Catholics have been indoctrinated with the premise that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church founded by Christ 2,000 years ago. They claim Protestant churches began only 500 years ago. Are they correct? Is there a “one true church”? And if there is, can we identify the one true church? The answers to these important questions can be found throughout the New Testament.
Who Are Members of the True Church?
The true church is not a denomination nor a building. It is an assembly of born-again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who have been called out of the world as a people for God’s own possession (Titus 2:11-14). Universally, it includes all who have repented and believed the glorious Gospel of grace. They have been purified by the blood of Jesus, sealed by the Spirit of God, and sanctified by the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17; Eph. 1:13; 1 John 1:7). These new creatures in Christ have been baptized by one Spirit into one body and are called saints (1 Cor 1:2, 12:13). Their names are enrolled in heaven, and their imperishable inheritance is protected by the power of almighty God (Heb. 12:23; 1 Pet. 1:4). They are visible when the light of their good works shines before men to glorify their Holy Father (Mat. 5:16; Eph. 2:10).
The Professing Church Is Not the True Church
All Protestant and Roman Catholic churches together make up the “professing” church, which includes both believers and unbelievers. Tragically, there are many who “profess” Christ but do not “possess” Christ. They are religious but have no relationship with Christ. Their names are on church rolls but not in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Jesus calls them “tares” who have been sown by the devil among the “wheat” (Mat. 13:24-30, 36-43). These tares may one day hear the most terrifying words they could ever hear when Jesus declares, “I never knew you, depart from Me” (Mat. 7:23). Roman Catholics, who adhere to the false and fatal gospel of their apostate religion, must repent and believe the Gospel of grace to become members of the true church. When they do, the Spirit of God will lead them out of their idolatrous religion to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
Roman Catholicism Is Not the True Church
The 21st century Roman Catholic Church does not bear any resemblance to the 1st-century church of the apostles. Nowhere in the New Testament do we see the first-century church continuing the work of Christ’s redemption on an altar, praying for the dead, venerating Mary, or transubstantiating wafers into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. Nor can we find any mention of indulgences, purgatory, infallible popes, or a sacerdotal priesthood. There is an indisputable reason for this. Rather than obeying the exhortation of Jude to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, the Catholic Church departed from the apostolic faith to follow deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (Jude 3; 1 Tim. 4:1). Its apostasy was fully documented at the 16th century Council of Trent. It cannot be “the pillar and support of the truth” because it departed from the truth and is not the true church (1 Tim. 3:15).
There Is Only One Door to the True Church
Jesus said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). Tragically, most of the 1.3 billion souls in the Roman Catholic Church have instead entered through the wide gate that leads to destruction. They have not heeded the warning of Jesus, who said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mat. 7:15). By God’s grace and mercy, there are some Catholics who have responded to the Gospel call with repentance and faith, but they cannot stay in the Roman Catholic Church. They will soon find themselves at odds with the deadly errors and idolatry of the apostate religion and come out to worship God in Spirit and Truth (John 4:24).
The Spiritual Promises Given to the True Church
Members of the true church enjoy every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). These blessings include: the complete forgiveness of sins (Col. 2:13-14), the promise of never being condemned again (Rom. 8:1), the gift of Christ’s righteousness (Rom. 5:17), the assurance of eternal life (John 10:28) and an eternal relationship with God through the one mediator Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5). Members of the Catholic Church do not possess any of these spiritual blessings. Their only hope is to do what the apostle Paul did and exchange their religion for a relationship with the all-sufficient Savior (Phil. 3:3-8).
The Privileges of the True Church
The true church is the bride of Christ, the flock of the Shepherd, the household of faith, and the adopted family of God (Rom. 8:15; Eph. 4:12; Gal. 6:10; Rev. 19:7). Its members are a chosen race and a holy nation who have been commissioned to proclaim the excellencies of Christ, who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). They have been given the awesome privilege of being ambassadors to the King of kings as His ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20). They have also been commissioned by the Lord Jesus to make disciples by proclaiming His Gospel (Mat. 28:18-20). Catholics have none of these privileges because they have rejected the true Gospel for another gospel that is hostile to the Lord Jesus.
The Protection of the True Church
The Good Shepherd promised that the gates of hell shall not overpower His church (Mat. 16:18). It is the only church which is certain to endure unto the end. Nothing can destroy it. Its members may be persecuted, oppressed, imprisoned, beaten and martyred, but whenever the church is crushed in one country, it springs up in another. Members of the true church have equal and direct access to the throne of grace through the veil that was torn open at the moment of Christ’s death (Heb. 10:19-22). They are all royal priests who offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).
It is my prayer and heart’s desire that Catholics will read this article and turn to the only Head of the true church. May God give them humble, teachable spirits to recognize that the god of this world has blinded them from the light of the Gospel and the glory of Christ. The veil of blindness will never be removed until they turn to the Lord Jesus (2 Cor. 3:16).