“Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mt 7:14)
Originally Posted by Gottle of Geer
Faith is the means of justification - that we are created to walk in good works which God has prepared for us to do, does not make those works the means whereby we enter into the life in which we are to do them. That would be self-contradictory, as well as unsound doctrine.
Grace is that which assists us in keeping the commandments
. And it is by keeping the commandments - through grace
- that we hope to arrive at eternal life. The question of good works aside, we certainly cannot
enter into life without, at the very least
, avoiding mortal
sin and keeping the commandments. Should we happen to fall however, we ask the good God, who is "kind to the ungrateful and the wicked" (Lk. 6:35) to forgive us and to give us the grace to start over.
As for works: what work did the penitent thief do ?
Everyone may read about the The Ten Good Works of The Thief,
The Salvation of The Thief
. Lecture XII.
Adapted from: The Heresy of Salvation in a Moment
by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
, Published by Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, 1985, ISBN 9770027359, 9789770027356
And who knows? Perhaps the Good Thief was already, in a certain sense, 'saved' before he went to the Cross!
Salvation is by grace - there is no way by which we can earn it: no matter how much we may try to re-interpret the grace of faith into becoming a work. To attempt that, is to follow Pelagius, who believed that the beginning was in man. It might build up our self-esteem if we thought we could be the authors of our salvation, rather than being able to be saved only by the free & sovereign & unearnable grace of God, & not by works at all: but it is not even what the CC teaches. Neither human merit before works, nor merit afterwards, can be smuggled into grace as a co-cause of salvation: grace cannot be merited, without being dis-graced. If we can be saved without the grace of faith, we certainly have no need of God.
By the same token, we cannot teach ourselves the faith. We cannot find salvation by our own efforts of bible study. We cannot learn
our way to heaven. This is why we need the guidance of the Church. This is why we need to be united to the Church which Christ founded. For it is through the Church that God normally distributes his graces.
God saves through grace, a gift that is gratuitous, free.
Which grace? After all, grace comes to us constantly
; it is not a one-time event! So by which
of these continuous
graces are we saved?
There is, then, no true chastity, whether conjugal, or vidual, or virginal, except that which devotes itself to true faith. For though consecrated virginity is rightly preferred to marriage, yet what Christian in his sober mind would not prefer catholic Christian women who have been even more than once married, to not only vestals, but also to heretical virgins? So great is the avail of faith, of which the apostle says, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin;" Romans 14:23 and of which it is written in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Hebrews 11:6
St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence