Ask the Pastor: Major Differences Between Catholics & Us?


Don’t forget to submit your Bible questions to us – or in the “Question Box” outside the sanctuary.)

One question submitted this week by a congregation member:

What are some major differences between the Roman Catholic Church and our church?

This is a good question, and a tough topic.  One that must be done with much love.  Our goal here is not to offend (though we know it will) but to speak what we believe the Scripture teaches in love. Especially in light of the current popularity toward Pope Francis.

There is no way to cover all the differences in a short blog post.  This is a big topic. I have picked 4 major topics below to discuss in short summary (certainly more in-depth can be said for both sides).  For a more in-depth study, please see these resources:

Friend, there are major differences between what Catholics believe and what we believe the Bible holds.  Such stark differences are eternal matters—not just differences of what sports team is best or what to eat for dinner.

Bible Topic Short Summary Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church (their official document on teaching)
Proverbs 30:6 Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

John 10:35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be broken—

John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

1 Corinthians 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.


The RCC has long held that the Bible and tradition as interpreted and decided by the church are the final say and seat of authority in religion.

The Bible, though, stays away from any adding doctrine to what God has given in His Word (Deut. 4:2; Mark 7:5-13, Col. 2:8, etc.).

Instead, the Bible teaches we don’t need any extra-biblical revelation or teaching.  The Bible is sufficient for all matters of faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16-17, etc.)

Good, short link to study:

“As a result the [Roman Catholic] Church…does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (CCC Paragraph 82)

“The Supreme Pontiff, in virtue of his office, possesses infallible teaching authority when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful…he proclaims with a definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held as such.” (CCC Paragraph 891)

Romans 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Titus 3:5-6 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Galatians 2:21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.


The RCC teaches that salvation depends, ultimately, on the person.  This is earned by obedience to the law of the church (like regular attendance at mass, praying the rosary, fasting, etc.).  The RCC holds us that God forgives those that goes through these fruits of penance. In short, the sacrifice of Christ isn’t sufficient and perfect—and a system of works comes out.

In sum, the RCC teaches that justification is God’s work of grace in man.  That, as a man (or woman) becomes righteous by obeying God’s laws and the sacraments, God will accept that person.  Faith and good works are the basis for our justification. God’s transforming grace infuses righteousness into men who cooperate with that grace.  Our righteous works, then, the RCC says, are acceptable to God.

Yet, the Bible says that justification is God’s work (not ours) of grace is Jesus Christ.  God accepts men solely on the merits of Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ alone is the basis for our justification (Rom. 3:20, 24, Eph. 2:8-9, etc.)

We believe the righteousness of Christ is imputed or credited to the believer through faith. Thus, justification is objective. Even the best of our good works are tainted with sin. Our good works contribute nothing to our salvation (Isa. 64:6, etc.). Justification is an instantaneous act. It is whole, eternal and perfect, not piecemeal or gradual.

The single most amazing truth about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this: it is all of grace. It is the work of God, not of man. It is the story of a powerful Savior who redeems His people, and He does so completely. It is about a sovereign God, a perfect Savior, and an accomplished redemption—not good works or sincere efforts.

Summary article to study:


“Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons. It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life.” *CCC Paragraph 2021)

The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. ’Sacramental grace’ is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. (CCC Paragraph) 1129)

“One who desires to obtain reconciliation with God and with the Church, must confess to a priest all the unconfessed grave sins he remembers after having carefully examined his conscience.” (CCC Paragraph 1493)

John 19:30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

 Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,




The Bible teaches that Christ’s sacrifice was perfect, complete, &, ultimately, final—a one-time event never to be repeated (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, etc.).

The RCC believes differently. Christ is sacrificed (not physically) thousands of times each day in the ritual of the Mass.

Yet, because it was Christ Himself sacrificed, the holy one without sin, it only needed to happen once (Hebrews 9:25-28). It was as unrepeatable and as decisive as death itself. (Note that Heb. 9:27 doesn’t give any hint of a second chance after death.) This is the heart of the good news: Christ’s sacrifice is superior.

Good longer article by John MacArthur:

In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner.” (CCC Paragraph 1367)

“The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the [Roman Catholic] Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire.” (CCC Para 1368)

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

 Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

One Mediator Between God and Man?

The RCC maintains that Mary is a mediator-type between God and man.

Yet, the Bible teaches that it is the privilege of every repentant sinner to confess his sins directly to God (1 John 1:9). We can go directly to God through our mediator Jesus Christ and be forgiven.  He is fully God and man.

Good, Short Article:

“Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation…. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the [Roman Catholic] Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” (CCC Paragraph 969)

 How should we respond?

Theologian R.C. Sproul said:

I believe that as individuals, we should reach out to Roman Catholics. We should love our neighbors who are in the Church of Rome. We should befriend them and spend time with them. By doing so, we earn the right to lovingly critique their views.

As churches, we must stand for the biblical gospel—and nothing more. It is our calling to hold high the truth and expose falsehood. To this end, it is essential that we know and understand what Rome is teaching, so distinctions can be made. It is important that the people in the pews be educated about what Protestants believe over against what Roman Catholics teach.

Pastors should preach the gospel and point out ways in which it is twisted by men, including the Roman Catholic Church. I am not saying that every sermon must attack Rome, but given the attraction that Roman Catholicism is exerting on some Protestants, it is essential that its errors be exposed. By faithfully preaching the gospel, pastors will defend the Reformation. The cause of sola Scripturasola fidesola gratiasolus Christus, and soli Deo Gloria remains the cause of and for biblical truth.

 And John MacArthur said the following:

Should evangelicals wish to see the Protestant Reformation undone? Certainly not. The Reformation was not a tragedy but a glorious victory. The result of the Reformation was not a breach in the true body of Christ but the recovery of the gospel of grace from the near obscurity it had fallen into under Catholic abuses. Protestants who doubt that ought to study church history.

It would certainly be wonderful for the Roman Catholic Church to repudiate her opposition to justification by faith and abandon her extrabiblical doctrines. Yet nothing suggests that it might happen. All the dialogue between evangelicals and Roman Catholics has not brought Rome one hair’s breadth closer to a biblical position on any pivotal doctrinal issue. Nor is there any sensible reason to think that more dialogue could accomplish this. On the contrary, changes in Rome’s doctrinal position have never been a matter for discussion.

Now is the time when evangelicals must carefully reexamine how dearly they hold their doctrinal convictions.

Either the Protestant Reformation was all a big mistake, or we must be willing to stand with the Reformers. Are we ready to concede that the thousands of martyrs who gave their lives to oppose the tyranny and false doctrine of Rome all died for an unworthy cause?

These are not minor issues. Nor will they go away if evangelical leaders merely keep silent. Those who hold biblical convictions will find themselves forced either to make peace with enemies of the gospel or to take a clear and vigorous stand against Rome’s “different gospel” and against ecumenical homogeneity.

Someone who had heard of my stand against “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” asked, “Don’t you want to see Christian unity?” I certainly do want to see true Christian unity. Remember, however, that the unity our Lord prayed for goes hand in hand with His request that we be sanctified in the truth (John 17:17–21). The familiar principle in 2 Corinthians 6:14–17—though it certainly applies to marriage—is actually far broader, encompassing all forms of spiritual union:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out fromtheir midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.”

Unity at the expense of truth is never a worthy goal. “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” gave lip service to that principle but failed to follow through.

To those who ask “Don’t you want to see unity?” I ask in return, “Are you willing to allow souls to be led into darkness by false religion and error?”