Are Roman Catholics still under the Law and therefore lost?

by Matt Slick

To be under the Law means that a person is subject to the Law and its judgments.  Roman Catholicism teaches that its members are obligated to keep the Law in order to be saved.  Therefore, the Roman Catholic Church keeps its members "under the Law."  Let's take a look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says.

  • "The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation. In recalling the prescriptions of the natural law, the Magisterium of the Church exercises an essential part of its prophetic office of proclaiming to men what they truly are and reminding them of what they should be before God," (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2036)
  • "The Ten Commandments belong to God's revelation. At the same time they teach us the true humanity of man. They bring to light the essential duties, and therefore, indirectly, the fundamental rights inherent in the nature of the human person. The Decalogue contains a privileged expression of the natural law: From the beginning, God had implanted in the heart of man the precepts of the natural law. Then he was content to remind him of them. This was the Decalogue," (CCC 2070).
  • "The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them;28 the Second Vatican Council confirms: "The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments," (CCC 2068).

Obviously, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that its members must keep the Law (10 Commandments) to be saved.  Therefore, Catholics are under the Law because they are obligated to keep the Law in order to be saved (CCC 2036, 2068). 

However, many Catholics say they are not saved by keeping the Law alone.  They say that it is by faith combined with keeping the Law, which they accomplish with the grace of God.  But those in the Bible who sought to be justified before God by keeping the Law (along with their faith) were condemned (Luke 18:9-14; Gal. 3:1-3; 5:1-5).  Since they are not justified by faith alone, they are still under the Law. 

Still other Catholics say that they are not under Old Testament Law.  Instead, they are under the New Covenant and the Law of Love spoken by Jesus when he said to love God and love your neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40).  Setting aside for a moment the fact that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says keeping the Ten Commandments (i.e., O.T. Law) is necessary for salvation (CCC 2036)--loving God and loving your neighbor is Old Testament Law:

  • "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:5).
  • "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18).

So, no matter how Roman Catholics respond, they are still under the Law.  That is, they are to keep the Law (along with their faith in God) in order to be saved.  However, the Bible speaks to the contrary.

Christ is the end of the Law

"Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks thus, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” 8 But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart'—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching." (Rom. 10:1-8).

Did you catch what Paul said in verse 4?  "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."  That is important because those who are in Christ are not under the Law.  Real Christians are not under the Law.  They don't have to keep it to be saved because they have died to the Law.  Consider the following . . .

  • "knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin;" (Rom. 6:6).
  • "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him," (Rom. 6:8).
  • "Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God." (Rom. 7:4).
  • "But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter." (Rom. 7:6).

Real Christians have died to the Law

Real Christians have died to the Law.  Those who are not Christians, who are not saved, are still under the Law because they have not died to the Law.  The Law is dead to Christians because they have died with Christ (Romans 7:4).  Therefore, Christians are not under the Law and don't have to keep it to be saved or maintain their salvation.  Instead, Christians (try to) keep the Law because they are saved and because they love God.  The Law has no power over Christians--it cannot save them, keep them, or cause them to be lost by not keeping it--because they have died to it, and it is dead to them.  This is why Paul says . . .

  • "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (Rom. 3:28). (apart from loving God, Deut. 6:5 and loving your neighbor, Lev. 19:18).
  • "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness," (Rom. 4:5).

Only those who have not died with Christ, who are not saved, who are not Christians, are still under the Law and must keep the Law (along with faith in God) to be saved.  Those who are saved are saved without the Law because they have died to it.  Again . . .

  • "But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter." (Rom. 7:6).
  • "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (Rom. 3:28).
  • "Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God." (Rom. 7:4).

Since the Roman Catholic Church requires Law keeping to be saved, it keeps its members under the Law--not under grace.  They are not saved because they have not died to the Law through faith in Christ.

Because they are still under the Law, they are in trouble.  Paul has much to say about this . . .

  • "all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law." (Rom. 2:12).
  • "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." (Rom. 3:19-20).
  • "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.'" (Gal. 3:10).

Obviously, those who are under the Law are cursed because they cannot keep the Law.  If Catholics could, they would never need to go to confession.  But since they do, they show that they are not keeping the Law and are under a curse (Gal. 3:10) because they are failing to keep it. 

What is the solution?

The solution is that the Roman Catholic must set aside his own works, his own law keeping, his own efforts and completely trust in Christ alone for his salvation.  To be in Christ means that a person has died with Christ and therefore died to the Law.  He cannot be obligated to keep it in order to be saved.  He cannot add any works to salvation because if he tried, He'd be under the Law.  The truth is that we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1)--not by faith and works. 

Trust in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sins.  If you don't, then you are still under the Law and obligated to keep all of it to be saved (Gal. 3:10).

 

 

 

 
 
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