Nostram Salútem

July 14, 2013 — 4 Comments

“On Grace and Salvation: A Post Dedicated to My Protestant Brothers and Sisters”

We are saved by the grace of God! How accurate and abiding is this basic truth of the Christian faith! Yet how much misunderstanding it has produced!

The most common Protestant objection to the Catholic Church deals with a simple misconception about what the Church actually teaches. Many Protestants believe that Catholics think that they can earn their salvation merely by meritorious actions that please the Lord. While some uneducated Catholics may claim that moral activity is the only means of justification, the Catholic Church has constantly and vigorously condemned the heresy of works-based salvation. The true position is that of justification by faith and by God’s grace.

The reason for the difference, then, is the addition of the word alone to the salvation “formula.” The Church has maintained that salvation by faith alone is un-biblical. Though I’m not typically one to quote the Bible without providing the context, I would ask Protestants to consider the following verses (in the appropriate context):

1) “And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God fora good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3:21). This section demonstrates that baptism, a sacrament, also saves. Furthermore, the Bible connects baptism with a good conscience.

2) “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone,” (James 2:24). The only time that salvation by “faith alone” is mentioned in the Bible, it is explicitly condemned. Given that James 2:24 is the inspired word of God, it is very difficult to explain away the verse.

3) “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did,” (Luke 13:3). Repentance, too, is essential.

4) “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified,” (Romans 2:13). Justification necessitates the “doing” of the law, which is written on the hearts of all men according to the teaching of St. Paul.

Now, I equally understand that there are numerous verses that suggest a faith-based salvation. They are not to be ignored. However, neither should we ignore the verses that I’ve noted above. We can’t toss out certain parts of the Bible simply because those parts don’t align with our personal theology. Therefore, with this in mind, I choose the Catholic faith. Or, better put, God has ordained for me to be a follower of the Catholic Church. I accept both sorts of verses. We are saved by faith, but not by faith alone!

Please leave a comment if you have a statement or a question to add.

May the Lord our Savior bless you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN!

Your friend in Christ,

David Inczauskis

 

4 responses to Nostram Salútem

  1. 
    Mike Marcinkowski July 16, 2013 at 2:37 am

    Hi David, thanks again for this blog, for being transparent about your beliefs, and for opening up a forum for discussion. I love reading your posts, thinking about the arguments you have made, and then reflecting on my own beliefs. I think you have touched on a very important topic here, and I wanted to reply with an argument for salvation by God’s grace received by faith alone.

    Ephesians 2:8 makes it very clear: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” Even the very faith that we put in God is a gift from Him, re-establishing the fact that there is absolutely nothing we can DO to contribute toward our own salvation other than to believe on Jesus. If salvation comes by more than faith…if it comes by any one little thing that I need to do, then that means that Jesus alone was not enough. And clearly He was. He was the only sacrifice that could have possibly accomplished eternal salvation for anyone who would believe. Romans 11:6 says, “If by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise, grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” In other words, God has given us a choice in this life – -we can attempt to achieve salvation on our own or through the blood of Christ; however, choosing one negates the other. If I choose to earn salvation on my own, then I must fulfill the law to perfection (this represents works), and if I can fulfill the law to perfection, then there is absolutely no need for grace. But we all know that this is impossible. To break one law is to break them all (James 2:10), and Jesus made clear the high standard for holiness that God has (if you so much as lust after a woman in your heart, you have already committed adultery). So the other option is to accept God’s grace, saying there is absolutely nothing I can do to make myself holy enough for relationship with You, Father. It is ONLY by your grace and mercy, through the sacrifice of Jesus, that I can enter into a relationship with You. Having this attitude negates works completely. If grace is enough, then of what good are our works — they are like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)! If works are enough, then of what good is grace? Any combination of the two to achieve salvation is impossible by definition.

    To address David’s Scripture support:

    1.) 1Peter 3:21 — It’s important to understand what water baptism is and what it represented post-Resurrection. It was an outward sign of an inward decision. When a person was submerged in water and re-emerged, it represented their “old man” dying beneath the water, and then rising to new life in Christ in the emergence from the water. Someone choosing to get baptized was essentially saying, I have put by total trust in Jesus as my Lord and my Savior. I am born again. There is not one instance in the Bible of infant baptism. Given what baptism represents — that heart decision — it would not have made sense. I can see why Peter would say that baptism saves you in these verses…because it was so intertwined with the choice to put your trust in Jesus. The act of “getting dunked in water” does not save you…it is what baptism represents at the heart level that saves you.

    2.) James 2:24 — James makes the argument that faith without works is dead. In other words, if someone says that they believe on Jesus, but their life is void of any sign of “holiness,” then you might have to question their faith. Do they really believe? A heart rooted in Jesus bears fruit, and that fruit is manifested in living a life of love. I think one of the key differences between a “faith by grace only” belief and a “faith + works” belief is the motivation of the heart. A “faith by grace only” belief says: “I am so blown away by what God did for me, that I am going to serve Him out of gratitude and appreciation and love.” A “faith + works” belief says, “Jesus died on the cross for me, but I still need to be good to earn God’s total acceptance and ensure a relationship with Him.” Both beliefs produce good works, but the motivation is totally different. True faith produces good works as a byproduct of salvation.

    3.) Luke 13:3 — Repentance means to “change direction.” I used to rely on me, and now I am relying on God…I was going in one direction, and now I have changed directions and am running toward Jesus. When Jesus said to repent, He was saying “Change directions. Stop relying on yourself. Trust in me! I am the way, the truth, and the life!” So yes, repentance is essentially the point when someone decides that they are going to put their life in Jesus’ hands. This is necessary for salvation.

    4.) Romans 2:13 — Paul’s letter to the Romans is an argument for salvation by grace, NOT by works (the law). In Chapter 2, he is basically saying that if you want to be righteous by the law, then you can be…you just have to live the law perfectly. “Doers of the law are justified” — yes, if you can DO the law perfectly. But that is impossible. That’s why Paul continues his argument for grace in Chapter 3 when he says in verse 20 “Therefore, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The law points us to our sin and to our need for a Savior. It was never intended to be our means to salvation. Look at Paul’s argument in Chapter 4:4-5 “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, His faith is accounted for righteousness.”

    I will end my post with this scenario. There is a man in a hospital bed who is about to die. He has his mental faculties, but he cannot move, cannot communicate. He is not a believer. A Christian comes into his bedroom and starts sharing the Gospel with Him, the almost too good to be true news of what Jesus provided for him! This man accepts Jesus in his heart as his Lord and Savior; he truly believes! A few seconds later, he dies. Now, this man had absolutely no chance to do anything good, no water baptism. Is he in heaven? I believe that the Word of God makes clear that he is enjoying eternity with God based on nothing more than his faith in the grace and mercy of God.

  2. 

    Dear Mike,

    Thank you for your comments. I would ask you to consider the following points:

    1) There is no verse in the Bible that talks about justification by faith alone. There is plenty of talk about justification by faith through the grace of God, but not about justification by faith alone. I acknowledged this fact in the original post. However, as I mentioned, the only time that justification by faith alone is mentioned, it is specifically condemned. Why should we invert James 2:24? Isn’t that verse inspired by God? Even if there were 10 quotes about salvation by faith for every 1 quote about salvation by works, we still cannot ignore that one verse. The beauty of the Catholic point of view is that it ignores nothing.
    2) Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it.
    3) Is baptism something that we choose, or is it something that God does to us? I argue that the second option is the correct one. Moreover, why do you think that Christians as early as the late 1st and early 2nd century were baptizing children? Weren’t children one of the groups that Jesus especially favored? Additionally, why would you expect infant baptism to appear in the Bible? After all, the Bible speaks of a convert Church, not a well-established Church. Naturally, adult converts were baptized–mind you, the Bible says they were baptized along with their families–because the Church was new and growing.
    4) Catholics understand the concept of the “primacy of grace.” In other words, God gives me the grace I need to carry out good deeds. It always comes from Him first. I only respond to His grace. In this way the term “earn” must be understood correctly. “Earning” is merely reciprocating what God has already given by giving back to Him in praise and in good works. When I respond to God’s grace, He gives me more grace. In this way the process of sanctification works. Grace builds upon grace.
    5) I don’t think that your definition of repentance is accurate. Look at Luke 3:7-14, especially, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.”
    6) As for the sick, old man, remember the Catholic teaching about “through no fault of one’s own.” This man, clearly, is not at fault for not having done good works or for not having undergone water baptism. Only those who reject the Truth through their fault will perish eternally.
    7) As I’ve suggested before, the “Word of God” is Jesus, not the Protestant Bible. John 1 elucidates this understanding of the Word, or Logos.

    In sum, Christians are saved by the merits of Christ. We can agree on that point. Let’s not forget, though, that the Church is the body of Christ, and we are members of that body. We participate in our salvation because of God’s love.

    Best wishes,
    David

  3. 
    Mike Marcinkowski July 17, 2013 at 1:06 am

    David, I feel like your blog is my new “Facebook.” I’m enjoying these discussions! There is nothing more important to discuss, in my mind, than our relationship with God.

    OK, let me address the points you made:

    1. Personally, I think that when talking about “salvation by faith,” the grace part is implied. I didn’t realize that there is a philosophy out there that exists which involved salvation by faith alone (with total disregard for grace). What would you put your faith in, if not in the fact that God’s mercy, love, and grace provided us with a way (Jesus) to salvation? So I would agree that there is no such thing as salvation by faith (absent of God’s grace). What I disagree with is that anything else is necessary for salvation (works, baptism, etc.). Sure, “true faith” involves a very real heart change…it is not a light mental recognition of something. And as I mentioned in my previous post, a real heart change — true faith — yields fruit, which encompasses amongst other things what we would call “good works.”

    I will concede that James 2:24 may be one of the tougher verses to understand in light of the many others that support salvation by grace through faith. But anytime I see an apparent contradiction in the Word of God I have to go to the Holy Spirit and ask for revelation because God is not one to lie nor to contradict Himself. I don’t have total revelation of James 2:24, but what I believe about it at this point I have already expressed: Works are very alive and well in the life of a believer because they are the fruit of being saved.

    Out of curiosity, you never addressed Romans 3:20: “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” How does this jive with your understanding of James 2:24?

    2. I agree. Jesus fulfilled the law so we don’t have to.

    3. How do you define baptism? What does it represent? Does God baptize everyone? If He does not baptize everyone, then isn’t there some choice involved on the part of the person who is being baptized as to whether or not they want to be baptized? When a parent chooses to have his or her baby baptized, is the baby saved even if they later in life never accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior?

    4. OK, I can understand this.

    5. I looked up the word “repentance” as used in Luke 3:8 in the Concordance, and it comes from a Greek word that means “to think differently, or to reconsider.” It literally means “a reversal of one’s decision.” With this in mind, I would say that my definition is not too far off! =) The rest of Luke 3:7-14 I believe supports what I am saying about fruits of salvation. John was telling the people who thought that they had salvation by simply being descendants of Abraham that their lineage did not give them a right to relationship with God, but rather “circumcision of the heart” (Romans 2:28-29). Once you reject your dependence on self and start trusting in God (change directions, think differently, reverse your decision), you will bear the fruits of repentance. John was challenging them — if you really have repented, where are your fruits?

    How does the Catholic church define repentance?

    6. Not to get too off track here, but to further explain the Church’s teaching on “through no fault of one’s own,” does that apply to folks who have never heard the Gospel? In other words, if someone has never heard the Gospel in their life and they end up dying before it was ever preached to them, do they have salvation because it was no fault of their own that they never heard the Gospel?

    7. So forget the Protestant Bible for a moment. Are you saying that the Catholic Bible is also not the Word of God? That only the things that Jesus specifically says is the Word of God?

    Finally, I agree with everything you said in your last paragraph! I also wanted to say that though these discussions can illicit disagreements on belief or on what the Word does or doesn’t say, I count it an honor to call you a brother in Christ. And when you get right down to it, we serve an awesome God, who is LOVE. In a sense, we both can say no more! But that wouldn’t be as much fun=) Love you and hope everything is going well in Honduras. Mike

  4. 

    Dear Mike,

    Thank you for your response. Let me try to address a few of your claims quickly and concisely.

    1) Romans 3:20 makes it clear that we are not justified by the works of the LAW. A distinction is made between the “works of the law” and the “works of faith.” Keep in mind how Paul ends his discussion on the law in chapter 3: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Following the law by itself does not lead to salvation. Faith is fundamental to salvation and to following the law appropriately, but no where is faith expressed as the only foundation of salvation. Taking works out of the picture, though, is certainly unacceptable as James proves to us. By saying that faith without works is dead, James is precisely telling us that faith alone cannot save. Faith is so tied up with works that we cannot say that we are saved by one or by the other. Hence, we see sections of the Bible that emphasize faith and sections that emphasize works–both within the NT. Take a look at the following quote from the Council of Trent:

    —-When the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely, these words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, “without which it is impossible to please God” and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification. For, “if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise,” as the Apostle says, “grace is no more grace.”—-

    The Catholic Church is not against justification by faith through grace. We love the concept of the primacy and necessity of grace. However, we maintain that it is un-Christian (and therefore anathema) to say that we are saved (on the human end) by faith alone.

    Think about the following verses:

    1 Pet 2:12
    Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that if they speak of you as evildoers, they may observe your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation.

    Rev 2:2
    I know your works, your labor, and your endurance …

    Mt 5:16
    Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

    Mt 16:27
    For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.

    Mt 25:34-36
    Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

    Some falsely claim that faith gets one into heaven, and works affirm one’s position within heaven. Matthew 25 destroys such an argument. There are only two categories: (1) the justified who were just to others and (2) the unjustified who were not just to others. Deeds are key in Matthew 25. Surprisingly, faith goes unmentioned in this passage on judgment. I do not mean to say that faith is unnecessary. By no means! However, it must be seen within the context of the numerous biblical passages that assert the value of works.

    2) Perfect!

    3) Check out the following on baptism: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a1.htm

    4) Perfect!

    5) Check out the following on repentance: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c2a4.htm

    6) Jesus is the only path to salvation, yet I leave open the possibility that Jesus can save those who do not explicitly reject Him because they had no opportunity to know Him. God’s mercy is endless.

    7) I am saying that the Bible is the word of God, but I am also saying that the Bible is not the Word of God. The Word is Jesus. The word is the Bible. The Bible is not God, so word–when referencing the Bible–does not deserve a capital letter. In a previous post you spoke about Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Replace “word” with Jesus, and it makes a lot of sense; I’d argue that it makes more sense with “Jesus” than with “Bible.”

    I look forward to your future comments! Thanks so much for making me think about these important issues.

    –David

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