When sharing the Catholic faith with other Christians, it is critical that we speak their “language” – Sacred Scripture.
Every verse of Scripture supports Catholic teaching, but some are particularly clear and powerful. Here are 10 key Bible verses that every Catholic should be able to knowledgeably share, to help work toward the “perfect” Christian unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17 below.
1) Perfect Christian Unity: How the World Will Know God Sent Jesus
John 17:17-23: “I pray … that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me”.
There are few things more important than Christian unity. The last thing Jesus prays for before being arrested is “perfect” unity in his followers. Why? Jesus tells us: “that the world may believe that you sent me … and that you loved them.” This is the heart of evangelization, and Christian unity is at the centre of it.
This is not piecemeal unity, with thousands of different Christian denominations teaching different things on very important topics like divorce/remarriage, contraception, abortion, homosexuality, baptism, or the Eucharist. Jesus twice calls it “perfect” unity.
2) Jesus Builds His Church on Peter and It Will Never Fall
Matthew 16:16-19: “Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus didn’t first write the Bible, he first came to found his Church. But he didn’t found thousands of different denominations. He founded one Church. It is a fact of history that this Church is the Catholic Church.
Some claim that Jesus’ Church apostatized at some point. But this simply isn’t possible. Jesus is the wisest of builders. When he builds his house (and St. Paul tells us that “the house of God” is the church in 1 Timothy 3:15), it will never fall, no matter the storms (Mt 7:24-25). He builds his house – his church – on Peter, Petros (Greek for rock), and promises “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
3) We Do Not Follow the Bible Alone (Sola Scriptura)
2 Thessalonians 2:15: “Stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught by us, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (similarly, 1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 3:6).
The early Christian Church absolutely did not follow the Bible alone, but primarily followed the oral teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. Here, St. Paul clearly exhorts us to follow both the spoken (sacred tradition) and written (sacred Scripture) sources of divine revelation God has given to us.
As the New Testament was written, Christians relied on the Church that Jesus founded to properly interpret it. Following “Scripture alone” through private interpretation of the Bible was unheard of.
Stunningly, this idea of sola scriptura is not even found in Scripture. It is unscriptural itself, and so it is self refuting!
Additionally, there is no inspired table of contents in the Bible. We cannot possibly know which books belong in the Bible from Scripture alone. It was the Church in the late 300s that discerned by the Holy Spirit which books were truly inspired by God and belonged in Scripture. For the first four centuries of Christianity, Christians didn’t even have the Bible. To be a “Bible-alone” Christian was an impossibility. On top of this, before the printing press in the 1500s, all Bibles were hand copied and prohibitively expensive. Very few could afford their own private copy, and, either way, most could not read.
But perhaps the most compelling reason to reject sola scriptura is that it simply doesn’t work – and God never intended it to. If there is one Holy Spirit, one Bible, and one set of unchanging, universal truths, how is it that we now have thousands of different Protestant denominations (some estimate well over 30,000), each with very contradictory teachings on some very important doctrines – and all stemming from radically different interpretations of the same Bible. The fruit of sola scriptura has been utter Christian disunity, in total opposition to the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17.
4) The Church is the “Pillar and Foundation of Truth”
1 Tim 3:15: “The household of God which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.”
How can we know truth? How can we know and properly understand the Bible, and all that Jesus and his Apostles taught? If you asked a “Bible Christian” what the pillar and foundation of truth was, they would almost certainly say, “the Bible.” But the Bible clearly says it’s the Church!
5) The Church Is Protected From Error by the Holy Spirit
2 Tim 1:13-14, 2:2: “Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me … guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us … what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others.”
Did you catch that? Guard the truth by the Holy Spirit! Entrust it to faithful men who will teach others. This is how the truths that Jesus left his Church can be passed on through the Apostles and their successors in a living way (sacred Tradition), protected from error by the Holy Spirit; this is the charism/gift of infallibility. It is a gift given to Jesus’ Church that every Christian should treasure.
5) The Spirit of Truth, Given to the Church – Protecting It From Doctrinal Error (Continued)
John 14:26 and 16:13 are similar to the verses from 2 Timothy presented last month – Jesus promises to send “the spirit of truth” to lead the Church into all truth: “the Holy Spirit … will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you … the Spirit of truth … will guide you into all the truth … and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
6) The Church Is Authoritative
John 20:21-23: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you … Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.”
What profound authority! “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Over and over, we see Jesus giving his authority to his Church.
For example, in Mark 6:7-13, Jesus sent the Twelve out “and gave them authority over unclean spirits”, and power to heal. In Matthew 16:17-19, Jesus promises that “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” He also gives Peter, the first Pope, “the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.”
7) The Christian Church Is Apostolic
Acts 14:23: “They appointed presbyters [Greek root for the English word “priest”] for them in each church” (similarly, Ti 1:5).
There is no question that the early Church was Apostolic – founded on the Apostles and their successors (see Eph 2:20). Every pope, bishop, priest and deacon in the Catholic Church today can trace his ordination back in an unbroken line to one of the apostles.
One of the first things Peter would do as head of the Church would be to fill Judas’ vacant office of apostle: “His office let another take” (Acts 1:16-26). Writing on this exact subject in AD 110, St Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, who had been taught by St John himself, would exhort: “all should … respect the bishop as representing the Father, and the priests as the council of God and the college of the Apostles. Apart from these there is nothing that can be called a Church.”
If a denomination does not have validly ordained bishops, priests and deacons that succeed directly from the Apostles, you have to ask yourself, “Why not?” The early Church did!
8) We Are Not Saved by Faith Alone
James 2:24: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
The second pillar of the Reformation was the doctrine that a person is “justified” or saved by their faith alone, apart from any good works. But the only place in all of Scripture where the words “faith” and “alone” come together is James 2:24, which unequivocally refutes this novel teaching, confirming that we are definitely notjustified “by faith alone.” Good works are needed too.
9) Grace-Inspired Good Works Are Necessary for Salvation
Romans 2:6-10: “God … will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek … immortality through perseverance in good works.”
Like James 2:24 above, this verse clearly shows the necessity of good works for salvation as well. But to be clear, Catholics don’t actually believe in salvation solely by good works either. We believe that we are saved by the grace of God (cf. Acts 15:11), and that both faith and good works come primarily through God’s grace.
Similarly, when Jesus is specifically asked, “What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” he replies, “Keep the commandments” (Mt 19:16-17) – i.e., do good works!
10) You Cannot Have Eternal Life Without the Eucharist
John 6:47-58: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life … my flesh is true food … my blood is true drink.”
Here is one of the most foundational teachings in Scripture. Thirteen times in nine verses, Jesus repeatedly insists, in one form or another, that we must eat his Body and drink his Blood to have eternal life.
Some insist this whole teaching is purely symbolic. But this cannot possibly be, for several reasons.
First, the context. Jesus has just miraculously fed the five thousand. But the Jews still ask, “What sign can you do, that we may … believe in you … Our ancestors ate manna in the desert.”
What they are saying is that Moses and about a million of their ancestors ate miraculous manna for decades. Jesus feeds a mere five thousand. Not bad. But they want a sign to confirm that Jesus is greater than Moses – that he is the Messiah.
Jesus answers them: “Your ancestors ate the manna … but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.”
If Jesus’ answer were just a nice symbolic talk about his body being the bread from heaven, it’d be a pretty poor response. But that is not his answer. His answer is that he will feed billions of people with his flesh every day – and they will live forever!
Secondly, the Jews clearly understand what Jesus is saying and grumble: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus knows they are taking him literally and knows they’re upset. Rather than saying, “Don’t worry, I am only talking figuratively,” he intensifies his teaching, using very graphic Greek words like sarx (which means physical flesh) and trogon (to gnaw or chew).
Finally, many of his disciples leave. They have taken him literally and cannot accept this teaching. And Jesus lets them go – because he was speaking literally. And Peter’s understanding of this teaching? “You have the words of eternal life.”
But in Matthew 16:11-12, where Jesus actually does use leaven/bread symbolism, the disciples truly do misunderstand him. Jesus immediately and firmly corrects them: “How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread? … Then they understood … beware of the … teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
For our Protestant brothers and sisters who truly love God and desire a “personal relationship with Jesus,” nothing could be more personal than receiving Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist.
By Graham Osborne
Credit: The B.C. Catholic