Witnessing Effectively to Roman Catholics
|By: Mike Gendron; ©1999|
|Totally foreign to most Catholics are three promises Jesus offers to repentant sinners who trust Him as their Lord and Savior. They are: 1) the complete forgiveness of sins; 2) the imputation of His perfect righteousness; and 3) the assurance of eternal life. Mike Gendron explains how important these promises are in becoming a more effective Witness for Christ.|
Witnessing Effectively to Roman Catholics
Have you ever witnessed to a Catholic and sensed that your Gospel presentation was no different from what they already believed? If so, here are some biblical principles that will help you witness more effectively. To begin with, it is important to know that for many Catholics, their religion is a very important part of their culture and family history. Indoctrination for most Catholics begins at a very young age and usually includes an education at Catholic schools. This often produces a fierce loyalty to their church and a faith that is ultimately in their church rather than in Christ. Given these predispositions it is important, whenever witnessing to Catholics, to do so with prayer, patience, love and humility.
Establish Authority for Truth
In any witnessing opportunity, a major issue that needs to be dealt with is authority. Resolve the question: “In what or in whom will you trust for your eternal destiny?” Each person ultimately must choose between man and his teachings or Jesus and His word. To choose the latter is the safest and wisest decision anyone will ever make because Jesus is the truth (John 14:6); His word is truth (John 17:17) and He came to testify to the truth (John 18:37). Furthermore, every religious leader must be held accountable to Scriptural authority (Acts 17:11). No man or pope is infallible (Gal. 2:11-14) and tradition must never suppress the authority of God’s word (Mark 7:7-13; Col. 2:8).
Define Terms Biblically
Make sure you have agreement on the meaning of essential terms of the Gospel because the Vatican has redefined many of its key words. To a Catholic: “justification” is not God declaring one righteous but the process through which one becomes righteous; “sin” is not always mortal because lesser sins do not cause death; “repentance” is not a change of mind but penance or punishment Catholics must do to be absolved of their sin and “eternal life” is not eternal because it terminates whenever a mortal sin is committed.
Begin with the Bad News
What does God’s justice demand as punishment for sin? In all my years of asking Catholics this question, not one has ever given the correct answer. The truth must be made known—God imposes the death penalty when His law is broken. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). The second death is the eternal lake of fire where the unredeemed will pay the eternal punishment for sin (Rev. 20:14). People must first understand they are condemned before they will see their need for a Savior. They must know they are hopelessly lost before they seek God’s provision.
Stay Focused on the Gospel
It is so easy to get lost in the complexity of the Catholic religion. Therefore, avoid any trails that lead you away from the saving power of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16). Proclaim the sufficiency of Christ—His perfect and finished sacrifice (Heb. 10:10-14), His grace (Rom. 11:6), His word (2 Tim 3:15), His righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30) and His intercession (Heb. 7:25). This is of utmost importance because Rome adds so much that denies Christ’s sufficiency. To His word they add tradition; to His headship they add the pope; to His unique role as mediator they add Mary; to His finished and complete sacrifice they add the Mass; to His high priestly office they add the confessional box; to His righteousness they add their own; to grace they add merit; to faith they add works and to heaven and hell they add purgatory. It is only when Jesus is presented as the all-sufficient Savior that Catholics can be called to repent of these ungodly perversions of the Gospel and be saved by Christ alone.
Offer What Jesus Offers
There are three promises Jesus offers to repentant sinners which are totally foreign to most Catholics. They are: 1) the complete forgiveness of sins; 2) the imputation of His perfect righteousness; and 3) the assurance of eternal life. These promises are foreign to Catholics because their church opposes them with a vengeance. Any Catholic who believes these promises of God is condemned with anathema by his church councils (Trent and Vatican II). Rather than trust Jesus for the complete forgiveness of sins, Catholics look to purgatory and indulgences to pay for the residual sin and punishment that still remain. Rather than receive the perfect righteousness of Christ by faith, Catholics seek their own righteousness through good works and sacraments. And finally, rather than believe God’s promise of eternal life, Catholics are taught they are committing the “sin of presumption” if they claim to know with certainty they have eternal life. By offering Catholics what Jesus offers, we are proclaiming the Good News which has never been proclaimed from their church. Clearly, for a Catholic to believe the Good News, they must repent of the false gospel of works. Only then will Jesus save them completely and forever and only then can they stand before a Holy God in the perfect righteousness of His Son.
Call for Repentance
Since grace is the only means by which God saves sinners, anyone who attempts to merit salvation actually nullifies God’s grace (Rom. 11:6). We must, therefore, persuade Catholics to come to Jesus with empty hands of faith. One illustration that has been effective in doing this is to imagine a set of monkey bars suspended over hell. Catholics are hanging and swinging from different rungs labeled baptism, good works, sacraments, indulgences and the Mass because they are taught that these things will keep them out of hell. Now picture Jesus suspended between them and hell saying: “I am the only one who can save you but I can’t until you first let go.” For Catholics this is a giant step of faith because it goes against everything they have been taught. If they are still hanging on when they die, it will be too late. They must let go and believe Jesus will save them before they perish. This is a picture of the very first command of Jesus when He said, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Use the Word of God
Finally, always remember to use the word of God. It is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Let it speak for itself. Avoid using your own words because they are void of power. Ask Catholics to read selected Scriptures out loud and then ask them to tell you what God is saying through His word. This eliminates your interpretation and removes you from the middle. A good way to get them into the Bible is to ask them how they hope to get to heaven. If they give the wrong answer, ask them if they would like to know the only way, according to their own Bible. If they say “yes,” take them to The Roman Road, an excellent outline to follow because it presents the bad news first, then the Good News!
The Roman Road
The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).
There is none righteous, not even one (Rom. 3:10).
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
The second death is the eternal lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).
But God demonstrated His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).
God justifies (believers) as a gift, by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24).
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. (Rom. 10:9-10, 13).
Those God justifies He glorifies. Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:30, 35-39).