinct occurrences. Justification is said to be infused into a person by grace which helps them to become righteous in God’s eyes. It is a process which begins at baptism as an infant, and is continued by doing other works (mainly the seven sacraments) throughout one’s life, which if done correctly will allow them into Heaven. However, most will fail, and end up in purgatory for a period of time.
The Council of Trent went so far as to say that if one teaches there is justification by faith alone, he should be “anathema.” It was also proclaimed that if one says there is not justification by works, he is also “anathema.”
How does the Bible say we are justified? Let’s look at the verses I mentioned above. In them, you will see that we are justified by Jesus, and faith in Him alone, and not by any work we can do.
(Rom 5:1) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Rom 5:9) Much more than, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
(1 Cor 6:11) And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
(Gal 3:24) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Also see: (Rom 5:18)(Phil 3:9)(Gal 3:8-9)
In addition, here are some verses showing we AREN’T justified by works.
(Gal 5:4) Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law: ye are fallen from grace.
(Gal 2:16) knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even as we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by works of the law: for by works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
(Rom 3:28) Therefore we conclude that a man justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
(Rom 4:4-5) Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but but of debt. (5) But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
#5. There can be salvation and forgiveness through the sacraments.
Catholicism has what is called the seven sacraments. these are: baptism, confirmation, penance, holy eucharist, marriage, extreme unction (anointing of the sick, or last rites), and holy orders. Again, the Council of Trent declared another “anathema” on anyone who denies that the sacraments aren’t necessary for salvation. Basically, the sacraments are said to be the means by which a person is justified. Through them, grace is infused into the person, with the priest acting as the mediator between God and man by dispensing the sacraments. Sadly… because of this teaching, Catholics believe they can go in and out of a state of grace. They can never have assurance of being in right standing with God. Let’s look at a few of these sacraments.
As stated earlier, Catholicism teaches that baptism is the first step in being justified before God. It is taught we are all born with original sin, and baptism (as an infant) is needed to cleanse us from original sin. However, mortal sins committed after baptism erase the forgiveness that was given through baptism, and as a result, other sacraments need to be done to be placed back in right standing (in a state of grace) with God. Again, the Council of Trent declared “anathema” anyone who denies baptism isn’t necessary for salvation.
As a former Lutheran, I was baptized as an infant. Catholicism and Lutheranism are basically in total agreement on the merits of baptizing infants. In addition to teaching that it washes away original sin, it is taught that the Holy Spirit comes into a person at baptism, thus an infant becomes a Child of God at that point.
As we previously stated, NO work we can EVER do will justify us, or make us forgiven for our sins by God. We are forgiven ONLY by the blood of Jesus.
The Bible also is quite clear that the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life AFTER we make a DECISION to:
Trust in Jesus (Eph 1:12-13)
Believe in Jesus (2 Th 2:13)(Jn 7:38)
Have faith in Jesus (Gal 3:14)(Gal 3:2,5).
This occurs BEFORE baptism (Acts 10:44-48).
In addition, the Bible tells us that we become a Child of God by FAITH in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:26), and by RECEIVING Jesus Christ (Jn 1:12), and NOT by baptism.
The eucharist is what many denominations call communion, or the Lord’s Supper. Catholics, however, see it differently than do other denominations. It is believed that Christ is actually present in the elements (the bread and wine). Through a process called transsubstantiation, the priest is said to have the ability to turn the bread and wine into the ACTUAL body and blood of Jesus. The Council of Trent proclaimed that if anyone doesn’t believe that they are turned into the actual body and blood of Jesus, they are “anathema.” In another proclamation, one is “anathema” if they don’t believe they are actually eating Christ.
Because this is believed to BE Jesus, the elements are actually worshipped and bowed down to. This “unbloody sacrifice” is also said to have both saving merit, and the ability to take away sins. Catholics believe that through the eucharist, the benefits of Christ’s death on the cross are being given over and over for the payment of each person’s sins. In other words, Christ is being sacrificed anew each time.
In addition, the Catholic Catechism states that it can be taken to help those who have died (#1371, #1689), and can actually can preserve people from sin (#1393, #1395).
What does the Bible have to say about all of this?
I believe the most important thing we need to understand is that Christ CANNOT be, nor should He EVER be, offered up over and over for the payment of sins. The Bible is quite clear that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was a ONE time offering and payment for sins that NEVER needs to be repeated. Let’s look at some verses.
(Heb 10:10-14) By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all. (11) And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: (12) but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (13) from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. (14) For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
(Heb 7:25-27) Wherefore he (Jesus) is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (26) For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; (27) who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
(Heb 9:28) So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many…
Also see: (Heb 9:12)(Rom 6:10)(1 Pet 3:18)
This is what Jesus meant when He said on the cross, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). He was saying that His work of atonement to pay for the sins of man was complete. It was paid FOREVER! Hallelujah! Also, remember what we spoke of earlier, about why Moses could not enter the Promised Land. You cannot crucify Jesus twice.
We should also remember that Jesus said the Lord’s Supper is something we are to do “in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19). (Also see: 1 Cor 11:23-25) The bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper are symbolic of Jesus’ body and blood. We do it to remember His sacrifice, but NOT to re-sacrifice Him. Clearly, Jesus could not have been saying the bread and wine were His actual body and blood…
1. When He said it, His actual body and blood had not yet been sacrificed for our sins.
2. He was standing right there before them (body and blood)… How could He have given it to them?
3. It was made quite clear in the Old Testament it was a sin to eat blood (Lev 17:12)(Gen 9:4).
Jesus often used symbolism when referring to Himself. He called Himself: living water (Jn 4:10-15), a good shepherd (Jn 10:11,14), a door (Jn 10:7,9), and as mentioned earlier, He is called the Rock. Is Jesus literally water, a shepherd, a door, or a rock? No… They are symbolic pictures of Him. They represent what He is. The same is true of His body and blood, of which we are to partake. They are symbolic of His body and blood shed for us. However, the Lord’s Supper is most certainly something that we should not partake of lightly. We are told to examine and judge ourselves. If the Lord’s Supper is taken in an unworthy manner, it can lead to sickness, and even death… (1 Cor 11:27-31).
Catholics consider penance an essential part of salvation. The Council of Trent called it the “second plank of justification.” Again, as with many proceeding doctrines, Trent also declared that if one doesn’t believe penance is needed, they are “anathema.” Penance is said to be needed to receive forgiveness, and remove the penalty for mortal sins committed after baptism. Mortal sin destroys the grace that began at baptism, and penance is needed to restore that grace.
In doing penance, a person goes to the priest and confesses all known sins since the last confession. The priest then absolves them of their sin if they are sorry for it, and tells them what acts should be done to pay for their sins (usually determined by how bad the sin is). These acts of contrition can be any number of things: saying Hail Mary’s or the Lord’s Prayer a certain number of times, doing good works, fasting, etc… At times, some Catholics have put it upon themselves to carry acts of penance to disconcerting extremes. They have beaten themselves with whips (at times with glass embedded in them), crawled on their hands and knees for miles on a pilgrimage to a certain holy site, and some have even had themselves nailed to a cross… I recall one missionary stating he saw a man kneeling on bottlecaps (bottom side up).
It is so disheartening to see the lack of joy in those who are trying to earn God’s forgiveness, or gain His approval. As we have already stated earlier, no works we can do will justify us before God. Jesus has already made us justified. There is an acronym that is sometimes used for the word justified, “Just as if I’d” never sinned. Through the blood of Jesus, our sins are covered and forgiven (Col 1:19)(Eph 1:7)(1 Jn 1:7). We do not need to make payment for them; He made FULL payment for them on the cross. (Rom 5:11) tells us plainly that Jesus has made atonement for our sins. The Bible is quite clear that we cannot do “anything” to make ourselves clean or righteous before God.
(Isa 64:6) says our righteousness is as filthy rags to God.
(Prov 20:9) says, “Who can say I have made my heart clean, I am pure from sin?”
(Job 15:14) says, “What is a man, that he should be clean? And he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”
(Rom 3:12)… there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
When we sin, we do not need to go to a priest (man), but we can go DIRECTLY to God and confess our sin and repent. He promises He will forgive it (1 Jn 1:9)(2 Chr 7:14)(Ps 86:5)(Isa 55:6-7)(Prov 28:13). Nothing more needs to be done to pay for our sin, Jesus has already done it.
Remember these awesome verses:
(Rom 4:7-8) saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. (8) Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
The Catholic Church, especially in recent years, has made Mary, the mother of Jesus, the focus of more and more veneration. The dictionary even has a term for it: Mariolatry. Attributes have been assigned to Mary that are totally without Biblical support. They are based solely on papal decrees and tradition. Some of the supernatural attributes that have been attributed to her are:
She is a co-redeemer with Christ
She was sinless.
Her body and soul were taken to Heaven (The Assumption).
She is to be worshipped.
She is the “Queen of Heaven.”
She is to be prayed to.
Also, it is claimed she remained a virgin her whole life.
If Mary did possess these attributes, doesn’t it seem logical that the writers of the Epistles would have mentioned them? On the contrary, apart from one place in (Acts 1:4), Mary is never mentioned any place in the New Testament apart from the Gospels.
Let’s take a look at some of these attributes assigned to Mary, and compare them with what the Bible says.
A. Mary is a co-redeemer with Jesus (proclaimed by Pope Benedict XV 1914-1922).
What this means is that Mary is said to be co-equal with Jesus in redeeming sinners. In Quito, Equador, the largest Catholic church has even gone so far as to have on its altar a cross with Mary hanging on it instead of Jesus…
The Bible plainly tells us that Jesus is our mediator (1 Tim 2:5)(Heb 9:15), and He ALONE has redeemed us from sin (Rom 3:24)(Gal 3:13)(Eph 1:7)(Heb 9:12)(Rev 5:9)(Titus 2:13-14)(1 Cor 1:30). He needs no help in our redemption. Stating that Mary is a co-redeemer with Jesus, simply diminishes Jesus, and His awesome gift of redemption purchased for us by His shed blood. (Quite frankly, it is also blasphemy.)
B. Mary was sinless (proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on Dec. 8, 1854). (Also called: “The Immaculate Conception”)
This belief basically came to fruition based on the logic that if Mary had been born with original sin, then Jesus would have inherited that sinful nature from Mary. (Question: Didn’t Mary’s mother need to be sinless as well, so she didn’t pass on original sin to Mary?) Therefore, it was decreed by Pope Pius IX that Mary lived her whole life free from sin.
Was Mary free from sin? Let’s look at two places in the book of Luke.
(Lk 2:22-24) States that after the birth of Jesus, Mary had to undergo purification rituals to make herself clean. She did this in accordance with Old Testament law (Lev 12:2-8). The Law stated that purification after birth took 40 days after having a boy (80 days for a girl), and then a sacrifice of a lamb or two doves or pigeons was required in order for atonement to be made, and the woman to be made clean.
Why did Mary undergo purification rituals to be made clean, and for her atonement if she was born without sin?
(Lk 1:46-47) And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, (47) And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my SAVIOUR. (caps emphasis mine)
Why did Mary need a Saviour if she was sinless?
The Bible is quite clear that everyone who has ever been born, apart from Jesus, is a sinner who falls short of God’s perfect standards of righteousness (Rom 3:10,12)(Rom 5:12)(1 Jn 1:8,10).
C. Mary remained a virgin her whole life.
Catholics believe that Mary never had any children after Jesus was born. This is why they refer to her as the “Virgin” Mary. The main reason why they hold to this position appears to be because, if Mary had other children after Jesus, it would have defiled her in some way, or brought dishonor to God. Did Mary have other children?
The Bible tells us in a number of places that Jesus had both brothers and sisters. Let’s look at one.
(Mk 6:3) Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda (Jude), and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. (Also see: Mt 13:55-56)
Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe He was the Messiah while he lived (Jn 7:3-5). However, after His resurrection, we can see that they became believers, meeting in the Upper Room with the disciples, and Mary to pray (Acts 1:12-13). Two of Jesus’ brothers later wrote books in the Bible: James and Jude. In the opening to both of their books, they humbly refer to themselves as servants of Jesus. (Note: In Jude 1:1, Jude also refers to himself as the “brother of James.”)
We can know that the writer of James wasn’t the apostle James, the brother of John, because he was martyred (Acts 12:2) in 44 A.D., and the book of James wasn’t written until 48-49 A.D. All other people named James in the Bible were obscure people, who little is said about.
Josephus, a well-known Jewish historian, writing in the 90’s A.D., confirms that James was the Lord’s brother saying, “the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ, whose name was James” (Antiquities: Book 20, Ch 9). He also says that James, the Lord’s brother was martyred in A.D. 62. In three of his writings, one of the early church fathers named Origen (185-254 A.D.) confirms that Josephus did indeed say this: (1. Commentary on Mt 10:17)(2. Against Celsus 1:47)(3. Against Celsus 2:13).
James, the Lord’s brother, was an elder in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13-21)(Acts 21:18). Paul also called James the Lord’s brother (Gal 1:19).
Note: While the jury is still out on its authenticity as of this writing, a burial box (called an ossuary), dating from the time of Jesus has been found. (Bones of those who had previously died were placed in ossuaries so that they could be moved to a new location.) The inscription on the cover of the burial box reads: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” This could be more historical proof that Jesus did indeed have brothers.
Most Catholic theologians will try and explain these, and other verses about Jesus’ brothers, by saying that the word used for brothers in Greek can also mean relatives, such as cousins. Some will also say that maybe they were Joseph’s children from a previous marriage (his former wife had died, and he was remarrying). It seems quite clear, from both the Bible and history, however, that this just doesn’t stand up as true. If there is any doubt Mary had other children, let’s refer to one more place in the Bible, the book of Psalms, chapter 69.
Psalm 69 is filled with prophecy about Jesus. Let’s look specifically at (Ps 69:8-9).
(Ps 69:8-9) I am become a stranger UNTO MY BRETHREN, and an alien UNTO MY MOTHER’S CHILDREN. (caps emphasis mine) (9) For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; And the reproaches of them that reproached thee are falled upon me.
Can it be any clearer than that? You say this isn’t speaking of Jesus? I would refer you to John, chapter 2. This was right after Jesus had cleansed the temple. (Jn 2:17) says, “And his disciples remembered that is was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.”
Finally, it is important to understand that according to Jewish law, married people were “required” to consummate their marriage. (Mt 1:25)(NASB) supports this saying, “but (Joseph) kept her a virgin UNTIL she gave birth to a Son, and he called His name Jesus.” (caps emphasis mine)
D. Worship of Mary
Catholics try and make a distinction between the worship of God, and the worship of Mary (latria vs hyperdulia). However, I fail to see any distinction between the two types of worship. Every attribute that is used to worship God is also accorded to Mary. Mary is venerated, prayed to, sang to, knelt down to, made an intercessor, called holy (in the rosary prayer), etc…
The Bible tells us to worship God: (Rev 22:8-9)(Rev 19:10)
Jesus should also be worshipped: (Mt 2:2,11)(Mt 15:25)(Mt 28:17)(Jn 9:38)(Rev 4:10)(Heb 1:6)
But we should NEVER worship anyone else…
In fact, Jesus even said that we are “more” blessed than Mary is. Isn’t that amazing? We are more blessed than the mother of Jesus!
(Lk 11:27-28) And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lift up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. (28) But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
Jesus also said in (Mt 12:46-50) that if we do the will of the Father, we are His brothers, sisters, and MOTHER. Jesus certainly loved, honored, and respected His mother, but He NEVER told us to make her an object of worship or adoration. We should also honor and respect her, but we should not be assigning her any of the attributes or worship that is for God ALONE!
E. Mary is the “Queen of Heaven.” (proclaimed by Pope Pius XII, Nov. 1950)
This doctrine apparently goes hand in hand with “The Assumption” of Mary doctrine. Both were decreed by Pope Pius in Nov. 1950. What the “Assumption” of Mary doctrine claims, is that because of her sinlessness, Mary was taken bodily up to Heaven by God. (***Note: Whether she died first, or was taken alive has never been decided by the “Church.” A tomb, that is believed by some to be hers, still exists today.) As a result of her “Assumption,” Pius declared that she was the “Queen of Heaven,” and she is said to be seated on the same throne as Jesus (who is the King of Heaven).
Doesn’t it seem remarkable that an event as huge as the bodily resurrection of Mary would not be listed anywhere in the Epistles? I find this so lacking in credibility, that I nearly didn’t address this topic in the study. However, there is a single verse in the Bible that so eerily seems to be pointed at this Catholic belief, that it had to be addressed. The verse is in Jeremiah, chapter 7. In this chapter, Jeremiah is condemning Judah’s idolatry and immorality. Let’s look specifically at (Jer 7:18).
(Jer 7:18) The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the QUEEN OF HEAVEN, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. (caps emphasis mine)
Wow… the people were condemned by God, and provoked Him to anger for making the “Queen of Heaven” an object of idolatry… Enough said here I think.
F. Praying to Mary
We will address this in the following section on veneration of, and praying to saints.
#7. Veneration/prayer to saints
I must admit, from a personal standpoint, this practice in Catholicism has disturbed me more than any other. We will look at a number of areas concerning this, but first I would like to address what has stunned me more than any other thing: Catholicism uses a different set of Ten Commandments… The Ten Commandments that most of us know, differs from those Catholics use in two places. When I first saw this, I could not believe it, and I turned to Catholic apologetic sources to see how this was justified. We will look at that in just a bit, but first let’s look at what the differences are.
What Catholicism has done is to remove the 2nd commandment, and the 10th commandment has been split into two commandments to make a total of ten commandments. The 2nd commandment, as most of us know it in (Ex 20:4-5) states: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: (5) thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them…” This commandment is not found in the Ten Commandments that the Catholic Church uses.
The 10th commandment, as found in (Ex 20:17) states: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s.”
Instead of making this the 10th commandment, however, Catholicism has had to split this in two to fill the void left by removing the 2nd commandment. Here is how they state the 9th and 10th commandments:
9th: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife
10th: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods.
Why has Catholicism chosen to do this? From what I can understand, in short, it is said that those who wrote the Bible did not number the verses like we do today. There are actually many commandments given in Ex 20 (most say between 12 and 14), and the Catholic Church has just grouped them differently. Actually, most sources seem to agree that the ten used in Catholicism today came from Augustine in the 4th or 5th century. Since there is no certainty on how they should be divided, the “Church” is not dictatorial about the way they should be ordered.
I think we can all agree that God meant for there to be TEN commandments (Deut 4:13)(Deut 10:4)(Ex 34:28), so the problem lies in how they should be written. In my opinion, I would guess that what bothers non-Catholics the most about Catholicism is the veneration of, and bowing down to idols and images of the saints and Mary. Catholicism defends this in a number of ways that we will briefly discuss in a bit. However, it IS quite troubling that in the area the Catholic Church is probably the most attacked over, they have chosen to omit from their Ten Commandments the command from God that would seem to address that issue. While we can argue over how they should be ordered… it certainly gives the appearance to MANY non-Catholics that Catholicism is trying to justify what they do by leaving out the 2nd commandment that most others use.
I do not wish to debate this at length (although I am tempted), however, I would like to point out one thing to consider. It seems clear to me from the New Testament that Paul did not see that the commandment “do not covet” as something that should be divided in two. In (Rom 13:9), Paul says, “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Also consider (Rom 7:7), “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known LUST except the LAW (not laws) had said, THOU SHALT NOT COVET.” (caps emphasis mine)
I find the use of the word LUST in that verse says a lot. Lust means simply an intense desire or craving for something. Isn’t that exactly what God is saying in (Ex 20:17)? He is saying we should not desire or crave ANY of those things our neighbor has. Paul is saying he would not have known it was wrong to “lust” after his neighbor’s things if the LAW hadn’t said “Thou shalt not covet.” Doesn’t Paul seem to be addressing that as ONE commandment, and not two in both of the above verses? Moving on…
As we spoke about earlier, Catholicism teaches that there can be different kinds of worship. They call these latria, dulia, and hyperdulia. The Catholic Church tends to use the word “adore” (or adoration) for worship to God. In fact, some Catholic Bibles say in (Ex 20:5) “thou shalt not (adore) them” in place of “thou shalt not bow down to (or worship) them.” By making this distinction, they are stating that it is not wrong to bow down to or worship idols or images per se, but it is wrong to give them adoration. As proof this is acceptable, they cite places in the Bible where created objects were associated with the worship of God (i.e. the Ark of the Covenant, or the serpent on the pole).
Note: God NEVER told anyone to worship the objects. On the contrary, Hezekiah later destroyed the serpent on the pole that God told Moses to make (Num 21:6-9), because the people of Israel had begun to worship it (2 Kin 18:4).
It is taught that veneration is different from adoration. Veneration is showing honor or respect for the person, whether it be by representation through an image or statue, or a real life person. Some examples they cite to say this is acceptable are, for instance, we might kiss a picture of someone we know, but that doesn’t mean we worship it, but what it represents, or sometimes we bow to dignitaries (such as kings), but that doesn’t mean we are worshipping them.
Let’s address these issues. As I stated earlier with the worship of Mary, I honestly cannot see that there is a clear distinction in any way between latria, dulia, and hyperdulia. I went through a number of sources looking for definitions of what it means to worship. Among the things associated with worship are: honor, devotion, reverence, love, appreciation, respect, bowing to, singing to, praying to (or asking help from in prayer), having celebrations for, etc… Aren’t each of these things accorded to both the saints and Mary, as well as God? What am I missing here?? What worship (or adoration) is accorded to God that isn’t accorded to the saints, or “especially” to Mary?
Both the saints and Mary are also given supernatural abilities to do things only God can do. I still remember one poor lady who prayed to be born again, and afterwards was terrified to take her St. Christopher medallion out of her car because she was afraid she wouldn’t have the protection the medallion offered, and that might cause her to die in a car crash… Medallions, rosaries, statues, etc… are a huge part of Catholicism. They are sold in many Catholic venues. These representations of the saints (and Mary) are claimed to heal, protect, keep evil away, guide, help with problems, sell houses, and on and on…
One thing that really shocked me when I first began to study Catholicism, was a list I came across that listed the saints people could pray to for help with all sorts of problems. I could NOT BELIEVE what I saw. There was a list of over 650 different categories, and a saint to pray to for each. I can’t imagine anything being left out… I had to write some of them down. Did you know there is a saint to pray to if you:
are an arms dealer
are an artist, comedian, musician, or secretary
have been bitten by a dog
are a sleep walker
are worried about something to do with television
have a toothache
have venereal disease…?
In my opinion, and I suspect the opinion of many, there is no more personal form of worship or adoration than prayer. Prayer is the greatest gift we have been given by God. Jesus’ death on the cross opened the door to the Father through His shed blood on the cross. When Jesus died, the curtain to the Holy of Holies was literally torn in two (Mt 27:51)(Mk 15:38)(Lk 23:45). This symbolized that we could enter into God’s presence at ANY time. What a privilege! In the Old Testament, the High Priest was the mediator between God and man. He pictured Jesus. Jesus is now our High Priest FOREVER (Heb 6:20)(Heb 5:5-6)(Heb 3:1). He is our mediator and intercessor:
(1 Tim 2:5) For there is one God, and ONE MEDIATOR between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
(Rom 8:34) who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also MAKETH INTERCESSION FOR US.
(Heb 7:25) Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing HE EVER LIVETH TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR THEM.
(Caps emphasis on all verses mine)
We can BOLDLY go to the throne ANYTIME (Heb 4:14-16)(Eph 3:12)(Heb 10:19). We do not NEED any saint or Mary to pray on our behalf. To do so, is to take what should be given to God alone for His glory, and giving it to another. His glory should NEVER be given to anyone else (Isa 42:8)(Isa 48:11)(Rev 4:11).
God has also condemned “necromancy” in the Bible as an abominable sin (Deut 18:11) (Also see: Isa 8:19). Necromancy means trying to contact or speak with the dead. Saul was condemned for consulting the dead (2 Sam 28:7-19). We should NEVER attempt to pray to those who have died! It is abominable in God’s eyes. This is one of the main reasons why Jesus’ resurrection is so important to us as Christians. Jesus did indeed die, but He “arose” from the dead and is still “alive” today. This cannot be said about anyone else who has ever died. In Him we have a LIVING advocate who speaks to the Father on our behalf (1 Jn 2:1).
I would also ask you to consider this. Are Mary and the saints omnipresent (can they be everywhere at once)? I suspect you realize that only God can be everywhere at once. So how can the saints, or “especially” Mary, possibly hear prayers from thousands of people from all over the world at the same time?? That doesn’t make sense does it?
For those Catholics reading this, please realize that the Bible teaches that every believer in Christ is a saint (1 Cor 6:1-2)(Rom 8:27)(Rom 1:7)(Acts 9:41)(Eph 4:11-12)(Acts 9:32)(Rom 12:13)(Heb 6:10). You don’t need to have done miracles, or lived a life of virtue to be a saint. There is no need for, nor should there be given any veneration to anyone but God. I would ask you to “carefully” consider if there are distinctions (and what those distinctions are) between the worship you give to God, and to Mary and the saints. The Bible makes it quite clear that those who practice idolatry will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Cor 6:9)(Eph 5:5), and will have a part in the lake of fire (Rev 21:8). I ask you to PLEASE consider these things.
#8. Other differences of note
In closing, I would briefly like to address three other problem areas here.
A. The sin of presumption
Catholicism holds that it is a sin to believe, and have absolute assurance that you are saved. If you know for sure you are saved, then you are said to be “presuming” upon God’s mercy, and not fearing God’s justice. Accordingly, you will then not “do the works” you need to do to be saved. I will not go into the issue of eternal security or “once saved always saved” in this study. If you are interested, please see my study on Eternal Security (https://jesusalive.cc/eternal-security), where I go in depth on this topic. As for doing works to be saved, we have already covered this at length earlier in this study, but here are a few more verses to consider (Eph 2:8-9)(Titus 3:5)(Rom 11:6)(Rom 9:30-10:4)(2 Tim 1:9).
Dear friend, being saved is not about what we have done, or have not done, it is about what HE (Jesus) did! When we are born again, we can enter His rest, and be ASSURED of eternal life (1 Jn 5:11-13,15)(Jn 10:27-29)(2 Tim 1:12)(Jn 3:15-16)(Jn 6:37,39)(Rom 8:15-17)(Jn 20:31).
B. Celibacy in the priesthood
I would dare say this terribly destructive doctrine within Catholicism has played the largest role in its downfall in recent years. As I write this, it seems like nearly every week we hear about another sex scandal within the Catholic Church. Priests have broken their vows of celibacy and had sexual relations, quite sadly in a number of cases… with children… That priests (and even popes in the past) have broken their vows is certainly not a new occurrence, however, the rash of them now coming to light with children involved, and how it appears that church leaders have known and tried to keep it hidden has angered many people. Catholicism has suffered greatly because of it. The damage done to Christ, and the Christian faith is incalculable.
This doctrine of celibacy for priests has no basis in Scripture, and I truly believe that if this was not a part of Catholic church doctrine, many of these unfortunate incidents may never have occurred. God has placed strong sexual desires within men, and while some men may have, for lack of a better way to say it, a gift of not having these desires, it is very rare indeed for men to not have these desires. God realizes that man has these desires, for He placed them there. God says in (1 Cor 7:9) that men should marry if they cannot contain themselves so that they do not burn with passion. It seems quite apparent that many of these men who broke their vows did indeed “burn,” and this is why they improperly acted on these impulses, bringing down many innocents in the process. They did not have a gift for celibacy, but instead, followed man-made rules that required them to be celibate. If they had simply not taken a rash vow, but rather, followed what God has told us in the Bible, most of this could quite likely have been avoided.
From the beginning of creation God said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). For this reason, God created marriage, so that men and women could be joined together and become “one flesh” (Gen 2:24)(Mt 19:5-6)(Mk 10:7-8)(Eph 5:31). God calls marriage honourable (Heb 13:4). In stating the requirements for leaders within the church, God says a man should be the husband of one wife (1 Tim 3:2)(Titus 1:6). Even Peter, who is said to be the first pope, was married (Mt 8:14)(Mk 1:30)(Lk 4:38). God warns us that a sign of the end times will be teachings that forbid marriage (1 Tim 4:1-3).
C. The Catholic Church is the one TRUE Church (Unum Sanctum). (proclaimed by Pope Boniface VIII in 1302, confirmed by Vatican I in 1870)
We dealt with this a bit while discussing papal infallibility, but I would like to add a little more here. When Catholicism says it is the one TRUE Church, what they are stating quite simply (and many will deny this when confronted with it), is that NO person apart from the Catholic Church can go to Heaven. For instance, the seven sacraments are said to be needed for salvation, right? Does any church other than the Catholic Church practice them? So either they aren’t really needed for salvation, or they are, and those who don’t practice them are condemned.
Trent proclaimed that anyone who denies that the sacraments aren’t needed for salvation as well as works is “anathema.” In fact, as we have seen over and over in this study, Trent has declared “anathemas” on people who don’t hold their position on many doctrines that only Catholics teach. Actually, they declared over 120 “anathemas” on those who didn’t agree with what they decreed. As stated earlier, “anathema” means “eternally condemned.”
When Pope Boniface VIII declared the doctrine of Unum Sanctum, he stated flatly that there was “neither salvation nor remission of sins outside of the Church.” He also stated that it was not possible to be saved if one was not subject to the Roman Pontiff. It doesn’t get any clearer than that… Does the Bible say this is true? By reading to this point, I am sure you are aware it isn’t true.
We have shown that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. WHOSOEVER will come is saved by God’s grace. All believers in Christ make up the church (see verses under papal infallibility). The Greek word “Ekklesia” is used 115 times in the New Testament for the church. It means: the redeemed, called out, professed believers in Christ. It is quite sad indeed to teach that believers who have trusted in Jesus Christ to save them are condemned for not belonging to a certain “religion.”
If you are a Catholic reading this study, I want to thank you for spending some of your valuable time to read this. I have prayed as I have written this (over quite a period of time) that I could state these teachings in a way that would be beneficial, simple, and not in a condemning manner. As I mentioned at the start of this study, I spent a large part of my life not understanding what a personal relationship with Jesus was all about. The joy and peace in my life since I surrendered to Jesus that night, and began a personal relationship with Him (not based on works or “religion”) has never left. It is an awesome thing that I desire to share with everyone.
Serving the Lord out of “love, and not “obligation” gives a whole new meaning to love. No person can ever fully experience love or rest in Jesus when they are trying to earn His approval by working for it. I can NEVER thank the Lord enough for what He has done for me. This is why we serve the Lord, out of a thankful heart.
If what I have said in this study has in any way placed a desire in your heart to go in a new direction with your life, you can do so today. You can go to this link on the JesusAlive website (https://jesusalive.cc/planofsalvation), and make a decision TODAY to start a new, born again life with Christ. It was the best decision I ever made, I pray it will be so for you as well. 🙂