Remembering the Ministry of
The Reverend Dr. Carl McIntire
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What is the Difference Between the Protestant and the Roman Catholic?


The main differences have to do with the attitude toward the Word of God the church of God, and the salvation of lost souls.

Protestants accept the sacred Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures are a perfect guide in all things. By them the believer is not only made wise unto salvation, but is thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:15, 16). Any church that does not conform to the Holy Scriptures in doctrine and practice is not a part of the true Church, but is apostate.

For 15 centuries after its completion the Bible remained a closed book to all except a very few for the reason that the great multitude of humanity was entirely illiterate. During this time a mass of tradition accumulated. The edict of Constantine, A.D. 313, led to the organization of Christianity, and the church began to attain secular and political power, and the decree of its councils claimed an equal authority with tradition. They became as binding as the traditions of the Jews in the time of Christ, of which Jesus said, "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your traditions" (Matt. 15:6; Mark 7:13). Thus gradually through 15 centuries the ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church was built up on the accumulated weight of tradition and vested authority.

The Church of Rome shamefully disparages God's Holy Word when it declares that "Holy Scripture is not sufficient"; that ','it does not contain all that is necessary for salvation"; that "Scripture is not the judge of controversy, nor an entire rule of faith." These statements cannot be denied by the Romanists because they are found in standard Papal works.

The Church of Rome asserts that she is, and always has been, the only church, and that all who are out of communion with her are heretics. For them she has anathemas, and with them she refuses fellowship as Christians. There is not one word in the New Testament that indicates that except a man be in union with the Church of Rome he cannot be saved. The apostles spoke of the Church as the body of Christ, and of that mystical body every true believer is spoken of as a member (Eph. 4:16). It is called a temple, of which every believer is a "living stone" (1 Pet. 2:5). So that the true Church is simply the people of God, composed of all believers.

The Roman Catholic teaching about the church is called the "doctrine of the keys" which is based upon Matthew 16:17-19. They teach that "Christ gave special power in His church to Saint Peter by making him head of the apostles and the chief teacher and ruler of the entire Church," and intended the supreme power of Peter to be passed on to his successors, the popes. The Romanists claim that divine authority to govern, to teach, and to administer the sacraments throughout the entire church is delegated by the pope to the bishops and by the bishops to the priests and other clergy, and that the church is to be defined as the congregation of all who put themselves under the authority of the pope.

On the other band, true Protestants teach that "the true Church of God is that divinely established society among men, which worships the Holy Trinity alone; which trusts the atoning death and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation; the Holy Spirit as Guide, Sanctifier, and Comforter; the sacred Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as its sole rule of faith; and which proclaims the Gospel of God's free grace to all mankind." As Protestants we do not believe that Jesus handed over the rule of the Church to anyone else. He rules it Himself. It is mere pretense for any section of the outward, organized membership to say that they have power to unchurch any man who loves the Lord because be will not submit to their assumption of authority. Christ said, "He that hath the Son hath life." No priest can set aside the words of the divine Head of the Church. So Protestants acknowledge no head or supreme authority in the church save the authority of Jesus Christ.

According to Protestant teaching, the saving grace of God is received by man through faith or trust in Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour (see John 1 :12; 5:24; Eph. 2:8-10; Rom. 10:9, 10). Salvation is all of grace, a gift of God, not of works, lest man should boast. There is no place in it for human merit (Rom. 3:28; Titus 3:5, 6).

The fundamental and official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church about salvation is that it is by grace, adding that grace is bestowed through prayer and through the sacraments of the Roman Church. Their basic doctrine of salvation depends upon the use of the sacraments, and one's own good deeds. This is opposed to the evangelical system revealed in the Bible.

There are at least three things wrong with Rome's system of salvation: First , it makes salvation conditional on merit; secondly, it affirms that, normally salvation is possible only through the good offices of the priestly order of the Roman Church and its sacraments; and thirdly, it encourages prayer to Mary and the saints.

In fact, the essential error of Rome is that it sets up a human institution, the papacy, with all its limitations, as a substitute for the Divine Gospel given to the Church. In place of the Gospel of full salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ, it thrusts before the believer a whole round of ceremonies of which the New Testament says nothing. Instead of personal trust in the Saviour, its people are taught to regard obedience to the words of the priests as the indispensable condition of salvation.

Protestantism rests on the foundation of the authority of the Scriptures and justification by f aith alone. Protestants exalt faith in Christ; Rome exalts obedience to herself as an infallible church. Thus she obscures the essential truth of 'Christianity, and constitutes herself a rival to Jesus Christ, and varies His doctrine of salvation.

Pray for your Roman Catholic friends that they may come to know and embrace the free and glorious Gospel of the blessed God.

Prepared and distributed by
20th Century Reformation Hour
Rev. Carl McIntire, Director
Collingswood, New Jersey

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