Pope Pius XII was born in 1876. His father was an attorney and both parents were staunch Roman Catholics—a tradition that he carried on in his decision to train for the priesthood. He became a priest, and later became the archbishop of Germany; his name was Eugenio Pacelli. He created the legal agreement between the papacy and Nazi Germany in 1933 and 1934 and became the 260th pope in 1939, a position he retained during the Korean War until his death in 1958.
His personal physician, Dr. Galeazzi Lisi, wrote an article for a publication in Rome in which he described the agonizing death of Pope Pius XII and revealed the pope’s constant insecurity regarding the future. The article met with disapproval on the part of church authorities, and so the copies of the newspaper were confiscated before they could be distributed and Dr Galeazzi Lisi was dismissed from his position. After all, here is a person who is supposed to send you to heaven or hell, and as he is approaching death he is fearful and he has great insecurity regarding the future.
Dr. Walter Montano, a Protestant, and the editor of the Christian Heritage at the time, said, “Well, this is the very same thing that happened when Pope Benedict XV died in 1922.” The following appeared in the December 1958 issue of Christian Heritage:
“One can feel only a sense of pity for the last end of such a man. How is it possible that the ecclesiastical demigod who had the keys of heaven and earth is unable to use those keys to gain entrance into his own eternal salvation? What a pathetic ending for a man who has devoted his life to religion, who has directed, as they say, the bark of St. Peter, who is infallible, who has elevated the virgin Mary to a state that no other pope had dared to imagine. At the end of his life he dies in fear and agony, not knowing what the future holds in store for him. All the pomp and ceremony, all the masterfully devised rituals in his honor may impress the people, especially Roman Catholics, but they cannot gain him one inch of heaven. What about his soul and his eternal destiny? What Roman Catholic knows where this pope is right now?”
The doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church established that anyone who says “I am saved” at any time in his life commits a mortal sin. If Pope Pius XII had the courage to express faith in the One who died for our sins, if he had realized that there is only one mediator between God and man, if he had accepted the fact that Christ’s death invalidated any other sacrifice and that He died for the sins of the world, then he would not have faced a death of fear and desperation; a truly agonizing death. Instead, he would have been able to say, “I know in whom I believe.”
Do you know in whom you believe? If you had to face death today, would it be a fearful, agonizing experience, or could you say, as the apostle Paul said to Timothy just before he died, “I know in whom I believe and I know he can keep that which I have committed to Him until that day.” II Timothy 1:12.
One of the most religious men in the world who devoted his whole life to religion somehow didn’t understand the very basis of the Christian religion or the gospel. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding is not isolated to Catholicism. How can you have confidence that a certain person can give you eternal life if he does not have any confidence himself of eternal life when he dies?
“In whom we have the redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of transgressions according to the richness of His grace which super abounded unto us in all wisdom and knowledge, having made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed beforehand in Himself so that in the management of the fullness of the times He might gather altogether all things in Christ, the things upon the heavens and the things upon the earth in Him.” Ephesians 1:7–10.
Paul says our redemption price has been paid and we have redemption now. Money has nothing to do with our redemption. There are hundreds of millions of people today who call themselves Christians who believe that their redemption lies in going through certain religious ceremonies and paying money to the church, but that is not what the Bible says.
How do we have redemption? From where does the redemption come? The Bible teaches that we have redemption through His blood. Galatians 3:21: “Is therefore the law against the promises of God? Not at all. For if a law had been given which is able to make life or to bring to life, then righteousness would have been from the law.” He goes on to show that this was not possible; there is no law that has ever been given or can ever be given that can give life. If eternal life could be given through a law or through your keeping a law, if life could be given that way, Jesus would not have needed to come and die on the cross.
But righteousness is not obtained in that way. You cannot get righteousness by going to church; you get righteousness from Jesus Christ. It is His blood that paid the price for our sins. We do not generate righteousness ourselves. Look in the book of Isaiah 64:6: “We are all as an unclean thing, all of us; all of our righteousness is as a filthy garment; then we fade as a leaf, all of us; our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Literal translation.)
What is our righteousness like? We do not have any, we cannot generate it, we cannot make it and we cannot get it for money. This false concept was one of the precipitating factors of the Protestant Reformation.
In Isaiah 55, God invites everybody who is thirsty to come, for it is not through paying money or doing good works that you can get your sins forgiven.
Romans 10:3 says: “For they being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” The Jews were trying to work out their own righteousness, but were unable.
Paul states clearly that righteousness is not obtained through works. In the books, Romans and Galatians, Paul explained most fully righteousness by faith. Why do you suppose that it is in the book to the Romans that righteousness by faith is explained in the most detail? God knew that it would be in the Roman church where men would depart from the truth of the gospel regarding righteousness by faith. When you depart from this, you do not have the gospel anymore and you are headed for an ending like that of Pope Pius XII. He came from a very distinguished family and was a brilliant man—a genius and talented in many areas. He had tremendous ability, but none of this helped him one bit when he came to the end of his life. Nor shall it help anyone else in the end. We may not die before Jesus comes. No matter how or when, though, the end will come and result in either eternal death or eternal life, the latter of which is unattainable unless the gospel is received and understood.
“There is not a point that needs to be dwelt upon more earnestly, repeated more frequently or established more firmly in the minds of all than the impossibility of fallen man meriting anything by his own best good works. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone.” Faith and Works, 18.
There is nothing that you will ever be able to do that will merit salvation; nothing. Salvation comes by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Through His grace we are capable of good works, but the good works should not be an attempt to merit grace.
When Paul explained the gospel to the Galatians and showed them that they had strayed in this regard, he told them that they started right but now were going to try to finish the Christian experience a different way. He said that even if an angel of heaven tells you another gospel, let him be cursed. That is strong language.
The reason Paul stated it that way is because there is an angel that used to be in heaven that is telling the people another gospel all the time, including Adventists. Martin Luther believed this, and he tried so hard and never gained any assurance of salvation. That is why Pope Pius XII had no assurance of salvation when he came to his death, because he never knew if he had done enough. Martin Luther believed the same thing and was trying to work his way to salvation by doing good works. He went to Rome and, while he was there, he climbed a staircase that was supposed to have come from Jerusalem. The rumor was that these stairs had been taken miraculously by angels from Jerusalem to Rome, and ascension was supposed to offer special grace.
Martin Luther was climbing up this staircase on his knees, attempting to do everything that he knew to obtain salvation. He said later that Romans 1:16, 17 came to him, “like a thunderclap in my ear”; “The righteous man shall live by faith.” He got up and he walked back down the stairs and he never tried to earn salvation through works again. He started studying the subject in Romans and Galatians and the Old Testament concerning David. Right at this time, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church was being built in St. Peter’s Square where it still stands today, a building of enormous cost. A man by the name of Tetsel came to town and told the people that if they pay money to the church it would go towards building St. Peter’s in Rome, and for supporting this “noble cause” all sins would be forgiven immediately. The people were paying their money, and they thought their sins were forgiven. Martin Luther was outraged by this practice, and worked to put an end to it.
A war started, as Tetsel was threatened by what Martin Luther taught. In 1517, Martin Luther developed 95 theses against the selling of indulgences, and nailed it to the church door. Within a matter of days, that document had been copied and was all over town, and within a matter of about five or six weeks, it was all over Europe. The debate between the Reformation and Roman Catholicism was over the simple question, how are you saved?
“Knowing that a man is not made righteous, or justified from the works of the law, but rather through faith in Jesus Christ or the faith of Jesus Christ, and we have believed in Jesus Christ in order that we might be made righteous or justified out of the faith of Christ and not out of the works of the law.” He goes on to say that not one single person can pay for their salvation in any way. Galatians 2:16.
Paul says that no flesh will be justified, or made righteous, by works. Ephesians 2:8–10 says, “By grace you have been saved through faith and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God. Not out of works, in order that anyone should boast; for we are made in him, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared beforehand in order that we should walk in them.”
Notice the progression here in verses eight to ten; he says that you have been saved by grace. It is not of works; it is a gift. But when you have been saved, then you can do good work. It is very important not to get the cart before the horse, as they say. Yes, good works appear, but do good works appear in order that you can be justified, or do good works appear after you are justified; which is it? Do good works cause you to be saved, or are the good works the result of your being saved? Which is it; what is it saying here? Do you get the order right? You are saved by grace, and as a result of being saved, good works do follow in your life.
We can read many texts on this; let us look at the gospel of John. The writings of Paul are not the only place where the gospel appears, of course, in the Bible. John 3:35, 36, John the Baptist speaking, it says, “For the Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, or everlasting life, and the one who is disobedient to the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”
What is necessary to receive life? To believe in the Son. If you believe in Him, you have life. If you will not believe in Him, if you will not commit to Him, then you will not have life. He says the very same thing in I John 5:11, 12: “The one that has the Son has life; the one who does not have the Son does not have life.”
Teachers used to say, if you really know something, you can explain it in simple language. That is the way with the gospel. The apostle Paul, in Acts 16, explains it to a heathen man in one sentence.
Acts 16:30, 31—to the Philippian jailer—“And bringing them outside he said, ‘lords, what is necessary for me to do so that I might be saved?’ ” That is the most important question a human being can ask. What shall I do so that I might be saved? Well, Paul is going to tell him the answer; here it is, in one verse: “And they said, believe upon the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, and your house.”
Could it be this simple? Look at that text; it covers everything. What do you have to do to be saved? You believe. By the way, the word “believe” means to commit. You commit to whom? It says, believe upon the Lord. Who is the Lord? The apostle Paul told him in one sentence how to be saved: believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. It is that simple; if you make the commitment to Jesus as your Lord and Savior you will be saved. Jesus—the word Jesus means “Savior,” and if you commit to Him as the Lord of your life and Savior from sin, you are going to be saved. The concept is not the complicated part: it is the execution that becomes hazy for most. It is simple, but it is hard to do. We have a natural instinct to want to be independent. You cannot be saved if you are independent of Jesus. The result of receiving the gospel: Paul mentions it in Romans 5:1; it is peace. This was the very thing Pope Pius XII did not have on his deathbed.
Paul was not in turmoil when he was going out to be beheaded; in fact, the people who witnessed his martyrdom converted to Christianity because of his quiet spirit. There is no fear, no torment, or trouble. In his face they saw that he had the peace of heaven, and many onlookers wanted to have a share of that peace. Unfortunately, the world today does not have it, and even many people who call themselves Christians do not have it. Pope Pius XII did not have it. But Paul calls the gospel the “gospel of peace,” because our God is a God of peace.
Study the New Testament, and look at the salutations that Paul gives to the churches when he writes his letters. He always gives it in a certain order. Grace and peace be to you. He never says peace and grace; why? Because you have to receive grace first or you will not have any peace, but when you receive the grace of God, when you receive the gospel, then you have peace. You do not have any peace today unless you have received the grace of God into your heart and into your life.
Many Adventists are afraid that the stock market is going to crash, and therefore they are going to have to run somewhere. Why are Adventists so fearful? There is only one thing that makes people so fearful, and that is that they have never really experienced the gospel. The apostle Paul experienced the gospel, and nothing could make him fearful; he was not troubled because they were going to chop his head off; he was not troubled because of that.
Peter knew he was going to be crucified, and yet he wasn’t troubled. In reading the history of the rest of the apostles and the early Christians, death couldn’t take their peace away; why not? Look at what Jesus said about it.
Jesus, speaking to his disciples on the night that he was betrayed, says, “Peace I am leaving with you, my peace I am giving to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27.
If you have the peace of Jesus, you are not going to be troubled or afraid. Friends, have you read prophecy; do you know what is going to happen right as we approach the end of the world? Well, what are you going to be doing as you see all these things happening that are described in the latter half of the book of Revelation? Is there fear or peace? Have the peace of Jesus, and no matter what happens on the outside, it cannot take away that peace.
Paul says in Galatians 1 that the gospel makes peace. If the gospel does not bring peace to your mind in this troubled world, then you do not really have the gospel yet. The gospel is called the good news. Is it a message about righteousness resulting in good works, leading people to strive to gain peace with God through either ceremonies or duties? That would not be good news, because that message would never bring peace; that would bring turmoil to the person who is struggling to meet the standards that are built on the system.
In The Desire of Ages, 35, 36, Ellen White says that every system of false religion is built on the doctrine of salvation by works. Every system; it is not just the Roman Catholic system, it is all systems of false religion.
This peace is the healing of the relationship between God and man, and when you have peace with God, as Paul says in Romans 5:1, then it does not matter what happens in the world outside. That is why Jesus said, in John 14:27, “I am not giving peace to you like the world gives; the peace of the world can be taken away, but the peace that Jesus gives cannot be taken away.” The apostles were always talking about it: almost every letter that Paul wrote he begins by saying, “Grace and peace to you.”
Peter preached the gospel to a heathen man who does not understand it, and the very first sermon was the good news of peace through Jesus. “We do not ask people to bring anything in their hand in an attempt to buy peace because Jesus is our peace.” Ephesians 2:14.
You and I cannot make peace with God ourselves. Not only can we not make peace with God ourselves; we are incapable of maintaining peace with God, but Jesus has made the peace for us already, and He has given it to us as a gift. This is what Paul talks about in Romans 3:24–26, 28, about how we are justified, and Romans 4:4, 5, how it doesn’t come through works; it is a gift. In Romans 3 and 4 Paul says over and over that works have nothing to do with it.
God knew there would be people who would be saying we are saved by grace and works, but that is not the gospel. If you believe you are saved by grace and works, here is the first question for you. When have you done enough works? Do you see the dilemma you are in? You will never be able to do enough works so that you feel satisfied; you will never have peace, because you do not have the gospel. Salvation by grace and works is not the gospel.
Christ’s righteousness is credited to the believer on the basis of faith alone. It is not credited to those who work to gain it, but only to those who trust in the all-sufficient Savior alone.
“Therefore what shall we say, that the nations which had not pursued righteousness have obtained righteousness, but it is the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which pursued the righteousness which is of the law, did not attain unto righteousness. Why? Because it is not of faith, but out of works; they stumbled at that stumbling stone, just as it is written, Behold I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and a rock of offense, and the one who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” Romans 9:30–33.
So, justification is by faith because it is in harmony with grace, which is the free and unmerited favor of God, and it cannot be earned or purchased or merited. Faith has no merit of itself; it performs no meritorious works to gain favor; it simply trusts in the giver of the grace, and is the only basis by which God declares a sinner righteous.
When you are justified by faith, the result is always peace inside; if you do not have the peace, you have not experienced the gospel yet. It is that simple. Paul said: the Jews want a sign; the Greeks, they want wisdom; we preach Christ and Him crucified; to the Jews, it is a stumbling block, and to the Greeks it is just foolishness, but to those of us who are to be saved, it is the wisdom of God and it is the power of God. Is that the peace that you have, or does the following quotation describe more accurately the condition of your heart right now?
“The reason for the uncertainty of the state of grace lies in this: without a special revelation nobody can, with certainty of faith, know whether or not he has fulfilled all the conditions that are necessary for achieving justification.” That comes from the Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 262, published in 1974. If that is your belief, you will never have peace, because you will never know if you have ever done enough. So, what are the conditions to achieve justification? Is it something that you are going to have to do? No. It is when you believe in Jesus as the Lord of your life and your Savior from sin. Then you are given His righteousness, and as a result of receiving His righteousness He gives you at the same time His peace. Then you will have peace, no matter how much trouble there is in the world outside.
From now on until Jesus comes, there is going to be every manner of rumor and scare imaginable, and you are not going to make it unless you have the gospel. If you have the gospel and you have committed your life to Jesus Christ, you will have peace on the inside, and you don’t need to worry about what everybody is saying on the Internet is going to happen. You don’t have to worry, because you can have peace on the inside.
“If any man can merit salvation by anything he may do, then he is in the same position as the Catholic to do penance for his sins. Salvation, then, is partly of debt, that may be earned as wages. If man cannot, by any of his good works, merit salvation, then it must be wholly [completely] of grace, received by man as a sinner because he receives and believes in Jesus. It is wholly a free gift. Justification by faith is placed beyond controversy. And all this controversy is ended, as soon as the matter is settled that the merits of fallen man and his good works can never procure eternal life for him. … Justification is wholly of grace and not procured by any works that fallen man can do.” Faith and Works, 19, 20.
Ellen White goes on writing about this, and emphasizes it over and over again. Do you have peace inside? Do you realize that as we approach the end of the world the people of this world are going to get more and more troubled until, as Jesus said, their hearts are going to fail them for fear and for looking for what is coming on the earth? What is going to happen to you then? If you have accepted the gospel, if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He says, My peace I have given to you; do not be troubled, do not be afraid; I will never leave you, and I have given my peace to you, and you do not need to be afraid and panicky like everybody else in the world. We need to say, Lord Jesus, I am committing my life to you. I want you as my Lord and Savior from sin; I pray that you will give me that grace, that justification that will result in peace so that I do not have to be troubled like everybody else in the world. It is the most wonderful thing you can ever receive: Jesus’ peace that nobody can take away from you.
(Some Bible verses paraphrased.)
Pastor John Grosboll is director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.