Are Catholics saved?

The question of whether Catholics are saved cannot be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no' because the church a person attends or the denomination to which he or she belongs does not confer salvation on the person. Only repentance and placing our trust in Jesus' work on the cross can bring salvation. After Peter's speech on the Day of Pentecost, the crowd asked, "What shall we do?" Peter responded, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:37–38). Paul and Silas had a similar response when asked, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).

Salvation comes by turning away from our sin and self-reliance and instead believing that Jesus is God's Son, sent to live a perfect life, die an undeserved death on our behalf, and rise from the dead. First Peter 3:18 explains, "Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God." First Corinthians 15:3–4 puts it this way: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." Romans 10:9 says, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." So are Catholics saved? If they have put their faith in Jesus Christ, then, yes, just as is true for any person.

These beliefs are personal matters and only God knows what is in a person's heart (Luke 16:15). In every church congregation, there are those who believe and are saved and those who don't. We cannot judge whether any person is saved, and we certainly cannot say that all Catholics are saved or all Catholics are not saved. The question "Are Catholics saved?" is really answered the same way the question of whether Baptists or Methodists or those of any other denomination are saved. Some of them are and some of them are not. Again, membership in a specific church is not what saves a person. Church membership, good works, or following certain traditions have no salvific merit; only God's grace received through faith in Jesus Christ leads to salvation (Ephesians 2:8–9).

However, the question "Are Catholics saved?" can also be addressed in terms of whether the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church line up with the biblical message of salvation. To this we can say that the historic, official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on salvation are not biblical.

Historically, Roman Catholicism has taught that faith alone is not enough for salvation. Instead, the Catholic Church has believed that salvation comes only when faith in Christ is accompanied by baptism, observing Catholic sacraments (especially the Eucharist), and dying without any unconfessed mortal sins.

Even so, just like there is diversity of belief within any congregation, there is also diversity in preaching and practice within any denomination as well. There are differences in what is preached and practiced within the Roman Catholic Church. Not all Catholic churches teach an unbiblical view of salvation, and not all adherents to Catholicism are aware of what has been historically taught or agree with what has historically been taught. In January 1998, The Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) released a statement of shared beliefs called "The Gift of Salvation." Both Catholic theologians, like Father R. J. Neuhaus and Michael Novak, and Protestant theologians, like J. I. Packer and Dr. Harold O. J. Brown, worked together on the statement. "The Gift of Salvation" affirms justification by faith alone, an idea known in reformed traditions as sola fide, which diverges from historic Catholic teaching. These leading Catholic theologians assert that Paul's response to the jailer in Acts 16:31 ("Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved") is sufficient for salvation. Are Catholics saved? If they believe in Jesus alone for salvation, then yes.

No doubt there are many saved Catholics. No doubt there are also unbiblical teachings in many Catholic churches across the world leading people to a wrong view of salvation. But there are also unbiblical teachings in many Protestant churches across the world.

So are Catholics saved? Are Baptists saved? Are non-denominational Christians saved? Anyone who trusts only in Jesus' work on the cross for their salvation is saved. The best example of this truth is Jesus' response to the criminal who died on the cross next to Him. This criminal declared, "'We are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man [Jesus] has done nothing wrong.' And he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom'" (Luke 23:41–42). This man acknowledged his own shortcomings, believing himself worthy of the death he was suffering. He recognized Jesus' holiness and called upon Jesus to remember him, knowing that Jesus was his only hope. This simple belief, without being baptized, taking communion, confessing every sin, doing any good deeds, or developing a detailed theology, was enough for Christ to respond, "Truly, I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Any person who believes this, no matter what church he or she attends, is saved. As Romans 10:9–10 explains, "Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

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