Anonymous asked: I am a Baptist, and I have a few friends that are Roman Catholic. I was wondering what are the major differences between the two? I know there are a lot of similiarities, but I'm not sure what the differences are. I feel weird asking them because they don't really like talking about it.
I will tell you some of the major differences, but bear in mind that your friends may not hold to anything that I say. It is important to find out what people believe personally, because it may be different than the “box” of beliefs they put themselves in. Make sense? It works the same for all of us.
Now, when it comes to Roman Catholicism, there are three key differences I am going to briefly talk about.
- Works-based faith
- Confession to a Priest
1. Works-based faith
Most Catholics believe that you must earn your salvation. Your good deeds have to outweigh the bad. If you succeed, you will go to Heaven. If you do not, you will go to Purgatory, which will be explained soon. Works-based faith is not Biblical, because Jesus paid for all our sin and cleansed us from all unrighteousness.
Key Verse: ”And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices,which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” - Hebrews 10:11-14
See also: Ephesians 2:1-10, Galatians 2:15-21, Romans 5.
2. Confession to a Priest
Most Catholics believe that when you sin, you must go to a human priest and confess to him what you have done so that you may find forgiveness for your sins. The priest is ideally a mediator between us and God. Now, there is nothing wrong with going to a fellow believer and confessing what you did. That is healthy and Biblical. The fallacy is believing that the priest has the power to forgive your sins upon confession. Scripture teaches that Jesus paid for all of our sin on the Cross. Therefore, a human priest is not needed because Jesus is our mediator and intercessor. We must only draw near to God through Christ and He will draw near to us.
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. - Hebrews 7:23-28
See also: 1 John 1:5-10*, Romans 8:31-34
*The context of 1 John 1:5-10 is unbelief to belief, not confession after belief. It is talking about how one meets salvation, not how one keeps it.
Purgatory seems to be a dying belief, but it has made an impact in the history of Roman Catholicism. Purgatory is a temporary place of suffering for Catholics to be cleansed from sin. In the past, you could buy indulgences from the Roman Catholic Church in order to lesson the time spent in purgatory. This belief is not widely held today, but it shows the fallacy of works-based faith. It is impossible for one to live a perfect life, so atonement was given through Jesus, not through purgatory. Jesus paid for all sin, and we no longer need to be punished for what we have done, because He absorbed the wrath of God.
Key Verse: ”There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” - Romans 8:1-4
See also: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, All of the above references
I hope all of this has helped! If anyone sees an error, please message me and inform me so that I may become a better steward of knowledge and teaching.
I hope all goes well with your friends, and I pray they would feel open to talking to you about their beliefs. It is a wonderful thing to talk about God, and I hope they can open up in this area of theology.