Last week, I briefly unpacked the issue of authority. If you have a chance, check it out, for my blog today is related. In a nutshell, Catholics believe the Pope and the Bishops have the sole authority to interpret Scripture and their interpretation is equal to Scripture. Protestants do not believe this. They believe in Sola Scriptura. Which means the Word of God is the ultimate authority, and the word of man (no matter who it is) submits to the Bible.
The issue I want to cover today is the Gospel.
To begin, we must understand the magnitude of the issue. Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” The Gospel is the power for salvation. It is the Gospel that gives us the opportunity to believe in Christ, and thereby avoid the eternal wrath of God. Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?”
Next, we must understand that there is only one Gospel. Galatians 1:6-8, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
With those two things in mind, we start to recognize how important it is to know the one true Gospel. If people believe in a false Gospel, they will not be saved from God’s wrath (i.e. they will go to Hell).
Here is the kicker, Protestants and Catholics have different Gospels. Knowing what we know from above, this is a major issue. Catholics believe faith in Jesus plus works equal salvation. Protestants believe faith in Jesus equals salvation. These are different gospels. The Council of Trent (A Catholic Church meeting during the time of the Protestant Reformation) Canon 9 states, “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.” (Anathema means devoted to destruction). This belief as set forth in the Council of Trent continues today. They reject justification by faith alone.
However, justification by faith alone is exactly what Protestants believe. And this is why:
- “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
- “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” – Romans 3:23-24
- “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” – Galatians 2:16
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. “ – Ephesians 2:8-9
- “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—“ – Philippians 3:9
So why is there a difference in Gospels (not that there is a different Gospel)? It is because of what I discussed last week. Because Catholicism believes the Pope and the Bishops have sole authority to interpret Scripture and because their word is equal to God’s Word, they can declare Cannon #9 at the Council of Trent and that becomes the Words of God. They have given themselves the ability to change the Gospel…and they have.
But as we have already recognized, there is only one Gospel, and as Paul declared in Galatians, no one, not even the angels have the right to change the Gospel. So the question you must ask is which one do you believe in. Faith in Christ (Protestant) or faith in Christ plus works (Catholic). Your eternity hangs in the balance.