How Shall They Believe?
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: James McCarthy; ©2000|
|Many Catholics would gladly receive the saving message of salvation, if only someone would explain it to them. Maybe God would use you. Jim McCarthy explains further about the urgent need of Catholics in this article.|
How Shall They Believe?
Many Catholics would gladly receive the saving message of salvation, if only they heard it preached in their churches. An opportunity that Jean-Pierre, a Christian preacher living near Quebec City, had some 30 years ago illustrates this point. At the time he and his wife, a former Catholic, were living in the town where she had been raised. Jean-Pierre had come to know the parish priest and they often discussed the Scriptures. Despite their differing views, they became friends. Jean-Pierre’s Catholic brother-in-law also lived in the same village. When he died, the priest, in a gesture of friendship and ecumenism, asked Jean-Pierre if he wished to speak at the funeral.
Jean-Pierre readily accepted. On the morning of the funeral Mass, he told the congregation that death was a consequence of sin. He picked as his text a verse from the book of Romans: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” —Romans 5:12
Jean-Pierre then proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ from a verse in the next chapter: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” —Romans 6:23
For most of the 600 Catholics present, it was the first time that they had heard that salvation was the free gift of God for all who believed (Romans 3:22; 6:23). They listened with great interest. At the conclusion of the service, as Jean-Pierre and his wife were leaving the church, a Catholic woman whispered to them, “You should have spoken longer. It was more interesting than the Mass.” A few days later the parish priest told Jean-Pierre that the collection taken at the funeral had set a new parish record!
I once had a similar opportunity to speak at a Catholic church, though on a much smaller scale. I had come to know a Catholic priest named Joel. He caught me off guard one evening when he phoned and asked whether I would fill in for him at a parish class. He was going out of town for a conference and needed someone to lead a small Bible study for divorced Catholics. Impulsively I said yes, recognizing it as an opportunity to share the gospel. But later I had second thoughts, and decided to phone him back and decline the offer.
“Joel, I don’t think I’m going to be able to take the study. You know what I believe and basically what I would teach. I don’t want to cause trouble for you with your pastor.”
“Listen, Jim,” Father Joel assured me, “if you stick to the assigned topic, there won’t be any problem. I’m comfortable with it.”
“What’s the topic?” I asked, not knowing what to expect.
“God’s comfort in suffering. There are two texts: Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2:19-25.” Recognizing the passages as two of the clearest in the Bible on the substitutionary death of Christ, I agreed to take the class.
A week later, I met with a group of about eight Catholics at Father Joel’s parish. I explained from the assigned texts how God has comforted us in our suffering by sending His Son to die for us, and that through faith in His redeeming work, we can be delivered from the penalty of our sins. Again the Catholics present listened and considered every word. They asked several questions, and we discussed the Scriptures at length.
When Joel returned, he told me that the class had given an enthusiastic report of my time with them, and requested that I come again soon. When I brought the subject up with Joel a few weeks later, however, he informed me that the pastor had heard about my visit. I was not welcome back, the pastor said, because I lacked proper catechesis (instruction and formation in the Roman Catholic religion).
Few Catholics will ever hear the gospel clearly presented. They might pick up bits and pieces during the reading of the Scriptures at Mass. But, immersed in false religion, few can put it together for themselves.
Catholic priests are often as unfamiliar with the Scriptures as their parishioners. Though well-educated and ready to discuss a wide variety of topics, the average priest has little experience in personal Bible study. I have met some who, not knowing the books of the Bible, had difficulty even locating Scripture references.
This lack of Bible understanding among both Catholic clergy and laity leaves them open to spiritual deception, especially with regard to salvation. Furthermore, without inspired Scripture to guide them, they are “carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14), unwittingly engaging in practices that have more in common with the occult than they do with biblical Christianity. These include idolatry, false sacrifice, praying to the dead, repetitive prayers, veneration of dead things, and the wearing of fetishes such as miraculous medals and scapulars of various colors. It is difficult to gauge to what degree such practices make Catholics susceptible to evil spirits and further deception. The large number of Catholics who along with their Catholicism also practice spiritism, shamanism, voodoo, witchcraft, Santeria, and the like, indicates that the problem is significant.
Who then is going to tell Catholics the truth of salvation? Paul writes: “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” —Romans 10:14
Consider how God might use you to help Catholics find salvation in Jesus Christ. Support those involved in the important ministry of reaching out to these dear people. Finally, pray that in these last days many might be saved.
Adapted from Conversations with Catholics by James G. McCarthy, Harvest House Publishers, © 1997.