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Claude F. Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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How do you feel about the Catholic church? Universal salvation?
Thank you for your question. Your question seems to indicate that you may not understand the nature of salvation by faith as taught in the Bible. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ. The most important thing is not whether you are a Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran or a member of any other religious group. Church membership does not save; only Jesus saves.The Bible says: “There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them” (Acts 4:12). Jesus Himself says that He is the only Savior: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
As for people who have never heard of Christ, they are still saved by faith when they believe in the sovereign God who reveals Himself to them. Abraham came out of paganism. When Joshua gave his farewell address to the people of Israel, he said to them: “Your ancestors, including Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River, and they worshiped other gods” (Joshua 24:2). However, “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord declared him righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6). The same thing happened to Rahab. She was a Canaanite woman and probably a worshiper of Baal and Asherah, but, as the Bible says: “It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute did not die with all the others in her city who refused to obey God” (Hebrews 11:31).
Thus, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, any person who follows His teaching, will be saved, whether that person is a Catholic or a Protestant.The Bible says that God does not want anyone to perish, but his desire is that everyone comes to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
People will not be saved by their works of righteousness. This is clearly taught in the book of the prophet Ezekiel:“The one who sins is the one who dies. The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own goodness, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness. But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my laws and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done. Do you think, asks the Sovereign Lord, that I like to see wicked people die? Of course not! I only want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. However, if righteous people turn to sinful ways and start acting like other sinners, should they be allowed to live? No, of course not! All their previous goodness will be forgotten, and they will die for their sins. When righteous people turn from being good and start doing sinful things, they will die for it. Yes, they will die because of their sinful deeds. And if wicked people turn away from their wickedness, obey the law, and do what is just and right, they will save their lives. They will live, because after thinking it over, they decided to turn from their sins. Such people will not die” (Ezekiel 18:20-28).
Faith and obedience go together. God declares that people who obey His teachings will not die. Jesus said: “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus also said: “Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them, and I will love them. And I will reveal myself to each one of them” (John 14:21). That is how people are saved, whether they are Catholics or Protestants: they must accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and they must obey His commandments.
I hope these words will answer your question. People need the Lord and it is our desire to teach God’s Word to all who love Him.Visit us again!
Claude MariottiniProfessor of Old TestamentNorthern Baptist Seminary