Why We Can’t Assume Catholics or Orthodox Christians Are Saved.
Historically, Roman Catholicism has been considered by Protestants and Evangelicals to be an expression of faith that distorts the Biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. While Protestants hold to a soteriological belief of “grace alone through faith alone,” in contrast, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Christians hold to an unbiblical view of salvation by faith plus works. For them, the sacraments are a requirement for grace, and salvation cannot be attained apart from them. For this reason, bible-believing Christians have always held to the belief that Roman Catholics are unsaved, because they trust in their own works, as opposed to the finished work of Christ on the cross, for their salvation.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9
Sadly, during this modern time of ecumenical “unity,” many professing bible-believing Christians have compromised on this. For them, it has become a matter of “individual faith,” and regardless of your religious affiliation, anyone who has that “personal relationship” with Christ can be saved. But there are several errors in this line of reasoning, and it is extremely reckless to assume that Catholics or Orthodox Christians are truly saved. Here’s why.
Denominational Affiliation is an Expression of Beliefs
As stated above, Roman Catholics officially hold to unbiblical doctrines that are opposed to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, they are designed in such a manner to forbid you from believing the true Gospel. One can only assume that a Roman Catholic is a Roman Catholic because he or she believes the Roman Catholic system to be true. While it is possible that a practicing Roman Catholic can be saved, as God can save anybody he pleases, the likelihood of them remaining in the Catholic Church long term is slim. Upon justification, the Holy Spirit begins sanctification in the new believer, and will ultimately lead the believer to truth, and out of the false church. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace,” (1 Corinthians 14:33). It is of utmost importance for bible-believing Christians to call all who are caught up in this false system to repent and leave the Roman Catholic or Orthodox church.
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. – 2 Corinthians 11:4
Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians Practice Idolatry
Through aberrant doctrines such as transubstantiation, Roman Catholics, and many Orthodox sects, believe that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and that it is worthy of worship. This is a regular practice in the daily Mass. Further, prayers and worship are regularly offered to Mary and the canonized saints, and relics of past saints and popes are regularly idolized in the church. In every altar in a Roman Catholic church, there will be placed a relic (i.e. bone, vile of blood, or some body part) of a martyr or canonized saint. This practice of idolatry cannot be overlooked when considering someone to be a brother or sister in Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 clearly states that those who practice idolatry will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians Reject Biblical Authority
Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians do not hold to a belief in the final authority of Scripture, rather, Catholics’ authority is in the hierarchical system of priests with the Roman Pontiff at the head, and the Orthodox Church’s authority comes from the seven ecumenical councils. A rejection of biblical authority is a rejection of Christ himself, for the Scriptures say that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:1-2,14
We cannot compromise the Gospel by assuming that a Roman Catholic or Orthodox Christian who professes to be saved is truly saved. Counterfeit systems of Christianity are very good at distorting their identity. They often speak the same language as believers, yet mean something completely different. They are often agreeable with the believer and are experts at practicing cunning.
Even if a Catholic is truly born again, if they refuse to leave their false church, we must treat them as though they are not. By their own profession, confession, and expression of faith, they continue in sin by practicing idolatry and rejecting Christ. We must not allow them to speak in our pulpits or join with them in any spiritual enterprise. We are to avoid them, treat them like unbelievers, and call them to repent.
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. – 1 Corinthians 5:11
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[Contributed by Jeff Maples]
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