Are Catholics going to heaven? Are Catholics even real Christians? There are an estimated 1.1 billion Catholics in the world. There are more Catholics than all denominations of Christianity combined. Therefore, the question of whether Catholics are considered Christians is a vastly consequential one. Let me preface this blog by saying I hope that you can hear my heart as we discuss this subject. My goal is that you, whether Catholic or protestant, would know the Word of God and respond to the life-giving conviction of the Holy Spirit. Many Christians and Catholics alike have gone to church for years and not even read their own Bibles. Today we will reference scripture to answer this question, and I urge you to read the scriptures for yourself.
There are several major points in which Catholics and Christians differ.
Let’s start with salvation. The most crucial difference between Catholicism and Christianity is how you know that you’re saved. How do you know that you’re going to heaven? The Bible says we are saved through faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 1:12, John 3:16, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9-10). Scripture tells us that we cannot earn our salvation by doing anything. In Christianity, we simply put our faith in Christ and receive His grace. Anything we could ever try to do to earn salvation is like filthy rags before God. In salvation, I acknowledge that I need a Savior.
However, that is different in the Catholic church. In Catholicism, you confess your sins to a person, usually a priest, who then gives you a formula for absolution, whether through repeating words and phrases or otherwise. Then, as a result of that you are absolved of your sin. The official position of the Roman Catholic Church is that a person must believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized and receive the eucharist along with other sacraments and obey the decrees of the Roman Catholic Church and perform meritorious works. Look at the number of “ands” in that last sentence. When we go to the scriptures and see how many things have been added to the list of what must be done to be saved, it’s clear that we are getting away from the gospel message.
Next, let’s address prayer. The Roman Catholic Church teaches Catholics to not only pray to God, but to petition Mary and the saints in prayers on behalf of themselves. Contrary to this, Christians are taught in scripture to only pray to God (see Matthew 6:9 and Luke 18:1-7). As a matter of fact, when Jesus died on the cross, the veil that separated the holy of holies from the inner court in the old covenant temple was torn in half, allowing us access to God. Now we don’t need a priest to go to God, because the veil is torn by Jesus, our mediator and Great High Priest.
For Christians, prayer does not need to go through another person. We can go straight to God in confidence that He hears us. That may sound foreign to many. Perhaps you grew up thinking that you needed to hold a certain title or religious status, like as a priest or a nun, in order to have access to God. If you are saved, when God sees you, He sees the blood of Jesus covering you. He sees the perfection of Jesus, so you are approved to go directly to Him without fear (Hebrews 4:16). The Bible says to come boldly before the throne of grace.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches us that there is a distinction between the clergy and the laypeople. The New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers in 1 Peter 2:9. It doesn’t mean we don’t appoint leaders in Christianity, it simply means we are all called to minister to God and to receive ministry from God. We do not have to go through another person or mediator.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that unless a believer is hindered, the only way to receive forgiveness of sins is by confessing them to a priest, and then penance is made by saying certain phrases. Contrary to this, scripture teaches that confession of sins is to be made directly to God (1 John 1:9).
In Christianity, when we confess our sins to God, the Holy Spirit doesn’t just address the sinful behavior, but He deals with the trauma that produces the triggers that produce the behavior. Religion only ever deals with the visible surface, which never causes long-lasting change. A relationship with the Holy Spirit deals with the reasons you do it. What is the trauma in your past that produces the triggers that produce that behavior? When you go directly to the Holy Spirit to minister to you, He says, “I know why you go to that drug, I know why you go to pornography. These are counterfeit comforts. But I want to comfort you through my Holy Spirit.” Then when you’re free, you are free indeed.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches among other things that Mary is basically the queen of heaven, a perpetual virgin, and the co-redemptress who ascended into heaven. In scripture, she’s portrayed as an obedient, believing servant of God who became the mother of Jesus. Christians and Catholics can agree on that. But none of the other teachings on Mary mentioned by the Roman Catholic Church have any basis in the Bible.
The idea of Mary being a co-redemptress and another mediator between God and man is not only extra-biblical, which means found outside of scripture, but it’s also unbiblical, which is contrary to scripture. Acts 4:12 declares that Jesus is the only redeemer. 1 Timothy 2:5 proclaims that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man.
The Bible clearly states that Mary had children after Jesus. Some of them even co-labored with Jesus in ministry as technically his step-brothers. What does that mean? It means she is not a perpetual virgin. Rather, she was a willing vessel who found favor among women. Her womb was blessed by God so that she could carry the Savior. The truth is, Mary needed the cross just as much as the rest of humanity. She was sinful. She was flawed. She was not perfect. She needed salvation. Yes she was the mother of Jesus, but she also must have at one point needed to become a daughter of God through receiving the sacrifice of Jesus. That can be a shocking thing to hear if you’re Catholic because Mary has been built up to such a level.
Mary was a willing vessel who found favor. She had other children, she lived her life, she died, and I believe that she did go to heaven, but only because she received Christ’s forgiveness. As he hung on the cross, she had to decide, “Is he my Lord and Savior as well?”
You Can Have a Personal Relationship With God
People who grow up in Catholicism often report an overwhelming sense of always being inadequate. The truth is, we are inadequate and undeserving of the grace of God, BUT for the righteousness of Jesus Christ. If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, when God sees you, He doesn’t see your inadequacies, your failures, your shortcomings, or flaws. He sees His Son, Jesus. And Jesus is enough! We don’t need to add another layer of mediator like saints, Mary, or a priest between us and God – Jesus is enough!
You can have a personal relationship with God without any mediator. Through the Holy Spirit, you can begin to develop that relationship. Call on Jesus, receive forgiveness of sins, and enjoy a relationship with your Savior today!
My Breakthrough Community is full of people just like you who are hungry for more of God. If you are interested in learning more, consider joining the Breakthrough Community!
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