After Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome in the 4th Century (AD 313) the political power the church gained began to corrupt it. As Lord Acton aptly noted, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The Dark Ages soon began and with it the need for a reformation.
Protestantism began in the 16th century. The word Protestant comes from the Latin word to publically declare or protest. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, in an attempt to reform compromising concerns in the church such as indulgencies. His theses spread like wildfire. Instead of correcting their aberrant practices and heretical doctrines, the Church of Rome put restrictions on Luther and the growing numbers who joined in his protest. Protestantism was born.
Can you explain an important distinction between a Protestant and Catholic Church? Here are several:
- Indulgences vs. forgiveness in Christ
o In Catholic theology an indulgence is “a remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of which has been forgiven,” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. The church grants this remission in response to some act of penance (praying Hail Marys, a certain number of the Lord’s Prayer, etc.).
o This practice was corrupted during the time of Luther and indulgences were sold by the church for members to buy for themselves or loved ones thought to be in purgatory.
o In Protestant theology, sins are remitted on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross and experienced through confession and repentance (1 John 1:9). We agree on these points, but disagree when Catholics add sacraments.
o Apocrypha are historical books recorded during the 400 yr span between the OT and NT. They accessible to Jesus and the apostles. They are never cited as Scripture. The Catholic Church only concluded that they were inspired in the 16th as a response to the debates by Protestants. They did so to substantiate the doctrine of purgatory.
o Church Councils, the Pope vs. the Supremacy and sufficiency of the Scriptures over matters of faith.
o 1 Tim 3:16 makes it clear that the Scriptures as the breath-out Word of God is alone sufficient to prepare believers for everything God calls us to do.
- Purgatory vs. Heaven and Hell
o This doctrine is based on 2 Maccabees 12:43-45, which teaches that “2.000 pieces of silver were sent to Jerusalem for a sin-offering...Whereupon he made reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.” Also Catholics hold to this position because of the rulings of the church councils like Trent, etc.
o This clearly denies the sufficiency of Jesus atoning death.
o It denies that righteousness is credited on the basis of faith alone.
o The Catholic church fathers and their councils confirming purgatory as the means of expiating sins is in contradiction with the Bible and is, therefore, wrong. It appalled Luther to see professing believers being manipulated to give money (indulgencies) with the lie that their gifts could free loved ones from purgatory.
o The Bible teaches that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” Heb 9:27.
- Praying to the saints vs. The sainthood and priesthood of all believers.
o All Christians are saints; see Phil 1:1.
o And all Christians are priests. “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD,” 1 Pet 2:9.
While there are many important distinctions between Roman Catholics and Protestants, the hallmark distinction is the doctrine of justification. To be a Protestant one must affirm that God declares sinners righteous on the basis of faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone.
Read Romans 4:1-6; Philippians 3:8-9; Genesis 15:6 and answer the following questions:
- How do sinners become righteous? God credits it to them righteousness (define impute).
- In what spiritual condition do believers receive this credit? They are sinners who trust in (rely upon, depend in, have faith, relational trust upon) Jesus.
- What is the difference between the Catholic and Protestant positions regarding how a sinner becomes righteous? Answer:
a. Catholics believe in faith + works (keeping the sacraments) and hence the righteousness is inherent or infused to the Christian.
b. Protestants believe in faith alone and hence righteousness is given as an unearned gift. It is an alien righteousness being that of another—Jesus’ righteousness.
APLICATION: WHY IS THIS SIGNIFICANT?
If God does not grant righteousness as a gift of his grace, what good works and what amount of good works could we do to earn the declaration from Him that we are righteous? The only hope, the only hope, of guilty sinners (Ps 130:3; Is 64:6) to be made acceptable before a thrice holy God is by an act His sheer grace granting us righteousness as a gift of His grace (Ps 32:2).
There really are only two religions in the world—one of human achievement and divine accomplishment. LACBC is a Protestant church because we believe that God saves sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That distinguishes our church from a whole lot of other churches.
Post a Comment