Exposing the Heresies of the Catholic Church: The Mass
by John MacArthur
The writer of Hebrews is inescapably clear about the singular nature of Christ’s sacrifice.
For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:24-28, emphasis added)
Scripture does not waver on the finality of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. He came to make a one-time offering for sin, never to be repeated. It was a contrast to the Mosaic covenant, which necessitated a system of near-constant sacrifices. But none of the Old Testament sacrifices could actually atone for sin. They could only serve as a reminder of God’s deliverance and foreshadow Christ’s final sacrifice which would conquer sin.
In the practice of the mass, the Roman Catholic Church has reinstituted an unbiblical system of repeated sacrifices, blaspheming Christ and perverting His work on the cross.
How important is the mass to Catholicism? The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to it as “the source and summit of the Christian life.” That is to say, it is the origin and the high point of the Catholic faith. It’s not peripheral—it’s the heart and soul of the entire system.
In his book The Faith of Millions, John O’Brien, a Catholic priest, explains the procedure of the mass.
When the priest pronounces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than that of monarchs and emperors: it is greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim. Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary. While the Blessed Virgin was the human agency by which Christ became incarnate a single time, the priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of man—not once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows His head in humble obedience to the priest’s command.
Put simply, the Catholic Church won’t let Christ off the cross. In the mass, the substance of the bread and the wine are supposedly transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus, rendering Him as a repeated, incomplete sacrifice for sins. He’s not Lord and Savior—He’s the eternal Victim, perpetually bound to the altar by the power of the priest, visibly and ubiquitously symbolized in the Roman Catholic crucifix.
That’s a direct denial of Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:8-10.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God (emphasis added).
By denying the singular sacrifice of Christ, Catholicism imbues its illegitimate priesthood with artificial power and authority, enslaving its followers to a repetitious system of ineffective, ungodly offerings for sin. It’s essentially paganism sprinkled with enough Christian terminology to deceive and delude souls, convincing them Christ’s death on the cross was not enough to accomplish their salvation. In effect, the mass cancels out the real meaning of the cross.
In Light from Old Times, J.C. Ryle explained the theological and spiritual implications—and imperfections—of the Catholic mass.
Whatever men please to think or say, the Romish doctrine of the real presence, if pursued to its legitimate consequences, obscures every leading doctrine of the gospel, and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ’s truth. Grant for a moment that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice, and not a sacrament—grant that every time the words of the consecration are used the natural body and blood of Christ are present on the communion table under the forms of bread and wine—grant that every one who eats that consecrated bread and drinks that consecrated wine does really eat and drink the natural body and blood of Christ—grant for a moment these things, and then see what momentous consequences result from these premises. You spoil the blessed doctrine of Christ’s finished work when He died on the cross. A sacrifice that needs to be repeated is not a perfect and complete thing. You spoil the priestly office of Christ. If there are priests that can offer an acceptable sacrifice to God besides Him, the great High Priest is robbed of His glory. You spoil the scriptural doctrine of the Christian ministry. You exalt sinful men into the position of mediators between God and man. You give to the sacramental elements of bread and wine an honour and veneration they were never meant to receive, and produce an idolatry to be abhorred of faithful Christians. Last, but not least, you overthrow the true doctrine of Christ’s human nature. If the body born of the Virgin Mary can be in more places than one at the same time, it is not a body like our own, and Jesus was not “the last Adam” in the truth of our nature.
In simple terms, the mass has nothing to do with the Christian gospel, nothing to do with the Christian life, and nothing to do with the Christian church. It rejects the true, biblical nature of God, Christ, sin, salvation, atonement, and forgiveness. It robs the cross of its meaning and replaces it with superficial, man-centered idolatry. It’s a lie, a fraud, and a damning fabrication that enslaves hearts and ushers people to hell.
#1 Posted by
Kenneth James | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
When I was first saved about 40 years ago I was attending the RC Church. I also started to attend a Baptist Church. I liked the study of the word of God over the same old thing each week at the Catholic Church. However I attended both churches for 6 months because I wanted to be a witness of the peace with God and the changed life I found in a personal faith in Christ. These things I wanted to share to my family and friends in the Catholic Church.
However it was the teaching of the Catholic Mass that lead me out of the RC Church. Not being taught by anyone but by reading the scriptures alone, Hebrews 10: 1-25 I seen the error being taught in the Catholic Church about the Lord's Supper. I could no longer partake of the table because when the priest presented the bread to me he would say the body of Christ, to which I was to reply Amen. I could not say Amen because it was not the body of Christ. Then I realized that each time I went to Mass and did not partake of the Lord's Table I was causing family and friends to wonder what sin was in my life that I could not partake of the Table, I was no longer a witness.
I might also add that during this time I meant with my priest and showed him all the things I was learning. He could not answer any of my questions and he would just say I should throw you out but I can't because I can't answer you. After about 6 weeks he would no longer meet with me, however he never throw me out of the church. Looking back now the priest actions seem strange.
#2 Posted by
Janice Noland | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
This has been quite an eye-opening blog series. I am simply stunned. I had no idea the doctrine of the Catholic Church stood in such stark contrast to the truth of God’s Word.
Reading this, I am reminded of these words of our Lord in Matthew 15:6-9:
" So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
Two things I am resolved to do now: Pray for Catholics and proclaim the gospel.
#3 Posted by
Peter Epps | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
O'Brien's way of expressing things is not very helpful; I'll grant you that. But then, neither is the tone of your "critique" very measured. Instead, why don't we turn ad fontes, going to a Doctor of the Church who is the source of so much of your tradition, and is even more important to Catholic thought? St. Augustine very clearly did not doubt Jesus Himself was really present in the sacrament which He instituted with the words "This is my Body" and "This is my Blood." For just one vivid instance, see his Exposition on Psalm 34:
'Now will He speak openly of the same Sacrament, whereby He was carried in His Own Hands. “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (ver. 8). Doth not the Psalm now open itself, and show thee that seeming insanity and constant madness, the same insanity and sober inebriety of that David, who in a figure showed I know not what, when in the person of king Achis they said to him, How is it? When the Lord said, “Except a man eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, he shall have no life in him”? And they in whom reigned Achis, that is, error and ignorance, said; what said they? “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” If thou art ignorant, “Taste and see that the Lord is good:” but if thou understandest not, thou art king Achis: David shall change His Countenance and shall depart from thee, and shall quit thee, and shall depart.'
[ http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf108.ii.XXXIV.html ]
And this is why, though the Church since Christ founded her has taught that the ONE sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is always the VERY SAME sacrifice of the Eucharist, made present for those of us who "proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again," we are also taught what St. Augustine and many others have taught, that
'The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. "Will you also go away?": the Lord's question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has "the words of eternal life."'
[ http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c1a3.htm#1336 ]
#4 Posted by
David Barrow | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
(Sent earlier but must not have gone through.)
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1367
1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory."
The "biblical basis" for this comes from John 6:53-58. A few verses later Jesus explains that this is not to be taken literally - 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. In John 6:35, Jesus explains this spiritual metaphor, which is exactly what the rest of the New Testament consistently teaches (e.g. John 1:12, John 11:25-26).
Jesus also refers to the Holy Spirit as living water (John 7:37-39). This does not mean the Holy Spirit is manifest in some kind of "holy water" to be ingested.
Jesus sums up his whole exhortation on all of this in John 4:23-24. We must worship God in spirit and in truth. That is to say what the gospel message has been telling us all along, that we must worship him knowing full well our pitiful sinful condition and that we are desperately in need of him as our only Savior. We have been spiritually born again by accepting his death, resurrection, and righteousness alone as our own, which is received ONLY through faith alone in him alone. He has done it all for us. Until we realize salvation is synonymous with the person and FINISHED work of Jesus Christ alone, and absolutely nothing else, we cannot be saved (John 17:3).
#5 Posted by
John Roscoe | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
"A few verses later Jesus explains that this is not to be taken literally". Really, David? How about verse 52 and following? At this the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can he give us his flesh to eat?" Thereupon Jesus said to them: "Let me solemnly assure you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has life enteral and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood real drink." Sorta seems like you are carefully picking and choosing your way through John's discourse.
#6 Posted by
Daniel Wilson | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
The mass takes 1 hr to bring christ down and kill him and raise Him up... unbiblical...
#7 Posted by
Brad Kennedy | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
I will join with you in prayer for the Catholics our Lord has mercifully led to read John's blog. 2 Timothy 2:19-26
#8 Posted by
Patricia O | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
It grieves me that there are so many who walk in darkness.
For my brothers and sisters who know the truth. Please remember with all false religions the issue is as Jmac says "who do you say He is?"
Who is Christ?
Let us not get into arguments about Mary, Canon, etc:
It is always about who is Christ? Any religion that makes Him less than He is and who He, Christ claimed to be, what His death on the cross accomplished is the sprit of antichrist.
Lets stay focused. It is the truth that sets the minds of men free, pulling down the strongholds, the truth about who Christ is. Remember our battle is not against flesh and blood.
So we have an opportunity and a HUGH mission field no?
I am a simple person and no theologian.........
Christ is always the issue. It is the most dangerous war, the truth war because man's eternal destiny is at stake..........
"for I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to all who will believe"
Thank you to all my brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to fight for the truth.
Remember the issue is Christ, it always is.............
#9 Posted by
Joseph Corea | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
I have started to read this series the other day and got through a few of the articles. I am a Roman Catholic and heard a lot of these complaints before. I worked for a southern Baptist for 12 years. We would argue about which one of our faiths were correct (he was what we call a fallen away Catholic). After a while I did eventually convince him that a person who is Catholic isn’t damned because they follow their faith (That took about a year). And I was eventually able to convince him that we Catholics are indeed Christians (That took another year). I was also able to convince him that we did not worship Mary (That took another year). Although I wasn’t able to convince him to return to his childhood faith, I was able to confound him on the Eucharist. In John 6, it is very clear that Jesus was not talking symbolically, but literally; I told him, “Pretend that Jesus did mean to introduce us to his true presence in the sacrifice of the Mass, how would he have said it differently? I mean he was really direct, even to the point of people walking away and leaving him. These are people he deeply cared about and wants to bring to heaven, they left because they knew he was talking about literally eating his body and drinking his blood. As a matter of fact they were complaining of just that when they left him.” Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist has led many away from Catholicism (As you can see by an earlier comment on this post). Jesus asked Peter if he would leave him too, Peter’s response was so simple, “Where would we go, you have the words of eternal life”.
I would like to encourage any and every Christian (even if you can’t stand Catholics) to pray that we get the most holy Pope we have had in 2000 years. A Pope the bravely does God’s holy will would benefit us all greatly.
#10 Posted by
Mitch Eddards | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
Thank you Dr. Macarthur for this on-going blog. This series has been real helpful to explain what the Catholic Church teaches and how it's not biblical - this one has been especially helpful for me - i will have to check out the series on The Catholic Church Dr. Macarthur did.
#11 Posted by
Josh Kittinger | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
St. Augustine was also a founding exponent of the doctrine of total depravity and total justification , which stands in sharp contrast to the catholic system of sainthood in general (I doubt he introduced himself as st. augustine...) and the 'works' mentality that defines the catholic church in so many ways. He was also a very early church father to the extent that in the minds of informed people he is certainly not representative of what the church is today. Further, "the cross is a stumbling block" not 'the cross and the eucharist' which is just another example of extra-Biblical rethoric. The role of priests, ascetism, infant baptism...I'll leave it to Mr. MacArthur.
#12 Posted by
Chris McCarthy | Thursday, February 28, 2013at
Obrien's. comments are blasphemous. A man presuming he can bring
Christ down is absurd. Jesus is not present at the altar. The RCC system is an apostate system.
The people within the system are our mission field for many of them do not know or understand these
Doctrines. As a converted catholic I like Paul took account of all my works of righteousness, my infant baptism, my first communion, my confirmation, my wedding ceremony, my connection to the Rc system and count them as loss. because in fact they were the works I counted on for my own righteousness. A self righteous. The record of his conversion from self righteousness to the righteousness of Christ received by faith.
8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
As a catholic: When I thought about why God would let me into heaven as an answer to the most important question I would say "I am a pretty good guy, sure I sin but doesn't everybody? God will let me in because God is good. I might add I was baptized and went to church and believed.
But I never thought of answering this way: Jesus Christ died in my place as my substitute and rose from the dead because the wrath of God and the justice of God demanded it. By his finished work on Calvary you have given me a righteousness that I do not deserve.
Oh the depths of His Grace.
#13 Posted by
Jeremiah Johnson | Friday, March 01, 2013at
People walked away confused, frustrated, and offended virtually every time Christ spoke. "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (1 Corinthians 2:14)
I agree that it is important to work to understand Scripture as it would have been heard and read by its original audience. But I don't think we can glean much that is actually meaningful from their response, except that Christ's audience was often full of shallow, unilluminated minds that frequently misunderstood what He was teaching.
#14 Posted by
Fred Butler | Friday, March 01, 2013at
You didn't interact with verse 63 that David cited. Jesus clarifies that he is contrasting between the spirit and the flesh. Physically eating the bread does not impart any spiritual blessing. The point being is that Christ's work is what saves, not crucifying him over and over again in the Mass.
Additionally, the very passages you claim were wrestled out of context tell us that "eating" of Christ is a one time thing to receive eternal life, yet RC have to partake in the Mass regularly in order to continue in the process of receiving justification. Jesus' own words contradict the very system you are advocating.
#15 Posted by
Brad Kennedy | Friday, March 01, 2013at
I assume you have only a left hand and left eye? Matthew 5:29-30.
#16 Posted by
Warren Hewko | Friday, March 01, 2013at
hello to all, here's a word fromPaul inspired by the word of God in 2 Tim 2:will start in verse 24 and to all RCC we are here if we are( my words now scripture teaching) the Lords servants must not be quarrel some but kind to everyone, able to teach(explain) ,patientlyenduing evil, 25 orrecting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth , and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil,after being captured by him to do his will. To Our lost and loving families and freinds coworker,and many ,here the words of Paul inspired of the God the Holy Spirit the authority of the universe and pages of scripture use ing ordinary men to do the extraordinary work of of Great God and Savior to write done the truth of His words and live by His Grace Through Faith ,believe in the finished work of jesus on the cross ,please and we are all praying ,go to Hebrews and see what has already been (Done) and still the Roman Catholic Church is still (Doing) and go to the Book of John chapter 3:1-21 and reread and see what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus,believe, believe , believe ,belief and faith ,as jesus said on the cross it is finished .amen
#17 Posted by
Millie Leis | Friday, March 01, 2013at
I can never understand a Catholics stance to take Jesus' words during the Last Supper literally. If indeed it was to be taken literally, then Jesus would have given them his actual flesh to eat and blood to drink. He was right there in "flesh and blood", but he didn't have them eat of his flesh and drink of his blood. Instead he used symbols; bread for His body and wine for His blood...
Thank you Dr. MacArthur, for never waivering from God's Holy Word.
#18 Posted by
Gary Simmons | Saturday, March 02, 2013at
As Peter said, your O'Brien source is not completely helpful. For one thing, it's not official Catholic doctrine. For another, you're only citing one source. "By the words of two or three witnesses is every matter established." It would be biblical for you to check other Catholic sources before attempting to claim anything about Catholicism. That is simply good judgment. NewAdvent.org may be of some use, although the formatting of that site is terrible. Look up the Council of Trent, for a start.
The Mass mystically taps into the once-and-for-all sacrifice. It doesn’t redo it, augment it, compensate for any alleged deficiencies in it, or any other such thing.
Since not everyone had a full-fledged KJV in the first century, and most couldn’t read anyway, people worshiped by physically manifesting what they believe (that’s the point of the whole Levitical system). We tap into the sacrifice by the mystery of the Eucharist. It’s much the same as how we are baptized into his death (Romans 6:1-4) or how Ephesians 2:1-10 says we were raised with Christ, though he died only once and resurrected only once.
It’s interesting that people use “once and for all” in Hebrews referring to why Catholics must be wrong on the Eucharist, but nobody uses the same logic against Paul. Jesus died once, not every single time a Christian is baptized. Neither is augmentation. Neither is redoing the death.
The Mass doesn't make Jesus die again and again any more than baptism does.
#19 Posted by
Mark Tanner | Sunday, March 03, 2013at
Comment on Posted by John Roscoe #5
The one's who walked away in UNBELIEF were the ones who MISUNDERSTOOD and thought (wrongly) that Jesus was literally speaking of eating His literal flesh and drinking His literal blood.
But Jesus makes it clear he is speaking a metaphor. Much more could be said in regard to what it means to eat and drink in a Hebrew sense of teaching in Jesus day.
Paul makes the Lord's supper and it meaning quite clear
( 1 Corinthians 11:23-28 ) and you will NOT find a reference to a literal eating or drinking of the Lord, but a command to remember the suffering of the cross and the work completed there on the Christian's behalf.
I wonder what Catholics think when Christ said "It Is Finished" while on the cross right before He gave up His spirit. What was finished? All the work of redemption that the Father had commanded Him! Praise the Holy trinity for that!
#20 Posted by
Michael Ferrara | Sunday, March 03, 2013at
Thank you Dr. MacArthur for your ministy and dedication to our Lord. Thank you for also confronting this issue. For all of you on this blog, may I recommend a book by James G. McCarthy, titled "The Gospel According To Rome". In it, James McCarthy, a former devoted Catholic, compares the Roman Catholic Catachism (the official doctrine of Roman Catholicism) with the Holy Scriptures. It is an easy read. There is a chapter on the Mass, and other RC doctrines such as purgatory, Maryolatry, Penance, the Papacy, etc. In fact Dr MacArthur wrote the introduction in the book. Mr. McCarthy takes us through the life of a Roman Catholic from birth to death. I highly recommend reading it. Another Book on RC, which gives the history in depth of the many RC doctrines is "Roman Catholicism" by Loraine Boettner. copywrite 1962. Mr Boettner explains the origin of the RC doctrines and uses Scripture to show how anti-Christain the RC doctrines are. I was raised in the RC Church, and while training to make my holy communion, I had to learn the names of the clothing that the priest wears, among a list of mortal and venial sins. I did not understand why the priestly garments was pertinent to holy communion. Anyway, I was saved at the age of 38; then I realized how unscriptural the RC church is. My heart aches for those in that system; I know many RC's who don't even question the RC doctrines. I explained the gospel to them and pointed out how the RC doctrines were wrong, but I got yelled at and told I was wrong and judgemental. My prayers are with those caught in that system. It is our duty to point out, in Christ's love, the errors of that system. We are blessed to have Dr.MacArthur, who is true to the Lord to confront this RC system. God Bless you all, Mike
#22 Posted by
Mark Tanner | Monday, March 04, 2013at
Attention Gary Simmons #15
The book from which Dr. MacArthur quoted is official approved by the Roman Catholic Church and is Nihil Obstat.
"Nihil Obstat" means that this book is officially approved by the Roman Catholic Church.
I have listened quite extensively to Dr. MacArthur's teaching and many on the problems with Roman Catholic doctrine/tradition, which is put on a level higher than that of Scripture. How? By claiming that it carries the same weight as Scripture, both cannot be true since they contradict each other on many important doctrinal issues, such as justification and sanctification and therefore by extension salvation.
However, if Dr. MacArthur wanted to, he could site numerous references stating the same points; on such example is from the book titled "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" by Dr. Ludwig Ott and is also Nihil Obstat. Dr. Ott makes the identical claim(s).
So as you rightly stated by the words of 2-3 witnesses the matter is now established.
I hope you really get to know John MacArthur through his sermons; you will find is is very gifted of God in accurately handling the Word of Truth...may you seek Him with all your heart while He may be found...God bless you and all those earnestly seeking after God.
#24 Posted by
Elizabeth Offer | Tuesday, March 05, 2013at
I did not really understand Catholicism (I went to Catholic school with Irish nuns and priests for 12 years) until I listed to JM's teaching on the mass and mary worship. It is really awesome to know the truth of the Bible and understand that Catholicism is an apostate religion. I have been getting to know who God really is and I cannot wait to meet Jesus in heaven.