Roman Catholicism – Not The True Gospel
Sermon preached by Ben Ramsbottom at Bethel Chapel, Luton, on Lord’s day morning, April 10th, 2005.
Text:“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
This last week has witnessed some of the most amazing things that have ever been known in the lifetime of any of us: the excitement, the enthusiasm surrounding the death and burial of the pope. Rome has never seen anything like it before, and our country has never witnessed anything like it before, and our newspapers have never witnessed anything like it before – the reverence, the exaltation, the adulation from all the heads of state throughout the world, the heir to our own throne going in deference to Rome, the Prime Minister of our Protestant country and the Archbishop of our supposedly Protestant church preferring to go to the Roman Catholic funeral than the wedding of the heir to our Protestant throne. Now there never have been such scenes like it in our lifetime. I do not think there has been such adulation of anyone. Winston Churchill was a great man, but there were never things said about him as have been said about the pope this week.
It is very powerfully laid on my spirit that I have to speak to you this morning about the apostate church of Rome. The text I have read to you is one of the most solemn in the New Testament. It is repeated again in the following verse: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Now the gospel of the Roman Catholic church is another gospel, and because it is another gospel, that church is under the solemn curse, the solemn anathema of Almighty God. I want to speak especially to our children and young people this morning, because there seems to be a spirit about as if the Roman Catholics are good Christians; they may be a little bit different, but it does not really matter. The church of Rome is an apostate church and the gospel that it preaches is under the anathema, the curse of Almighty God. Now people say to me, “But you believe that there are real Christians in the Roman Catholic church, don’t you?” Now beloved friends, God is the Judge. God is the Judge of who is a real Christian, either in the Roman Catholic church or in Bethel chapel. But one thing I am clear on, if a person lives and dies believing in the awful errors of the Roman Catholic church and resting his immortal soul on those errors, then in no way can he be saved or enter heaven.
Let me make one or two things very clear as simply as I can right at the beginning. First of all, we are speaking of a system, an evil system, a wrong system. We are not speaking about people. Individual Roman Catholics can be nice and kind. They may be among your friends. Some are very sincere (though sincerely wrong). We are not speaking about people. We are speaking about a system and the dreadful things that system teaches and the errors that that system teaches, so that living and dying believing those errors, there is no hope, no salvation, no heaven.
Now let us be clear on these points. We live in a day when there is so much compromise, so much suggesting it does not really matter, so much suggesting it is just a little difference. It is a vital difference; it is all the difference between heaven and hell. And this morning, with that on my heart, I want to warn you against the dreadful errors of Romanism. I repeat, we are not speaking about people; we are speaking about an evil and corrupt system.
Also, let me say this, that I am not going to talk this morning about so many of those things that we do not really like. I mean bells and candles and incense and crosses and crucifixes and idols and images and nunneries, and things like that. I am going to leave all that. I am just going to speak to you about the true gospel and the false gospel.
Also, I am not even going to speak this morning about the Roman Catholic church as a persecuting church, though the cruelties that the Roman Catholic church has performed down the ages are as great cruelties as any that have been known. It was only suggested this week that the greatest terrorist attack that has ever been known in the history of England was when the Roman Catholics in the Gunpowder Plot tried to blow up parliament and massacre the king and queen and the whole of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The cruelties of the Roman Catholic church in England have been appalling, and even today in those countries, those parts of the world where the Roman Catholic church has power and authority, it is still a cruel church, still a persecuting church. But I am not even going to talk about that this morning. I just want to talk to you on a few vital points about the true gospel. There are all these other things that we do not agree with, we do not like; many, many of them I might have mentioned this morning. Now we are going to leave all those and just come to vital points which concern the everlasting salvation of the soul.
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” He repeats it: “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
1.Now the first thing is this: the true gospel teaches only one way of salvation by grace and not by works. “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.” Now the Roman system from top to bottom, from first to last, is a system of works, something that the sinner can do, something that he must do, something that he has to do; partly grace, partly works; partly what God has done, partly what man has to do; not just repentance, but performing penances.
The vital point experimentally in real religion is to be blessed with real repentance, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” repentance from sin. Now the Vulgate, the Roman version of Scripture, has even translated repentance wrongly. Where John the Baptist and the Saviour preached repentance, the Roman version renders it, do penance. Beloved friends, there is all the difference in the world between a sinner blessed with true, godly, Holy Ghost repentance and a sinner doing a few man-prescribed penances. Now this is vital, and to depart from it is error, and to depart from it is to be under the curse of God, and that is how multitudes are blinded, that somehow, some way, something must be done towards their salvation.
“No news can suit a ruined race,But sovereign, free, eternal grace;No other gospel can impartJoy, peace and comfort to the heart.”
The glorious gospel of the grace of God does not come to a guilty sinner and tell him to do anything at all for his salvation. It points to it as all done, all accomplished in Christ. It is not, do this and live. Mind you, the grace that saves will always sanctify. A sinner saved by grace will be very tender, very careful, very concerned as to how he lives, what he does, what he does not do, how he behaves. But the whole teaching of Scripture is that salvation from first to last is of grace, God’s free, unmerited favour to wretched, ruined, hell-deserving sinners. It began in eternity past in the covenant when in grace God chose a people. It continues when in grace God sent His dear Son. It is revealed: “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” Grace revealed in His finished work, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, His glorification in heaven. Grace only when a sinner is called, savingly converted. Grace only in his salvation from first to last; grace and grace alone in preparing heaven for him. “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you … let him be accursed.” That is God’s word, not mine. The Roman gospel is another gospel and it has blinded millions and held them in darkness and bondage and sent them to the grave without hope.
Of course, beloved friends, this was the point of the glorious Reformation. God raised up Martin Luther. The whole of Europe seemed to be in this darkness and bondage, this system of salvation only through the various things that man could do, God doing part, the sinner doing part. You remember Luther, under the depths of his conviction and groaning under his sins, tried to do everything that was prescribed by the Roman church. If ever any man attempted it, if ever any man tried it, it was Luther, but he was left in black despair, until like a ray of light the gospel was revealed: “The just shall live by faith” – not what man has done, not what Luther needs to do, not what Luther can do – what God in Christ has done. And his heart was filled “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” And the Lord used him to write, to preach, to protest so that really in a hundred years almost the whole of Europe was turned upside down. And now sadly, solemnly there is a turning back, and those who belong to churches which were founded on those sacred truths for which Luther contended and for which he suffered and for which our martyrs were burned, they now fraternise with this apostate church. So first of all, the gospel – one way and only one way of salvation – by grace, not in any way through man’s merit. “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you … let him be accursed.”
2. Now the second point: the gospel teaches that there is only one Mediator – Christ, not Mary. Now every religion, true or false, realises there must be a mediator, even those heathen religions, even the religion professed by cannibals. They all seem to realise there must be a mediator, that God is great and holy and man is weak and helpless and sinful, and man cannot go immediately to God, cannot go directly to God. There must be someone standing between who can represent man to God and God to man. There must be a mediator. Every religion, true or false, believes there must be a mediator. And the gospel declares, “There is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” Now there is no other. God in the riches of His grace has appointed a Mediator in His dear Son, and there is no other. There is no other way to God. There is no other way of access. There is no other way of approach. There is no other way of acceptance. There is no other way of worship. One God, holy, righteous, and one Mediator most graciously appointed “between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”
The church of Rome has set up Mary as a mediator. (I understand the correct word, being a woman, is a mediatrix.) If a sinner’s hope is in Mary, then it is a vain hope. If a sinner prays to Mary, then that prayer can never be answered. It seems today more than ever before that Mary is being honoured, not only equal with Christ, almost above Christ; that sinners are taught to pray to Mary so that Mary might incline the heart of her Son towards them. So in the rosary – you know the rosary that the Roman Catholic carries and the beads are counted in prayer – there are many more prayers to Mary as the mediator than there are to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Of course, in the last hundred and fifty or so years the church of Rome has declared two things: that Mary was born immaculate, without sin, free from original sin; secondly that Mary, when she died, bodily rose from the dead and is now risen, exalted, glorified at God’s right hand in heaven. These two things to bolster up Mary as the mediator between man and God. Let us be clear, she was a godly woman. There never was a more godly woman than Mary. Never speak disrespectfully of Mary. Didn’t the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ love her, honour her! But she is not a saviour; she is not a mediator; sinners cannot pray to her; sinners cannot approach a holy God through her. There is one Mediator, and this is the glorious truth the gospel makes known to which the Roman church has blinded its adherents, that there is a glorious Mediator, the God-Man standing between a holy God and a guilty sinner. O the hundreds who have been blessed by that wonderful word of John Newton:
“But since my Saviour stands between, In garments dyed in blood, ‘Tis He, instead of me, is seen, When I approach to God.”
Beloved friends, we have a glorious gospel centring in the Person and work of the one Mediator, the Lord Jesus. So the gospel teaches that there is one Mediator and only one Mediator – Christ, not Mary. “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you let him be accursed.”
3.Now the third thing: the gospel teaches that there is one foundation on which the church is built – Christ, not Peter. And it is a blessed foundation, isn’t it? “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation.” That is Christ, not Peter. What could be clearer than this: “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ”? Now on one occasion the Lord Jesus said to Peter, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Of course, that word has been dreadfully perverted. Now “Peter” and the original Greek name for “the rock” are almost one and the same. But you remember what was happening at Caesarea Philippi. Peter had made that noble confession of faith in the glorious Person of Jesus the Son of God. “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? … But whom say ye that I am?” And the glorious confession of Peter, that Christ is the Son of God. “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter,” which in a way means a stone or a rock. But “upon this rock” – Peter’s noble confession – “upon this rock” – the Rock Christ Jesus – “upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Now the church of Rome teaches that the church is built on Peter as the foundation, and there is all this talk about Peter being the first pope. Peter was never any pope. If anything, it seems that perhaps James took the pre-eminence over Peter in those early days in the Acts of the Apostles. But some dispute whether Peter was ever the Bishop of Rome, or whether Peter even visited Rome, or whether Peter was ever buried in this wonderful tomb of Peter in Rome. But leaving all that. If Peter did visit Rome, if he is buried in Rome, if he was the first Bishop of Rome, the church of the living God is not built on Peter. Peter was a godly man, a sinner saved by grace, but he made a lot of mistakes, didn’t he? He was a fallible man. Three times he denied his Lord with oaths and curses. The gospel teaches a better foundation on which the church of God is built than Simon Peter.
Wouldn’t Peter have been distressed if he had known that in later days people were saying that he was the foundation of the church! Doesn’t he write so beautifully in his own first Epistle, the second chapter: “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious” – the true foundation! “Unto you therefore which believe He is precious,” as the foundation. But Christ is not only the foundation of the whole church of God, but the foundation of every guilty sinner’s hope. And beloved friends, it is a good foundation when you feel your emptiness, your weakness, your need, your sin, as a poor, venturing sinner to rest your everlasting all on Jesus. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Now that is the religion that takes a guilty sinner to heaven. O but the awful blasphemy of a mere man, though a godly man, being the church’s one foundation! No, the gospel teaches one foundation, only one foundation – Christ, not Peter. “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you … let him be accursed.”
4. Now then the fourth thing: the gospel teaches there is only One who can forgive sin – and that is the Lord, not a human priest. “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” There are some glorious truths taught in the gospel of the grace of God concerning forgiveness, that a poor, guilty sinner is permitted to go to the great God of heaven and humbly say, “I am sorry,” and to beg for forgiveness for Jesus’ sake through His precious blood, and God not angry, not displeased. “Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity?” O what an error, that any human priest can have power to forgive sin! This exalts the Roman priesthood, if a priest can forgive your sin, if you go to that priest in confession and he can forgive your sin. “Who can forgive sins but God only?” Or as Jesus said to the poor man, “That ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.”
A minister is not a priest. I am not a priest. A Church of England minister is not a priest. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not a priest. A Roman Catholic minister is not a priest. The pope is not a priest. Scripture is very clear. In one sense it teaches that every single believer is a priest, the universal priesthood of all believers. But the sacrifice they bring is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. So if I am a true believer, in that sense I am a priest, but there are many of you in chapel this morning and you are just as much a priest as I am. But then there is only one great and glorious High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, having offered the one sacrifice, and now risen, exalted, glorified in heaven. A wonderful truth, the everlasting priesthood of the Son of God! He has power to forgive sin, and blessed be His name, He has promised to forgive the sin of every poor, venturing, humble, confessing sinner and to wipe out that sin in His precious blood.
There was an old Irish woman some years ago who was in hospital dying, and she was completely disillusioned with the claims of the Roman Catholic Irish priesthood. This priest kept saying continually to her, “Confess your sins to me. You have to confess your sins to me. Only I can forgive your sins.” She said, “Sir, do you mind showing me your hands?” The priest said, “What are you talking about, woman?” She said, “Sir, show me your hands.” Well, he did. She said, “The only One who can forgive my sins has nail prints in His hands.” Now that is it! There is only One who can forgive sin and that is the Lord Himself, not any human so-called priest.
“Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you … let him be accursed.”
5. Now let me mention a fifth and last thing, though there are many, many things I might have spoken of this morning. The fifth and last point: the gospel teaches only one sacrifice for sin – Calvary, not the mass. Now let me emphasise, beloved friends, these are the vital points. There is salvation, there is heaven in them, and for those who deny them and teach another gospel, there is no salvation and no heaven; there is the curse of God upon it. These are vital things. At Calvary the dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in His sin-atoning sufferings and precious blood and death offered the one sacrifice for sin and by that “one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” It was a complete work, a perfect work. Nothing can ever be added to it; nothing can ever be taken from it. He cried, “It is finished,” and all the sins of all His people in all ages were for ever put away.
Now you know what the Roman Catholic mass is. Some people in Protestant churches speak of the Lord’s Supper; we do. Some speak of the communion service; sometimes we do. Some call it the eucharist – a strange word, but there is really nothing wrong in it. It means just a thanksgiving. Some call it the breaking of bread. The Roman Catholics call it the mass. And their belief is the most appalling error, that in the consecration service the bread is literally changed into the body of the Lord Jesus and the wine is literally changed into the blood of the Lord Jesus. It is appalling blasphemy. So the priest week by week sacrifices the Son of God afresh, as he believes, and puts Him to an open shame. It is no wonder that Almighty God has pronounced the curse: “Let him be accursed.” But the dreadful thing is that our leaders, not only political but also religious, can flock after such appalling errors and blasphemies as these. O there is only one sacrifice, blessed sacrifice, the sacrifice of the cross where the dear Lord Jesus sacrificed Himself that poor sinners washed in His blood might be saved with an everlasting salvation.
I am trying to speak to you positively this morning, not only to denounce the dreadful errors in the church of Rome which have been so eulogised this week, but more than that, to emphasise the glorious gospel of the grace of God. “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel … let him be accursed.” There is something lies behind and under all this. We have only one standard concerning what is the gospel and what is not, what is right and what is wrong, what is permitted and what is not permitted, and that is God’s holy, infallible Word. Now the Roman Catholics have introduced two things. One is tradition. The tradition of the church of Rome is given equal weight with holy Scripture. So even if a thing is wrong, if it has been held for many years, because it is a tradition it is accounted to have the same authority as Scripture. But then secondly, the Roman Catholic church believes that the pope is infallible when he is speaking ex cathedra, that is, when he is speaking as the pope. So a hundred and fifty years ago the pope could declare that Mary was born without sin. There is not a shred of evidence for this in Scripture. Then more recently the pope declared that Mary is risen from the dead, and bodily exalted in heaven. There is not a shred of evidence for this in Scripture. Let us be clear, the only standard we have is the holy Word of God, what it teaches, what it does not teach, not tradition and certainly not the pronouncements of a supposed infallible pope.
Well, beloved friends, I could say many, many things. The outward face of the Roman Catholic church in recent years has changed. It seems to be more friendly. It seems to be more benevolent. But the motto, the watchword of the Roman Catholic church: semper idem, always the same. There has been no change, not the slightest change, not the smallest change in any doctrine that the church of Rome holds. You know what the old godly divines used to say: “No peace with Rome till Rome makes peace with God.”
“Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel let him be accursed.” Now in closing, in all these things may we have a right spirit, may we have a sympathetic spirit to those who are held in darkness. May we not think we are better. May we not think we are superior. May we always fall under that word: “Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” To bring it right home, we have a glorious gospel, but if you and I do not know it in power and in love in salvation in our own souls, we are no better than a poor, blind, benighted Romanist. Now beloved friends, lay these things to your heart.
“Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
[This sermon was printed in the Gospel Standard, May, 2005 and it printed here by kind permission of the writer and editor of the magazine. It is available free of charge as a small booklet from Mrs. Alison A. Kingham, 11 Sutherland Place, Luton, LU1 3SY.]
Scandal January 15, 2022
It was my privilege to grow up in a home with Christian parents. There were things I knew before I truly believed them. And so it was that I sat in the second year of my middle school, probably about nine years old, listening to my teacher tell a joke about hell as part of […]
Unexpected Joys: A Trip to a Banner Ministers’ Conference January 1, 2022
In the video below, join a pastor, a ruling elder, an intern, and a seminary student as they travel from Greenville, SC to a Banner Ministers’ Conference in Elizabethtown, PA. https://youtu.be/GGbad-PkSDo The US Ministers’ Conference is an annual event in Elizabethtown, PA, where men gather from a variety of ministerial vocations to worship God and […]