In the comments of the “Five facts….” thread, a Protestant is challenging the idea that the Apostles were Catholic. So, he wants to compare Apostolic Teaching to Catholic Teaching.
But, wouldn’t it be even more fair to compare Apostolic Teaching to Protestant teaching, as well? After all, it is Protestants who claim that their theology is the true and simple gospel of Christ.
So, why don’t we compare all three?
Does anyone consider that an unfair proposition? Please say so in the comments.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll stick to one question. How did the Apostles define the Gospel? And we’ll compare the answer to the Teachings of the Catholic Church and to some “official” Protestant website. If the one I provide is not satisfactory, perhaps someone can offer another in the comments.
And also, let’s begin with the book of Romans. This is a book which is favored by most Protestants. And its one of my favorites, as well.
Let’s see how the book of Romans defines the Gospel.
So, let’s start here:
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
V 16 says that one is saved if one believes in this Gospel. And v17 confirms this teaching.
Notice that this verse is not a definition of the Gospel. It is an admonition that if we want to be saved, we must believe the Gospel. If we want to be considered “just”, we must live by faith in Christ.
So, what does it mean to believe in the Gospel? What does it mean to live by faith?
Let’s continue reading Romans 1.
The next verse, #18 says,
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
I don’t know about you, but that kind of gives me a hint of what St. Paul believes is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
V16 says to believe the Gospel in order to be saved. V17 says to live by faith in order to be considered just. Now, v18 says that God hates the unjust. God hates those who do unrighteous deeds.
Ipso facto, if God hates the unrighteous because they do unrighteous deeds. Then God loves the righteous because they do righteous deeds.
The Gospel means to do righteous deeds
So, what is the Gospel according to the book of Romans, chapter 1?
If you are saved by doing righteous deeds, then the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be that we do righteous deeds in order to be saved. Does anyone get a different understanding of verses 16-18?
Now, we can go through v19 all the way to 28 and St. Paul continues condemning unrighteous deeds. However, he gets very specific in v29 to the end. He says:
Romans 1: 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Does anyone not see the Ten Commandments there highlighted in verses 29 to 31?
These are all the “thou shalt nots”. St. Paul is admonishing us not to do those things. And the Commandments do the very same thing. St. Paul is saying:
Thou shalt not commit adultery (i.e. fornication)
Thou shalt not disobey your parents (disobedient to parents.)
Etc. etc. Does anyone not see the Commandments there represented?
So, the Gospel, according to the book of Romans, chapter 1, means to keep the Commandments
Let’s look at v 32. We know from the constant teaching of the Church that those who do those things will go to hell. Those who do not keep the Ten Commandments will not be saved. Isn’t that what v 32 is saying? And isn’t that also what Jesus Christ teaches?
Matthew 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
So, it sounds to me as though the Apostles consider, at least part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as having faith in Christ (v 16) and keeping the Commandments (v29-32). The first chapter of Romans is a prolonged admonition to keep the Commandments if one wants to be saved.
So, what does the Catholic Church teach today?
CCC#2068 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."29
The Ten Commandments are obligatory if one wants to be saved.
There’s one element missing from the Catholic definition and comparison to Romans chapter 1. Baptism.
Does the book of Romans mention Baptism? Yes. But for that we have to go to Chapter 6:
Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
That is also what the Church teaches:
CCC#1227 According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christ's death, is buried with him, and rises with him:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
The baptized have "put on Christ." Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies.
In all of this, what do Protestants teach?
I’m assuming the Protestant who brought up Romans v 1:16-17, probably wanted to leave it at that. They believe in a simple gospel of faith alone. And they teach a doctrine called the Romans Road, where they don’t mention anything about keeping the Commandments in order to be saved. As I understand it, they claim that no one who is not saved can keep the Commandments. And that one is saved in order to keep the Commandments.
I don’t see any of that in Romans 1. But, if you do, show me.
It is crystal clear that the Apostles, including St. Paul, all taught the Gospel of faith and good works which Jesus Christ taught and which the Catholic Church continues to teach, today. That is absolute proof that the Apostles were members of the Catholic Church. The Pillar and Foundation of the Truth which Jesus Christ established to lead us to salvation.