Where is Jesus in a Catholic Church?


I had a commenter accuse the Catholic Church of being a “dead religion.” She claimed the only place you can find Jesus Christ in a Catholic church is “hanging dead” on a cross.

For any Catholics who practice their faith, this seems like a very disconnected accusation. But there are a lot of people who seem to have this misconception. So here’s a quick, partial answer to clear it up a bit.

First, let’s start by pointing out that Jesus on the cross is not something to be scoffed at. In fact, his death on the cross is the central event of the entire Christian faith. It wasn’t an empty cross that redeemed the sins of the world. It was the cross that hung the body of Jesus Christ. It is his sacrifice and death, not his resurrection, that saves us. Displaying a crucifix reminds us of the most important thing God did for us. It is the ultimate sign of how much He loves us.

This is why it is displayed so prominently in Catholic churches.

St. Paul says to preach Christ crucified (1 Cor 2:2). What better visual aide is there to such preaching than a crucifix? And in fact, Galations 3:1 actually refers to Christ being “publicly portrayed as crucified” to them (i.e. seems like they were looking at a crucifix). That’s not to say Catholics have anything against empty crosses. We use those all the time, too. I’m just pointing out that the image of Christ crucified is a very biblical one.

And if that’s not enough, the call of the Christian is to take up our cross and follow Jesus. If you ever want to know what that means, you won’t find the answer by looking at a cross…unless of course that cross has Jesus hanging on it. The crucifix is the complete answer to what it means to take up your cross and follow Jesus.

For a Christian, the image of Jesus on the cross is not at all a sign of a dead religion. On the contrary, it’s the perfect depiction of what Love looks like. If we miss that, we miss the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

Second, all of that said, Catholic churches are like the masters of beautifully and artistically displaying every Jesus version imaginable. We got Unborn Baby Jesus, Newborn Baby Jesus, Teenage Preacher Jesus, Divine Mercy Jesus, Miracle Worker Jesus, Garden-praying Jesus, Transfiguration Jesus, Crown-of-thorns-wearing Jesus, Cross-carrying Jesus, Wine-making Jesus, Ascension Jesus, Last Supper Jesus, Risen Jesus…and I’m not even done with the mysteries of the Rosary yet.

Probably no Buddy Jesus.

Sorry. He’s still your buddy, though.

Anyway, I could go on and on and on but I’ll spare you the list. My point is that clearly Catholics love Jesus so much that they can’t help painting, sculpting and stain-glassing him in pretty much every way imaginable. Almost all of the above representations of Jesus can be found around my parish (and most parishes). And, not to mention, every Catholic church displays the “stations of the cross,” which visually commemorate the “Passion” of our Lord.

And everything else displayed in a Catholic church, if it’s not Jesus, actually points to Jesus. No lie! Every saint or other piece of art is there because that person or thing inspires us to love Jesus more. That’s the only reason they are there. They are all like big red flashing arrows pointing to Jesus (except way more inspirational and stylish). They are all. about. Jesus. Nothing else.

Third, Jesus is present in the written (and proclaimed) Word of God at a Catholic church. You’ll hear more scripture during a Catholic Mass than in any non-catholic service (at least that I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a lot of them!). Additionally, in a Catholic church, the Bible is displayed, stored, moved, lifted up, read and treated with more reverence than I’ve ever seen anybody treat a book. It’s all done for Jesus.

Fourth, Jesus is present in the congregation in that we are His Body, the Church. And (hopefully!), He is seen and made present by each person in attendance in the living out of their faith, hope and love. This point can’t be overstated. If other people are walking into a Catholic Church and not seeing Jesus, it’s probably not their fault as much as it is ours (the Catholics in attendance). When people look at us, do they see Jesus? Do our lives point to Jesus like the lives of the Saints do? If we do all of these other things and then miss this point, then we miss the entire point. Jesus should be evidently present in each member of the congregation.

But, also, Jesus is uniquely present in the ordained priest. Every Catholic priest has been given orders and authority that have literally and directly been passed down from Jesus and his Apostles. The Apostles literally laid hands on the guy who laid hands on the guy who laid hands on the guy…..who laid hands on the priest saying the Mass. Jesus said “he who hears you, hears me” and then told them to “go!” Well, here they are. Every priest has been officially commissioned and authorized by the direct successors of Jesus. If you love Jesus, you gotta love that!

Fifth, and most profoundly, Jesus is present – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – in the Eucharist (Communion). This (a.k.a. Jesus) is the source and summit of the Catholic Faith. He is the center of every Mass. His once-and-for-all sacrifice is made present at every Mass. Every person, when entering into the sacred space, drops to a knee to worship and honor Jesus. We fulfill Jesus’ command to “Do this in memory of me.” We consume his flesh and blood, as he carefully and clearly instructs in John 6. We make a statement of communion with Him and His Bride (the Church) as the physical presence of the Savior of all Mankind literally becomes a part of our bodies and floods our souls. It’s a straight-up Jesus fest.

And all of this is celebrated in the Catholic Church every hour of every day in every nook and cranny of our planet in communion with each other.

Now how can any Jesus Freak not dig all this Jesus?! Jesus be everywhere up in the Catholic Church. Sure, you might not agree with all of that. You might think some of it’s weird or crazy. But people thought that same thing about the first Christians, too.

If you want to know where Jesus is in a Catholic church, the answer is: Everywhere.

55 comments Add comment

Jean September 21, 2012 at 9:26 am

Well said.

Jason September 21, 2012 at 10:32 am

We also have crucifixes because
1 Cor 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,

Christians need to keep in mind that the cross was NOT empty. It was the TOMB that was empty, not the cross.

Matthew Warner September 21, 2012 at 11:06 am

Very good distinction, Jason.

michelle January 18, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Simply brilliant. Thank you.

Morag Marinoni May 6, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Excellent response. In my talking with Protestants, (I am a Legionary of Mary and we do “door to door” evangelising), I am given the impression that Jesus is spiritualised by them to such a degree in their thinking that He is no longer what He should be: Our God in human form. Touchable, hearable, able to eat and drink with those to whom He chooses to reveal Himself. In a body more physical and more perfect than ours that has divine qualities and abilities which we will also have one day. But He got that body by carrying around his mortal, human, body first! It is right for us not to lose sight of that, to venerate that poor lacerated body, because meditating of what Jesus did for us helps us to put up with our own sufferings. No human being can run away from suffering, sooner or later we have to endure it. That cruxifix, that is so detested because so misunderstood by non-Catholics, encourages the gazer to develop patience and fortitude and humility.

Joe Zmikly September 21, 2012 at 10:49 am

Excellent response to your commenter! One thing you forgot, though – Jesus is present in the Word proclaimed at Mass, most especially in the Gospels! This would especially appeal to a follower of sola scriptura (as it does to all Christians). I would agree with you though, that he is most profoundly present in the Eucharist (and in parishes like mine who have 24/7 Eucharistic adoration).

Thanks for your blog, keep up the good work!

Matthew Warner September 21, 2012 at 11:04 am

Thanks, Joe! I think I hit on that one in my third point, no?

Joe Zmikly September 21, 2012 at 11:18 am

Whoops, for some reason I guess I glossed over that :)

Joe Zmikly September 21, 2012 at 11:22 am

Feel free to delete the original post:)

Beth Dryfuse September 21, 2012 at 10:55 am

This is GREAT! Wonderfully stated! I would love to be able to print this out and give it to the parents of my CCD students and use it as a reference when we have our lesson on the Church and they review what all the items are that are used at Mass. If I could have permission to do that, that’d be wonderful! Thanks! :)

Matthew Warner September 21, 2012 at 11:06 am

Of course! If you can just cite the source on the handout, that would be much appreciated. Thanks for sharing it!

Beth Dryfuse September 21, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Thank you so much! I will certainly do that! :)

Susan Soto September 21, 2012 at 11:22 am

When I walk thru the doors of a catholic church it brings me so much Peace. Meditating on the holy cross fills my heart with so much Love and gratefulness. But, being there knowing that Jesus Christ is truly present with me (and anyone else who walks thru the doors) gives me a calming Peace I cannot find anywhere else. I love diving into the beauty of the catholic church because it always brings me to my Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you for this article!

Jennifer September 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Love this! Sharing.

Kevin September 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Even not during the Mass, in most churches, Jesus is physically present in the tabernacle.

Peter September 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Excellent article. I am working with my priest on developing an outreach programme for lapsed Catholics and am hoping to integrate flocknote within it. Central to the success of this programme is the messaging of the Eucharist. I will keep you posted on developments

Matthew Warner September 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Peter – yes, please keep me posted! And let me know if you guys need any assistance implementing Flocknote. We’re happy to help!

God bless you!

Morag Marinoni September 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I will also print off this article and of course I will give you the credit. Many thanks.

BA September 23, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Matt, hope you and those who visit this site, will discover who Jesus really is. Perhaps someday these odd religious depictions you have of Him will only be a distant memory. You listed names of Jesus I never heard of, but for some reason you seem to like. So tonight, I’m going to show you what the SCRIPTURES introduce the character and titles given to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. One such name is Master, One who rules over all. By learning and studying the names given to our Lord, we gain a deeper understanding regarding not only what He does, but Who He is. Now, these are just a few but none the less, my favorites. Here we go: The Word, Creator of all things, Master, Mediator, High Priest, Author of Salvation, I Am, The Almighty, The First and the Last, Intercessor, Author and Finisher of Our Faith, Advocate, Teacher, Yahweh, Immanuel, The Savior of the World, The Son of Man, The Son of David, The Lamb, The Shephard of the Sheep, The Way, Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, Christ, The True Vine, The Living Bread, A Refuge from the Storm, The True Light, The Rock, My Rock and My Fortress, My Rock and My Redeemer, The Foundation, A Chief Cornerstone, A Precious Stone, The Gift of God, My Beloved, The Redeemer, The Consolation of Israel, The Truth, The Amen, The Faithful and True. A Covenant to the People, The Last Adam, God’s Firstborn, The Head, A Life-Giving Spirit, The Head of all Principality and Power, The Just, The Holy One of Israel, The Deliverer, Commander, The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Ruler, One Lord, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Lord of the Sabbath, Lord of All, The Lord of Glory, Lord. I serve a Mighty and Awesome God. For He alone is worthy of all my praise. May this be a blessing to all that are hearing who Jesus truely this, for the first time. God Bless!!

Matthew Warner September 24, 2012 at 9:39 am

BA – Catholics celebrate every one of those titles/names of Jesus, too! In fact, I’d bet Catholic Churches depict each of those in art/architecture/etc in more ways and more often than any other church in the world. So I’m still not clear on your argument here as your original accusation was that the only place you could find Jesus in a Catholic church was dead on a cross. As I said in the post, I could have gone on and on with more titles, but I think my point was made.

And each of the descriptions of Jesus I mentioned in the post are all biblical and tell a part of the Gospel story. If you’re confused about any of them, just let me know which ones and I’m happy to help.

God bless you.

BA September 24, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Matt/any catholic, glad to hear catholics celebrate the many names given to. I just never heard it in ANY parish I ever attended. What they did have though was many statues and artsy stuff everywhere. We have no need of that in my church, we could worship in a basement if need be, with bible in hand. Could you? And yes, am confused by your titles, example, Unborn Baby Jesus, would love to see where ALL of them are found in scripture….thank you. It’s ironic that you’d say, “all biblical” and what your topic of this blog is. Does church tradition have authority over the bible? Tradition can be good as long as it doesn’t conflict with God. Matt, looks like you have alot of fans, you could say anything, even, “pray to Mary and to the saints” and they would reply, well said. Where does it end? May God open your eyes and your heart so you may see Him and not all those obstacles you have placed ahead of Him. Exodus 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commands. Mark 7:6-8 Jesus said, Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of man.

Morag Marinoni September 25, 2012 at 4:52 am

Hello BA. Before sneering at Tradition, have you ever been told that the very Canon of the Bible you use was definitively put together by the Church, using Tradition to show that this and that epistle had been preached since the time of the Apostles. The Church’s authority comes from Jesus Himself. I invite you to read the passages in Exodus where God commands the use of statues to beautify the Holy of Holies. Did He not also command the Jews to worship a serpent wrapped around a pole in order to be healed of afflictions? The Church teaches that the serpent was a pre-figuring of Jesus bearing the sins of the world – and sin’s master is satan, symbolised as a serpent. Do you worship the photo of a loved one you carry on your person, when you look at it and possibly even kiss it? As for Mark 7:6-8, that is a direct reproach to all the Protestant denominations, each and every one founded by men, who have picked and chosen among the texts to find the ones that suited their level of belief among Jesus’ teachings. None of you believe Jesus, who is both God and a man, could hold Himself in His own hands and say, “This is My Body, this is My Blood.” He also said if we did not eat and drink Him under the form of bread & wine consecrated by the priesthood He Himself established, we would not have life within us. Please read the whole of John 6, not just the bits that suit you, and meditate on why Jesus does not run after the disciples who left Him when He proclaimed this necessity to eat Him? As God, He is outside Time. When I am present at Holy Mass, I am truly present at Calvary, the Calvary of 2000 years ago. When Jesus said, “This is your mother” to John, He was looking at each and every other person around Calvary until the end of this world. He also said, “Blessed those who believe without seeing.” God bless you.

BA September 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Oh Morag, my, my. Sorry, but your comment only shows a complete lack of knowledge in scripture. What should I expect from a blog of this kind. I will alway reject traditions taught by men when it is in direct contradiction to the scriptures. Jesus’s apostles preached salvation in Christ only. Determining the canon was a process conducted first by Jewish rabbis and scholars and later by early Christians. It is crucial to remember that the church did not determine the canon. No early church council decided on the canon. It was GOD, and GOD alone who determined which books belonged in the bible. It was simply a matter of God’s imparting to His followers what He had already decided. The human process of collecting the books of the bible was flawed, but God in His sovereignty, and despite our ignorance, brought the early church to the recongnition of the book He had inspired. In Exodus 25:17-22, God is giving instructions on how He wanted the atonement cover/mercy seat constructed. It was not only the lid of the Ark but also the place where sins were covered, the place of propitiation. The CHERUBIM (not statues) serve the purpose of magnifying the holiness and power of God. This is one of their main responsibilities throughout the bible. They serve as a visible reminder of the majesty and glory of God and His abiding presence with His people. The room known as the Holy of Holies was the innermost and most sacred area of the ancient tabernacle of Moses and Temple of Jerusalem. It was constructed as a perfect cube. It contained only The Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of Israel’s special relationship with God. The Holy of Holies was accessible only to Israel’s high priest. Once a year on Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement the high priest was permitted to enter the small windowless enclosure to burn incence and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on the Mercy Seat of the Ark. By doing so, the high priest atoned for his own sins and those of the people. The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the temple by the veil. God said He would appear in the Holy of Holies, hence, the need of the veil. The significance of the Holy of Holies to Christians is found in the events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ. Before Jesus died He cried out in a loud voice and gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple tore in two from top to bottom. Because of the death of Christ on the cross, man was no longer separated from God. From Old Covenant to New Covenant. Now we have access to God through Jesus. The very presence of God, is now open to all who come to Christ in faith. Halleluiah, praise The Lord!! In regards to the serpent, he is mentioned 3 times by the name, devil. One is in Isaiah 27:1 In that day the Lord will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea. (Leviathan, a symbol of the enemies of God) NO, I absolutey do NOT worship photos of any kind. Nor do I look at it and kiss it. I am a Christian. These are practices that come out of the roman catholic church. Lets take a look at Mark 7:6-7, To the Pharisees and teachers of the law, the religious of Jesus times who would use the name of Jesus but turn to the teachings of men. (Roman Catholics of our times) Moras, the infallible bible, from Genesis to Revelation is all about Jesus. That’s why I love it so much. Prayfully, maybe some day, those on this blog will too! John 1:1, John 1:14, In the begining was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, (Jesus). The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His Glory, the Glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of Grace and Truth. The eucharist is not biblical. I agree, lets read on from John 6:53 to John 6:61-63, Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The SPIRIT gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are SPIRIT and they are life”. Morag, when Jesus said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, it was NOT LITERAL, but Spiritual. Hope this brings some understanding. Some will get it, most will not. God bless you all!

Matthew Warner September 26, 2012 at 12:04 am

BA – Literal is not the opposite of spiritual. Your logic is really hard to follow. And the reality Jesus was talking about was clearly (and literally) both physical and spiritual.

And clearly Jesus is not saying that “HIS” flesh counts for nothing, as you are claiming here. That sounds really strange coming from somebody who claims to love Jesus so much. Jesus’ flesh counts for everything. So that makes it very easy to understand that he was not at all speaking about His flesh when he says “the flesh counts for nothing” (and that he could not possibly be saying what you interpret him to be saying).

He is talking about why the disciples are finding his teaching on the Eucharist so hard…saying that you can not rely on your flesh (your fallen, limited minds) to understand this miracle (something that transcends physical limitations), you must rely on the Holy Spirit to understand this mystery. He is not at all saying that all the words he just said a minute ago about literally eating his flesh are not literal. Again, spiritual is not the opposite of literal. It seems you’re really getting words confused in order to try and discount what Jesus is clearly teaching here.

How crazy would Jesus sound if he was saying what you claim him to be saying. “Eat my flesh and drink my blood if you want eternal life…oh, but the flesh counts for nothing.” It would be utter nonsense to interpret it the way you insist on interpreting it.

gntlmnr October 18, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I believe the first few hundred years of Christianity did not have a New Testament. So may be in your opinion that the early Christians were getting it all wrong?

gntlmnr October 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Sorry Matt, I was trying to post a reply to BA since apparently he/she believes in Sola Scriptura, but somehow it looks like I’m replying to you.

Matthew Warner September 25, 2012 at 10:16 am

BA – again, I’m just not sure how you haven’t heard all of this in ANY parish you’ve attended. It’s literally everywhere in almost every parish. And certainly if you go to any of the beautiful cathedrals around the world you see it ten fold. Do you think perhaps you were intent on seeing idols when there were none? (I’m sure you know that having statues and art does not equal idols). And maybe you were intent on seeing distractions from Jesus when you were actually staring at signs pointing toward Him? Just curious.

As for unborn baby Jesus, how about anytime in scripture from the incarnation (when Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit) to the time of Jesus’ birth? Jesus was present there, of course! And there is quite a bit of scripture that covers this important part of the story.

Anyway, the rest of your accusations and implications seem to come from a very misunderstood perception of Catholicism. I’d encourage you to learn more about Catholicism from a reliable source. Additionally, you are the one that has come here and continually repeated your own “tradition of men” when you talk about sola scriptura. There is no evidence of sola scriptura taught anywhere in the bible, nor throughout Christian history until after the 1500s. It is clearly a tradition of men that has been added to Christianity long after Jesus founded His Church.

Also, it sounds like you might like my post: Do Catholics worship Mary, as it sounds like there may be a misunderstanding there, too.

Dan April 17, 2013 at 8:12 am

I keep hearing the phrase,, “Jesus and his Church”. Well what is his church?

The ability to trace one’s church back to the “first church” through apostolic succession is an argument used by a number of different churches to assert that their church is the “one true church.” The Roman Catholic Church makes this claim. The Greek Orthodox Church makes this claim. Some Protestant denominations make this claim. Some of the “Christian” cults make this claim. How do we know which church is correct? The biblical answer is – it does not matter!

The church established by Jesus Christ did not have a “name” such as “catholic”, “Baptist”, “Methodist”, etc. The followers were simply called “Christians”. The first church, its growth, doctrine, and practices, were recorded for us in the New Testament. Jesus, as well as His apostles, foretold that false teachers would arise, and indeed it is apparent from some of the New Testament epistles that these apostles had to fight against false teachers early on. Having a pedigree of apostolic succession or being able to trace a church’s roots back to the “first church” is nowhere in Scripture given as a test for being the true church. What are given are repeated comparisons between what false teachers teach and what the first church taught, as recorded in Scripture. Whether a church is the “true church” or not is determined by comparing its teachings and practices to that of the New Testament church, as recorded in Scripture.

For instance, in Acts 20:17-38, the Apostle Paul has an opportunity to talk to the church leaders in the large city of Ephesus one last time face to face. In that passage, he tells them that false teachers will not only come among them but will come FROM them (vv. 29-30). Paul does not set forth the teaching that they were to follow the “first” organized church as a safeguard for the truth. Rather, he commits them to the safekeeping of “God and to the word of His grace” (v. 32). Thus, truth could be determined by depending upon God and “the word of His grace” (i.e., Scripture, see John 10:35).

This dependence upon the Word of God, rather than following certain individual “founders” is seen again in Galatians 1:8-9, in which Paul states, “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.” Thus, the basis for determining truth from error is not based upon even WHO it is that is teaching it, “we or an angel from heaven,” but whether it is the same gospel that they had already received – and this gospel is recorded in Scripture.

Another example of this dependence upon the Word of God is found in 2 Peter. In this epistle, the Apostle Peter is fighting against false teachers. In doing so, Peter begins by mentioning that we have a “more sure word” to depend upon than even hearing the voice of God from heaven as they did at Jesus’ transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-21). This “more sure word” is the written Word of God. Peter later tells them again to be mindful of “the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets and the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:2). Both the words of the holy prophets and the commandments Jesus gave to the apostles are recorded in Scripture.

How do we determine whether a church is teaching correct doctrine or not? The only infallible standard that Scripture says that we have is the Bible (Isaiah 8:20; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 2:25; Galatians 1:6-9). Tradition is a part of every church and that tradition must be compared to God’s Word, lest it go against what is true (Mark 7:1-13). It is true that the cults and sometimes orthodox churches twist the interpretation of Scripture to support their practices; nonetheless, Scripture, when taken in context and faithfully studied, is able to guide one to the truth.

The “first church” is the church that is recorded in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul. The New Testament church is the “original church” and the “one true church.” We can know this because it is described, in great detail, in Scripture. The church, as recorded in the New Testament, is God’s pattern and foundation for His church. On this basis, let’s examine the Roman Catholic claim that it is the “first church.” Nowhere in the New Testament will you find the “one true church” doing any of the following: praying to Mary, praying to the saints, venerating Mary, perpetual virginity of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, submitting to a pope, having a select priesthood, baptizing an infant, observing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as sacraments, or passing on apostolic authority to successors of the apostles, purgatory, praying to dead people, the rosary, papal infallibility, and the vicar of Christ. All of these are core elements of the Roman Catholic faith. If most of the core elements of the Roman Catholic Church were not practiced by the New Testament Church (the first church and one true church), how then can the Roman Catholic Church be the first church? A study of the New Testament will clearly reveal that the Roman Catholic Church is not the same church as the church that is described in the New Testament.

The New Testament records the history of the church from approximately A.D. 30 to approximately A.D. 90. In the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries, history records several Roman Catholic doctrines and practices among early Christians. Is it not logical that the earliest Christians would be more likely to understand what the Apostles truly meant? Yes, it is logical, but there is one problem. Christians in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries were not the earliest Christians. Again, the New Testament records the doctrine and practice of the earliest Christians…and, the New Testament does not teach Roman Catholicism. What is the explanation for why the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century church began to exhibit signs of Roman Catholicism?

The answer is simple – the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century (and following) church did not have the complete New Testament. Churches had portions of the New Testament, but the New Testament (and the full Bible) was not commonly available until after the invention of the printing press in A.D. 1440. The early church did its best in passing on the teachings of the apostles through oral tradition, and through extremely limited availability to the Word in written form. At the same time, it is easy to see how false doctrine could creep into a church that only had access to the Book of Galatians, for example. It is very interesting to note that the Protestant Reformation followed very closely after the invention of the printing press and the translation of the Bible into the common languages of the people. Once people began to study the Bible for themselves, it became very clear how far the Roman Catholic Church had departed from the church that is described in the New Testament.

Scripture never mentions using “which church came first” as the basis for determining which is the “true” church. What it does teach is that one is to use Scripture as the determining factor as to which church is preaching the truth and thus is true to the first church. It is especially important to compare Scripture with a church’s teaching on such core issues as the full deity and humanity of Christ, the atonement for sin through His blood on Calvary, salvation from sin by grace through faith, and the infallibility of the Scriptures. The “first church” and “one true church” are recorded in the New Testament. That is the church that all churches are to follow, emulate, and model themselves after.

gntlmnr April 17, 2013 at 9:46 am


I just loved how you asked a question and answered it like this: “How do we know which church is correct? The biblical answer is – it does not matter!”

Then all of a sudden it matters, and the Catholic church ends up being the “savage wolves” and “perverting the truth”.

Now that’s a fair minded approach to the whole issue!!!

It is VERY evident in scripture that Christ wants a unified church. The evidence in in (John 17:20 – 22).

So let’s examine those churches that follow “sola scriptua”. How many of those churches are there? I am willing to bet that they are not “ONE” as Christ is very clearly calling them to be.

So here we go, we can kiss “sola scriptura” churches goodbye, because they are not ‘ONE”, and they are seriously violating the divine word of Jesus Christ.

So in order for “sola scriptura” churches to make a truly valid point, the first most seriously important step they should make is to get unified instead of constantly attacking Catholicism.

Dan April 17, 2013 at 10:30 am

Savage wolves? Where did that come from…..

Attacking Catholicism? Your issue is with the Word of God. There were over 15 passages and 80 some verses that supported my post.

Your faith is what it is, I can niether prove it or disprove it.

I do not mine if people question my faith. I appreciate that and makes me stronger in God’s word. Oh, I will be the first to admit that I have been wrong before but in keeping as close as I can to what is written has made me much stronger and knowledgable. That’s growing in the faith.

Catholic traditions or any church tradition is good. No problem with that but God does warn us in Mark 7:13, which says, “you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” As long as traditions are in line with the Word of God, then go for it.

All I can say is what I beleive in the Word of God. I thank God everyday for sending is Holy Spirit that teaches me all truth. John 16:13: But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. This is his main job. Only the Holy Spirit know the thoughts of God and freely shares that with me or anybody who has the Spirit of God in them. John 17:17: Your word is truth.

I totally agree with John 17:20-21. Jesus is praying for all believers. It’s the unified body of Christ that he is praying for and not the “church” or “a church”.

The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2) until Christ’s return. The body of Christ is comprised of two aspects:

1) The universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. The universal church of God is all those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

2) The local church is described in Galatians 1:1-2: “Paul, an apostle … and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches—what we call local churches. A Baptist church, Lutheran church, Catholic church, etc., is not the church, as in the universal church—but rather is a local church, a local body of believers. The universal church is comprised of those who belong to Christ and who have trusted Him for salvation. These members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification in a local church.

The church is not a building or a denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the body of Christ—all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

gntlmnr April 17, 2013 at 10:46 am

I believe that you quoted from Acts (vv. 29-30), and that’s where “savage wolves” comes from.

I am sorry, but I totally disagree with your understanding of the “unified church”. It is very clear in Acts that the apostles were working together and not separately. In other words, it was not like each one had his own shop.

michelle January 18, 2013 at 11:30 pm

BA…oh where to begin…

Where in the Bible does the word Trinity appear? It doesn’t. But almost all christians accept this term, and it’s meanin of the Tri-une God. This comes to us from Sacred Tradition, not the Bible. The Bible doesn’t tell us Joseph was a carpenter. It uses a word which could mean stone mason, carpenter or otherwise a man of trade. Chritians have long held this belief that he was indeed a carpenter, this comes also from Sacred Tradition.

God created us as sensate beings. We have senses. Sight, Hearing, Touch, Taste, Smell. And so Catholics embrace worship using all of our God given senses…sometimes at high holy days incense, which we see in the Bible, we sing and chant in worship and have hymns. We have visual representations of events in the Bible, of Our Lord and of His Saints.

None of these things are Idols. We don’t pray to statues. To a Catholic, remember our church is over 2000 years old, prayer is NOT synonymous with worship. Prayer is communication, and during prayer if we are praying to God we may communicate our worship. But if we are praying to the Saints, we are doing nothing more than asking their intercession, asking for them to pray for us. Much in the same way you might ask a friend or a neighbor here on earth to pray for you or your loved ones. Catholics use the word “Adoration” when we refer to worshiping Our Lord. We adore him. That is saved for Him alone. If you look at Old English, you will see phrases like “Pray thee, tell me…”, they don’t mean worship. It’s like saying I implore you.

Only in more recent times have some christians begun making prayer perfectly synonymous with worship.

Have you never heard a Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus prayed? That is the prayer, and there are several which are dedicated to Jesus. leaves me wondering what catholic church you were in and if you attended holy day celebrations? .

Yes we can worship anywhere, and indeed, we are told in Scripture to pray ceaselessly.

Have you ever heard of the Divine Office? Also known as the Liturgy of the Hours? Which is prayed by both the clergy and faithful catholics all over the world, and it is something prayed “where you are”, wherever that may be. It consists of a series of prayer times throughout the day…

?The Officium lectionis or Office of Readings (formerly Matins ), major hour
?Lauds or Morning prayer, major hour
?Daytime prayer, which can be one or all of: * Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer
* Sext or Midday Prayer
* Non or Mid-Afternoon Prayer
?Vespers or Evening Prayer, major hour
?Compline or Night Prayer

Perhaps, you don’t know quite as much as you suppose about the Catholic Church. I would invite you to obtain or borrow a book by Jimmy Akin. The Fathers Know Best. It collects writings from christian writers from the earliest centuries, surrounding many topics. It think you will find them decidely catholic.

God Bless you in your walk with the Lord.

Dan April 17, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Just one quick note for you concerning the trade of Joseph.

Please read Matthew 13:55-56, It states, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?

I’m not sure why, after reading this verse, one would think Joseph is not a carpenter?

This is God’s word and John 17:17 states that God’s word is the Truth. I do not believe this came from sacred tradition as you stated in your post concerning the trade of Joseph.

If you have other scripture that says otherwise then please share. Thanks

Bill March 30, 2013 at 11:43 am

Dear BA,
As Catholics, we do not hold “…on to the traditions of men”. We hold the SACRED TRADITION of the APOSTLES, Peter being the first or highest among them. Jesus taught them personally and told them to Go and make disciples of all nations, as you know. He did not give them every possible detail on how to do that. So he gave them the HOLY SPIRIT the night he rose from the dead, and gave them the power to bind and loose on earth and that it would be also be done in Heaven. He EMPOWERED them to go on … and ON-WARD THEY went. After His Ascension he gave them the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and entrusted the details to them, as the Spirit guided them. IT WOULD BE prudent of EVERY Christian to find and study their teachings, writings and actions. You might start with the “DIDACHE” (you probably haven’t heard of that either, just like the other titles of Jesus that Matt noted) which was one of the first written documents written and used to educate converts of the first century. It is the further teachings of the 12 APOSTLES. (It first circulated orally but the oldest written form of the document was around 70 AD.) I would encourage you to read all the other letters, speeches and teachings of the first Bishops of the Church, and the Church Fathers, Don’t forget St. Jerome, who was appointed by the Church to translate and give us the Bible as we know it today! YOU need not tell a Catholic that they don’t know the bible. MANY of us know it better than the Average Christian. One more thing… Read JOHN 21:24-25. It may shed a little light on what I’m talking about here.

Finally, as a former evangelical, i can say with confidence … “IT is ONLY in the Roman Catholic Church that you will find the FULLNESS of the Christian Faith!”

God Bless You and Yours and Have a Blessed Easter.

william September 23, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Another job well done. Knocked it outta the park

Kyle de Beausset September 24, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Well said. In my experience, when people accuse Catholicism of being a “dead religion” it’s also because they have a different idea of worship, perhaps more animated than Mass can be some times. When that happens, I try to point people to what their seeking within the Church, perhaps in the form of a charismatic service. It’s flawed, of course, to shop around to equate what you’re looking for with God’s will, but I sometimes that’s the way I think God brings people in.

Eric September 25, 2012 at 10:40 pm


Martha Tonn September 26, 2012 at 10:05 pm

The comment that this post responds to reminds me of a friend of mine who was raised in the Catholic Church, but when I met him, we were attending the same evangelical fellowship. When I shared with him that I was researching the Catholic Church, he warned me against it, with the words, “I never once heard ‘the gospel’ in the Catholic Church.” What he was referring to is that he claimed he never heard the truth that Jesus died for our sins. Imagine my shock when I started attending Mass, and every week I heard, “for us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven” … “for our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate”. My friend, who attended Mass regularly for years growing up, had heard ‘the gospel’ countless times professed in the Creed. Sadly, it seems that no one helped him understand it.
Great post, Matt!

Anzlyne October 13, 2012 at 11:21 am

I too will copy this whole post and comments to help with our discussion at our Catholic Study Group. Thank you very much

gntlmnr February 11, 2013 at 10:58 am

The nucleus of Catholicism is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Many Protestants, but not all, cannot see Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, and that’s why they cannot find Jesus in the Catholic Church.

mary February 16, 2013 at 5:25 pm

“The only place you find Jesus in a Catholic Church is dead on a Cross”. What a terrible thing to say! I am Catholic and I am very hurt by this comment. I used to be in an Evangelical environment and now remember why I left. There are Christians in every Church.

Yae February 21, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Ironic is it not? Evangelicals take the bible literally but when our Lord Jesus Christ, himself, spoke these eternal words, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
John 6:48-58

This is one stumbling block they cannot grasp…nor many Catholics for that matter who claim it is symbolic. Let’s keep praying.

Bill March 30, 2013 at 11:16 am

THAT IS AN INCREDIBLE POST! You have truly summed up so eloquently what so many of us wish and would like to express. Thank You. God Bless You and Your Family this Glorious Easter and ALWAYS!

Marcotte March 31, 2013 at 12:37 am

Thanks for this teaching, I would like to add a few more places Jesus is present in our Holy church. The fonts of Holy water and the Baptismal that is in each and every church is the first encounter we have of The Holy Spirit washing our original sin, followed by our forgiveness in reconciliation through confessing our sin and being absolved and pardoned (what a major grace and encounter with Jesus the merciful, in persona of course), then we experience the Life at Communion (which has been discussed already) then we have our Confirmation as we take ownership of our faith at the time of adulthood, followed by our commitment to a spouse in marriage (God is the third person in a marriage relationship) or Holy Orders (a call to serve as a priest) and lastly being annointed as the body dies and the soul is allowed to be at peace. These Sacraments are unique experiences of Jesus and profound in that each is a stepping stone to our ultimate goal and sight to where we are heading. Each truly connects us to God and allows us to physically embrace our Faith as followers of Jesus. We were created with purpose and passion and are creatures of the Creator. The Creator unveiled himself out of pure Love. We as believers should find him in all things and all places as we search and LIVE out creation. Being the Alpha and Omega He is with us if we accept it or not. We have free will to chose him but do not have a choice that He chose us. Finally without this wonderful institution of the Catholic Church, this unity of believers, Christianity would not be as prominant and would not have persevered throughout the ages as it has. The organization and mission of the church has reached and gave hope to every reach of humankind. The church as educated more people, aided more sick, researched more scientific discovers, given more charity, and saved more SOULS than any other organization or government to date. Now there is Jesus Living through each of us who give our time, talent and treasure every week from bible studies and religious education to inspirational works of art and living out our faith to grants given to communities that struggle to survive everyday to colleges that are funding research in medicine and the health sciences. Most importantly we share a universal world-wide liturgy everyday of the week all year round listening to the Word of God (every three years the entire Bible is read as the liturgy cycles A,B,C). Finally, as Catholics we pray for all of humanity on a daily basis and we also are in continued prayer to be constantly converted deeper and closer to the Sacred Heart of the Creator in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Sorry for the grammatical errors due to the iPhone technology!

Marcotte March 31, 2013 at 12:52 am

I would like to see your church (what it’s doing, where it’s at, how it’s changed, etc.) 2000+ years from now BA!

cheryl April 4, 2013 at 10:36 pm

I appreciate that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins.
He was resurrected and that allows me to live again.
I love paintings of Christ alive not dead on the cross.

gntlmnr April 8, 2013 at 3:08 am

I specifically love to see Christ dead on the cross to always remember his suffering and not take it fro granted. I also wear a cross that does not have Christ on it to remember that he rose from death and not to take it for granted. I love so see Christ in every situation, and I have all kinds of pictures of Christ hanging on my bedroom walls and on my living room walls and on my kitchen walls, because I love him unconditionally.

Bill April 8, 2013 at 6:36 am

I love to see paintings of Jesus, with little Children, healing someone, and especially in the painting of “The Road to Emmaus”. (not sure of the spelling). We are sensory beings. We want to HEAR, SEE, Speak, and touch. We have symbols such as wedding rings to remind us of our commitment to one another as spouses. When the Church puts a corpus on the Cross … making it a Crucifix, she obeys Christ and the Apostles by “preaching Christ Crucified.” You have heard the expression… “Out of sight out of mind”… well there is good reason for it. We human being are so quick to forget. God, Christ, and the Apostles do not want us to forget what Jesus did for us. It was not just his crucifixion and Death… It was the agony of his Passion. From the agony he suffered in Gethsemane, being deserted by his close friends, the Beating and scourging, the mocking and crown of thorns, the exhaustive journey up Calvary, his nailing to the cross and his suffering through the entire passion until his horrific death. God wants each and every person to NEVER FORGET the Sacrifice He Paid for our sins. The Catholic Church Preaches Christ crucified for this reason.

Megan Mottet May 4, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I have a couple wonderful paints of (alive) Christ in my home. He is in every room we dwell. The most effective thing for me to remember WHY He had to come (my sin) is Him on the cross in His suffering. It is hard to see, but it makes me love Him even more and WANT to do better for Him every day.

Marcotte April 8, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I understand that it is difficult to look at suffering and the crucifix and all it pertains to the death of Jesus. However, keep in mind that the without the death of the Lord the Resurrection would not have been able to take place. That is why during the agony, Jesus asks that the cup pass by him, even he is wanting a way out of what is to become the Passion. The reality is that a sacrifice was needed and his death and resurrection was necessary for a new covenant to be form with Us. This leads us back to the wood of the manger being that he was born and laid in a wooden manger and then died by hanging on a wooden cross. This wood symbolizes the Nature of Earth, that Jesus was surrounded by Nature and he experienced the Air we breathe and the water we drink and the Dirt we walk upon and even the Wood we feel in our everyday lives. Think about how many times during the day you lay your hand upon a table or a chair that is wooden and how many times you witness a wooden door being slammed out of anger or even perhaps that your own home, Your shelter, is made mostly out of wood or wooden byproducts. I would say it is no coincidence God decided to be Born on Earth and Die on Earth surrounded by this everyday simple Product of the Earth… Just as he left us simple bread and water and wine to become his very BODY and BLOOD. How amazing is his love that we don’t need to seek too far to obtain the very objects that will become him. And we also see the beauty of the wood grain and see how chaotic nature and time can be to trees and yet still they continue to serve as shade during the hot summer and fire material during the cold winter and a source to build shelter and a source of Fruit and certainly a source of awe to any child that has been allowed to climb even a small tree in the backyard.

Matthew Kennel May 2, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Matthew, you say – “It is his sacrifice and death, not his resurrection, that saves us.”

I don’t think you intended to set up a false dichotomy between Christ’s passion and his resurrection, but that statement is, strictly speaking, does this. The Catholic faith insists that Christ’s resurrection was as necessary for our salvation as his Passion. As Aquinas says, “Christ’s Passion wrought our salvation, properly speaking, by removing evils; but the Resurrection did so as the beginning and exemplar of all good things.” (ST, III-53-1) St. Paul says that Jesus was “raised to life for our justification.” (Rom 4:25). Aquinas, commenting on this, says that the resurrection causes our justification because it is the cause of the resurrection of the body in the future and the resurrection of souls in the present (III-53-1). This, it is through the resurrection that we are able to live in newness of life, which is the fulfillment of our salvation. This comes about because of Christ’s mediation. Since our salvation consists in a participation in Christ’s kingdom, it was necessary that Christ should be raised from the dead and ascend into heaven, from where he reigns over heaven and earth in his glorified humanity, making intercession for us before his Father (Heb 8:25, Rom 8:34). Christ’s mediation is as necessary for our salvation as his Passion, since it is by his mediation that the fruits of his passion are communicated to us (CCC 662, 667). “For if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is in vain and our preaching is in vain.” (1 Cor 15:14, CCC 651)

Matthew Warner May 6, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Matthew – I never said His resurrection wasn’t necessary. Or that one was more necessary than the other. And I’m sorry if anything I said was mistaken to mean that.

My sentence by itself could be overly simplistic. But within the context of the post, I would hope people understand the point. The action of Love (i.e. what and who God is) is best seen in the ultimate act of love showed on the cross. Not in the resurrection. The most important part of the crucifix is Jesus, not the wood. Our focus should be on the action and person on the cross, not on the execution device. Etc. Etc.

Pam May 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Matt, It pains me that the Catholic church is so misunderstood by our fellow Christians. I read the entire discourse between BA and others and was amazed how our beautiful litergy is dismissed as heretical! Yes BA we say prayers to saints not because we worship them as Gods but because we respect that during their life on earth they led exemplary pious lives. We pray for their intercession and guidance so that we can begin to approach the love they had for our Lord. There is no more living church than the Catholic church although we have many beautiful and inspiring artworks to help us practice our faith. We are the earthen vessels filled with the spirit of our Savior. With every act of faith, hope and charity we Catholics perform we show that we are the one true and Apostolic church. We don’t need buildings or ornaments to be good Catholics we have them out of reverence and respect for our Lord! God bless you and may you come to realize that we are all followers of Christ!

Megan Mottet May 4, 2013 at 4:19 pm

LOVED this article!

Linda Fawkes May 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm

I became a Catholic Convert 13 years ago! I was healed of a 35 year old eating disorder in this Church!

God taught me to reflect, know His Peace and I love the vast treasures the Catholic church gives me through symbolism, history of saints etc!

I used to believe all wrong things about Catholics…..until I became one! Lol

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