How To Tell The Difference Between A Saving Faith, And A Demon’s Faith…And An Explanation Of The Difference Between The Roman Catholic And Protestant Understanding Of Justification

The following is a post from our Facebook page regarding a comment that I made during our 2nd service on Sunday, August 3rd 2014, of which I have posted a video below along with my reply. I hope it encourages, sharpens and clarifies the point I was hoping to make. – Eph 4:15

To: Todd Wagner

From: [xxxx}

I was in your audience yesterday for the first time. I’ve asked my friends about your program for my teenage son. I was listening very intensely to Todd. He said this, “The greatest evil in the world today is the dead church.” and I agreed. He said some churches teach that doing certain actions will get you into heaven and that’s not appropriate and I agreed. How did Todd define the “dead” church? I actually have been taught EVERYTHING he said already by my church. I was baptized when I was a baby and I’m [xxxx] yrs old. I agreed 100% until he said that the “dead churches” are (and he said this) “Like the Jewish and Roman Catholic churches.” I was instantly disappointed in this grave lie.

I am Roman Catholic and know 1st had that this IS a lie. He stood and lied to thousands of folks yesterday and trashed God’s chosen people. This anti-semite and anti-Catholic hate was unnecessary. Now, I can’t take my son there because I am afraid someone will tell him because he’s Catholic, that demons run his church. Congratulations on spreading hate with your message. Jesus warned us about false idols and that satan mixes lies with truth VERY subtly. Todd snuck that in with one sentence at the very end. You won’t make an impact on any community with hate and lies.

FYI. -Very disappointed. I’m taking a screen shot of this, I’m posting it on your wall too and I’ll be interested to see if it gets deleted or you’ll address it. I’m open for an explanation, but he squarely said “dead churches run by demons” and then gave the Jewish and Roman Catholic churches as examples. You may want to look at the “in the trenches” WORKS of both faiths. The homeless shelters, the council for pregnant women, the WORK against abortion, the WORK in D.C. to fight abortion, the ministry all over the globe of the Catholic church all over the place.

Maybe Watermark will be able to do these same things if y’all get big enough, but I assure you, I didn’t go feed the poor in Mexico at age 9 with [xxxx] church to “check a box”, it was 100% CLEAR that we are to DO the works of Christ because that”s the directive, and not a technicality to “get into heaven”. I would appreciate Todd publicly addressing this anti-semite and anti-Catholic lie. Thank you.

Also, if you have a recording of his sermon, I recommend listening and transcribing, because I’m not making this up. I heard it clearly.


– [xxxx}


Dear [XXXX],

Thank you for taking the time to share your questions about the message you heard during the Sunday gathering that you attended and giving me a chance to offer you some reasons for what you heard. While you still may have some problems with what you read (or listen to again) at least there will be clarity for you regarding the context as well as more content to help you understand my quick mention of Catholicsm.   I have included the excerpt of Sunday’s message below that you are referring to for others who may come across this post.

Let me start by saying any church / religion / etc. that requires anything more than a saving faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross alone as the means by which a person is made right with God is not preaching the true Gospel (Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:3-7).  Adding words (or works) to the Gospel makes that “gospel” a false one and in the words of Scripture those who preach it are to be accursed (Gal 1:6-10). That is serious language and not language I would want to use unless Scripture uses it and even then, given that I have many friends who consider themselves devoted to institutions whose catechisms/professions of faith would have them among this number, I would not repeat those words with anything more than love as my motivation.

It is precisely because I do love them that I have to speak the truth in love to them (Eph 4:15) and anyone else I want to  claim to care for. Words matter and I believe the Holy Spirit specifically chose the words that He wanted James to use in James 2:14-26 and Paul to use in Galatians, Ephesians and Titus.  The Spirit of God was clear in His revelation and our job as stewards of His words is to carefully, accurately and lovingly repeat them.  The job of any faithful follower of Christ in my position is to shepherd the flock of God among them (1 Peter 5:2) while rightly dividing the Word of truth (2 Tim 2:15) and to do so while being patient, non-quarrelsome, and kindly correcting those who are in opposition (2 Tim 2:23-26). The goal of my instruction then,  is love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Tim 1:5) I often say that if the way I say things is the problem, then I will seek forgiveness and purpose to do better, while continually striving to let my words “always be seasoned with salt” (Col 4:5). If however the problem others have is with the truth that I rightly and kindly communicated to them from God’s Word, then Proverbs 27:6 comes to mind. Truthfully, if I didn’t say something, I would then have to seek even greater forgiveness for that.

I believe it is loving to be clear on the gospel and loving to speak out against any perversions of it. Sunday’s message was not about Roman Catholicism or Judaism but rather about confusion related to the Gospel message. When I mentioned Catholicism/Judaism, they were used as examples of those who would suggest that the finished work of Christ alone is not sufficient for our justification (being declared righteous by God’s grace appropriated by our faith through Christ’s finished work on the cross). Please see the Vatican’s own words below explaining Rome’s view of justification as well as an excerpt from article which provides a nice summary of the differences between the Roman Catholic  position on justification and the Scriptures.

Differences Between Catholicism And Protestantism

There ARE differences in Roman Catholic and Protestant beliefs. Below, you will find some excerpts taken directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that discuss some of those major differences. I have highlighted the sections that are especially relevant to my comments.  For clarity’s sake, I highlighted key parts and added some comments of my own.


1212: The sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist – lay the foundations of every Christian life. “The sharing in the divine nature given to men through the grace of Christ bears a certain likeness to the origin, development, and nourishing of natural life. the faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity.


1992: Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. (Todd’s comments: If Catholics stopped here in the “Grace and Justification” section, their position would beautifully represent scripture!) . Justification is conferred in Baptism (Todd’s comments: Webster’s dictionary defines “confer” as “to bestow a gift”. Therefore, this teaches baptismal regeneration, which is not supported by Scripture. I would acknowledge, and this is the entire point of James 2, that a true believer who is justified (declared righteous by verdict) justifies (proves or validates) their faith by acts of obedience like baptism.), the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life


2020: Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. It is the most excellent work of God’s mercy.

The following excerpt from a article explains this difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.

A third major difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is how one is saved. Another of the five solas of the Reformation is sola fide (“faith alone”), which affirms the biblical doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8–10). However, Catholics teach that the Christian must rely on faith plus “meritorious works” in order to be saved. Essential to the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation are the Seven Sacraments, which are baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony. Protestants believe that, on the basis of faith in Christ alone, believers are justified by God, as all their sins are paid for by Christ on the cross and His righteousness is imputed to them. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that Christ’s righteousness is imparted to the believer by “grace through faith,” but in itself is not sufficient to justify the believer. The believer must supplement the righteousness of Christ imparted to him with meritorious works.

Catholics and Protestants also disagree on what it means to be justified before God. To the Catholic, justification involves being made righteous and holy. He believes that faith in Christ is only the beginning of salvation and that the individual must build upon that with good works because God’s grace of eternal salvation must be merited. This view of justification contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture in passages such as Romans 4:1–12, Titus 3:3–7, and many others. Protestants distinguish between the one-time act of justification (when we are declared righteous by God based on our faith in Christ’s atonement on the cross) and the process of sanctification (the development of righteousness that continues throughout our lives on earth). While Protestants recognize that works are important, they believe they are the result or fruit of salvation but never the means to it. Catholics blend justification and sanctification together into one ongoing process, which leads to confusion about how one is saved.

To conclude my thoughts on this part of your comments I want to remind you that the purpose of the text I was teaching (James 2:14-26) was to show the nature of true (Biblical) faith, and to explain how James’s comments that Abraham being justified by works do not contradict with Paul’s writings that we are justified by faith. The problem is solved by understanding how James and Paul both use the same word in different ways. See below a tweet that I posted after the August message:

While the focus of my message was not about the differences in Catholic and Protestant understandings of justification, when I was making the point about how Paul and James should be viewed not as foes themselves but rather as  “friends fighting different foes of the gospel message”, the distinction was made.  After all, the reformation happened for a reason.

The second clip in this post is basically the first few minutes of my message. Here I am setting the stage for the reason James 2:14-26 exists and I am making the case that the church cannot, in fact MUST NOT, be merely a professing church.  Here I made the case, that a church (or person) that says they believe something and yet does not respond to what they say is the kind of “church” demons “would attend”. Thus my phrase “demonic church”.

Please watch the clip  and note that there is no mention of either Roman Catholicism or Judaism in this context, only dead churches who have a said faith. In fact, it is the body of which I am a part of that I am admonishing not be a “demonic” (professing only) church that honors God with their lips while their heart is far from Him (Matt 15:8).

Finally, if you want to hear again my teaching specific to this “belief of demons”, that rightly proclaims great truths about Christ, God and end times without living obediently here it is.  This is from the specific section where I was teaching on James 2:19-20 and where the basis for the phrase “demonic church” in my introduction came from.

Note there is no mention of this being Roman Catholicism’s or Judaism’s struggle. As you mentioned in your post, Roman Catholics and Jews alike are often extremely active in working out their faith. Whether or not the working out of their faith (see again the articles above from the Vatican and about Roman Catholicism’s view of justification) is consistent with Scripture is addressed in the first clip and paragraph of my explanation.

I pray this response serves you well and please let us know how we can continue to serve you and pursue God’s best with you and yours.  Kind, civil, loving and mutually respectful dialogues on matters of great importance are part of the good way.

I invite you to leave your comments and feedback in the comments below so we can continue the conversation.



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “How To Tell The Difference Between A Saving Faith, And A Demon’s Faith…And An Explanation Of The Difference Between The Roman Catholic And Protestant Understanding Of Justification

  1. Isn’t faith itself a work? I mean, if a person “has” faith, they own it. It is from their initiative that they have it. It is their actions that cause them to profess Jesus. So many people say “I was saved” How I ask them? I professed Jesus. I made a choice to… I felt the calling and I responded. Notice the “I” in all of these statements. It is all work by the person. This is work to do these things.

    So protestants themselves believe that a work is necessary. Their profession. The just wouldn’t name it a work because of the historical divide of Protestants and Catholics and the festering dividing teaching. Lets get beyond the semantics and bashing others. Grace Alone Saves. It is by Grace we have our Faith and our Work. That is the common Ground of Catholics and Protestants. Grace is ALL by God. Faith and Work can only come FROM God. Faith is intangible, and Work is more tangible, but both are BY us and our active response to Gods Grace.
    Grace Alone Saves. Grace gives way faith and works. It is through the Saving work of Jesus, by his Grace that we are saved. His grace gives way to faith and works.

  2. From

    The Catholic Church has never taught such a doctrine and, in fact, has constantly condemned the notion that men can earn or merit salvation. Catholic soteriology (salvation theology) is rooted in apostolic Tradition and Scripture and says that it is only by God’s grace–completely unmerited by works–that one is saved.

    The Church teaches that it’s God’s grace from beginning to end which justifies, sanctifies, and saves us. As Paul explains in Philippians 2:13, “God is the one, who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.”

    Notice that Paul’s words presuppose that the faithful Christian is not just desiring to be righteous, but is actively working toward it. This is the second half of the justification equation, and Protestants either miss or ignore it.

    James 2:17 reminds us that “faith of itself, if it does not have work, is dead.” In verse 24 James says, “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” And later: “For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (2:26).

    The Council of Trent harmonizes the necessity of grace and works: “If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or by the teaching of the Law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema” (Session 6; can. 1).

    The Council fathers continued by saying, “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema” (Session 6: can. 9).

    By the way, “let him be anathema” means “let him be excommunicated,” not “let him be cursed to hell.” The phrase was used in conciliar documents in a technical, theological sense, not in the same sense as the word “anathema” is found in Scripture. Don’t let “Bible Christians” throw you for a loop on this one.

    So, far from teaching a doctrine of “works righteousness” (that would be Pelagianism, which was condemned at the Council of Carthage in A.D. 418), the Catholic Church teaches the true, biblical doctrine of justification.