Responding to the “Jesus Only” Claim


December 30, 2013 by mattfradd


Someone recently wrote to me saying that she had stopped going to Mass.

She says she can’t find peace there; that she “connects” with God in nature.

I’m not sure that she denies the lordship of Christ. She says things like, “I think we should follow Christ in a way that means something to us . . . the main thing is that we love him.”

You’ve probably heard things similar.

Sometimes Protestants (even some Catholics) will say, “why do I need to bother with these sacraments, with what the Church says, all that matters is Jesus and him only.”

How should we respond to this?

Here’s one way; I used it just today with the lady I mentioned. Here’s how the back and forth went:

Me: What would you think of a man who said that he didn’t need to bother washing the dishes or bathing the kids, and that what mattered most was that he loved his wife.

Lady: Your really comparing the church and sacraments to dishes and bathing the kids…haha. I spose in a way baptism washes kids. ;p

Me: Humor me and follow the thought experiment.

Lady: Id say he’s a lazy so and so.

Me: Perhaps, but shouldn’t he love his wife in the way that means something to him? For this man, making love to his wife is the way that he “connects” with her, the rest is secondary, unessential.

Lady: shouldn’t he be interested in her needs? the dude’s a pig!

I think she’s right.

The man in question should be interested in what his wife wants. Loving someone entails, to some degree at least, doing what pleases them, doing what they ask of you, right?

Now, while we’re not required to do everything our spouse asks of us, (she may ask me to do something immoral in which case I ought to refuse!) we are required to do everything God commands of us.

So since Loving God entails a desire to do what he wants of us.

and God wants thing of us.

therefore we should desire to do the things he wants of us.

“Lord, Lord” Is Not Enough

As Christ himself put it, “Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 7:21).

He also instructed his apostles to teach us (future Christians) to “observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:20)

So If God has commanded us to be baptized (John 3:5) then we ought to be baptized. If he has told us that the Eucharist is his body and blood and that unless we consume it we will not have everlasting life (John 6:53) then we should consume it. If he has given authority to the Church (Mt 16:18), he he has said of the Church “He who hears you, hears me” (Lk 10:16), then we should take him at his word and submit to his authority.

Join The Discussion

How would you respond to someone who says “all that matters is that you love Jesus”?

19 thoughts on “Responding to the “Jesus Only” Claim

  1. Clinton says:

    Sounds like possible “lukewarm” Christianity, poor catechesis, and Satan gaining ground with a person lacking the Sacrements. That sounded very judgmental, but nonetheless, some truth to it I imagine.

  2. katherine says:

    you know, I usually love your posts and thoughts, but this time I don’t quite make the connections. and I just started 3 times to write out my thoughts on the matter and erased them three times as I am unable to articulate how it just doesn’t make sense. sorry. otherwise, I really, really love your posts.

  3. Brian says:

    Should be, “You’re really comparing the church and sacraments…”

  4. Matt Cropper says:

    I once characterized Faith as that in a marriage and not that at the wedding, the saying yes, and claimed it was biblical and gave the verses which Paul equates Jesus and the church as a bridegroom and bride… But even a Sola Scriptura protestant, denied all rationale about the idea of Faith… I agree with Scott Hahn, most people, despite claiming to be scripturally based are emotionally based.

    • Phil Steinacker says:

      Matt, your Hahn reference I find interesting because without yet thinking it through, I sense it to be so true. Would you please cite the source of Hahn’s statement…a book or an article, or perhaps on EWTN?



  5. Matthew says:

    1 samuel 15:22 says “But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” To Know Jesus is to love HIm and obey Him. But if you just know of Him then all you can do is what other people say pleases Him such as sacrifices and rituals.

  6. Graham says:

    Great blog Matt! My aunt has left the Church and she said to me “I know God’s spirit is in the Eucharist, but God’s spirit is in us too.” That’s her reason for leaving the Church. She goes to some Prophetic Ministries church now – I assume they’re really Pentecostal Happy-Clappies. How do I approach this? Her dad (my grandfather) is a deacon, so she’s a pretty clued-up Catholic!

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  8. Sad to say, but I’ve heard this one before.

    Because of poor catechisis in the last 30+ years. Many Catholics don’t know our Faith. One of
    effects of the Ordinary Form was to change the FOCUS on Mass from being solely God Centered, to “we ARE the church.”

    Expectations now often mirror our Protestant Brethren where “feeling good” about Mass [or service] is a common expectation. ;t’s no-longer only and rightly God centered;to give God the Worship He alone deserves; now it’s largely about .US and how we feel,about what we get out of the Mass.

    But the 3td. Commandment [the 4th. for Protestants], remains the same. Keep Holy the Sabbath day. It say’s noting about personal gratification, One might find [and should find] the Spirit of god in nature; But one WILL find God; find Jesus Christ in person at Mass. ..

    • Chris Byrum says:

      Here is an online Catholic resource targeted specifically at educating adult Catholics about the faith and trying to address the issue you raise at the beginning of your comment:

      I would highly recommend it. There are a bunch of talks already available through the library. Furthermore, there are talks going on every week and many of them are streamed live through the site. I would encourage adult Catholics to make use of resources like this and It is really important for us to understand the faith if we are going to teach it to our kids and home, and help those outside the Church understand it. I am a former protestant, now a Catholic in my heart (but still in the process of becoming part of the Church). Something I hear a lot of converts say is that Catholics often don’t understand the treasure that they have. I won’t necessarily make such a generalization, but I would encourage those who don’t know the faith to pursue it, because in that you are pursuing the gifts and blessing of your Savior Christ.

  9. I would ask her how she would describe the relationship of Jesus and me. The Catholic mass and Sacraments and Church are all about relationship. Confession is about healing the relationship between us. The mass is about our relationship with Jesus in praising, adoring, asking for help. reparation to God through and with and in Jesus. Offering ourselves with Him to do these things. What relationship could be closer than offering oneself for our salvation and giving Himself for our food and drink so that we may have life.(Spiritual Health). One of the things that bond friendship is trusting the other person. So to show our trust we should follow His teaching which includes the Church to be our guide. He speaks through it and will be with it until the end of time. His Word and not mine.

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  11. Julie says:

    Hi Matt, I first want to say how much I enjoy reading your posts. 🙂

    I hope for a response to this comment…and I also really hope I don’t come across sounding completely ignorant! That said, I am curious about Catholicism and if fundamentally what Catholics believe and what I believe are really all that different…different in ways that will be divisive in the end.

    A little background…my interest was spurred due to this…at my church, (which is Protestant and non-denominational) we sing songs by artists like Audrey Assad, Matt Redman and Matt Maher (as well as many others). Once I realized that some of my absolute favorite worship songs are written by Catholic artists, I became really intrigued to learn more, since their sentiments are so in line with my own. Pope Francis has only furthered my curiosity.

    As a Protestant, I have heard the same thing about Jesus only, and I too disagree with that statement. I believe a right relationship with Jesus is born when we realize just exactly who God is in relation to who we are…then what Jesus did for us on the cross becomes so completely and overwhelming beautiful that the only response is to fall on our knees in worship and thanksgiving for his amazingly gracious atonement for our sins.

    From that point on, I am reminded of a quote by JD Greear…”Grace is not merely the diving board off of which we jump into Christianity, it’s the pool itself.” We never can move past the grace of our God. I think once we have an understanding of who Christ is as Lord of all, and submitted our lives to His authority, we will have a desire to be joyfully obedient to His commands. And I believe he commanded us to be baptized and that we were created to be a part of a church of Jesus followers. It offends me deeply when people say they are good with Jesus but want nothing to do with His church. That to me is just like saying, “well, I like you but I really can’t stand your wife…” It doesn’t make any sense!

    I think the church should be a place for worship and a place learn more about how to follow Jesus. The church also must care for the marginalized people in our world…widows, orphans, the poor, etc. locally and globally. We also observe the Lord’s Supper several times throughout the year.

    I’ll say too that I was once told by one Catholic friend (albeit in high school) that all she had to so was show up to Mass and she was good enough to get into Heaven. She also said she wasn’t taught to believe in “getting saved.”

    Another Catholic I once knew told me that as a Protestant, it is “possible for you to get to Heaven, but if you could imagine a big ship carrying souls to Heaven, Catholics would be sitting inside and I would be lucky to be attached to the sea scum outside the boat.”

    Lastly, one Catholic friend told me that “If you’re a good Catholic, you only go to Mass on Easter and Christmas. And I’m a good Catholic.”

    So…whew! By laying all that out there, I humbly ask to hear your thoughts on whether or not there are major differences between what I believe and Catholic theology.

    Thanks in advance for entertaining my long question!

    • mattfradd says:

      Julie, fantastic to hear from you! I’m glad that you enjoy my posts, and Audrey Assad’s music! Audrey (who was once a Protestant) is a friend of mine.

      You don’t sound ignorant at all! I’m impressed that you are open minded to the claims of the Catholic Church.

      I absolutely agree, all is grace! As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (1996).

      Julie, I view you as a sister in the Lord Jesus Christ (something I could not say of our Mormon friends). What we agree about far outweighs what we don’t.

      Having said that, I would ask you a question: If Jesus Christ established a Church, and if that Church was (and is) the Catholic Church, and Jesus Christ desired you to be a part of that Church, would you become Catholic? I’m sure the answer would be, ‘yes!’ The fact that you are not yet a Catholic probably means you disagree with one of those ‘ifs’ (or else, perhaps, you may not have given it much thought).

      I would invite you to prayerfully consider the claims of the Catholic Church. ( is a good place to start, also,

      Let me respond to the points you raised towards the end.

      1. It is not true that we go to Mass in order to “get to heaven.” Going to Mass isn’t what gets us to heaven, the blood of Jesus Christ does that. I’d invite you to learn more about the Holy Mass here:

      2. Catholics use language differently than Protestants (not surprising when you consider the 500+ years which separates us). Catholics believe, what I think the Bible clearly teaches, that we are redeemed by nothing other than the death and resurrection of Christ, and that that redemption is applied to our lives (makes us saved), principally, through the sacrament of Baptism. Here is a radio interview I did on the subject:

      3. Wow, sea scum, hey? I hope this person is not a doctor, his bedside manner is terrible! 🙂 St. Augustine once wrote, “How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within!” (Homilies on John, 45, 12). The truth is that there are those that the Church has whom God has not, and those whom the Church has not whom God has! Having said that, It is my belief that there is one true Church and that Church is the Catholic Church. That does not mean that non-Catholics cannot be saved.

      4. Catholics are required to attend Holy Mass each and every Sunday, as well as Holy days of obligation.

      Julie, it’s a pleasure to hear from you. I hope I don’t offend you, or come off as too abrasive when I say that I think if you continue to prayerfully study this issue, you’ll end up Catholic, and a good one!

      If you were to ask me, “Why should I be Catholic?” I would answer “Because you clearly love Jesus!”

      Finally, you might be interested in listening to a conversation I had with a former Catholic, now Baptist Minister on ABC radio: The exchange was thought provoking (I hope), and charitable.

      • Julie says:

        Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, I truly do appreciate it!!! The most meaningful part is definitely you saying what we agree about far outweighswhat we don’t…I honestly was not sure if you would view the Protestant/Catholic divide as an “either your for us or against us” issue. It makes my heart happy that for someone such as yourself, with the awesome platform you have for sharing Jesus Christ, that it’s not that way…I certainly don’t see it that way from my point of view!

        I have thought for a while about trying to find someone where I live to ask these questions, but I honestly don’t know anyone personally to ask! I live in the middle of the “Bible Belt” and there isn’t much of a Catholic influence around…save one Catholic Church in my town. The comments I recalled are truly those made by people in my hometown, and while they did influence my thoughts on Catholicism early on, as I have gotten older I realize that people who truly love Jesus will have the same desire to continue learning more and more about Him and serving in His name. 🙂

        I also see a lot of legalism around and clique type behavior in the churches around where I live as well. Lots of having to look a certain way, have the right last name, only carry a King James Bible and for crying out loud, make sure no one sees you in the wine section of the grocery store, haha! It all makes me SO thankful for my church which has a sincere heart for Jesus’ teaching and caring for His people…

        Again, I so appreciate the time you took to respond to my post. I will definitely check out the links you provided…I’m always open to learning more so that I may best grow in knowing and serving Him.

        Certainly no offense at all taken to the points you brought up concerning the Church. I’ll agree prayerfully consider the information you’ve shared. While I can obviously make no promises…I may come back with more questions, though! 🙂

        Also, that’s exciting that you are friends with Audrey. Her God-given talent is a huge blessing to myself as well as many of my friends…and she definitely has lots of fans here in rural North Carolina!

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