Main difference between Protestants and Catholics

What is the main difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics? When I ask people if they have any questions about Christianity, one thing which often comes up is what the differences are between denominations. It’s a good question! It would take far too long to go into all the distinctions – some of them are more important than others. The most important one (in my opinion) is the main thing which divides Catholics and Protestants. It is justification by faith alone.

The key points

  • There are lots of different denominations with lots of differences. This is a question people often ask. Some differences are small and insignificant, some are bigger.
  • In this session, we’ll focus on the most fundamental difference between Protestants and Catholics – there is one which is most significant.
  • It is justification by faith alone (I should have made clearer in the video: it’s a doctrine which Roman Catholicism rejects – see the books below for more information about that).
  • It is taught in the Bible in places such as Ephesians 2:8-10, which teaches:
    1. We are saved by God’s grace – his unmerited favour (GRACE = God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense);
    2. Through faith – our faith is the empty hand which clings onto God’s promises (“nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling” – Rock of Ages);
    3. This is not from ourselves – we cannot even claim the faith that we have to be something good which we’ve done ourselves;
    4. So that no-one can boast.
  • The reason this doctrine is so important is for two reasons. Firstly, because otherwise we could become proud. The Bible does not allow us to take any personal pride in achieving our salvation! It is not at all down to us.
  • Secondly, because of where it leads. If you go down the ‘we deserve salvation’ road, you will end up in a very different place. Ultimately only justification by faith alone frees us to love God and others.

Explore further

I appreciate this is only a brief introduction! If this is a topic which interests you, you might like to read further.

The book I mention in the video is called Freedom Movement by Mike Reeves. It’s a (VERY) short and readable introduction to the Reformation and is available from 10 of those.

For a more detailed book you might also like Why the Reformation Still Matters by Mike Reeves and Tim Chester, available here.

The Heidelberg Catechism course is available here, but the specific video I mention is part #24 – Why are good deeds not enough? This deals with the issue of why it’s so important to believe in ‘faith alone’.

Your questions answered

This is part of the Your questions answered feature. See that page for more videos in the series.

If you have a question about Christianity or the Bible, please send them in or comment below.

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