Posts Tagged ‘Faith Alone’

The debate on justification between Protestants and Catholics have for a long time been concentrated on the definitions of Works of the law, as taught in scriptures by St Paul in Romans 3:28, as well as on the ‘biblicity’ of the Lutheran doctrine of ‘Faith Alone’. Now, some would argue that the sentence in Romans 3:28 “A man is justified by faith a part from the works of the law” is equivalent to say “A man is justified by faith alone”, but ‘justified by faith a part from the works of the law’ ONLY excludes works of law from faith, NOT such things as love, hope, charity or other virtuous quality. Moreover, as we study Scriptures we see that in fact, nowhere in the Bible has Paul associated the word alone with the word faith to explain justification. On the other hand, St. James, guided by the same Holy Spirit who inspired St Paul, asserts that Faith without Works is dead and writes: You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:24).

Therefore, in the face of this controversy Catholics continue to be accused by their protestant counterpart of not relying on the Redemptive Sacrifice of Jesus for their salvation as they try to ‘earn’ their salvation through good works. So what is the real Catholic stand on Justification?

The Catholic teaching on justification is and has been the same as St Paul’s teachings, as we can verify it in the writings of the Council of Trent.

COUNCIL OF TRENT ON JUSTIFICATION – Canons On Justification – Session VI, (Jan. 13, 1547)

See also the Catholic definition of Anathemas

Canon 1. If anyone shall say that man can be justified before God by his own works which are done either by his own natural powers, or through the teaching of the Law, and without divine grace through Christ Jesus: let him be anathema.

Canon 2. If anyone shall say that divine grace through Christ Jesus is given for this only, that man may more easily be able to live justly and merit eternal life, as if by free will without grace he were able to do both, though with difficulty and hardship: let him be anathema.

Canon 3. If anyone shall say that without the anticipatory inspiration of the Holy Spirit and without His assistance man can believe, hope, and love or be repentant, as he ought, so that the grace of justification may be conferred upon him: let him be anathema.

Canon 4. If anyone shall say that man’s free will moved and aroused by God does not cooperate by assenting to God who rouses and calls, whereby it disposes and prepares itself to obtain the grace of justification, and that it cannot dissent, if it wishes, but that like something inanimate it does nothing at all and is merely in a passive state: let him be anathema.

Canon 5. If anyone shall say that after the sin of Adam man’s free will was lost and destroyed, or that it is a thing in name only, indeed a title without a reality, a fiction, moreover, brought into the Church by Satan: let him be anathema.

Canon 6. If anyone shall say that it is not in the power of man to make his ways evil, but that God produces the evil as well as the good works, not only by permission, but also properly and of Himself, so that the betrayal of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of Paul: let him be anathema.

Canon 7.- If anyone shall say that all works that are done before justification, in whatever manner they have been done, are truly sins or deserving of the hatred of God, or that the more earnestly anyone strives to dispose himself for grace, so much the more grievously does he sin: let him anathema.

Can. 8. If anyone shall say that the fear of hell, whereby by grieving for sins we flee the mercy of God or refrain from sinning, is a sin or makes sinners worse: let him be anathema.

Canon 9. If anyone shall say that by faith alone the sinner is justified, so as to understand that nothing else is required to cooperate in the attainment of the grace of justification, and that it is in no way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will: let him be anathema.

Canon 10. If anyone shall say that men are justified without the justice of Christ by which He merited for us, or that by that justice itself they are formally just: let him be anathema.

Canon 11. If anyone shall say that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of grace and charity, which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Spirit and remains in them, or even that the grace by which we are justified is only the favor of God: let him be anathema.

Canon 12. If anyone shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone by which we are justified: let him be anathema.

Canon 13. If anyone shall say that it is necessary for every man in order to obtain the remission of sins to believe for certain and without any hesitation due to his own weakness and indisposition that his sins are forgiven him: let him be anathema.

Canon 14. If anyone shall say that man is absolved from his sins and justified, because he believes for certain that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are perfected: let him be anathema.

Canon 15. If anyone shall say that a man who is born again and justified is bound by faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestined: let him be anathema.

Canon 16. If anyone shall say that he will for certain with an absolute and infallible certainty have that great gift of perseverance up to the end, unless he shall have learned this by a special revelation: let him be anathema.

Canon 17. If anyone shall say that the grace of justification is attained by those only who are predestined unto life, but that all others, who are called, are called indeed, but do not receive grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil: let him be anathema.

Canon 18. If anyone shall say that the commandments of God are even for a man who is justified and confirmed in grace impossible to observe: let him be anathema.

Canon 19. If anyone shall say that nothing except faith is commanded in the Gospel, that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free, or that the ten commandments in no way pertain to Christians: let him be anathema. Canon 20. If anyone shall say that a man who is justified and ever so perfect is not bound to observe the commandments of God and the Church, but only to believe, as if indeed the Gospel were a mere absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observation of the commandments: let him be anathema.

Canon 21. If anyone shall say that Christ Jesus has been given by God to men as a Redeemer in whom they should trust, and not also as a legislator, whom they should obey: let him be anathema.

Canon 22. If anyone shall say that he who is justified can either persevere in the justice received without the special assistance of God, or that with that [assistance] he cannot: let him be anathema.

Canon 23. If anyone shall say that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he who falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the contrary, that throughout his whole life he can avoid all sins even venial sins, except by a special privilege of God, as the Church holds in regard to the Blessed Virgin: let him be anathema.

Canon 24. If anyone shall say, that justice received is not preserved and also not increased in the sight of God through good works but that those same works are only the fruits and signs of justification received, but not a cause of its increase: let him be anathema.

Canon 25. If anyone shall say that in every good work the just one sins at least venially, or (what is more intolerable) mortally, and therefore deserves eternal punishments, and that it is only because God does not impute those works unto damnation that he is not damned, let him be anathema.

Canon 26. If anyone shall say that the just ought not to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God and the merit of Jesus Christ for the good works which have been performed in God, if by doing well and in keeping the divine commandments they persevere even to the end: let him be anathema.

Canon 27. If anyone shall say that there is no mortal sin except that of infidelity, or that grace once received is not lost by any other sin however grievous and enormous, except the sin of infidelity: let him be anathema.

Can. 28. If anyone shall say that together with the loss of grace by sin faith also is always lost, or that the faith that remains is not a true faith, though it be not a living one, or that he, who has faith without charity, is not a Christian: let him be anathema.

Canon 29. If anyone shall say that he who has fallen after baptism cannot by the grace of God rise again; or that he can indeed recover lost justice, but by faith alone without the sacrament of penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church, taught by Christ the Lord and His apostles, has hitherto professed, observed, and taught: let him be anathema.

Canon 30. If anyone shall say that after the reception of the grace of justification, to every penitent sinner the guilt is so remitted and the penalty of eternal punishment so blotted out that no penalty of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in the world to come in purgatory before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened: let him be anathema.

Canon 31. If anyone shall say that the one justified sins, when he performs good works with a view to an eternal reward: let him be anathema.

Canon 32. If anyone shall say that the good works of the man justified are in such a way the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him who is justified, or that the one justified by the good works, which are done by him through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ (whose living member he is), does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life (if he should die in grace), and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

Canon 33. If anyone shall say that because of this Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy Synod in this present decree, there is in some degree a detraction from the glory of God or from the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that the truth of our faith, and in fact the glory of God and of Jesus Christ are not rather rendered illustrious: let be anathema


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I received the comment below from an evangelical Christian who keeps a website on the internet with the aim to evangelize and convert  Catholics to the ‘light’ and the true Christian faith. Assuming that I am not the only one who sometimes is asked these questions, I decided to post my reply here in the hope that it may be useful to other Catholics who find themselves in the same situation:

Dear Helen
Thank God, Catholics do believe in Jesus, as well as the wholesome truths of the Scriptures summarized in the creeds, and other blessed truths. For that I truly thank God. However, speaking from personal experience, and from my correspondence and discussion with hundreds of Catholics, many do not trust wholeheartedly and solely in Christ for salvation. By that I mean that they trust in Christ as well as seek help from Mary, and endeavor to do good works to merit grace and eternal life, as well as do penance to make satisfaction for sin. But the Bible teaches that there is no other name but the name of Jesus by which we must be saved, and that we are saved by grace, through faith, not of our works, but as a gift of God, and that the blood of Jesus cleanses his people from all sin.

Helen, may I ask you, do you rely solely and totally on Christ for your salvation? Do you seek to live a godly life to merit grace?

Dear brother in Christ,

As I stated in my previous message, the Catholic Church teaches that Salvation is a gift of God which we receive by his grace alone. Please, for more thoughts on Salvation click  here. Unfortunately,  you still seem to sustain some rather erroneous ideas on Catholicism which I am hoping to be able to clarify for you.

Many non-Catholics assume that Catholics give too much importance to good works because they rely on them for their salvation, which could not be further from the truth. In fact, most protestants fail to appreciate what  ‘Good Works’  (which include prayer, reading the scriptures and not only charitable actions) really represent. The Catholic definition of Good Works does not consist of the Works of the Law (Mosaic Law) condemned by Paul in his Epistles, such as in Romans 3:20, but  rather the outer expression of an inner faith which S. Paul himself  praised, as we will see below.
In fact, the Catholic Church teaches that Salvation is a free gift from God and that no effort of our own can make us  earn it. Rather, as it is stated in the document «All Salvation Comes from Christ», by Pope John Paul II,  the Church maintains  “that the way of salvation always passes through Christ, and therefore the Church and her missionaries have the task of making him known and loved in every time, place and culture.  Apart from Christ “there is no salvation.” As Peter proclaimed before the Sanhedrin at the very start of the apostolic preaching: “There is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).
However, the Catholic Church teaches that true life in Christ has to reflect in actions what one believes internally, so that  as a true disciple one is recognized them by their fruits ( cf. Matt.7,16). But what are our fruits, if not our way of life and actions? For this reason, I belive the Catholic Church outlines the virtues for a life in the Spirit:

1803 “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”62
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.
The goal of a virtuous life is to become like* God.63 ( *holy like God)
Therefore, the Church defines the Four Cardinal Virtues ( Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance) as essential for life in Christ,  as well as the Great Theological Virtues and Graces ( Faith, Hope and *Charity [*which is love])
Regarding Charity the Church teaches:   ( http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a7.htm )
1822 Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.
1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment.96 By loving his own “to the end,”97 he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”98
1824 Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”99
1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still “enemies.”100 The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.101
The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”102
1826 “If I . . . have not charity,” says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing.”103 Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.”104
1827 The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony”;105 it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.
1828 The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who “first loved us”:106
These teachings reflect what Scriptures teach, for instance,  in Matthew 25:31-46  as well as other passages. However, my point with this letter is to clarify that the Church indeed teaches that Salvation is a free gift of God which we receive by grace. The Cathechism says in paragraph 1996 that “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. (Cf. Jn 1:12-18; 17:3; Rom 8:14-17; 2 Pet 1:3-4).
Therefore, it is wrong to state that Catholics believe that they can earn Salvation through their good works – as we see once again in paragraph 2005 of the Cathechism – “Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved.(Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1533-1534.) However, according to the Lord’s words “Thus you will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:20).
Lastly, since grace comes first, it is the protestant doctrine of Salvation through Faith Alone which is wrong, not the Catholic teaching:

Faith is a grace

153 When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood”, but from “my Father who is in heaven”.24 Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'”(Catechism of the Catholic Church).

As for Mary; she is the Mother of Christ and His first true disciple. She leads those to recourse to her – as she did at the wedding feast in Canaan: “do whatever He tells you” – to Christ,  never to herself. Mary is a creature who had favor with God, who received His graces and said Yes to His divine plan. Catholics honor her; but know that only God saves.

971All generations will call me blessed“: “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.”515 The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.”516 The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.517
972 After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own “pilgrimage of faith,” and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, “in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity,” “in the communion of all the saints,”518 the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother.
In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.519
973 By pronouncing her “fiat” at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body.
974 The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body.
975 “We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ” (Paul VI, CPG § 15).
May God Bless you,

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Where the totality of grace is, there is the totality of Salvation. Where grace no longer exists in the fractured state of simul justus et peccator, but in pure “Yes”, death, sin’s jailer, has no place.

Naturally, this involves the questions: What does the assumption of body and soul into heavenly glory mean? What, after all, does ‘immortality’ mean? Man is not immortal by his own power, but only in and through another, preliminary, tentatively, fragmentarily, in children, in fame, but  finally and truly and only in and  from the Entirely-Other, God. We are mortal due to the usurped autarchy of a determination to remain within ourselves, which proves to be a deception…

Nevertheless, where the innate propensity to autarchy is totally lacking, where there is the pure self-disposession (= grace), death is absent, even when somatic end is present. Instead, the whole human being enters salvation, because as a whole, undiminished, he stands eternally in God’s life-giving memory that preserves him as himself in his own life.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                 Pope Benedict XIV

Read also: Saved by faith, not by Faith Alone

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 In 1521 Martin Luther declared at the Imperial Hearing of Worms to which he was called to answer questions on his controversial views on the fundamental Christian Doctrine of Salvation taught by the Catholic Church.

 “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

And thus was ‘officially’ created the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura or Scripture Alone. Luther’s rejection of the authority of the Church as the Gardian and interpreter of the Divine Revelation created another series of problems, namely, misguided interpretations of the teachings in the Gospel of Christ, for instance the Doctrine of Faith Alone.

Luther supported his doctrine of Salvation mainly by the writings of St Paul. However, in order to justify his understanding, when translating the works of St Paul, Luther added  the word ‘alone’ in Romans 3:28 in his German translation of the Original – “For we hold that a man is justified by faith alone”. Therefore, we can affirm that he corrupted the text of the Scripture to support his views and interpretation, because in a clean translation from the original Greek, St Paul actually explains justification as:

“For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Does God belong to Jews alone? Does he not belong to Gentiles, too? Yes, also to Gentiles, for God is one and will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Are we then annulling the law by this faith? Of course not! On the contrary, we are supporting the law”. (Rom 3:28)

Luther regarded the teachings of St Paul very highly, thus he once declared: “St Paul taught a simple gospel that relies on the Christian believing in the person and the works of Jesus Christ to be justified.” In simple terms, this affirmative institutes the doctrine of imputed righteousness, an alien righteousness that is imputed to the believer, which is held until today by most protestant denominations.

The Catholic Church teaches, as we will see in a moment, that men are justified by faith but not by faith alone. As Catholic we must receive the Sacrament of Baptism –  or Sacrament of Faith – through which the righteousness of Christ is infused in into the soul of the Christian, and becomes the righteousness of the believer AND believe in Christ Jesus as our Saviour. The Church also teaches that faith is a gift of God’s grace which is given to us only by God.  Therefore, we can say that salvation comes from grace alone.

The writings of St Paul demonstrate that he agrees with St James’ statement that a man is saved ‘not by faith alone’ (James 2: 24), and as we have seen, he writes that justification is  by ‘faith apart from the works of the Law’. But what does St Paul mean by works of the Law?


The debate within the Catholic & Apostolic Church on the definition of ‘Works of the Law’ goes all the way back to St Jerome, who defined it as being the “ceremonial precepts of the Old Testament’, which are the precepts that Moses gave to the people of Israel to distinct them from the Gentiles, such as prohibition of eating certain foods, circumcision or any other cultural law kept by Jews. St Jerome did not include in his view neither the Judicial Precepts or the Moral Precepts, or the Decalogue – the Ten Commandments – in his definition of works of the Law.

The Council of Trent of the Catholic Church, on the other hand, included the entire body of the Mosaic Law as ‘works of the Law’, which at a first glance seem to be in accordance with Luther, except for the fact that the Catholic Church does not exclude the role of works off the process of sanctification of the believer. Therefore, we come to God with faith, and faith prepares us to walk in works. These works integral of justification are not merely the fruits of faith, because they cooperate with the faith.

In the Book of James the Apostle cites Gen 22 where Abraham is justified as he attempts to sacrifice his son and is said to be justified because his faith is cooperating with the works. The book of Genesis demonstrates that justification is not a one time event process, but continues to be developed, as we see Abraham himself being justified at least in two other occasions (Gen 12, 15) additionally to the one mentioned above.

Therefore, when St Paul speaks of ‘works of the Law’ we know that he refers to the 613 precepts of the Jewish law, but he is equally condemning anyone who would seek to impress God by his works alone, or  that he taught that the 10 commandments no longer apply to Christians. In Romans 3:31 St Paul writes:

31 Are we then annulling the law by this faith? Of course not! On the contrary, we are supporting the law.

Many Protestants wrongly believe that Catholics hold that we are justified by works. This is wrong, because Catholics know that works without faith is empty! Instead, Catholics believe that man is justified by faith working through love!  A view which is confirmed by St Paul, for instance, in his Epistle 1Corinthians 13: 1-3

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I HAVE ALL faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

St Paul is saying that faith must be formed with love and to love Jesus is to keep his commandments.(Jn 14:15). Therefore, a faith formed by love obeys the commandments and acts or works, and this has been the teaching of the Catholic Church. Justification does not occur by faith alone, but by faith through works of love. 

For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor un-circumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love (Gal 5:6)

 This is ecchoed in the teachings of St Peter in Second letter:
 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtuewith knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Pet 1:3-10)

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Read also: Saved by Grace Alone! and Catholic Doctrine of Salvation Revealed: By Grace alone

One of the biggest misconceptions about the Catholic teaching regarding salvation is the notion that says Catholics believe that they can ‘earn’ their salvation through good works. This is inaccurate and must be addressed. Catholics believe that Salvation is a free gift of God to all mankind and that we receive it through the merits of Jesus’ Sacrifice on the Holy Cross, not by our own efforts. However, we do believe that we have to diligently strive to do God’s will so that we may appear before the Lord wearing wedding clothes (Matt 22:11). Our offenses or sins distance us from God, which can ultimately impact  on our salvation because nothing unclean shall enter Heaven (Revelation 21:27).  In other words, our good works are the fruits of the faith we have (James 2:15-18).

WORK out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).

 “And I heard a voice from Heaven saying, ‘Write: blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth. Yes, says the Spirit, let them rest from their labors, for their WORKS follow them.” (Rev 14:13)

We believe that through His Sacrifice, we were granted a hope  to attain eternal  life.  As opposed to the Protestant notion that Salvation is a certainty for all those who ‘believe’ in Jesus, in spite of one’s actions in life. This ’doctrine’ is called ‘Sola Fide’ or Faith alone.

Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold unswervingly to the HOPE we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Titus 3: 6-7 – “whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the HOPE of eternal life”.

Now, if the scriptures assure us in many instances that there is no condemnation for those who are ‘in Christ’ (Rom 8:1) and that those who are ‘in Christ’ shall enter heaven, why can’t Catholics be certain? The definition of being ‘in Christ’ is certainly more complex that just saying the ‘sinners prayer’ and proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Saviour. To be truly ‘in Christ’ one needs to abide in His teachings.

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will KEEP my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)

Above Jesus talks about the importance of KEEPING His teachings as the key to being loved by the Father, not merely ‘confessing faith’ in Him. Obviously, keeping His teachings is a consequence of having faith in Him, and both are clearly interconnected, but in saying this Jesus signals that we have to live our faith, which opposes the faith alone belief.

James 2: 24 “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone”.

Although Jesus’ Sacrifice on the cross meant the forgiveness of sins, it didn’t mean sins were covered up. The Catholic understanding is that faith in Christ is necessary for Salvation,  but His death did not take away our free will to do evil or good. 

Do the Scriptures Support good works?

Mt 16: 27 – For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, & then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (has done = deeds)

Matt. 25: 40,45 – Jesus says “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers, you did it to Me”. We are judged and our eternal destiny is determined in accordance with our works.

Luke 14:14-13 – But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Jesus says we are repaid for the works we have done at the resurrection of the just.

A oppositor wrote me this:

There are other verses that make it impossible to believe our salvation would be judged by our works.

Rom 9:16 – It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. And John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

So I’m guessing you believe this verse to be a lie since you disagree with it. Our salvation is not up to us or by what we do. You are a liar. Catholics DO NOT believe we are saved by God’s grace. They believe we have to earn salvation through works also.

As stated, Catholics do not deny that Salvation is received by Grace. The official teaching of the Church is that we can be saved only by God’s grace.  With this said, for an accurate understanding of the Scriptures  above – John 6:37 and Rom 9:16 –  these verses must  be read in the light of what the Scriptures convey as a whole, and not through selected excerpts.

“Behold, I come quickly! And My reward is with Me, to render to each one according to his WORKS.” (Rev 22:12)

For instance, the same way St Paul talks about the role of Faith for salvation in Galatians 2:15–16, he also asserts on the value of our works in 1 Cor 3:12-15 and explains that even if our works are burned, we are ultimately saved, but only through purification or ‘fire’.

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and he fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 1 Cor 3:12-15

I asked an objector of  faith & works: Why would God judge our works?  And if He is not interested in our deeds, why did Jesus promise to reward our good actions, can you explain this?

This is the answer I received:

Of course good works matter, I can’t imagine anyone going through sanctification of the Holy Spirit and not becoming a new creature resulting in Good works, but like the Bible says We are elected by God, called by God, Justified by God, Glorified by God. Salvation comes from him not us or anything we do to try to achieve it.

The  Catholic teachings do not contradict the above statement in anyways. I’d only add that we must take into account the fact that there is no sanctification without justification. No-one is sanctified – made holy – before they are justified – made just. The Catechism of the RCC says:

The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth to the “inner man,” justification entails the sanctification of his whole being: Just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification…. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.

It is relevant to also consider that the importance of good works is also  implicitly taught in the Scriptures in passages such as this:

Matthew 7: 14 – For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

In saying ‘the way is hard’, Jesus is signalling to us that we have to ‘stick’ to His teachings, even the hard ones, in order to be true followers. It is easier for some-one to declare he believes, than to faithfully live his life to Jesus’ standard!

But why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say? (Lk 6:46)

Did Jesus clearly tell us that we have to do good works?

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10: 33-37

“Go and do likewise” is a command for us to act in our faith by good deeds and not only have a passive faith.

Furthermore, Jesus said that if we keep the commandments we will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Keeping the commandments incurs in not offending God by evildoing against our neighbours or directly against God. We can understand with this that if we do no good works or evil, we will enter Heaven, simply by keeping God’s Word. But Jesus goes on to say:

Mark 10:21, Mathew 19:21 & Luke 18:22 – “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Finally, I’d like to address a common objection made by some Protestants who base their ‘faith alone’ belief on Romans 3:28. The original Greek text differs from Luther’s translation because the word faith – pistei in Greek – is not accompanied by the word alone, rather it literally translates as ‘apart from work’. In fact, the only place where faith alone appears in the New Testament, is in James 2: 24 quoted above.

In order to understand Paul’s definition of ‘apart from work’ in Romans 3:28, we need to look at what he means by works elsewhere, otherwise, he would be contradicting James, who is definitely saying that we are justified by works, not faith alone.  In other Scriptures, Paul specifies what kind of works he is referring to: works of the law of circumcision, which he strongly opposes (Galatians 5:2). 

Furthermore, Paul  explains that we must show the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:16–26), which are our good deeds – and bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:5), again our good actions towards our neighbours – as a way of fulfilling the “law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2), which means abiding in His teachings.

Therefore, the Scriptures do  confirm the Catholic understanding for Faith & works regarding salvation. This doctrine, does not imply, however, that a soul can never go straight to heaven, because for Catholics  certainty of eternal life is a reality for those who follow Jesus with strict and unconditional obedience throughout life.


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