Rev. David Holwick H Jesus and Other Faiths
First Baptist Church
Ledgewood, New Jersey
February 28, 2016
BAPTISTS and ROMAN CATHOLICISM
I. Is Catholicism a cult?
A. Roman Catholicism is the largest component of Christianity.
1) There are a lot of them - 1.2 billion members.
a) The United States has 70 million, making it our
2) Almost all Protestants are offshoots of Catholicism.
B. It is not a cult, though old-time Baptists treated it like one.
1) They saw Catholicism portrayed in Revelation 17:3-6:
I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered
with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.
The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was
glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls....
This title was written on her forehead:
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the
saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
a) The beast with 7 heads and 10 horns was the Roman empire.
1> The woman sits on it, showing domination.
b) She is dressed in scarlet, just like cardinals.
1> The wealth was thought to reflect the church as well.
c) The blood of the saints was seen as the martyrdom of
Protestants by the church.
2) Protestantism was born out of conflict.
a) Some of the fighting was theological, with words and ink.
b) Lots of it was with swords and blood.
c) Baptists were not direct targets - we came on the scene
later - but we were influenced by the others.
1> Many of our Baptist distinctives are a deliberate
contrast with Catholicism.
C. The animosity has diminished.
1) As our society becomes more secular and non-religious,
Catholics are seen as allies in the culture wars.
2) Christianity in general is more personalized, less doctrinal.
D. Many of you have a Catholic background.
1) Perhaps you are still a Catholic yourself.
2) What does God think of Catholicism?
3) What should a Baptist think of it?
a) There are still differences that matter.
II. Catholicism has a long history.
A. It traces back to the earliest days of Christianity.
1) Peter's tomb has been located under the altar of St. Peter's
basilica in Rome.
2) Catholics take literally that Jesus appointed Peter to be
the head of the church on earth.
a) The "keys of the kingdom" means the church is the
gatekeeper of who is saved, and who is not.
b) Catholic doctrine says there is no salvation outside
of the true church, which is them alone.
B. It was originally one church among many.
1) The initial head church was Jerusalem, but Rome had more
population and resources.
a) Each regional church - Jerusalem, Rome, Alexandria
Egypt - had equal status at gatherings.
2) When Constantine moved his capital to Constantinople, the
power shifted there.
a) The Orthodox Church arose out of the new capital.
b) Rome became a backwater for centuries, but as Europe
developed (and Byzantium was attacked on all side),
the Roman Church gained power.
C. "One among equals" became "the greatest among (lesser) equals."
1) The Pope claimed the ability to speak infallibly on
2) Not just pecking order, but some key doctrines about
Jesus began to divide Christians.
3) This is why it was a big deal when the Pope met with
the Russian Orthodox Patriarch recently.
a) Catholics and the Orthodox excommunicated each other
centuries ago and have never resolved it.
III. Catholicism has some strong points.
A. It has a deep history.
1) It doesn't just jump from the 1st century to the 21st
like many Evangelicals do.
2) Catholics recognize that God has been working through
the church for 2,000 years.
3) Much of Western philosophy and values were formed through
a) It was the greatest supporter of art.
b) Through the Dark Ages, the intellectual heritage of the
Roman Empire was preserved by the church.
B. It has deep ethical teaching.
1) Much thought has been given to human ethics and how to
relate the gospel to society.
2) The current pope is a strong advocate for the poor and
oppressed. (as one of our presidential candidates found)
C. It can speak with one voice.
1) The Catholic hierarchy reaches around the world.
2) When the pope arrives, it is big news.
3) Protestants don't have anyone who comes close.
IV. Where Baptists differ from Catholics.
A. The ultimate authority is the Word of God, not human tradition.
1) Catholics agree with us that the Bible is inspired by
God and infallible.
2) However, they put human tradition on an equal footing.
a) The Vatican II Council affirmed that "both Scripture
and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with
equal feelings of devotion and reverence." #29131
b) This has resulted in practices such as:
1> praying for the dead
2> venerating statues
3> repetitive prayers
4> requiring priests to be celibate
c) Each of these goes against clear Biblical teaching.
3) Jesus criticized those who put human traditions above
the Word of God. Mark 7:5-8
a) "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding
on to the traditions of men." Mark 7:8
b) Traditions have their place - every church has them -
but the Word of God always trumps them.
1> We may have an Easter Egg hunt for the little kids,
but we don't elevate it to a doctrine.
B. Salvation is a gift of God, not by human works.
1) Catholics see salvation as a combination of God's grace
and human effort.
a) Baptists see salvation as all God's doing - our good
works show our gratitude for what he has done for us.
b) The washing away of our sins is symbolized by baptism,
not produced by it, as Catholics teach.
2) What is the place of our good deeds?
a) One poll showed that 61% of Catholics believe good
works are integral to attaining eternal life.
b) A typical attitude is shown by billionaire Tom Monaghan,
founder of Domino's Pizza and a staunch Catholic.
Here is how he sums up his theology:
"I was taught -- and I bought it -- that if I live a
certain way I'm going to go to Heaven, and if I live
a certain way I was going to go to Hell.
And that's for eternity.
And Hell was worse than anything you can imagine here.
Heaven was better than anything you can imagine.
"So, to me, it's all that simple.
I get it, and I want other people to get it, too, for
their own benefit.
Is that illogical?
Is that insanity?
I don't know.
I don't want to go to Hell."
3) In a similar way, Catholics believe you are saved only
until you commit your next mortal (major) sin. #31750
a) Regaining salvation requires confession and penance.
b) If salvation can be lost by what we do, it will always
1> We believe God's grace continues to keep us in
salvation, because it is all God's doing.
2> This is why we have assurance we are saved.
"I write these things to you who believe in the
name of the Son of God so that you may know
that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:13
C. The sacrifice of Jesus was once-and-for-all.
1) Catholics believe Jesus is sacrificed at every mass.
a) Hebrews 7:27 clearly says, Jesus was "sacrificed
for their sins once for all when he offered himself."
b) His sacrifice is complete and unrepeatable.
2) Jesus' death is sufficient to save us completely.
a) Catholics believe if a Christian dies with venal
(smaller) sins, they have to suffer in purgatory
until they are purified. (1000s of years?)
b) The Bible nowhere teaches this.
c) What is more, if personal suffering can wipe away sin,
you don't need Jesus at all.
D. There is only one mediator between God and humans.
1) Jesus is the only go-between we need.
1 Timothy 2:5 --
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and
man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom
for all men...."
2) You can't pray to saints, dead people, or the mother
of Jesus. We go directly to God.
a) As a pastor, I can hear your confession and pray for
you -- but you can do this yourself, too.
b) The church promotes salvation, but does not own it.
c) The early Christians called people to be saved by
believing in Jesus, not to be saved by joining a
V. Faith must be chosen.
A. Catholicism is struggling lately.
1) Scandals have marred the church's reputation.
2) People have lost confidence in the leadership.
3) One out of 10 Americans are lapsed Catholics.
B. The need to be born again.
1) God's solution is not a better religion, but a new
2) We don't inherit it from our family, but must choose
Christ on our own.
C. One Catholic's journey.
Barbara Petrie was raised Catholic: baptized, confirmed,
"the whole nine yards" with the sacraments, as she put it.
Much of her upbringing was tied to behavior.
She believed if you said the right number of Hail Marys and
followed the Ten Commandments verbatim, you would stay out
The problem was, Barbara hadn't stayed out of trouble.
Her marriage had failed, as had several relationships.
She didn't know what to do.
Her children had been attending a youth group at a Baptist
church and she decided to visit to see what it was about.
Sitting in the pew, she noticed a visitor card in a holder.
One of the check-off options was requesting more information
about being a Jesus-follower.
That intrigued her because it sounded like more than just
believing in Jesus.
She checked it off and dropped it in the plate.
The pastor called on her and the conversation got around
to her struggle with perfectionism.
Barbara felt like a failure because she couldn't meet God's
high expectations for her.
She was always falling short.
They explained that this is the condition of all humans - we
are sinners who need God's grace to be saved.
We don't need to become perfect, we need a perfect Savior.
The pastor's wife led Barbara in a prayer of salvation.
She asked Jesus to be the Lord of her life and wash away her
sins, and she pledged to follow him.
Immediately she felt a weight lift off her.
She says her life got better, but not easier.
Barbara still had money problems and health problems and issues
with her kids.
All these problems forced her to cling to Jesus and dig into
Jesus has become the most important and most unwavering
relationship in her life.
She says, "I still get scared, angry and impatient, but he
has never failed to meet me on the other side of awful."
Then she added this: "Every challenge and crisis is like a
birth -- traumatic, messy and dark.
With Christ I know that there is a coming out into the light,
seeing and feeling things differently than before.
[Jesus] is the only chance at perfection we've got."
SOURCES FOR ILLUSTRATIONS USED IN THIS SERMON:
#29131 “Is the Bible the Sole Authority For Faith and Practice?” David
Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, February 7, 2006;
from email submitted by Rick Swenson of, Hopatcong, New Jersey.
#31750 “Roman Catholics vs. the Bible,” Proclaiming the Gospel ministries,
<www.pro-gospel.org>; submitted by Rick Swenson of Hopatcong,
#34152 “I Don’t Want To Go To Hell,” Peter J. Boyer, New Yorker magazine;
article: “The Deliverer,” page 89, February 19, 2007.
#35226 “Is Heaven’s Gate Wide Or Narrow?” Cathy Lynn Grossman,
December 18, 2008; <link>.
#64904 “Perfectionist in Vermont Finds Grace in Christ,” Karen Pearce,
Baptist Press, http://www.baptistpress.org, August 7, 2015.
These and 35,000 others are part of the Kerux database that can be
downloaded, absolutely free, at http://www.holwick.com/database.html
Copyright © 2017 by Rev. David Holwick
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