Does the Roman Catholic Church teach a false gospel?

by Matt Slick

CARM maintains that the Roman Catholic Church teaches a false gospel, and therefore, it is a false church. In order to support my case, I will present what the Bible says is necessary for the forgiveness of our sins. I will then display what the Roman Catholic Church says. You will see a stark contrast between the two.

First of all, is what saves us from our sins.  It is as follows.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."

The Roman Catholics will affirm the Scriptures. At this point, they might say that they believe the gospel. But, Biblical revelation doesn't stop at this point. There are other things revealed in the New Testament about how our sins are forgiven. Let's take a look at the Scriptures.

  • Rom. 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
  • Romans 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
  • Gal. 2:16, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”
  • Gal. 5:4, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”
  • Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”

The gospel is the death burial and resurrection of Christ. This needs to be preached. It was Jesus who fulfilled the Law perfectly (1 Pet. 2:22) and bore our sin in his body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). He did everything necessary for us to receive forgiveness of sins by fulfilling the Law and shedding His blood on the cross. Therefore we are justified by faith alone (Rom. 3:28; 4:5). Also, Paul, the apostle, teaches us that anyone who seeks to be justified by the Law has fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4). The context of his statement was dealing with circumcision (Gal. 5:1-3). In other words, those who are seeking to be justified by doing one thing, circumcision, could not be saved because they were adding their works to Christ's work. This is why Paul says in Galatians 3:10, "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." Likewise, James says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all," (James 2:10).

What does the Catholic Church teach about forgiveness of sins?

The following list of quotes is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the CCC. The CCC is an official Catholic document. I have underlined those parts of the quotes and then summarized what the Roman Catholic Church says is necessary for salvation.

  • " that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2068).
  • “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," (CCC 2036).
  • The Decalogue [Ten Commandments] contains a privileged expression of the natural law..." (CCC 2070).
  • “The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation,” (CCC 1257).
  • “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation,” (CCC 846).
  • “This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn,” (CCC 980).
  • “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation, (CCC 1129).
  • Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation,” (CCC 1816).
  • Detachment from riches is necessary for entering the Kingdom of heaven,” (CCC 2556).

As you can see, according to Catholicism, there a lot of things you must do to be forgiven of your sins. In summary, that which is necessary for salvation includes the church (CCC 846), baptism (CCC 1257), penance (CCC 980), sacraments (CCC 1129), service and witness to the faith (CCC 1816), keeping the ten commandments (CCC 2036 and 2070), and detachment from riches (CCC 2556).


The Roman Catholic Church adds works to salvation. It denies that we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone. It adds sacraments (CCC 1129), baptism (CCC 1257), penance (CCC 980), and the works of the Law (commandments) as necessary for salvation (CCC 2068, 2036, 2070). The Bible teaches that keeping the commandments is not necessary for salvation (Romans 3:28, 4:5, Gal. 2:16, 21) and is to be avoided (Gal. 5:1-5). Otherwise, what Paul says in Romans 4:5 wouldn't be true, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

The Roman Catholic Church preaches a false gospel.





About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.