It was the storm of the century. Hurricane winds pounded the coast as the torrential rains fell. The waters crested their banks and began their march toward the houses. An old Evangelical sat on his porch watching the approaching waters. Soon his house was surrounded and the muddy waters kept rising. A rescue boat came by and beckoned for the man to climb onboard.
“God provides. Jesus is my salvation.” He calmly said and refused to board the rescue boat.
As the flood waters got higher the man was forced to retreat to the second story of the house. Looking out his bedroom window another rescue boat tried to get the man to leave.
“God provides. Jesus is my salvation.” He again stated defiantly.
The waters did not stop and the man had to climb upon his roof to keep from being swept away. This time a helicopter descended and a billowing voice called to him over a loud speaker. “Climb on board. We’re here to save you.”
“Only Jesus saves!” The man screamed back as he shook his fist at the helicopter.
And with that his house buckled and was washed away by the enraged waters. The man was lost amid the destruction. In the blink of an eye the man stood before Jesus in heaven. The man was dumbfounded. “Lord, I had unshakable faith. Why didn’t you save me?”
Jesus looked at the man a bit bewildered. “I sent two boats and a helicopter. What more should I have done?”
This is a popular anti-Catholic meme that is floating around Face Book that demonstrates this same kind of thought. It is a great illustration on how something can be 100% factually correct and completely wrong at the same time. It is 100% factually correct that only Jesus can save us. Where it goes wrong is how Jesus goes about doing this.
Jesus was a tekton, a trade craftsman. English commonly translates tekton as carpenter. As a craftsman Jesus used many tools to do his job. He used hammers, saws, canons, and many other tools to build what he built. When he goes about the job of saving man he also uses tools to accomplish this. Jesus gave us things to make it easier to live a holy life. Let’s examine each claim of this meme.
Only Jesus saves, not a priest.
Correctly stated, Jesus saves through a priest. Jesus lived with and taught the twelve for three years. At the last supper he taught them how to offer sacrifice in his name. Between the resurrection and Pentecost he continued their instruction and passed on to them his divine authority to do things like forgive sins, consecrate the Holy Eucharist, and cast out demons. A priest cannot do any of these things on his own authority or through his own name any more than I can come to your house and demand that you let me in, in the name of the FBI. The FBI has not given me that authority and therefore I cannot not act with their power. The twelve were deputized and given a badge to act in the name and authority of Jesus by Jesus. Jesus acts through a priest to provide the things that will assist us in living a holy life.
Only Jesus saves, not Mary.
Once again, 100% correct. Mary is not God. She is the mother of God and the best example of what a human person can be. She was the first Christian, conceived without original sin, the new Eve. Catholics do not worship Mary. We venerate her and give her, her proper place as the queen of heaven, as stated in the Book of Revelations. Jesus said ask and it shall be given, knock and the door will be opened. If he is willing to do this for us how much more so will he do this for his mother, the only sinless human person, and one who never denied or lost faith in her son? Behold your mother. Jesus gave us his mother as the example on how to live and her intercession to him on our behalf is second to none.
Only Jesus saves, not Baptism.
Yup, no argument there. Baptism alone cannot save you just as much as not being baptized sends you directly to Hell. Neither is correct. Baptism is the first Sacrament of Initiation and the doorway to all of the other Sacraments. A sacrament is an efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is 'dispensed' to us. In other words, baptism is a tool used by Jesus to give us grace to live a holy life. A holy life leads to salvation; it is not salvation in and of itself. Baptism cleanses us, puts an indelible mark on our souls, and brings us into God’s family as an adopted child.
Only Jesus saves, not good works.
That is correct. There is noting salvific about works of any kind. Heaven will be filled with people who did not do a single good work. Take the repentant thief as an example. His faith alone was rewarded with paradise. Yet, there are many, many passages in the bible where we are told that it is not only expected but commanded that we do good works if we truly love Jesus. Obedience is more pleasing to God than even sacrifice. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, and to bury the dead. These are good works and we have been commanded to do them. He also went on to tell us that anyone who does not do these things will be separated out with the goats at the end of time. If we truly love Jesus we will naturally do the good works that he has commanded us to do.
Only Jesus saves, not a church.
Spoiler alert – there will be many who attended church services faithfully their entire lives in Hell at the completion of time. In 1820 the whaling ship Essex was sunk by a sperm whale. The crew escaped to the lifeboats and spent the next ninety-five days at sea. Just because they made it into a lifeboat did not mean that they survived. The crew lived off of the bodies of five of their shipmates who died. When those bodies were not sufficient they drew lots on who would be sacrificed so the rest may live. Seven of the crew were cannibalized to save the rest. Just because you are physically in a church does not mean you will be saved.
Yet, Jesus did start the Church. With a little understanding of Jewish culture and the significance of the number twelve this becomes very clearly evident from Holy Scripture. Jesus did not just start any church or every church; he started only one Church, the Catholic Church. This has nothing to do with religion. It is a historical fact. He started the Church because he wanted us to be all one body, one family. That body is his Church. We are many parts but we are all one body. Jesus uses the Church as a tool to lead lost sheep to a saving knowledge of his love.
Only Jesus saves, not the Pope.
Ah yes. How often we hear this especially in today’s world of social media and around the clock news coverage. Non-Catholics so often mistake the reverence Catholics hold for the Pope as worship. Like with Mary, we do not worship the Pope but we do hold him in a place of honor because he sits in the Chair of Peter. Simon bar Jonah, the Rock, is the man whose faith Christ built his Church upon. Jesus appointed Peter the first “pope”, the leader of the twelve in his absence. Peter was to lead and guide, not rule over, the early Church. Why does the Church need a visible head? Well, we have one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Catholic Church that teaches the same truth in every one of its parishes and 30,000 plus Protestant churches that cannot agree upon what is true. The Pope in union with his bishops make up the Magisterium. The primary responsibility of the Magisterium is to ensure that the truths that Jesus taught the twelve are handed down exactly as he taught them. The Pope is the visible face of the invisible Christ. It is through the authority passed down to him from Jesus that the Pope acts.
If this meme represented the Catholic understanding of salvation it would say:
Jesus saves through….
through the priesthood.
through good works.
through the Church.
through the Pope.
Jesus saves through the tools that he gave us to use to live a holy life.
“Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not realizing what he was saying. While he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.” Luke 9: 28-36
My heart is full because the tomb is empty.