by Richard M. Bennett
The topic of salvation, while Biblically clear and precise, is quite complex in Catholic teaching. To help clarify the unbiblical but official doctrine of the Catholic Church, those Catholic teachings which explicitly speak of "cooperation with God" in the salvation "process" will be examined, and the Biblical position shown. Further, the unbiblical tradition and official teaching of Rome that the grace of salvation is said to be a quality inside the soul of the person who believes will be highlighted, and the Biblical answer to this erroneous position is given.
The total picture of salvation in Catholicism is in her teachings on the seven sacraments, the power of her priests, the office and role of Mary in "the process" of inner grace, with the help of those who have died (communion with the dead), and after this life, the purifying help of purgatory.
The full picture of the Catholic salvation "process" begins with new birth, which occurs in infant baptism and which purportedly washes away original sin. The "process" of salvation is a long journey through all the sacraments, with the Sacrifice of the Mass, central to most events. Good works, merit, sacramentals and saints, are all involved, but the focus is always on inner moral goodness which one is always attempting to increase in order to be good enough to die in "sanctifying grace" and then to be saved or at least land for a time in purgatory.
In contrast, Biblical justification is perfect and a finished work of God. "It is God that justifieth." Justification is God's work alone to show His righteousness, and the fact that He alone saves. Once God has justified any person, He views that person "in Christ" , for God, having forgiven the sinner, reckons to his account Christ's righteousness. Thus justification is by faith alone "without the deeds of the law."
The Bible teaches that in Christ the believer's sins are expiated totally, having been paid for in full by the shedding of His blood.
The Catholic Church focuses a person's faith for salvation to the Roman Catholic Church herself.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994)
The "process" begins for most Catholics at baptism, when baptism is administered to them by the Church.
The Catholic is taught that the process of conversion is accomplished by a person's good deeds and sufferings.
To Catholics in "mortal sin", the process continues by telling all to their priest, even their most secret sins.
[This issue will be dealt with more fully in a separate study entitled "Salvation and the Sacramental System."]
The idea of the "process" being helped by the holiness of other human beings is also taught to Catholics. This interchange in expiation of sin is shared even with those in purgatory.
The idea of drawing merit from others in the Church depends on the idea of the "treasury of the Church".
God's grace is only part of the "process of salvation" (described above); Catholics are taught also that Mary is a mother in the order of grace.
Grace and Justification
Logically, in the formal teaching of the Catholic Church, grace is not "the power of God unto salvation" nor a demonstration of Who God is, "that He might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" , but merely a help given to humans.
Rather than the Biblical teaching that God's one time act of imputing a person's sin to Christ and His righteousness to the believer, the Catholic Church teaches that grace is a quality, known as "sanctifying grace", which resides within a person, making him or her pleasing to God.
This is in stark contrast to the Biblical teaching of positional legal righteousness in Christ alone. (See Ephesians 1:3-14, Philippians 3:8-9, Colossians 3:3-4, Romans 3:24, 5:19, Isaiah 45:24-25, Psalm 71:16, Jeremiah 23:6.)
The Catholic is taught that with God's help, he can claim merit of his own before God. This is because of the unbiblical idea of an "associate partnership" of God and man together in the work of salvation.
Conclusion: The Catholic doctrine of being made partners with God in Christ's death and resurrection is utterly perverse in that on a false basis, it subtly holds out false hope to man. There is no scriptural basis to the idea of being made partners with Christ in the paschal mystery. Such a concept is an utter lie as it denies the repeated statements of God's truth in Scripture that the work of redemption is " by Himself" , "without the deeds of the law", "not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" , "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us...."
The Biblical truth that the unsaved person is dead in sin is given to convict a person of his or her hopeless state in order that he or she might cry out to God for His grace alone.
Before God, each one is dead in his or her sin. He or she can do nothing towards gaining salvation. Clearly, according to Scripture, Christ Jesus has substituted on the cross for each one of His own sheep, once and for all time, "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree...." His grace is sufficient to change your heart so that you can trust Him. He will then put into you the will to repent. You will be born again in Him, That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
Not only has the Lord Jesus Christ paid fully the satisfaction required by His Father for the totality of a person's sin, but when one is placed in Him by God the Judge, Christ's righteousness is credited to that person, as II Corinthians 5:21 explains so clearly, "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
Salvation comes through faith in Christ alone. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."