|The tragedy of Trent
How can we know, even without reading it, that the new shorter “question and answer” version of the Roman Catholic Catechism is filled with error? Because it is based on the teachings of the Council of Trent and, as you will read below, that Council was the death knell for the true Gospel in the Roman Catholic Church. The bishops at Trent chose to teach and preach a false gospel when they rejected the biblical truth that we are justified through faith or trust alone in Christ and the work he has done for us.
Won’t that be something quite loud; the day the great St. Peter Basilica in Rome comes crashing to the ground? There’s not a doubt in my mind that that day will come. The grand centerpiece of all Rome will indeed come crashing to the ground absolutely crushed under the weight of these words from our Savior, Jesus, the Christ: “He who believes in me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47) And I don’t want you standing beneath that “structure” when it happens!
Choosing their own way
Why will those words from the Son of God, crush the Basilica and all that it stands for? Because those words represent the very core of the Gospel that the Church of Rome has, so very obviously and so very sadly—lost. And, despite the cries of traditionalist Catholics, the ones who long to return to the Latin Mass, the loss of the true Gospel occurred well before the time of the introduction of the new Mass. The Latin Mass, no less than the new Mass, represents hundreds of years of a church that has fallen into error. It is an error so dire that the faithful are, for all practical purposes, taught that they simply cannot believe that Christ indeed meant what he said, when he said: “He who believes in me has everlasting life.” Instead, a Christian’s gift to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior constitutes only a “portion” of the equation for salvation, according to the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
The last real chance the leaders of the Church of Rome really had to repent of their many errors was at the Council of Trent, way back in the 1500s. It was then that the church could have reformed and dealt with those errors in a way that may have salvaged it for the future. Instead, those in power chose the teachings of the church’s “fathers” and their own teachings above the word of God. They launched a counter-offensive that would ensure that their errors would be so irreformable or unchangeable that they would remain central required-for-salvation teachings of the Roman Catholic Church to this very day. Those who do not believe and assent to all such teachings are—anathema—condemned to hell, unless they repent and believe them, so “teach” the leaders of the same “church.”
At the heart of Rome’s loss of the Gospel was its teaching on justification. Justification simply means being “made right” in the eyes of God. That’s what makes Christianity more than a religion. Religion is often defined as “man making himself right with his god,” but that’s not Christianity. Instead, Christianity is God making man right with him, through the death of his only Son! Therefore, strictly speaking, Christianity is not a religion—and if we dare call it that—it is certainly unlike any other religion. But that’s not quite the way the bishops gathered at Trent saw it.
Rejecting salvation by rejecting faith alone in Christ
At Trent, the bishops taught that this justification or being “made right” with God was not a simple matter of having faith in Christ and the work he had done for us. Instead, they decided that being “made right” with God was not soley a matter of God giving someone the gift of faith. It was not enough that God had given the sinner the faith to put his trust in Christ. The bishops wanted a role for man to play, so they worded their decision on the matter this way:
“If anyone says that the faith which justifies is nothing else but trust in the divine mercy (of God), which pardons sins because of Christ; or that it is that trust alone (faith alone) by which we are justified; let him be anathema (accursed, condemned to hell—unless he or she repent and follow Trent’s teaching.).” (Canon 12 on Justification, Council of Trent)
The above required-for-salvation teaching of the Roman Catholic Church tells us that it is not trust or confidence alone in the divine mercy of God which justifies or “makes us right” with God. No matter that we believe that our sins have been pardoned because we believe Christ died for us, this does not make us right or justify us in the eyes of God, said the bishops. No matter that only God can give us the gift of faith to believe in his only Son and what his Son did for us. No, according to the bishops and popes of Trent, something else, something other or in-addition-to faith is required.
“If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.” (Canon 9 on Justification, Council of Trent)
Requiring our cooperation be added to the gift of faith
This canon explains that we must be “prepared and disposed by the action of our own will” to “cooperate” (with God) in order to “obtain” the grace of justification, the grace to be made right with God. And Canon 11 on Justification tells us that we cannot believe that our justification is simply a matter of the good will of God toward us! Wow! God’s good will toward us is not enough! But that’s exactly what grace is—it is God’s good will or favor toward us—undeserved favor for sure—but favor that we rejoice in because we know that it is the source of our faith. God alone, in his mercy and love for us, gives us the gift of faith to believe in his only Son and what he did for us! But that’s not enough, according to the “teachers” at Trent; our so-called “freewill” is just as important a component in our salvation as is God’s good will! I know, that sounds rather unbelievable but that’s exactly what Trent teaches:
“If anyone says that man’s free will moved and aroused by God, by assenting to God’s call and action, in no way cooperates toward disposing and preparing itself to obtain the grace of justification, that it cannot refuse its assent if it wishes, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive, let him be anathema.” (Canon 4 on Justification, Council of Trent)
This canon tells us that it is very important to our salvation that we realize it is only by the cooperation of our own freewill that God arouses us to the action necessary to be made right in his eyes. It emphasizes that our freewill is not like an “inanimate” object, because our freewill can also refuse to cooperate and assent to our own justification. In other words, without the agreement of our will, which is supposedly free to refuse or accept, God cannot save us. My, oh my! That freewill of ours is a powerful thing indeed, if we are to believe the teachers at Trent. Without our “freewill” agreement, it seems our sovereign and all-powerful God could not save us, even if he wanted to!
Baloney. Where in all of the Old and the New Testaments of God’s word, does it say anything about our freewill? The only time such a freewill existed was when Adam and Eve exercised it in choosing sin and death over life. Now, all of us are under the death sentence! Unlike Adam and Eve, we are all born in sin and sin does not allow for freedom of will! As St. Paul tells us, “we are by nature children of (God’s) wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3) That is why we are all in desperate need of rescue, in desperate need of salvation, of a true savior. By natural birth we are children destined for hell, but by the spiritual rebirth that only God can give us through faith in his Son, we are called by Christ himself “elect” that is “chosen.” (Matthew 24:22, 24)
In fact, far from any sort of freewill on our part having the final say or any say in whether we are “made right” with God or not, Christ himself tells us that NO ONE can come to him, unless the Father “draw us” to him. Our strong “freewill” is nowhere to be found in the Bible, but God’s work to choose us for himself is everywhere:
John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
John 6:64 No one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by my Father.
John 15:16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…
Luke 10:22 ...no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Ephesians 1:4-6 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves
John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
Ephesians 1:11 In him, we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.
Acts 13:48 All who were destined for eternal life came to believe.
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 17:2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
As anyone can tell from these verses in the Scriptures, there is no such thing as our “freewills” doing any “choosing” of Christ. He plainly chooses us and in fact, the Bible tells us that those who come to believe in him were chosen, from before the creation of the world, (Ephesians 1:4) to come to him. He deserves all the credit for our justification. Christ alone chooses us and makes us “right” with God. He alone lived the perfect life that we could not live and he alone made the perfect sacrifice of himself to God that we could not give! It was a complete sacrifice, a complete once-for-all-times atonement for the sins of all those who would come to believe in him as Lord and Savior, as God in the flesh!
He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness by whose stripes you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
He took all our sins and all the punishment that is due them to the cross. Christ’s work was a “finished” work on our behalf and it accomplishes exactly what the all-sovereign God had intended—not the “possibility” of our salvation but the certainty of the salvation of all who believe in him. Christ, God in the flesh, has single-handedly won for us eternal life!
That’s why Christ is no liar when he tells us: “He who believes in me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47) Our God-in-the-flesh does not lie to us when he tells us: “Truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)
Sadly, this great truth of Christ found in the biblical Gospel was lost on the so-called “fathers” of Trent. Oh yes, they had heard the supposed “Protestant” arguments against their freewill, most should have known that these were not “protestant” but fully catholic or universal Christian arguments, grounded in the scripture that the bishops too claimed to believe was the “word of God.” But instead, the bishops chose to frame them as “Protestant nonsense and novelty” from the reformers of their day. And although they knew there was a scriptural basis for such arguments, they decided against the truth. In fact, they came up with the following Canon to try to silence those reformers:
“If anyone says that, after the sin of Adam, man’s free will was lost and destroyed, or that it is a thing only in name, indeed a name without a reality, a fiction introduced into the Church by Satan, let him be anathema.” (Canon 5 on Justification, Council of Trent)
So the teachers of Trent tell us that man has a freewill, not on the basis of any scripture but simply because they say so! If we refuse to believe such a myth, they tell us we are condemned to hell! They directly contradict God’s word and tell us that we are condemned to hell if we don’t believe their own word! What pride! What blasphemy!
Rejecting God’s sovereignty is rejecting God
But what is worse than even the pride of the blasphemy that this zeal for our freewill involves is what it means. And what it means is no less than the rejection of God’s absolute sovereignty in and over our lives. It is a rejection of God’s total control over all he created because it seeks to substitute a “little” of our own ability to “make decisions for ourselves” instead of calling us to trust fully in Christ and what he has done for us—namely—secured the salvation of all who believe in him as Son of God, God in the flesh! It is the rejection of the true God they claim to worship.
We are lead by our sinful natures to want to be able to say: “I am a Christian because that’s what I decided by my own freewill!” We seek to add ourselves to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We seek to be part of the Good News instead of those who “merely” reap the wonderful benefit of everlasting life with God because of Christ and what he alone did for us. We say: “Salvation is not enough! We must know that we played a role in our salvation!” This is the same thing as “rejecting” the Good News of our salvation, it is a rejection of the biblical Gospel with a preference for our “own version.” It is a rejection of the completed work of Christ for us on the cross and thus it is a rejection of Christ himself! And that is the sorry state that the Roman Catholic Church finds itself in today.
Refusing to give Christ full credit
By embracing our supposed freewill as having even the smallest role in our salvation, we fail to give Christ the full credit for our salvation. The rejection of the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ is both the root and the reason Roman Catholicism remains in the dark to this very day and it is the same reason why many Protestant denominations also hear weekly sermons without ever hearing the Gospel preached. Several protestant churches no longer know the biblical Gospel. The leaders of these churches continue to exalt man’s so-called freewill to the point that man cannot be “justified” or made right by God unless man’s own will cooperates, unless man can merit some of his salvation by saying he or she “chose” Christ or he or she helped earned their salvation through their good works. They tell you that they do not believe in “works righteousness or works for righteousness unto salvation” but they also tell us that we can lose our salvation. Their sinful pride would allow them to change Christ’s word and have him say something like: “all I really need to save you is your freewill cooperation—c’mon guys give me a break, so I can get you to heaven.” But, thanks be to God, Christ does not need our cooperation to save us!
St. Paul was not “prepared and disposed” by his freewill to cooperate
St. Paul was not at all cooperating with Christ nor did he have any intention to do so when he was headed toward Damascus (Acts, Chapter 9) to kill and imprison Christians and watch them die even as he watched as they killed (by stoning) the deacon Stephen. (Acts 8:1)
In fact, Christ literally knocked Paul off his horse and blinded him for three days as he told Paul of his plans to send him to the Gentiles for their salvation. Christ even sent someone to baptize Paul and give him further instructions. (Acts 9:17-18) And while Christ may convert the rest of us in less dramatic fashion, we play no more of a role in our own conversion than did Paul.
It is Christ and Christ alone who gives us the gift of faith and indwells us with his Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit which brings us to acknowledge and confess our sins to God. It is Christ and him alone who covers us with his own righteousness. His own righteousness is what makes us right with God—not anything we did nor anything we will do for him. The Bible makes it clear Christ’s own righteousness is the only reason we will enter the gates of heaven when we die (several supporting Bible verses to follow soon).
Clothed in Christ’s own righteousness
Suddenly, we can see why the man who showed up at the wedding feast without the proper “wedding clothes” was cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew, Chapter 22). As Jesus plainly tells us in that parable that “many are invited but few are chosen.” His story invites us to understand the depths of Christ’s love for us that he has chosen us and clothed us in the wedding garment of salvation—his own righteousness.
Yet, as you might imagine, the teachers at Trent were supposedly blind to all of this. They fought against Christ’s ability to justify us before God by crediting his own righteousness to those sinners he has chosen to believe in him. The bishops and popes put it this way:
“If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.” (Canon 11 on Justification, Council of Trent)
Here the astute bishops tell us first, that we cannot believe that we are only made right with God because we have been given the gift of faith and know that Christ imputes or credits his own righteousness to us who believe in him. Yet, this teaching, like many others, totally contradicts God’s word, which clearly explains the righteousness of Christ that is given to true believers:
Isaiah 54:17 And their righteousness is from me, says the Lord.
Philippians 3:9 …and being found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
Romans 4:22-25 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him (Abraham) alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised for our justification.
Hebrews 10:14..because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Romans 4:7-8 Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.
Acts 10:43 Every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Jeremiah 23:6 This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.
Romans 3:21-22,24 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. ... they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 53:11 ...by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
Romans 9:30 …the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith.
Romans 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:17 For if, by the trespass of the one man (Adam), death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)
Isaiah 61:10 For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.
Romans 5:9 Since we have now been justified through his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!
Hebrews 10:14 ...because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
So now that you’ve read some of the many verses of biblical evidence, you tell me. Is there any question that Christ credits his own righteousness to the believer? It’s undeniable, isn’t it? Please, look at these verses on your own and read them in their context. We have no “intrinsic” righteousness of our own; it is Christ’s righteousness that gets us to heaven.
In the same Canon 11 from the Council of Trent, the bishops say we cannot believe that our righteousness comes from Christ or that he has brought it about by the remission of our sins, especially as long as we “exclude the grace and charity which is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” By the word “charity” they mean “good works,” given to us by the Holy Spirit. They tell us that our justification or being made right with God is advanced by our good works or works of charity—love.
Surely none of us would argue that good works are indeed a “sign” that Christ has chosen us for salvation but to give that “sign” equal or any status whatsoever with Christ for our being made right with God is another matter entirely. Yet, that is exactly what the bishops at Trent are getting at through this Canon and they make themselves absolutely clear by adding this little bit to the end of that same canon (11): “or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.”
We covered this last sentence, found in Canon 11 earlier, but it is worth re-mention. The fact is, that we do believe that our justification is indeed “only” by the good will of God toward us. To believe anything else would be to credit some of our own works for our justification and ultimate salvation. It would be the same as giving Christ less than full credit for our salvation. But Christ himself explicitly told us this is not the way it works, when it comes to our own works:
John 6:28-29 Then, they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith and this is not from you, it is the gift of God. It is not from works, so no one may boast.
Romans 11:5-6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Luke 17:10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do you should say, we are but unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.
Reward in heaven
So, despite the best wishes of the bishops and popes of Trent, our works have no bearing on our salvation. Then why do we bother? Why bother doing good? Well, let me ask you this: Are we not at all thankful, even grateful, that Christ has won for us everlasting life with him? If we are grateful that we won’t be spending eternity in hell, then wouldn’t we desire to bring glory to him in any small way we could here on earth? Of course we would and should! And he is so gracious to us who he has given the gift to believe, that he has even promised to reward us for glorifying him and following his commands through our good works and enduring persecution: Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. (Luke 6:23)
The reward for our good works is not our justification nor will it be heaven—both of which are gifts. Instead Christ simply tells us our reward will be great in heaven. In other words, heaven is not the reward but the place where the reward for our good works will be given us. What a gracious God we worship. He gives us the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), He gives us good works through his Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:10) , He gives us heaven (Romans 6:23) and then rewards us when we get there—and these are all his gifts, his wonderful gifts—bought for us through the blood of his only Son!
The desperate attempt by the teachers at Trent to link our good works with the justification that only Christ can give was bad enough but they really showed how little they truly believed the biblical Gospel when they penned Canon 7 on Justification: “If anyone says that all works done before justification, in whatever manner they may be done, are truly sins, or merit the hatred of God; that the more earnestly one strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins, let him be anathema.”
Yes, this tells us that the bishops of Trent really, truly believed that any good work we do—even before we are “made right” or justified before God through faith in Christ—that those works are somehow pleasing to God! But St. Paul, the most orthodox and ardent of the Pharisees of his day, had quite a different answer for the bishops: “But what things were gain for me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:..” Paul goes onto say he counts whatever he had before he knew Christ as “dung” that he may win Christ. “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Philippians 3:7-9)
Clearly, Paul is telling us that all his good works as a major Pharisee of his day, he counts as “manure” as worthless stuff when it comes to the great gift he has been given of faith in Christ through the Gospel. So the answer to the bishops is clear: no work that we do in anyway counts toward our being made right or justified before God! The prophet Isaiah also echoes this truth of God’s word by proclaiming “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”…(Isaiah 64:5) As for the good works performed before our justification, Paul addressed that as well: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:5-6)
In these days, the so-called "apologists" of the Roman Catholic Church like very much to tell us that they very much believe they are saved by "grace alone" but not by "faith alone." (It must be faith plus works!) But the old Pharisee Paul saw this one coming, and speaking by the Holy Spirit, he taught us that there is no grace when we give any, even the slightest bit, of merit to our works. He said so about his fellow Jews, and it applies very much to Roman Catholicism: "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." (Romans 11:6)
But the modern day Roman apologists counter yet again and say: "Paul was talking about the law as it related to the ritually-required works that the Pharisees taught and not the works or law of the Ten Commandments that we are under today." But again, Paul saw them coming and made it clear he was talking about the Ten Commandments when he spoke of the law and sin. "For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet.""(Romans 7:7)
Paul's whole point was to show that the Ten Commandments were there specifically to show us that we sin. "...in order that sin might be recognized as sin." (Romans 7:13)
And so it is not by keeping the commandments that we enter heaven but by believing in Christ and his work for us. "For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering." (Romans 8:3)
The false gospel
The point is that is it not about our works but by the work of Christ alone that we are justified or “made right” in the eyes of God. He covers all who believe in him in his righteousness, so we have no need of the myth of Purgatory and all the other erroneous teachings that branch out from this core of error that has resulted in the false gospel of Roman Catholicism.
In short, the Council of Trent did no more for the Roman Catholic Church than to solidify a vicious lie! And all who taught these errors both before and since the council of Trent, will suffer the same eternal punishment that Paul warned them about, unless there is repentance:
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 (condemned to hell). (Galatians 1:9)
This is the condemnation to hell that should concern the false preachers both Catholic and Protestant alike. If they are not preaching the true Gospel they are leading people astray and there is an eternal price to pay for such.
And so, the bottom-line for the Council of Trent: The bishops gathered there were not led by the Holy Spirit. They did what they did not to save souls, but sadly, to save a system. In that much at least, they succeeded gloriously. May God have mercy.
That is why I must echo this end time message from the “voice from heaven:” Come out of her my people so that you will not share in her sins! (Revelation 18:4)
When Christ comes again, don’t be caught under St. Peter Basilica or any other Roman Catholic or Protestant church that preaches a false gospel. If you cannot find a “true” church, the alternative is to worship with your family or worship alone until you can find a church family that worships in spirit and in truth. Whatever you do, don’t stop worshiping, don’t stop seeking to worship with a community of true believers, don’t stop praying! This website will provide some alternatives for this type of worship (click here for Gospel Mass); including ways you can receive communion at home and teach your children a catechism that is truly catholic or universal (offering the true Gospel!) for Christians. (Both coming soon!) May God bless you and strengthen you in your trials! –Bro. Jim