Has Rome changed?
Many Evangelicals will tell you, ‘The Catholic Church has changed’. This is because the Catholic Church has enticed Evangelicals – calling them ‘separated brethren’ and dialoguing with them as if it respected their beliefs.
Quite a number of people who call themselves Evangelical accept as fact that Papal Rome has changed and are willing to work together with her. However, they do this without examining the present-day official teachings of the Catholic Church.
The Church of Rome declares in her present-day Vatican II Documents, that her laws (including those defining heresy) are ‘irreformable’ (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Section 25, Nov. 1964). Thus, while some Evangelicals will say she has changed, the Church of Rome declares officially that her teachings cannot change.
The Council of Trent was convened from 1545 to 1563 with the aim of destroying the progress of the Reformation. The Council denied all the key Reformation doctrines, including ‘Scripture alone, grace alone, and faith alone’. One hundred and twenty-five times Trent cursed Bible-believing Christians with anathemas (eternal damnation).
So has Rome repudiated Trent? Quite the contrary. Present-day dogma of the Catholic Church not only upholds the teachings of the Council of Trent but also declares that such councils are infallible (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 891).
The Council of Trent proclaimed the following curses, which are called ‘infallible’ by the present-day catechism of the Catholic Church.
‘If anyone shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone by which we are justified: let him be anathema [cursed]’ (Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, # 822, Canon 12).
‘If anyone shall say that by the said sacraments of the New Law, grace is not conferred from the work which has been worked [ex opere operato] but that faith alone in the divine promise suffices to obtain grace: let him be anathema’ (Denzinger loc. cit. # 851, Canon 8).
It is logical for Papal Rome today to uphold these curses on those who hold to ‘justification by faith alone’ because of what she still refuses to concede. For her, justification is not an immediate declaration of God received by faith alone. Rather, Rome teaches that grace is given through her sacraments. Thus, she is able to secure a place for herself as a necessary means through which inner righteousness is given.
This so-called ‘changed’ Papal Rome continues to teach that internal righteousness with God is granted exclusively through her sacramental system. Thus she states,
‘The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized [person] sanctifying grace, the grace of justification…’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 1266).
And, ‘Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 1992).
Her present-day dogma is that her sacraments are necessary for salvation. Thus she states, ‘The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. Sacramental grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 1129).
These claims regarding the effect and efficacy of the sacraments constitute frontal attacks on the truth of God’s written Word – which tells us that the believer is justified in Christ alone. ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world’ (Ephesians 1:3).
To be chosen in Christ shows that justification is not of any person’s doing nor is it a recognition of anything that a person deserves. Rather, it declares that the heavenly Father has chosen persons in Christ before they have done anything good or bad, and even before the world was created.
Papal Rome’s affirmation that the basis of justification is ‘infused’ righteousness obtained by works, is a negation of consistent biblical teaching that righteousness is credited to the believer in Jesus Christ alone (Psalm 32:2; 71:15-16; 130:3; Isaiah 45:24-25; 54:17; 61:10; Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16; 51:10; Daniel 9:24; Luke 18:14; Romans 1:17; 3:21-22; 4:6; 11; 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:6; Colossians 2:10; 3:3; 2 Peter 1:1; and elsewhere).
Ephesians 1:6 clearly declares where the assurance of the believer is positioned. The location of God’s favour is revealed. One’s acceptance is in Christ and stands ‘to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the beloved’.
The supreme and conclusive purpose of God’s electing love is immediately added – that everything is to the praise of his glorious and abundant grace. The present-day doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church attempts to destroy entirely the biblical doctrine of justification. It endeavours to rob the all-holy God of the glory that flows from the salvation of sinners.
Beware of the Roman Catholic Church and of her pretence to have changed. Beware also of those Evangelicals who are affiliating with Rome today and who speak of Rome’s errors in a soft manner.
They teach that non-Catholics should join hands with Catholics to solve the social-political issues of our day, but they do not understand her doctrines. The Word of God clearly tells us, ‘Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him, for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds’ (2 John 9-11).
And again: ‘have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them’ (Ephesians 5:11). ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?’ (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).
The ignorance of many Evangelicals is astounding. Prevailing at the present day are such movements as Evangelicals and Catholics Together, Christian Churches Together, the New Perspective, the Coming Home Movement, and other apostate associations. Rather than compromise the gospel, we are to separate from those who promote such heresy and ‘earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3).
How can we respond in a positive way? By taking hold of the Bible as the Lord’s Word and promise to us. Like Israel of old, present-day Evangelicalism has in many ways become a wilderness and desolation. The Lord promises, however, that ‘Where sin abounded grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 5:20).
If we ardently stand for biblical truth, and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as Sovereign Head of the Church, God will take the stony hearts out of our flesh, and will give us hearts of flesh, to fear and serve him alone. Let us pray urgently that the Lord God will again breathe the Holy Spirit into the valley of dry bones that is modern Evangelicalism!
Our permanent duty consists of faith in Christ Jesus and in his Word. The Father has willed that Christ should ‘in all things … have the pre-eminence’ – ‘For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ (Colossians 1:18; 2:9).
We must not only believe intellectually that ‘of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace’. We must also pray, with true doctrine and expectation of the Holy Spirit, that this verse will become a reality – controlling how we live as Christians at the present day and what we perceive as his answer to our present needs.