Semper Reformanda, Pt. 6

In March, I introduced a correspondence written to a dear friend of mine in which I labored to lovingly but biblically explain why my conscience prohibited me from attending his ordination to the Catholic priesthood.  This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and so, to honor the grace of God, the truth of Scripture and our Reformed heritage I endeavored to set this letter before you, bit by bit, highlighting some of the most significant theological differences between the Biblical and Roman Catholic doctrines of man (who/what is he?) and justification (how can he be saved?).  This installment marks the conclusion of that letter.  I pray that this series has been informative, challenging, and edifying.  For the previous installments, see:


I can have true assurance of God’s undying, paternal affection for me because his love is not and has never been grounded upon my own righteousness, but the alien righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Since salvation is wholly the work of my gracious and merciful God whose decree is immutable (he never changes his mind!) my salvation is sealed for all eternity and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit; “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-13).  Thus, I can never fall away from that state of grace and salvation and am free to love God without fearing his condemnation and rejection.  Paul spoke of the believer's assurance of salvation saying, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).

Don’t you know that to be true, my friend?  Aren’t you painfully aware that even your best efforts are so tainted and marred by sin that they are wholly contemptible and incapable of pleasing God?  He who is perfectly and unimaginably holy requires perfect holiness from all who would draw near to him (Lev 20:26).  Doesn’t Paul’s warning, “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (Gal 1:9),” strike fear into your soul?  Don’t you know that Rome’s Gospel constitutes a perversion of the true gospel by which, “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ,” (Gal. 2:15-16).  I beg you, my dear friend, abandon your endeavor and run to the cross of Christ.  Leave all notions of man’s worth and man’s merit where they belong - the dustbin of heathenism.  The gospel invites you into the arms of your loving Father, who on the basis of Christ’s finished work alone, accepts you as righteous in his sight to be the object of his everlasting love. Would you neglect such a great salvation?  Would you exchange the truth of God’s word for a lie? 

I tell you these things because I love you.  If I did not love you I would pretend as if all is well when all is not well.  The path that you have chosen is not one that leads to the joys of heaven but to the everlasting anguish of hell.  That which you preach is not the Word of God but the lies of Satan.  Your ordination does not please God but dishonors him and mocks the finished work of Christ on the cross. For that reason, I cannot, I will not attend your ordination, despite my great affection for you.  I plead with you, be reconciled to God.  He will be a whole savior to you or none at all.

I know my words may burn but you must know they are kindled by a zealous longing for the salvation of your soul, my friend.  Please prayerfully consider my words.  Perhaps we can meet to discuss these things in person soon?  Until then, I remain,


Affectionately and Hopefully Yours,

Jim McCarthy