Bible Class Curricula - Denominational Doctrines (Part 1) - Lesson #1 - The Catholic Religion

  1. Introduction
    1. Catholicism is the largest manmade religion today (claiming one billion adherents).
    2. It is my belief that Catholicism – with its ritualism, formality, and false doctrines – has done more to harm the cause of Christ than any other religion.
  2. History of the Catholic Religion
    1. When did the Catholic religion begin? The Catholic religion is officially recognized as starting in A.D. 606 – not in A.D. 30 (Acts 2:47). However, one can easily see the seeds of apostasy in the New Testament that led to Catholicism.
      1. The concept of placing the teachings of men (both oral and written) above the commandments of God is found even in the times of Jesus (Matthew 15:7-9).
      2. The practice of forbidding people to marry and to eat certain foods was begun by the Gnostics in the first century (1 Timothy 4:1-4).
      3. Diotrophes started the seeds of the papacy by his thirst for power and his “chief elder” mentality (3 John 9-11). Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 100-150) made the first known distinction between bishops and elders. This doctrine was later carried over to the papacy by Origen and others who followed.1
      4. In the first century, the apostles clearly preached against the seeds of apostasy currently found in the Catholic religion (Acts 20:28-30; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:3-4).
    2. Where did the Catholic religion begin? Rome – not Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:1-4; Acts 2).
    3. Where is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic religion? Rome – not Heaven (Psalm 119: 89).
    4. Who is the head of the Catholic religion? The pope is considered the head of the Catholic Church and the “vicar of Christ.” Jesus definitely is not the Head of the Catholic Church (Ephesians 1:21-23).
    5. Who founded Catholicism? Boniface III is officially recognized as the founder, although it was a gradual process of apostasy. It is evident from history that Jesus is not the founder of this religion (1 Corinthians 3:11).
    6. What is their authority? The Bible, the Catholic Church, papal edicts, and oral tradition. It is likely that, to a devoted Catholic, none of these would outweigh the other in the importance of authority.
  3. Catholic Authority Examined
    1. Catholics are told that they cannot understand the Bible by reading it (see Ephesians 3:4). Concerning this idea, Catholic writer John O’Brien says, From all of which it must be abundantly clear that the Bible alone is not a safe and competent guide because it is not now and has never been accessible to all, because it is not clear and intelligible to all, and because it does not contain all the truths of the Christian religion.2
      1. The Bible alone, however, is to serve as our sole authority in religious matters (Colossians 3:17; John 17:17; John 16:13; Acts 20:32; James 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16; Ephesians 3:4; 2 Peter 1:3; Psalm 119:160).
      2. The Bible is a book that can be read, understood, and obeyed by all people (Ephesians 3:4; Ephesians 5:17; John 8:32).
    2. The Catholic Church also is a source for authority. O’Brien illustrates this point when he says, The simple fact is that the Bible, like all dead letters, calls for a living interpreter … . Just as the Supreme Court is the authorized living interpreter of the Constitution, so the Catholic Church is the living authoritative interpreter of the Bible.3 The Pope also has authority in religious matters. Catholics believe, When the Pope in his official capacity … proclaims a doctrine on faith or morals binding on the whole Church, he is preserved from error.4
      1. The Bible, however, teaches that no man is perfect (Romans 3:23).
      2. The main answer to the false doctrine of Catholic popes being preserved from error is the Bible’s complete silence on the subject!
  4. The Seven Sacraments of Catholicism
    1. What is a sacrament? Catholics define a sacrament as a visible sign instituted by Christ by which grace is conveyed to our souls. Three things are necessary to constitute a sacrament – a visible sign, invisible grace and the institution by our Lord Jesus Christ.5
    2. The first of the seven sacraments is that of baptism. Catholics teach, Baptism effects the remission of original sin and actual sins and of all punishment due to sin; it confers sanctifying grace, membership in Christ and in the Church and the obligation to obey the Church’s laws, and give an indelible character.6
      1. With part of this teaching the New Testament agrees. Baptism is for the remission of actual sins and is essential to enter the church (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
      2. The problem with the Catholic view of baptism has to do with the erroneous idea of original sin (Matthew 18:1-5; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Ezekiel 28:15) and the Catholic mode of baptism (Mark 1:9-11; John 3:23; Acts 8:38-39; Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:12).
    3. The second sacrament is penance. Catholics believe The Church has the power to forgive all sins. This forgiveness of sins is a true sacrament instituted by Christ, different from baptism, particularly on account of its judicial form. Sins are forgiven only by the sacrament of penance. Sins are forgiven by absolution which can only be given by an authorized priest. It is a real judicial pardon. The Church has the power to reserve certain cases.7
      1. The problem with this sacrament is the emphasis upon whom forgives sin. Nowhere in the New Testament will you find the church forgiving anyone of sin. The church does not forgive sin; God does! The psalmist stated correctly, Against you and you only have I sinned (Psalm 51:4). God is the One Who forgives sins (Luke 23:34; Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:9).
      2. In the New Testament, you will never find a Christian confessing his or her sins to a priest (James 5:16-17).
    4. The third sacrament is confirmation. Catholic doctrine says, Confirmation is a true sacrament instituted by Christ and different from baptism. It is administered by laying-on of hands and anointing with chrism accompanied by prayer. The chrism is blessed by the bishop and the bishop administers the sacrament. All baptized persons can and should be confirmed. The effect of the sacrament of confirmation is to give strength in faith and for the confession of faith and to impress an indelible character.8
      1. This sacrament often is performed with oil directly after one’s baptism as a confirming sign of membership into the Catholic community. However, the Bible teaches that if a person obeys the Gospel, then God confirms him or her as a member of the kingdom (Acts 2:47).
      2. How does the anointing with oil strengthen anyone’s faith (Romans 10:17)?
    5. The fourth sacrament is the Eucharist. The Catholic Eucharist can be understood better as we look at “The Real Presence” and “Transubstantiation.”
      1. The Real Presence declares that during the partaking of the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Jesus are actually present. Catholic teaching says In this sacrament are present the living body and blood of Christ; therefore also his soul which gives them life, therefore also his divine nature which is indissolubly united with his sacred humanity.9
      2. To explain how Jesus is literally and physically a part of the Lord’s Supper, Catholics have developed the doctrine of Transubstantiation. The Council of Trent said, By the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.10
        1. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of Jesus’ death. The context of the institution of the Lord’s Supper teaches the elements are figures of the blood and body (Matthew 26: 28-29; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25; John 6:63, 68).
        2. For transubstantiation to exist, we would still have to be in the age of miracles. However, passages such as 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 teach that we are not still in the age of miracles.
    6. The fifth sacrament is the sacrament of ordination. This is the sacrament by which men become a part of the priesthood of the Catholic religion. Concerning this sacrament Catholic author McSorley says, The hierarchal organization of the Church is in three grades – the episcopate, the priesthood, and the diaconate – although of divine origin, is not clearly described in the New Testament. Nor does the Gospel say that our Lord indicated the precise way in which He intended His Church to be governed and administered.11
      1. The main problem with this teaching lies in a “separation of terms” that the Bible does not make. For example, all Christians have been called by the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14-15). In the New Testament, there is no clergy/laity system.
      2. The episcopate comes from the Greek word episkopos, meaning overseer or bishop. This word is one of the three synonymous terms used in Acts 20:28-32 to describe the eldership.
      3. In the New Testament, every Christian is a part of the priesthood (Revelation 1:6; 1 Peter 2:9).
      4. The diaconate comes from the Greek word diakonos, meaning deacon or servant. There is a clear distinction made in the New Testament between the qualifications and duties of elders and deacons.
    7. The sixth sacrament of Catholicism is marriage. While marriage is indeed a God-ordained union, nowhere do we find it to be sacramental in nature. Concerning this sacrament, the Catholic Church says:

      The sacrament of matrimony consist of the marriage contract, so that for Christians the contract and the sacrament are inseparable. Therefore marriage comes into the legal competence of the Church. The Church may establish impediments, including diriment impediments which invalidate a marriage and forbidding impediments which make marriage illegal. She may determine the form and rite to be observed. Matrimonial causes fall to ecclesiastical courts.12

      1. While Catholics should be commended for their view of the sanctity of marriage, the church is not the decision-maker of whom can and cannot marry.
      2. God gave the principles of marriage in Genesis 2, and Jesus further illustrates these in Matthew 19:1-10. The church should only follow that which the Bible teaches – not make laws or impediments to annul marriages.
    8. The final sacrament is extreme unction. This sacrament is also known as the “last rites” and is performed by the anointing of oil upon sickness or death to help ensure eternal life. The proof text that Catholics use for this teaching is James 5:14-15. Concerning this rite, Catholics teach:

      Extreme Unction is a sacrament in which the sick, by the anointing with holy oil and the prayers of the Priests, receive spiritual succor and even corporal strength when such is conducive to salvation. This unction is called extreme, because it is usually the last of the holy unction administered by the Church.13

      1. There are several things that Catholics overlook in James 5:14-15. First, the elders – not priests – are to perform this action.
      2. Second, James says this is done to heal – while Catholics usually perform it right before death.
      3. Third, the emphasis in the text is placed upon the prayers of the faithful that save – not the oil.
      4. Finally, one must determine if this is a spiritual or physical sickness. Some evidence suggests that the healing is spiritual – not physical.
  5. 7 Reasons Why a Christian Cannot Be a Catholic
    1. Catholics exalt people such as Mary, Peter, “Mother” Theresa, and others. The Bible, however, says that we should not worship people (Psalm 111:9; Matthew 4:10; Revelation 19: 10; Acts 10:26).
    2. The Catholic hierarchy or clergy/laity system is not found within the Scriptures (Matthew 23:9; Philippians 1:1; 2:3-4; Romans 12:3-4; 1 Peter 5:1-5).
    3. Infant baptism is foreign to the teachings of the New Testament (Mark 1:9-10; John 3:23; Acts 8:38; Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:12).
    4. Catholicism is too complicated (Mark 12:37; John 8:32; Ephesians 4:3; 5:17).
    5. Catholics do not believe that the Bible is suitable to serve as our only guide; rather, tradition must come into play as well (Matthew 15:7-9; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3).
    6. Cold formalities replace heartfelt worship and fruitful service (Mark 12:32-37; Revelation 2:4).
    7. A sinner would have to seek forgiveness from men – not God (Psalm 51:4; 86:5; 1 John 1:7-10).
  6. How to Convert a Catholic
    1. Help the person to understand when the church began (Acts 2:47), Who founded the church (Matthew 16:18), where the church began (Isaiah 2:1-2; Acts 2), and how the church began (Acts 20:28).
    2. Help the person to understand that God’s Word must serve as man’s sole source for religious authority (Proverbs 30:61; Corinthians 4:6; Revelation 22:18-19; Leviticus 10:1-2).
    3. Help the person see the fallacious nature of such statements as We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.14 Papal edicts (e.g., papal bulls, ex cathedra statements, etc.) are nothing more than mere human assertions, and as such they are not authoritative.
    4. Help the person see how human traditions have always led to people being lost (Matthew 15:7-9; 2 Kings 5).

Study Questions

  1. Discuss the “Who, When, & Where” of this denomination’s origin. Does their origin match the divine blueprint in the New Testament?
  2. What seeds of apostasy were present in the New Testament era that led to the beginning of Catholicism?
  3. Catholic scholar John O’Brien states that the Bible is not clear, intelligible, and sufficient to all people. What verses in the Bible prove this claim to be false?
  4. How do we know that original sin is not a biblical teaching?
  5. Can the church or any human being alive today forgive sins? Support your answer from Scripture.
  6. How is a person “confirmed” into God’s church? (See Acts 2:38-47).
  7. Catholic scholar McSorley says the hierarchal organization of the Catholic religion is of divine origin although not clearly described in the New Testament. Can a teaching or doctrine of the church be of “divine origin” and not be found in Scripture?
  8. Can the church make laws prohibiting, allowing, or annulling marriage? Explain your answer.
  9. Does James 5:14-15 teach extreme unction? What is wrong with this type of death bed salvation?
  10. List some Scriptures that teach us not to exalt other human beings.
  11. Give Scriptural proof that infant baptism is not a biblical teaching.
  12. Discuss the relationship between the destructive teachings of the Pharisees in Mt. 15:7-9 and the damnable teachings of the Catholic religion today.


  1. Ferguson, Everett, Early Christians Speak (ACU Press, Abilene, TX,) p. 168.
  2. O’Brien, John, The Faith of Millions (Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 1938), p. 148.
  3. Ibid., p. 148.
  4. Ibid., p. 126.
  5. Gibbons, James, The Faith of Our Fathers (P.J. Kennedy & Son, New York, 1917), p. 218.
  6. Online: (, retrieved January 10, 2006.
  7. Online: (, retrieved January 10, 2006.
  8. Online: (, retrieved January 10, 2006.
  9. The Teaching of the Catholic Church, VII, p. 843.
  10. DS 1642; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1376.
  11. Quoted in D’Aubigne, History of the Reformation (Worthington, New York), p. 17.
  12. Online: (, retrieved January 11, 2006.
  13. Gibbons, James, History of the Christian Church (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1913), p. 314.
  14. Pope Boniface VIII, Papal Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302
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