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AJ AQ wrote:

Hi guys,

I'm not exactly sure how there is still any support for the idea that we are saved by both faith and works (with grace, of course) when it is clear in these verses that we are saved by the grace of Christ through faith alone. Note: I checked these verses in a Catholic Bible:

It is true that works are a contribution, but not a independent factor, working in the same degree as faith. In other words, works cannot justify for faith in salvation, but faith can justify works. In the Catholic interpretation of this teaching, it seems as if a mass murder can go to Heaven by having faith. With that interpretation, you are missing the essence of justification by faith alone.

Salvation by faith alone defines a believers willing act to follow Jesus as a result of faith.
Thus one is justified by the grace of God through faith in Jesus.

The sole idea is that, if you have faith, then you live according to faith. It is not the idea that having faith justifies a person no matter what one does to destroy ones testimony of faith. I read your article about works concerning James 2:24, yet you left out the detail mentioned by Hebrews 11:17.

17 by faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.

Hebrews 11:17

The significance of the verses in Hebrews 11 shows that all works for God are done by faith, which is concluded in Hebrews 12:1-3.

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Taking note that Abraham offered his son to God as a result of Faith, we can effectively gain a conclusion from James 2:24.

18. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22. Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23. And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James 2:18-26

When James asks, Can faith save him? He is referring to whether the faith is real or counterfeit. Faith, manifested in Good Works, or counterfeit faith, doing good works.

There is no contradiction between Paul's writing most notably Romans and James. Paul insists that it is the man that worketh not, but believeth that is justified by Jesus Christ, but he also describes the character of true faith. Faith worked by love.

It clear that Paul and James use the word justification in different senses. In the Bible, the word justification is often used in the legal sense. To justify denotes a judge declaring a person righteous. This is the opposite of to condemn which means to declare guilty.

Deuteronomy 25:1; Job 13:18; Isaiah 50:7-8; Matthew 12:37; Luke 18:14; etc. Paul often uses the word justification in this legal sense. To justify is also used in a declarative sense. A person who tries to show himself that he is in the right is said to be trying to justify himself.

See Job 32:2; Luke 10:28-29; 16:14-15.

James has this aspect of justification in mind. We have seen that his concern is to show the reality of the faith professed by the individual.

Now taking a look at James 2:23 above, it is evident that righteousness came from God and not from Abraham. In fact, it was credited onto [unto] Abraham as good works. Yet, from this we can see that there is no righteousness that comes from works. But he was justified by his works, because his faith was real.

Notably, all the support given by the Bible that show works as justification were the result of first having faith.

Works cannot play an independent role for salvation. James insists that a man is not justified by faith only. That is because faith that is alone is dead. Profession of faith is not enough. Acknowledgment to the Gospel truths is not enough. One must have living faith, and that is manifest by good works. Good works declares that he and his faith are genuine.

Good works is an expression of heart-felt gratitude for Jesus Christ and what he did for us. Here is an analogy to help clarify the understanding:

I love my parents very much but I don't love them in order to gain some favor from them.
I simply love them because I appreciate how much they suffered and worked hard for my sake. It is the same with the Christian's relation to his Savior. "We love Him, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19).

So as a Christian, I don't try to earn salvation by my works. I strive to live as righteously as the reasonable response to the mercy of God. It's my way of saying Thank you! On the other hand, he who believes and continues to live in sin is deceiving himself and remains lost in his sin regardless of what he says.

Still, James 2 fails to prove how one must achieve certain goals in order to achieve salvation. Neither does it contradict Sola Fide. James 2 helps reveal the true characteristic of having faith.

Now concerning Salvation by grace through faith alone:

Martin Luther's addition of the word alone was not required, as the following already reveals salvation is by grace alone:

  • The Bible states that "everyone who believes is justified" (Acts 13:39)
  • the sinner is justified “through faith” (Romans 3:25)
  • “justified by faith” (Romans 3:28)
  • God justifies “by faith” and “through faith” (Romans 3:30)
  • “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1)
  • a man is justified “by faith” and “justified by faith” (Galatians 2:16)
  • God justifies “by faith” (Galatians 3:8)
  • righteousness is “through faith” and “by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

We are not justified because of faith, as if faith has any merit in itself. We are justified by and through faith — resting, relying, depending, trusting in another. Faith is what unites us to Christ, the Source of every spiritual blessing. The believer is justified because of His sacrifice and righteousness.

The Bible also states that a man is justified:

  • apart from the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:28)
  • God imputes (credits) righteousness apart from works (Romans 4:6)
  • righteousness is not attained by the works of the law (Romans 9:32)
  • a man is not justified by the works of the law and “by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
  • if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21)
  • no one is justified by the law in the sight of God (Galatians 3:11)
  • a man is not justified on account of his own righteousness, which is from the law” (Philippians 3:9).

The context justifies the ideas implied by the verses. Please refer to your Bible and study these verses and the surrounding contexts.

The question I have is this:

  • If you ask a thousands people to thoroughly read the verses noted above, as well as both Hebrews 11-12, John 3:16, and James 2:18-26, what percent would actually come to the conclusion that salvation comes from both faith and works working together?

Despite the hundreds of Catholic articles concerning this subject, I have yet to see proofs of how works and faith justify for salvation. I'm open to any responses, and I encourage them greatly.

Personally, after comparing the Church according to the Bible and the Catholic Church, there are major differences between them, and it seems that if you were to put them both in the same time period it would be Protestant versus Catholic all over again.

I would also like proof on how the Catholic Church is, in anyway, similar to the Church as defined by the Testimony of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, or, in short, The New Testament.

AJ AQ

  { Why does the Church teach we are saved by faith and works when we are saved by faith alone? }

Fr. Francis replied:


In response to our enquirer I will not go into a long list of Scripture verses which he may or may not desire. I have no interest in endless and pointless arguments that have been repeated over and over again since 1517, attempting to convince either Catholic Christians or Protestant Christians of the truth of their particular position.

It is enough to state that the Catholic Church has never taught the doctrine of justification by works which repeatedly has been ascribed to us. We hold as inspired Scripture Saint Paul's Letters, especially Galatians and Romans. I would remind our enquirer that Paul's greatest Letter, Romans was written precisely to the Church in Rome — that Church with which all Catholics are still in communion! We have held Paul's Letter as well as the witness of his very life (he was martyred and buried in Rome) and still maintain his teaching. That teaching is this:

21 But now the Justice (Righteousness) of God has been manifested apart from the Law, even though both Law and the Prophets bear witness to it 22 that Justice (Righteousness) of God which works through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

23 All men have sinned and are deprived of the Glory of God. All men are now undeservedly 24 Justified by the Gift (grace) of God, through the Redemption wrought in Christ Jesus.

25 Through His Blood, God made Him the means of expiation for all who believe, remitting sins committed in the past- to manifest His Justice (Righteousness) in the present, by way of forbearance, 26 so that He might be Just (Righteous) and might Justify (make righteous) those who believe in Jesus".

(Romans 3:21-26)

I repeat, the Catholic Church has always taught the Gospel according to which God makes us righteous through the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ! It is not that we have loved God, as Saint John reminds us in his First Letter, but that God has first loved us and sent His Son as an expiation for our sins. It is all grace! All a Gift! We agree with:

  • Paul, as he defended the Gospel against the Judaizers, and
  • the distinguished and the great Father of the Church, Saint Augustine, as he preserved this Gospel against the subtle arguments of the British monk, Pelagius

that salvation cannot be earned, won, etc. by mankind. As Saint Paul teaches plainly in Ephesians:

"But God is rich in mercy; because of His great love for us, He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead in sin. By His favor (grace) you were saved. Both with and in Christ Jesus He raised us up and gave us a place in the heavens, that in the ages to come He might display the great wealth of his favor (grace), manifested by His kindness to us in Christ Jesus."

(Ephesians 2:4-7)

Then, to prevent us from missing the point, Paul writes,

"I repeat, it is owing to His favor (grace) that salvation is yours through faith."

(Ephesians 2:8)

It is through grace that we have been saved! It is all Gift! Yet, notice that while the grace comes from God it comes through Jesus Christ. While the Giver of the Gift is Divine, there needs to be a response. The Gift had already been spurned in the Garden of Eden by Adam, no son of Adam can now respond to that great Gift of Love. The Father however, in His great mercy, and out of love for this world has [provided, given] the One Who Himself could respond to this great Gift — His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. From the first moment of His Incarnation in the Womb of the Blessed Virgin, (both titles given to Mary are in Saint Luke's Gospel), Christ has responded to the Father's love. Hebrews teaches us:

1 Since the Law had only a shadow of the good things to come and no real image of them, it was never able to perfect the worshippers by the same sacrifices offered continually year after year. 2 Were matters otherwise, the priests would have stopped offering them, for the worshippers, once cleansed would have no sin on their conscience. 3 But through those sacrifices there came only a yearly recalling of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take sins away.

5 Wherefore, on coming into the world, Jesus said, "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a Body You prepared for Me; 6 Holocausts and sin offerings You took no delight in.

7 Then I said, "As is written of me in the Book I have come to do Your will, O God
First He says, 8 "Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, You neither desired nor delighted in" (These are offered according to the prescriptions of the Law) 9 Then He says "I have come to do your will"

In other words, He takes away the First Covenant to establish the Second. 10 By this "will" we have been sanctified through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all."

(Hebrews 10:1-10)

Finally, a response appropriate to the infinitely merciful Gift of the Father has been found —
the response is the Gift of Self of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. His whole Life was marked by doing the Father's will and culminated in His obedience unto death, death on the Cross (Philippines 2) His obedience finally was the appropriate response, satisfaction to the Father's infinitely great and merciful Gift (grace). Notice here that there are two wills — the Divine and human, (as taught by the Third Council of Constantinople), in Jesus Christ. This extension of the Principle of the Incarnation gives us the foundation of the Scriptural and Catholic understanding of our response to the gift-grace of salvation.

  • How?

In the Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we see that there is a synergy — a cooperation, participation, between Divine and Human. It is not simply one or the other. It is not either or but both and! God has revealed His righteousness apart from the Law, as Saint Paul told the Church in Rome, and has revealed it in the Gift of His Son Jesus Christ, God and man. God has revealed that in His merciful love He desires more than his own activity. He desires a human response, the response of a human heart fashioned after His own. That Heart is Jesus Christ's! That Heart reveals both the depth of God's mercy and man's grateful and obedient response. It is in Jesus Christ and His Heart that the new Covenant is revealed, prophesied by Jeremiah:

"This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord
I will put my laws in their hearts and I will write them on their minds"

(Jeremiah 31:31 and Hebrews 10:16)

We are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. His whole Life is an obedient Gift of Self (sacrifice) to the Father, but we too need to respond. Here is where it gets real interesting.

Those who would claim that we are saved through faith alone forget something.

Faith itself is a human response, no matter how one translates or understands the word faith.
Now Catholics are not scandalized by the need for a human response. We have stated all along that people need to respond and that response to the grace of Jesus Christ begins with faith!

You see it is not grace alone because the grace-gift needs to be received in some way. Thus it is grace and . . . it is faith! but Jesus Himself teaches faith alone is not enough. In the Sermon on the Mount, He teaches that it is not enough to say "Lord, Lord" but instead one must do the will of the Father. Paul teaches the same thing, speaking in Galatians of faith working through love.
In Romans after his long dissertation on faith concluding with the teaching on love in
Romans 12-14 and in 1 Corinthians he shows that it is love even more than faith that is permanent.

It is through faith that we are united to — adhere to Christ and, in doing so, enter into the Mystery of His Gift of Self. We can do so only by our own gift of self. This gift of self begins with faith but is not limited to it. In faith we follow Jesus into the Mystery of His Death and Resurrection in the waters of Baptism. (See Romans 6) We participate in this Paschal Mystery, uniting our own self gift with His in the Eucharist and are fed with His Gift of Self, His Flesh and Blood, our true Food and true Drink (John 6), so that it is no longer we who live our natural lives but Christ living in us. See Galatians 2.

To sum things up then, we are saved by the grace of God coming to us through the whole life of Christ, concluding with His Death and Resurrection! It is through grace that we are saved. However this Divine Gift needs a human response — it is a both and response!!! This human response begins with faith and continues and is perfected in love. Even our human response — faith works, and love itself is the result of God's grace, but it remains human as well!
[The Principle of the Incarnation]

One last comment.

  • If one believes in Christ's promise: To remain with His Church (Matthew 28) and His Promise of the Spirit of Truth Who would remain with the Church guiding the Church into the fullness of truth (see John 16) are real and true, which I am sure our enquirer and other Christians would maintain, how is it that the Church lost its way for fifteen hundred years between the death of Jesus and Paul and 1517 when Martin Luther wrote his theses?

Father Francis

Mike replied:

Dear AJ AQ —

You said:
I would also like proof on how the Catholic Church is, in anyway, similar to the Church as defined by the Testimony of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, or, in short, The New Testament.

My new web site should provide more proof then you need. The proof comes from the writings of the Early Church Fathers, the very first Christians. Check out my books section too.

BibleBeltCatholics.com

Here's my favorite quote.

Mike

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
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The Early Church Fathers Church Fathers on the Primacy of Peter. The Early Church Fathers on the Catholic Church and the term Catholic. The Early Church Fathers on the importance of the Roman Catholic Church centered in Rome.