Understanding Roman Catholicism
Through indulgences, the sins of Roman Catholics, both those who are alive and those in Purgatory, can supposedly be forgiven:
"Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory." Pg. 374, #1498
Here is the Catechism's definition of an indulgence:
"An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints." Pg. 370, #1471
Here, the water gets deep. Space does not permit a full explanation of indulgences. Suffice it to say that they are a complicated system of good works. It should also be mentioned that every rule regarding indulgences is a tradition of men. Not one can be found in God's Word.
Categories of sins?
"To understand this doctrine (Indulgences) and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence." Pg. 370, #1472
But the Bible consistently reveals that all sin has the same consequence:
"For the wages of sin is death..." Romans 6:23
"Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." James 1:15
The final result of sin is always death, no matter how minor we may think a particular sin is. Catholics try to pay for sins through indulgences, but Christ already paid for every sin:
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;" 1 Corinthians 15:3
While it is true that God does want His children to perform good works, those works are not a requirement for salvation, they are a result of salvation. Paul teaches:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:8, 10
Once one is saved by grace, good works should follow. But good works are never a requirement for salvation. Neither are they a requirement for forgiveness of sins after salvation.
The New Testament bulges with examples of Jesus forgiving sins, but He never demanded good works as a condition of forgiveness.
Can the living help the dead?
Catholicism also purports that indulgences help those who have already died:
"Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted." Pg. 371-372, #1479
Here is another load of man-made traditions. You will never find any of this taught in the Word of God. As we have mentioned previously, the time to have your sins remitted is while you are still alive.
In this doctrine, three recurring themes come to the surface again:
1. Another divine attribute of Jesus is minimized. The Bible declares that only Christ's work can bring about the forgiveness of sins. Catholicism, though, claims that sins can be forgiven through the good works of any ordinary Catholic.
2. Indulgences keep people in bondage to the Catholic church. Rather than going to God for forgiveness, Catholics must toil and strive, performing good deeds through the Catholic church for forgiveness of their sins.
It is noteworthy to ponder that the "good works" of Catholicism differ from the good works of the Bible. Biblical good works are deeds done for other people, while Catholicism' s good works revolve primarily around performing rituals of the church (Masses, saying rosaries, Catholic prayers, lighting candles, etc.). God intended good works to benefit others, not to bring people into bondage to a church.
3. Indulgences are a form of spiritual blackmail, forcing members to remain faithful to the church, so they can someday help their loved ones reach heaven.
Is this system of good works from God? Read what God records in His Holy Word on the subject, then decide for yourself:
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us..." Titus 3:5
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Understanding Roman Catholicism © 1995 by Rick Jones