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Saved by Faith or Works?
Catholic Exchange ^ | March 3, 2011 | Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

Posted on 03/08/2011 10:19:18 AM PST by NYer

Protestants say we’re saved by faith. Some Catholics say we’re saved by good works.

What does the Bible say?

This Sunday’s readings* are clear — it’s neither. And it’s both. At the very same time.

First, let’s define our terms. When St. Paul says “works” don’t save us, he is really referring to two things. First of all, he is speaking about the “works” of the Mosaic Law, which include everything from keeping dietary regulations to observing the Ten Commandments. Secondly, he means good actions performed by willpower, without any particular help from God. Paul had thought that rigorous observance of the Law, carrying out its prescribed works, was the key to making a person right with God. But his attempts to observe the law met with frustration (see Romans 7:15-24). The Law made him aware of God’s will but did not enable him to carry it out. “I cannot even understand my own actions. I do not do what I want to do but what I hate … what a wretched man I am!” His attempts at outward observance didn’t change his heart. In fact his heart was so far from God that he cruelly persecuted the followers of Jesus, looking on in approval as St. Stephen was stoned to death.

In Romans 3:23 St. Paul lays it out: We have all sinned seriously. None of us, on our own steam and by our own merits, can ever do enough to earn God’s favor. So God has fixed the problem — he gives us his favor as a free, undeserved gift in response to the sacrifice of Jesus, His son. We become pleasing to him, reconciled to him, not by our own efforts but by the cross of Christ. We receive this gift through the act of faith. So we are saved by faith, not by the works — at least not by the works of the Mosaic Law, done by our own strength.

So the faith camp wins? Not so fast. Let’s take a closer look at what the Bible means by faith.

Many people think that faith is belief. Belief that God exists … that Jesus is the son of God … that Jesus rose from the dead. Intellectual assent to all these truths is of course important, and is an indispensable part of the act of faith. Such belief often leads to religious actions — the hanging of crucifixes in our home, the wearing of medals, the recitation of prayers. These acts of piety are also good.

But Sunday’s Gospel says that mere belief and acts of piety are not enough to save us. Those rejected by God in Matt 7:21-23 clearly “believed” in Jesus; in fact, they prophesied and worked miracles in Jesus’ name. Perhaps they also said novenas in his name. But he said to them “out of my sight, you evil doers.” One of the strongest lines in the gospels provides an explanation: “None of those who cry out, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of God but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

Biblical faith is not just belief. It is surrender. It is a complete entrusting of oneself to God in Christ and acceptance of his power, his will, and his plan. If we truly say yes to Him and let his grace into our hearts, we’ll never be the same. His love begins to work through us and change our lives. His Spirit takes up residence within us, giving us the strength to do what we could never do on our own, even to begin to love like He loves.

So true biblical faith is not passive. It is active, dynamic and alive. That’s why St. James says that faith without works is dead (James 2:24-26). Abraham believed that an unknown God was calling him to leave civilization and march into the desert to find a land that this God has promised him. Abraham did not sit and contemplate this call or set up a shrine to this God. He got up and began walking (Genesis 12).

So we are justified by faith, if we mean the authentic biblical faith that causes us to walk in God’s ways. And we are justified by works, if we mean the works of charity that can only flow from faith and grace.

So really, it’s not faith vs. works. It’s faith that works.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Theology
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To: Turtlepower
Romans 8 is a great chapter that talks about how Christians are adopted into the family of God and have been made right before God because the spirit of Christ lives within them.

I agree, it's beautiful. However, it isn't a cookbook for HOW one becomes a member of God's Family. Don't forget that all of the Apostles were baptized. Christ commissioned them to baptize. The first thing that happened to St Paul after his conversion is his baptism. It is not some idle thing that we do.

I asked the question about “losing” one’s redemption because I’m honestly trying to understand the concept of one not feeling secure in their salvation. I’m truly perplexed by your statement...if you don’t think that a believer needs to confess their sins on an ongoing basis or do good deeds to ensure their salvation then it seems you are supporting a similar position as mine.

I would ask you to consider the Lord's Prayer. We pray that God will not lead us into temptation. What does that mean? God is not the author of temptation but rather our means of escape. "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:13-15).

We do not say that telling a lie will condemn you to Hell. We also do not say that smoking a single joint makes you a drug dealer. However, they have a commonality in being gateways to more dangerous things. When we pray the Our Father, we are praying that we will not be left to follow our own appetites but to be shielded in temptation. As James says above... sin that festers and grows leads to death.

What kind of death? Remember that the Devil is referred to as a "murderer from the beginning." He didn't physically kill Adam and Eve. In fact, you could almost say that he was correct in telling them they would not die if they ate of the fruit... but it was a half-truth. They killed the Spirit of God within them. That is the Original Sin and that is the death they suffered... to be separated from God... and that is the death to which St James refers. I have often heard Hell described as eternal separation from God.

Therefore, we are to be diligent with our souls and our passions and confess our sins frequently to ensure we don't walk the path to embracing our sinful flesh to the peril of our eternal souls.

Can we reject our salvation? "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12). Clearly, the opposite is also true for those who do not endure.

God bless you.

161 posted on 03/10/2011 11:12:38 AM PST by pgyanke (Republicans get in trouble when not living up to their principles. Democrats... when they do.)
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To: pgyanke

“I’m not sure what point you were trying to make... but nothing you posted here contradicts what I’ve said.”

You said you didn’t know how original sin was passed from generation to generation. I took that to mean you were doubting it was. Scripture says otherwise, of course.

162 posted on 03/10/2011 6:46:40 PM PST by JLLH
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**Yes, even the thief needed saving. Everyone does. Hence, Christ’s sacrifice.**

The thief was faithful in his confession, but was still condemned to physical death. There was no need for him to offer a sacrifice (of course, he couldn’t anyway); the Christ was offering for all.

After Jesus Christ died, the temple curtain, that kept the holy place separate from everyone except the priests, was rent top to bottom. It’s symbolic of the Spirit now available to all that obey God’s call; and the Lord declared that souls must have his Spirit in order to be one with him.

The blood of Jesus Christ is applied to one’s soul by baptism in his name for the ‘remission of sins’ (Acts 2:38). It’s his command, nomatter what we think. Call it a test of faith, if you prefer.

The ‘heroes of faith’ had to follow God’s guidelines for faithfulness:

Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain.
Enoch walked with God.
Noah moved with fear, building the ark.
Abraham, being told to leave home ago to another country, obeyed.

163 posted on 03/10/2011 6:55:36 PM PST by Zuriel (Acts 2:38,39....nearly 2,000 years and still working today!)
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To: pgyanke

And therein is where we will never agree. You believe in extra-Biblical/extra-Scriptural authority. I take Galations 1:8 quite seriously. Anything being added to the Gospel, any other doctrine or extra-Biblical claim to authority is anathema. Adding to God’s already sufficient work through his Son is preaching another Gospel. In no way does the vatican possess any Biblical authority.

164 posted on 03/10/2011 6:57:15 PM PST by JLLH
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To: Zuriel

The Temple curtain ripped at the entrance to the Holy of Holies, thus allowing direct access to God through Christ (no earthly mediator needed - another difference between Catholics and Protestants.) If water had any “salvific” powers, I’d be covered every time I took a bath! No, in fact, Christ explicitly stated that what is of the flesh is of the flesh, but one must be born again - in Spirit. (I posted this earlier, not sure where though.)

165 posted on 03/10/2011 7:03:34 PM PST by JLLH
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You said you didn’t know how original sin was passed from generation to generation. I took that to mean you were doubting it was. Scripture says otherwise, of course.

You misunderstood. I was referring to a stain of sin being passed to those who had committed no sin themselves... that's a traditional, but flawed, way to see original sin. Rather, it's better viewed as something that was lost that successive generations had no way to get back... our family relationship with God. Please see my other posts for more on this.

166 posted on 03/10/2011 7:46:33 PM PST by pgyanke (Republicans get in trouble when not living up to their principles. Democrats... when they do.)
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You believe in extra-Biblical/extra-Scriptural authority

No, I quoted but a small portion of applicable Bible verses to show the clear authority of the Church. I'm getting the impression you didn't bother to read them. Your rejection is not surprising... if you didn't reject the authority of the Church, you would be Catholic too.

God bless you.

167 posted on 03/10/2011 7:51:58 PM PST by pgyanke (Republicans get in trouble when not living up to their principles. Democrats... when they do.)
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Like most Protestants, you confuse all physical matter with the flesh. The flesh is corrupted and the source of our sinful nature. That doesn't mean that God doesn't use physical things to affect His plan... such a thought would mean that Christ hanging on the Cross was unnecessary. After all, the physical matter is nothing to the Spiritual. Yet, we were raised to Spiritual life through our Lord's physical death.

Christ baptized His Apostles in the waters of the Jordan. He ordered His Apostles to baptize others. St Paul was baptized as the first act after his conversion. The Ethiopian recognized the need for baptism and requested it. You can minimize baptism with your words... but you can no more diminish the importance of baptism in ignorance than you can put out the sun by typing the word "darkness." (with apologies to C.S Lewis...)

168 posted on 03/10/2011 8:04:59 PM PST by pgyanke (Republicans get in trouble when not living up to their principles. Democrats... when they do.)
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**thus allowing direct access to God through Christ**

Kinda like: “For through him” (Christ) “we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father”. Eph. 2:18

“By a new and living way,” (the Spirit is life) “which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” Heb. 10:20

**what is of the flesh is of the flesh**

He didn’t say “what is of the water is flesh”. He was addresssing Nicodemas reply about ‘a man entering his mother’s womb again’.

In the KJV:
There is no comma in “Except a MAN be born of water and of the Spirit”.
There IS a semicolon between “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”.

In the passage where Jesus commanded, “He the believeth and is baptized shall be saved”, there is no comma.

In Luke 24:47, the Lord commanded his to his disciples “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his NAME among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”.

They followed the Lord’s orders, later in Jerusalem, by the preaching of Peter to the lost souls that were convicted in their hearts and asking “Men and brethern, what shall we do?”, to which Peter replied: “Repent, and be baptized EVERY ONE of you in the NAME of JESUS CHRIST for the REMISSION of SINS, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”. Acts 2:38

In various places in Acts you find the apostles going to quite an effort to spread the gospel, baptizing as many as would obey. 8:12-15; 10:48; 16:33; 19:5; and 22:16 (Paul’s testamony about his baptism).

**If water had any “salvific” powers**

“..eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. 1 Peter 2:20,21.
The answer of a good conscience toward God? Yes, by being baptized in the powerful name of Jesus for the remission of sins, one has performed a faithful act that is not our own works, but is God ordained for our salvation. That is when his blood is applied to your soul.

169 posted on 03/10/2011 8:40:05 PM PST by Zuriel (Acts 2:38,39....nearly 2,000 years and still working today!)
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