It is vital to understand what makes us a Christian. We don’t become a Christian by choosing to be Catholic or Protestant. We don’t become a Christian by joining a particular church denomination. God has opened the way to heaven to all who believe in Jesus Christ—no matter what their religious background may be. Christ is the key. He brings us together into one body. Catholics are not automatically Christian. Protestants are not either. What makes a Christian a Christian?
The Bible says that if we believe that Jesus Christ is God and that he died for our sins, we are saved. The potential problem with Catholicism and many other Protestant denominations is the belief that we must contribute our good works to either get saved or stay saved. The truth is that salvation is a gift which we can only receive by faith apart from any works whatsoever on our part. That gift empowers us to do truly good works not to earn anything but because we are already loved by God. In other words, we do good not to get anything; our love is unconditional with no strings attached because we have received that perfect unconditional love from God. God’s love for us is not tied to our behavior, it is tied to His character and to His Word and to our faith in Him.
If anyone is relying on church involvement as a necessary addition to the finished work of Christ on the cross, that reliance is a deception. Christ stated from the cross “It Is Finished”. We cannot improve perfection. Christ died once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous that all who believe can be saved from the punishment required for sin. Christ fulfilled the law so that the law no longer has any power over us. We are free from all performance requirements through faith in Christ. We will be declared righteous when we stand before God not because of any righteous things we have done rather we stand only by faith in what Christ has done on our behalf. We cannot point to anything whatsoever to justify our selves or obligate God. Instead we rely 100% on the grace and mercy of God our Father provided through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All Catholics who believe in that manner are Christians. All Protestants who believe are Christians. Neither group has any superiority or inferiority over the other. We stand before God at the cross on a level field. All of us are sinners saved by grace not by works.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.