This article is for the serious Bible Christians who love Christ and want to study the written word of God!
Salvation is a hot topic among Christian apologists and those who choose to engage in apologetic style conversations. One teaching that Catholic Christians and non-Catholic Christians seem to disagree on is in the area of salvation. That is one reason why I focus a lot on this topic. Scripture has a lot to say about it! I really do want to clear up some things before I begin. Both Catholic and non-catholic Christians believe that we are saved by Grace through faith. Works salvation (the teaching that we are saved by works alone) is not a teaching of the Catholic Church and is only presumed a teaching of the Church by non-Catholics. The only difference between the Catholic saved by faith and the non-Catholic saved by faith is that many non-Catholics often teach that we are saved by faith alone! They discount everything else as having a part in salvation.
Faith alone is not taught in Scripture, faith is never alone!
The Catholic and biblical view of "saved by faith" is this: We are saved first by Grace through faith in Christ, this faith is justified by our works or we have a dead faith. A dead faith can't save us! Our faith must be living in Christ for salvation. In some cases faith that saves a person doesn't come from the individual seeking salvation them self. Obviously an unborn baby, a small child who dies, etc.. are saved first by Grace through the faith of the body of believers in the Church as a whole (all who desire the salvation of others) and not by their own justified faith. We could say they are saved by Grace only and that would be OK. I prefer however to be mindful of the faith of the faithful who are a real part of the body of Christ! If we were to say like many non-Catholics do that we are saved by our faith in Christ alone, then what happens to those who died without faith and without knowing Christ? As in the groups of people I have mentioned. That is an article in itself but please think about that question.
Grace is a free gift that God initially chooses to pour out onto us in order to move us to faith in him and hopefully our salvation. But this initial response to God doesn't stop at faith alone! Grace is not something that we get once and then we are saved no matter what. Grace is a gift that nurtures us throughout our lives especially if we are willing participants. Grace is the gift that keeps on giving. It is something we have to cooperate with in order to reap it's full rewards. In Scripture belief is synonymous with obedience and a call to do something more. It is not that (in the Church) works save us as presumed by non-Catholics. It is by the Grace of God working in us that we do any good works at all. It is by a justified faith in Christ out of love that we can align our wills to God's in order to do good works in the first place. We can only boast for God who is working in us and not our self! Works can never save us apart from Grace and a justified faith in Christ out of love and obedience to God. I may not touch on all of these points in this article, but you can read my other articles linked at the bottom for more information. Now that we cleared that up.
In Scripture salvation is talked about in three ways. In this article I will explain and show you the Scripture examples of that. I am using the KJV because it is on the public domain and is accepted by non-Catholics. Either way all translations will apply to what I am about to show you. Please use the translation of your choice to look these up for yourself.
Salvation as in...
1) A past event: "For we are saved by hope...," Rom 8:24. "by grace are ye saved," Eph 2:5. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:," Eph 2:8. "who hath saved us...," 2 Tim 1:9. "but according to his mercy he saved us...," Titus 3:5.
2) A present process: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Phil 2:12. "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:9.
3) A future event: "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." Matt 10:22. "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.," Matt 24:13. "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.," Mk 8:35. "we shall be saved," Acts 15:11. "we shall be saved," Rom 5:9-10. "salvation is nearer now then when we first believed" Rom 13:11. "will be saved, but only as through fire," 1 Cor 3:15. "may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus," 1 Cor 5:5. "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Heb 9:28.
We can't only look at the past event verses and say "see salvation is assured to us!" We have to look at all the ways scripture talks about salvation to have a clear understanding of it. We must also do what Christ requires of us, he is clear on that. We can't assume we are saved just because we believe. "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." James 2:19.
To truly believe is to be obedient to God out of love for him. Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." John 14:15. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that faith alone brings salvation. In fact in scripture we only see the opposite, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." James 2:24.
Faith is never alone or it is dead!
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 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. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" James 2:17-20.
Sheep and Goats
In Matthew Jesus tells us about the sheep and the goats. The sheep are the saved and the goats are the damned. He shows us through this story that the difference between the sheep and the goats essentially are the good works which out of love for God justify faith! Notice that it is those who do not perform the works or mercy who are deemed as the damned goats. I want to encourage you to go back in your bible and read the whole thing, in Matthew 25:31-46. I have only quoted some of it, but read altogether and it really paints the picture.
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." Matt 25:42-46.
What about the verses where it is said, "if we believe we are saved?"
A popular one for this among non-Catholics is in Romans. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Romans 10:9.
I hope you liked this article if you have any questions you can contact me on Facebook or just put it in your comment right here via google+. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my article it is much appreciated. Please like, comment and share. Please open your hearts and minds to the beauty of the Catholic Church which whether you believe it or not was founded by Christ and lives by the power of the Holy Spirit! Something I have learned and am still learning.
Sincerely Joanne Utke
Please take a look at similar articles by me from this blog. Thank you!
Baptism in Scripture
Also see Jimmy Akin's article on Faith Alone a must read and the below video.
Scripture used in this article.
A past event:
2 Tim 1:9
A present process:
1 Peter 1:9
A future event:
1 Cor 3:15
1 Cor 5:5
Verses quoted in the rest of the article:
1 Peter 3:21
1 Cor 15:10