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
Authority for Truth
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 Godís word (Mark 7:7-13; Col. 2:8).
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
Godís 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 knownóGod 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 Godís provision.
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 ChristóHis 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 Christís
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.
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 Godís 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.
Since grace is
the only means by which God saves sinners, anyone who attempts to merit
salvation actually nullifies Godís 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 canít
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
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
none righteous, not even one (Rom. 3:10).
sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
The wages of
sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
death is the eternal lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).
demonstrated His own love towards us, in that while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).
justifies (believers) as a gift, by His grace, through the redemption
that came by Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24).
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).
justifies He glorifies. Nothing can separate us from the love of God
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:30, 35-39).