ECT: The Biblical Precept for Public Repentance
From the time I was a young boy in Dublin Ireland, I was taught to look to the Catholic Church and to her sacraments to give me sanctifying grace, which supposedly then resided within myself. I was instructed that through taking the sacraments I would be pleasing to God. In my years in a Jesuit elementary and high school, it was the same; I was attempting to make myself acceptable to God with the help of the sacraments, Jesus, Mary, and the saints. In seven years of training to become a Roman Catholic priest, daily I looked to the sacraments so that grace would be conferred through the Church to me. This was and still is the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
I was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1963, and after a year in Rome I was sent to the island of Trinidad in the West Indies. It was in 1972, after serious accident in which I nearly died, that I began seriously reading the Bible to see how one is right before the all Holy God. Rather than outlining some process within me, I saw that the Bible declares that God's deed of redemption is objective and true, and already finished.
Some days I would read Ephesians Chapters 1 and 2 ten to twenty times. There in the Lord's word I saw it declared that we are justified in Christ, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." To be chosen in Christ shows that justification is not of ourselves or in ourselves. Justification is not from recognition of anything that we deserve, but because our heavenly Father has chosen us in Christ from before the foundation of the world. Nevertheless the Catholic Church's affirmation of infused righteousness, as a basis of justification was still embedded in my mind. I struggled hard between the often-repeated phrase of being in Christ of Ephesians Chapter 1 and the teaching of the Council of Trent that taught conferred inner justification. Finally by the mercy of God alone, the testimony voiced by the Apostle Paul became my own heart's cry, "that I 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."
As I continued to study the Bible, my desire was to understand and to have what it teaches. The Bible teaches God's righteousness, and not man's. "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets" (Romans 3:21). I saw that the Gospel good news is the declaration of God that His righteousness is upon believers, i.e., credited to them. "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe" (Romans 3:22). Only the Lord Christ Jesus is declared to be, and actually is the Righteousness of God. The believer has Christ's righteousness only credited to him. The words of the Apostle Peter were exceptionally precious to me, "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." I desired to be found in that righteousness, for as the Bible declares, all other righteousness is as filthy rags before the Holy God. This is what in my own life by the grace of God I came to realize after forty-eight years as a devout Catholic, twenty-two years as a faithful priest.
I had known and lived the Roman Catholic Church dogma of justification which, according to her, is conferred through her sacraments and which, she says, consists of an inner righteousness whereby a man becomes just within himself. Through studying the Word of God seriously, I saw the clarity of the Scripture truth that salvation is in Christ and in Him alone. Because of the blatant difference between the Roman position and the Biblical truth, and other fundamental truths, I left the Church of Rome and her priesthood.
Evangelicals and Catholics Together
In March, 1994, when the unbiblical concordat Evangelicals and Catholics Together was published, I was aghast. The so-called conversion process of that document was Roman Catholic teaching to the core. What was defined as conversion was stated to be "?a continuing process so that the whole life of a Christian should be a passage from death to life, from error to truth, from sin to grace." This stated concept in which sanctification is substituted for the grace of conversion is precisely what Rome has taught for centuries. What emerged from Evangelicals and Catholics Together was, in the words of Galatians 1, "another gospel". Although this "gospel" may be acceptable to those who wish to add their good works to the grace of God, it is, nevertheless, a frontal assault on the Biblical gospel, on five hundred years of church history, on evangelical missions in Roman Catholic nations, and on the doctrine of Biblical authority.
The Gift of Salvation
When The Gift of Salvation was published in November 1997, I was even more appalled. The audacity to call Biblical justification "conferred" justification is a lie documented in print. The document signed and published by Evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders states,
These statements teach the traditional Roman Catholic doctrine that I had known and lived for many years. Careful reading of these statements is necessary in order to understand exactly what has been claimed:
To use the word "conferred" instead of the Biblical word "imputed" makes it clear that what had been agreed on falls into the camp of RC teaching. Since medieval times, the RCC has clearly distinguished between the concept of imputation and the concept of God's grace conferred as a quality of the soul. In the Bible, while there is no mention whatsoever of "conferring" justification, the theme of the imputation of the righteousness of God to the believer is constant. Yet through centuries and in the face of Scriptural clarity, the teaching of Rome holds tenaciously to justification conferred rather than imputed. This lauded ecumenical document quite clearly is teaching Roman Catholicism. I was not surprised, therefore, to read of Idris Cardinal Cassidy's "very active support throughout the process [of drawing up the document]", support which undoubtedly accomplished the accommodation to Catholic terminology. Through this accommodation, the Biblical teaching of the righteousness of God imputed to the believer is subsumed under Rome's traditional concept of inner or infused righteousness.
Rome's "infused righteousness" Still the Same
For the Church of Rome, justification is not an immediate declaration of God and received by faith alone; rather, she teaches that grace is conferred through her sacraments. Thus she is able to make a place for herself as a necessary means through which inner righteousness is given. As she has taught in the past, she continues to teach: the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) states, "Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism." The whole purpose of my life as a Priest was to dispense the sacraments that Rome officially declares as necessary for salvation. When I baptized a baby, I often would hold it up for all to see saying; "This is a new creation." This idea of claimed inner change given by God through this baptismal rite is still the teaching of Rome. The Catechism declares, "Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy."
Cardinal Newman's Famous Via Media
The part of the statement that most frightened me was a subtle concept of Cardinal Newman, which it propagated. The document adopted Newman's thought in its statement,
Newman's famous via media had come back to life. Newman's doctrine was that creation and justification are exactly alike. When God justifies a person, Newman claimed, it is as if He commanded, "Let this man be righteous," just as He had commanded, "Let there be light." Such a teaching has a form of godliness since it uses a Biblical example. It is blasphemous however, in that it denies the repeated statements concerning imputed righteousness. In justification Holy God does not speak in imperative sentences. Rather, He speaks in declarative sentences. A declaration is a declaration, and not an operation or process. Newman's theological octopus makes it possible to depend on Church sacraments to be filled with goodness, as a filling station through which grace is channeled in to the soul. Newman sought to blend justification into sanctification and, in a more polished form, to continue to teach subjective righteousness. Having been freed from this theological monstrosity, I was thoroughly dismayed to find leading evangelical men embracing it.
Ecumenical Audacity Continues
The insolence of this ecumenical document does not stop there as by cleverly crafted sentences the document continues to expound the old Roman Catholic heresy as an explanation of justification. Finally it is stated, "We understand that what we here affirm is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by justification by faith alone (sola fide)." This conclusion is certainly a lie documented because in the preceding paragraph meticulous care was taken to make sure that justification was defined as conferred. It was done without even a mention that the core argument between the Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries has always been that, according to the Bible and the Reformers, justification is imputed and not conferred.
Paragraph ten continues with the statement, "In justification we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, through whom the love of God is poured forth into our hearts (Romans 5:5)." Such a statement is exactly wrong, for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is consequent to justification and not intrinsic to justification. In citing Romans 5:5, the ecumenists also have added insult to the injury done by their false teaching. Romans 5:5 does not speak of Holy God's act of justification. Rather, it speaks of internal sanctification. Verse 1 of Chapter 5 gives the context very clearly, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1 through 5:5 state the consequences of justification, "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also?.And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" Romans 5:1 makes it so clear that Romans 5:5 cannot be used to buttress up the argument for justification conferred rather than imputed. For such an outrageous misuse of Holy Scripture, the words of the Lord are fitting: "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth."
To teach that such a declaration of justification as first conferred, then as received internally, and then as imperative, and not simply credited to the believer, is a stratagem to teach Roman Catholicism in highly polished Biblical terminology. Such teaching is the same as that of the Pharisees. "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Romans 10:3). The statements of this document perpetrate the age-old heresy that justifying righteousness is within man because, wittingly or unwittingly, the document teaches the lie of Satan that you can be as God.
"Interrelated questions" are Major
Toward the end of the document I also read an astonishing statement,
These two long sentences state many things that are false. First, what is said to be fundamental truths about the gift of salvation is the RCC's declared inner righteousness rather than the Lord's everlasting righteousness credited to the believer. Then, what are given as "necessarily interrelated questions" are rather the heart and core of the differences that Protestants and Catholics have had over the justification of sinners throughout the centuries.
Most of the doctrines designated by this document as "necessarily interrelated questions" deny the Biblical doctrine of justification. For example, one of these is "Marian devotion and the assistance of the saints in the life of salvation." This is a key Gospel issue. To claim officially, as does Rome, that Mary is "Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix" is not only something that voids the Gospel message, it also denigrates and belittles the Person and the role of the Holy Spirit, and that of Christ as sole Mediator. In a similar way, to call "the assistance of the saints in the life of salvation" a "necessarily interrelated question" rather than to call it a heresy is deception of the first order. Rome's official teaching on this topic is lucid, clear, and distinctly occult. She teaches,
Communion with the dead. In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead...Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.
According to the First and Second Commandments, our communion in prayer is to be only with the true God.
The Eucharist, also designated "a necessarily interrelated question", is another lucid example of the rejection of the Gospel of grace. Formally the Church of Rome expounds, "The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: 'The victim is one and the same?'" If Christ is a victim, as Rome claims, and is being offered through priests each day on thousands of Roman Catholic altars, then His sacrifice was flawed and imperfect since continual offering by definition means incomplete. The confidence that the signatories to this document state that they have in "the fundamental truths about the gift of salvation" is totally invalidated by the Roman Catholic understanding of a victim-like "Christ" needing to offer Himself daily on their altars. To the signers of this document the words of the Lord apply, "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."
Because very clever and deceptive statements have been made by intelligent and educated men it must be concluded that both documents are studied Jesuistry. The affirmation of unity in the Gospel is a falsehood; what has been reached is a proclamation of Rome's doctrine of conferred inner justification.
The gospel the power of God unto salvation of which the Apostle Paul speaks, is clarified in Romans 1:17 as "the righteousness of God revealed." The primary and ultimate purpose for imputed righteousness is given in Romans 3:26, "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." This is because of who God is; He alone justifies those who believe, because He alone is Holy. "The righteousness of God revealed" is what I found by the Lord's grace. Having found this pearl of great price in Christ Jesus, I will not accept any other place where true righteousness is declared. This is the knowledge through which we have eternal life. In the words of the Apostle John, "And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life."
The Stench of Apostasy
Counterfeiting the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, ECT 1 and 11 have proposed an effective way to bind believers to a false ecumenism by cleverly presenting an inner conferred righteousness as if it were the gospel. Those as myself, who were chained to that message of inner righteousness for most of our lives, quite easily "smell the rat". To anyone desiring to be true to the Lord, I repeat His gospel command, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."
Before God, Public Repentance Demanded
Before the All Holy God those who have presented "another gospel" are in the words of Galatians 1:8-9 by Him condemned. It is necessary for them to repent publicly of their sin. It is not a matter to be done behind closed doors. Rather, as their offense was public, so also is the repentance to be done publicly.
Those of us who claim to be the Lord's own cannot deviate from the Lord's standard. In the Lord's Word, it is stated "If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed". The object of the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul is to express the greatest possible abhorrence of any other Gospel than that given. Any other gospel than what is proclaimed in the Bible on the subject of justification is to be rejected and treated with disgust, no matter what the rank, talent, or persuasiveness of him who defends it. We are not to condescend to such. No matter what is their zeal or their apparent sincerity, or even their apparent success, we are to withdraw from them.
It does not follow from this, however, that we are to treat them with the same severity of language as used in Scripture. They must answer to God. We are to withdraw from them and their teaching. We are to regard their proposed doctrines with revulsion. We are to point out respectfully the Biblical command to repent. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son". That these men repent publicly is as basic as the words of the Lord Himself; "repent ye, and believe the gospel." Repentance is Biblically required, otherwise these called brothers must be treated as those who have apostatized from the faith.
Richard Bennett spent twenty-one years as a Roman Catholic priest in Trinidad, West Indies. In 1986, he was saved by God's grace alone and formally left the Roman Catholic Church and its priesthood.
His ministry's Internet web page is: www.bereanbeacon.org
To contact him, e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org