Friday, October 19, 2007

An Answer to Sara About Faith & Works

Sal Ciresi
During the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s, a familiar term regarding salvation was "sola fide," Latin for "by faith alone." The reformers, at that time, accused the Catholic Church of departing from the "simple purity of the Gospel" of Jesus Christ. They stated it was faith alone, without works of any kind, that brought a believer to eternal life. They defined this faith as "the confidence of man, associated with the certainty of salvation, because the merciful Father will forgive sins because of Christ's sake."
This view of salvation is a crucial issue because it strikes at the very heart of the Gospel message eternal life. Roman Catholicism teaches that we are not saved by faith alone. The Church has taught this since 30 A.D. as part of the Divine Revelation. The truth of the Catholic Church's teaching can be demonstrated from Sacred Scripture alone.
All who claim the title "Christian" will be able to agree on the following two truths: salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8) and salvation is through Christ alone (Acts 4:12). These biblical facts will be our foundation as we explain the teaching of the Catholic Church.
If we take a concordance and look up every occurrence of the word "faith," we come up with an undeniable fact the only time the phrase "faith alone" is used in the entire Bible is when it is condemned (James 2:24). The epistle of James only mentions it in the negative sense.
The Bible tells us we must have faith in order to be saved (Hebrews 11:6). Yet is faith nothing more than believing and trusting? Searching the Scriptures, we see faith also involves assent to God's truth (1 Thessalonians 2:13), obedience to Him (Romans 1:5, 16:26), and it must be working in love (Galatians 5:6). These points appeared to be missed by the reformers, yet they are just as crucial as believing and trusting. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) should be heeded by all it's certainly an attention grabber.
Paul speaks of faith as a life-long process, never as a one-time experience (Philippians 2:12). He never assumes he has nothing to worry about. If he did, his words in (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) would be nonsensical. He reiterates the same point again in his second letter to Corinth (2 Corinthians 13:5). He takes nothing for granted, yet all would agree if anyone was "born again" it certainly was Paul. Our Lord and Savior spoke of the same thing by "remaining in Him" (John 15:1-11).
Paul tells us our faith is living and can go through many stages. It never stays permanently fixed after a single conversion experience no matter how genuine or sincere. Our faith can be shipwrecked (1 Timothy 1:19), departed from (1 Timothy 4:1), disowned (1 Timothy 5:8) wandered from (1 Timothy 6:10), and missed (1 Timothy 6:21). Christians do not have a "waiver" that exempts them from these verses.
Do our works mean anything? According to Jesus they do (Matthew 25:31-46). The people rewarded and punished are done so by their actions. And our thoughts (Matthew 15:18-20) and words (James 3:6-12) are accountable as well. These verses are just as much part of the Bible as Romans 10:8-13 and John 3:3-5.
Some will object by appealing to Romans 4:3 and stating Abraham was "declared righteous" before circumcision. Thus he was only saved by "believing" faith (Genesis 15:6), not by faith "working in love" (Galatians 5:6). Isn't this what Paul means when he says none will be justified by "works of law" (Romans 3:28)? No, this is not what he means. He's condemning the Old Covenant sacrifices and rituals which couldn't justify and pointing to better things now in Christ Jesus in the New Covenant (Hebrews 7-10). A close examination of Abraham's life revealed a man of God who did something. In Genesis 12-14 he makes two geographical moves, builds an altar and calls on the Lord, divides land with Lot to end quarrels, pays tithes, and refuses goods from the King of Sodom to rely instead on God's providence. He did all these works as an old man. It was certainly a struggle. After all these actions of faith, then he's "declared righteous" (Genesis 15:6). Did these works play a role in his justification? According to the Bible, yes.
The Catholic Church has never taught we "earn" our salvation. It is an inheritance (Galatians 5:21), freely given to anyone who becomes a child of God (1 John 3:1), so long as they remain that way (John 15:1-11). You can't earn it but you can lose the free gift given from the Father (James 1:17).
The reformer's position cannot be reconciled with the Bible. That is why the Catholic Church has taught otherwise for over 1,960 years.
Where does our assistance come from to reach our heavenly destination? Philippians 4:13 says it all, "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."

(Sal Ciresi has lectured on apologetics in the diocese of Arlington, VA and has resided in Northern Virginia since his discharge from the Marine Corps in 1991.)
Provided Courtesy of:
Eternal Word Television Network5817 Old Leeds RoadIrondale, AL 35210

For Further Study:

Grace, Faith, and Works


Faith and Works
By Jimmy Akin

Faith- Catholic Encyclopedia

Salvation is Both Faith and Works

How can I be saved? Faith or works?


Bethany said...

Sorry I haven't posted here much lately. I probably still don't have as much time as I used to, but I just wanted to run this thought with you. Hope you have all had a great month!

This is how I see it... When you are regenerated by the Holy Spirit (born again) you will have those works to go along with your faith, because you are a "new creature" "all old things are passed away, all things are become new". We will still have the body of sin and flesh, but we have different desires, a different spirit within us, which is where the works come in. Our works justify us before man, as it says in James, and our faith justifies us before God, as it says here:

"because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight ."
Rom. 3:20

God can't contradict himself, so what do you believe this verse means, if not that we will not be justified before God by our works? We have to make sure that we don't call God a liar by saying one verse is correct, and another is not. I believe that both the Roman's, and Ephesians, etc scriptures, are just as valid as the James scriptures, and vice versa. We have to make sure that we are reading them in the light of each other, so that they do not contradict. Because God cannot contradict Himself.

In James, it does not say that our works justify us before God, it says that we won't be justified by others, when they ask us to show them our faith by our works. I really think that his point was clear. He wants us to take a deeper look inside ourselves...if we are living our lives just as we did before we decided we were Christians, maybe we never really were saved after all. One could believe they were saved because they simply believe that Jesus existed. But they would be wrong, because the devils themselves believe and tremble. We must have given ourselves over to Jesus, and must have accepted His grace and put our trust in Him. This is different than what the demons do. The demons hate Jesus. They have never accepted Him as their Saviour.

Our works are as filthy rags, we can't work our way into heaven no matter how we try. However, as it says in James, we can be justified in the eyes of other people by our good works, by letting God work through us. Why would anyone want to become a Christian if they saw us simply living our life as everyone else? It is the regeneration of the spirit that saves us, through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and our resulting works afterwards are what show men that we are saved, and help us to be a "light" and "salt" of the earth.

If you are saved and regenerated by the Holy Ghost, you will have works to show for it. It is impossible not to. God changes you. But those works are not of yourself, they are of God working through you. You cannot make the changes necessary to perform your own salvation. And none of it should be of ourselves, lest we should boast.

Eph. 2:8-10, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

As it says in the verse above, we were created by Jesus FOR good works, and when we are saved, if we are truly saved, we will have those good works. However, this very verse explains that it is NOT of ourselves, it is only though God that we have these works. What else could it possibly mean?

Or what could these verses mean, if not that salvation is of repentance and faith in Christ Jesus?

"for we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law," Rom. 3:28

"For what does the Scripture say? ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness'" Rom. 4:3

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: Romans 5:1

"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" Romans 4:5

Either the Bible clearly contradicts itself or there is an explanation for this confusion. I believe the explanation is clear, that what James meant was that you aren't actually regenerated, saved, born again, unless you have works to show for it. That you need to look a little closer and dig deep in the scriptures, to know whether you've really been saved or not, if you don't have the resulting works to show for it. NONE of those works are of ourselves.

The works come along with regeneration. God uses us according to His purpose, after we have given ourselves to Him, in repentance and faith. And we can only do that as the Holy Spirit draws us. There is a difference in the faith that Demons have in God, and the faith that we have in God. Here is something I found that explains it a little better than I can:

Ascentia and Fiducia

Two words are worth introducing here: ascentia and fiducia. Ascentia is the mental ascent, the mental acknowledgment of something's existence. The demons acknowledge and believe that God exists. Fiducia is more than mental acknowledgment. It involves a trust in something, a giving over to it, a complete believing and acceptance of something. This is the kind of faith that a Christian has in Christ. A Christian, therefore, has fiducia; that is, he has real faith and trust in Christ, not simply an acknowledgment that He lived on earth at one time. Another way to put this is that there are many people in the world who believed that Jesus lived: ascentia. But they do not believe that He is their savior, the one to be looked to and trusted for the forgiveness of their sins.
Ascentia does not lead to works. Fiducia does. Ascentia is not of the heart. Fiducia is.

Okay I have written a lot here, and I had a lot more to say, but I don't have much time lately and just wanted to say what I could when i had a chance. Have a wonderful day. :) Elena, I hope your back is feeling better.

Erika S. said...

Catholics believe first and foremost that we are SAVED BY THE GRACE OF GOD! With out His Grace we could have all the faith in the world and do all the good works ever and we would not be saved!

The works of the Law are not the works that Catholics are speaking of. At least that is what I think. The good works that we are to do is pick up our cross, follow Christ do the Corporeal & Spiritual Acts of Mercy, be Charitable etc. Basically follow the Commandments that Jesus himself spoke of- Love God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. Not the works of the Law.

-"God can't contradict himself, so what do you believe this verse means, if not that we will not be justified before God by our works? We have to make sure that we don't call God a liar by saying one verse is correct, and another is not. I believe that both the Roman's, and Ephesians, etc scriptures, are just as valid as the James scriptures, and vice versa. We have to make sure that we are reading them in the light of each other, so that they do not contradict. Because God cannot contradict Himself."

I do not appreciate you saying that I am calling God a liar. Those are fighting words not the words of a civil debate.
The Catholic Church which has been around since the beginning and has ALWAYS taught and DOES interpret Scripture in light of other Scripture. Did you read ALL the links that I have posted?

Also I think the book of Romans can not NEGATE WHAT IS WRITTEN IN JAMES EITHER!

Catholics do not think that the Bible Contradicts itself in anyway.
Please read my post about this subject-

Please read my post on Salvation/faith & Works for a better understanding of what I believe.

Bethany said...

I'm sorry, Erika, my post was meant to be posted on the above post in reply to Elena's. I don't know why it posted here instead.
And I'm sorry that it sounded accusatory when I said about calling God a liar....I wasn't tying to say any of you were calling him such, I meant that we have to be very careful to make sure that we're not doing things that could make it sound that way..but I understand how it might have sounded, and I wanted to clarify.
I don't have time to respond today but hopefully sometime next week I will be able to.

Bethany said...

Actually, I was wrong...the above post isn't written by Elena either. But it is the one I was replying to anyway. lol I'm a scatterbrain.

sara said...

Erika, thanks for answering! Sorry - I kept looking at the post where I put the question and didn't realize you devoted a whole entry to it - that's really nice of you. :)

Anyway, I just want to say that I disagree (but you knew that) but of course I still appreciate the answer. I think you did a great job presenting your beliefs but I have to admit that It's still a little muddled to me. Salvation is a gift which can't be earned but...

I do read the Bible and am familiar with the book of James - I just understand it differently than you do. When he talks about Abraham offering Isaac up on the altar it isn't the work alone but the fact that the work came about because of his faith. I am not talking about belief alone but faith. I can believe that an airplane will fly but I demonstrate faith in that fact by actually boarding.

Well, anyway - thanks again!