INTRODUCTION. This is another post (4th) in a series of articles about “religions.” I am still planning to write a future “religion” article about the threats posed to the true church by pagan religions and by “Christian” religions, and also about the biblical warnings against these two false systems, but I have decided to defer those once again and, instead, to give an example of what I mean by “Christian” religion.
OUR DEFINITION OF RELIGION. We have been considering the subject of religions in the last few posts. Remember that we are defining “religions” functionally, knowing that these systems of thought do not innocently spring up as someone’s helpful ideas, but are Satanically conceived and designed to prevent the adherents from hearing about Jesus Christ and thus being saved. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).
Thus, I am defining a “religion” as “any worldview, philosophy, ideology, or system of thought which exists for the purpose of intentionally obscuring the gospel of Jesus Christ so that people remain trapped away from salvation in a Christless, hopeless religious system.”
The example I am choosing to illustrate what I mean by a “Christian” religion is from Roman Catholicism. A religion like Roman Catholicism is structured to offer its adherents ideas that sound “Christian” and “holy” but which are, in fact, hellish, because they present useless counterfeits in place of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Here I will be considering Catholic forgiveness of sins.
To understand a counterfeit, it is necessary to know the genuine article. What is genuine forgiveness? In the Bible, all human beings are born under the condemnation of sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Since all are born under sin and are thus condemned, God must provide a means of forgiveness of sins if any are to be saved from this condemnation. The gospel of Jesus Christ declares that God has provided that means of forgiveness. Jesus Christ has died an atoning death on the cross to pay the penalty for sin and to offer forgiveness to anyone who will put their faith in Him. In Ephesians, Paul teaches, “In Him (Christ), we (believers) have redemption through His blood, THE FORGIVENESS OF OUR TRESPASSES” (Eph. 1:7). On the day of Pentecost, Peter told the people, “Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS” (Acts 2:38). From the teaching of the New Testament, forgiveness of sins is given only to the person who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Any other teaching about forgiveness is counterfeit and useless.
FORGIVENESS AND PURGATORY
The point I am making is this: For the Catholic, Christ’s death on the cross is irrelevant to forgiveness, because the Catholic merits his own forgiveness of sins by his own efforts. To support this statement, I offer three proofs.
First, the Catholic’s only available means of forgiveness is the sacrament of confession. In this ritual, the Catholic goes to the priest, confesses their sins to the priest, and then performs whatever penance (“works”) the priest prescribes. This Catholic forgiveness ritual is completely Christless, being performed without any reference to or mention of Jesus Christ. Instead, the Catholic merits forgiveness by their own works of penance. Instead of the cross of Christ providing atonement for sin, the Catholic obscures the cross with the counterfeit of penance. The cross is unnecessary. If there was no cross, there would still be penance.
But second, Catholic doctrine teaches that at death good Catholics go to purgatory, that fictional place where the Catholic’s remaining sins are somehow purged away. Now, the fact that Catholics need a place to get rid of remaining sin after death loudly broadcasts their belief that Jesus’ death on the cross did not forgive all their sins. Their belief in purgatory declares that Catholics do not regard Jesus’ death on the cross as sufficient to pay for their sins. Thus, if there was no cross of Christ, there would still be purgatory.
The third point also has to do with purgatory, but instead of considering the entrance, we will now be thinking about the exit from purgatory. As you may suspect, I am not now nor have I ever been a Catholic, so I may have some of these details a little confused, but as I understand it, you rely upon the efforts of other Catholics to get you out of purgatory. The idea is that when a Catholic dies, he has remaining sins which keep him out of heaven, and which necessitate purging. It becomes the responsibility of living Catholics to perform works on his behalf that will result in his sins being removed so that he can eventually go to heaven.
For now, I am going to ignore the unlikelihood that such an arrangement would succeed and instead will just focus on the method of removing the sins. Notice that the entire process relies upon man’s works. During the Catholic’s lifetime, he performed his prescribed works but was nevertheless deemed unworthy of heaven. Now in purgatory, other Catholics perform their works, but what is glaringly absent is any reference to the finished work of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross. Like getting into purgatory, getting out of purgatory does not need a crucified Savior, it just requires some friends who are willing to work hard to get you to heaven.
These three examples were presented to illustrate the way that “Christian” religions typically operate. These false systems present unbiblical rituals and works as “holy” counterfeits to obscure the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and ensnare the religious adherents in useless works that leave the religionist under God’s wrath and condemnation.
SDG rmb 3/7/2022 #499