Roman Catholicism

Rome's Useless Tabernacles and Altars

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
The altars and tabernacles found in every Roman Catholic church are an affront to the holy God who has established His only begotten Son as the One who alone is "priest forever".

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

The tabernacles and altars found in every Roman Catholic church are an affront to the holy God who has established His only begotten Son as the One who alone is "priest forever".

The longest-standing and most insidious error that has plagued the Christian church has come in the form of a thousand attempts, from apostolic times onward, to confuse or erase the vital distinction between justification and sanctification.

Of course, the most damaging form of that error is Roman Catholicism. It is, in fact, a throwback to the Levitical system which the book of Hebrews declares has been done away, once and forever, in Christ. Roman Catholicism says that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross was not enough. The Old Covenant Levitical system must continue, Rome says, and so she ordains priests to carry on a distorted form of the tabernacle service. In fact, in every Roman Catholic church you will find a structure called "the tabernacle." And you will also find a structure called "the altar."

The Roman Catholic tabernacle is the structure within which the priests store the consecrated bread and wine that Rome teaches is changed into the actual body and blood of Christ to be sacrificed on the altar in the Mass. Each Roman Catholic mass is a fresh sacrifice of Christ. That is Roman Catholic teaching.

The tabernacle and altar that you find in every Roman Catholic church are the focus of Roman Catholic error concerning the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. They do not truly believe that it was "once for all." And so the priest, according to Catholic teaching, sacrifices Christ again, and again, and again at every celebration of the Mass. Millions of times each year, in Catholic churches around the world.

Roman Catholicism says that you must add your own personal righteousness to Christ's righteousness in order to be saved. It would be grievous enough if that error were limited to Roman Catholicism. But in our time, the error of confusing and conflating justification and sanctification is flooding into the Protestant church.

Growing numbers of men in Reformed pulpits are teaching that we are not fully justified, once for all, when we are converted. They say that there will be a final justification on the Day of Judgment. The basis of our final entry into eternal life, they say, will not be faith in Christ alone, but faith in Christ plus our own keeping of the Law - as though we could keep it.

This is the public teaching of well-known men in Reformed denominations like the OPC and the PCA today. But dear friends, we must call this what it is. Scripture calls this "damnable heresy" (2 Peter 2:1). Thus the Apostle Paul tells the Galatians:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:6-12)

Hebrews 10:14 tells us that "by one offering" Christ "has perfected [perfect active indicative tense, in the Greek denoting a once-for-all, never-to-be-repeated event] forever" in the sight of God, "those who are being sanctified." A literal rendering of the Greek would be that "He has perfected in perpetuity the sanctified." That is the great and vital distinction.

The Word of God is clear. God justifies sinners. God sanctifies the saved. Justification is not a process that occurs over time. Justification is not something that occurs in stages. Justification by faith is the once-for-all act of God in declaring a sinner not guilty because of faith in the person and work of Christ, and this means that every true believer in Christ has full assurance of salvation forever from the moment you believe.

Rome's altars and tabernacles are an affront to the holy God who has established His only begotten Son as the One who "continues forever [and] has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him [not an earthly priest] since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:24-25).


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