Baptist dads case for faith alone

My Baptist dad is using the good thief on the cross to show faith alone and says that justified is different than saved. Heres what he said

"Not a mention of “works”. Your “good works”, that “justifies” us, is how we are to live after being “saved”.That is why we are "justified by “good works”, not “saved” by “good works”; not “justified” by “Grace, through faith”, but “saved” by “Grace, through faith”.

Perhaps, we should consult the highest authority there is. In the Gospel according to St. Luke, while Jesus was being crucified, one of the thieves beside Him said “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom”. (Luke 23:42, King James version) The reply of the dying Jesus was,“Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42, KJv) Jesus did not say ‘Sorry, you had no Good Works’, nor did he say ‘You won’t die here, I’ll give you another year to do enough Good Works to justify you for salvation’. Jesus accepted the sinner’s simple declaration of faith and gave him salvation."

How can I respond to this?

Well, I’d say for starters that the thief had no time to perform good works; they were all about to be crucified. The thief did what he could before he died, and all that he had time for was faith.

“today you will be with me”

This is like saying he would be in communion with Jesus. Jesus didn’t say he was going to heaven that day. We can be with Jesus today, but we aren’t in heaven. We can be with Jesus after death and still not in heaven.

I recall that Jesus went to Abraham’s Bosom during the three days between his death and resurrection. He didn’t go to heaven.

“Good works” bring charity back to the soul; the charity that was lost through sin. Charity improves our relationship with Jesus just as it improves our relationship with our fellow man. In order to gain heaven, we have got to grow in charity; I believe this can happen in purgatory after death as well as on earth. In other words, a soul can continue to do good works (which are necessary to grow in charity) after death.

Is this not just? I think it is. Notice that the word justification has just as a root.

The true problem with the Baptist argument is that they do not believe in purgatory. They believe that if you believe in Jesus and you die that you go instantly to heaven after your judgement.

So, they play the faith alone argument which they convulute their argument with all this stuff about works not being necesssary, so that they can continue to stray from the Pope for whatever reason they choose to do that (something rooted in Henry the 8th).

It’s similar to any other means by which we wrongly justify in our minds some sin.

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.”[g] 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

So, what did the Good Thief do?
(a) He corrected the other thief; (b) he acknowledged Jesus as God; © he imitated Jesus in suffering with humility and patience; and (d) he acknowledged Jesus’ redemptive role. From one perspective, he can be perceived as Jesus’ last convert, and one of the most prompt ones in putting those insights into practice. And he received his reward just as promptly.

Jesus did not go to heaven on that very day, so neither did the Good Thief. For the Jews, the term “Paradise” was a reference to the Bosom of Abraham (see This is what the Creed is referring to when it says that Jesus descended to the dead, where he revealed himself prior to his resurrection on the third day. Note that the Baptist Church professes the same Creed and believes in the same time frame of events.

Scripture does not tell us enough about the nature of the Good Thief in order for someone to attempt using it as the basis of doctrine, although a number of non-Catholic theologians try. For all we know, the Good Thief had already converted to Christianity in the past and had lived as a virtuous member of the baptized community until committing the crime that led to his execution.

Or, the Good Thief could have been a Jew, but his dying encounter with Christ counted as Baptism of Desire, and therefore he would have been spiritually purified at that moment (so from that point good deeds would not have had any spiritual significance).

For the record, the Catholic Church agrees that we are not saved by good works, but only through the grace of God won for us by the sacrifice of Christ. But works play their part in how we accept or reject this gift of salvation offered to us. If the Baptist preacher in question is asked “How is a person saved?”, he will inevitably explain what a person is supposed to do, especially if pressed for specifics (i.e., exactly how does one “have faith?”). That, then, is the work (or good deed) that figures into the process. Generally speaking, all Christians believe that there is something we must do, so we are simply debating over the specifics of what must be done.

Evangelicals also use this verse to make a point against baptismal regeneration. Something that is often overlooked here is all this took place prior to the advent of the Church. Jesus saw this man’s heart and acted accordingly.!:smiley:

No, “He descended into Hell” (which is the latest translation of the Apostles’ Creed) refers to the Harrowing of Hell. This is the first time I have heard it suggested that Jesus went to Abraham’s Bosom, and while it may have been one of his stops, the article you linked does not mention Jesus at all, and the article I linked makes no mention of Abraham’s Bosom, so you’re going to have to support your statement with another source.

It’s the same place, but with different levels. This Jewish perspective of the realm of the dead is described in the article I linked as such: In the unseen world of the dead the souls of the righteous occupied an abode or compartment of their own which was distinctly separated by a wall or a chasm from the abode or compartment to which the souls of the wicked were consigned. The latter was a place of torments usually spoken of as Gehenna (cf. Matthew 5:29, 30; 18:9; Mark 9:42 sqq. in the Latin Vulgate) — the other, a place of bliss and security known under the names of “Paradise” (cf. Luke 23:43) and “the Bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:22-23).

Regardless of how one translates the Latin word “infernos” from the Creed, it is referring to this realm of the dead (a.k.a., Sheol, Hades, hell etc.). I described it earlier as a “descent to the dead” because that is in keeping with the Catechism’s commentary on that passage from the Creed: Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”: “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.” Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him. (CCC #633)

However, I feel that this line of discussion is just splitting hairs. The point is that when Jesus said that the Good Thief would be with him in “Paradise,” he was referring to the Bosom of Abraham which is what the Jewish term “Paradise” referred to, as indicated in my first quote above and elaborated upon in my quote from the Catechism. Even if someone wants to suggest a different interpretation, Jesus said that the Good Thief would be with him in Paradise “that day”, so it obviously was not a reference to heaven, seeing as it would be quite awhile before Christ’s Ascension into heaven occurred.


IMHO, I also think it’s just a fine argument about words.

In Romans 8:30 it says, those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

It’s all the same process, but in different stages: God calls us to follow his son; when we become his followers and lead a righteous life, he justifies us; and the final stage, is glorification, or salvation.

No one can be perfect…we are not saved by works alone–because, no matter what, our works can never be perfect, but that’s where God’s grace comes in. God justifies and saves those who follow after his son.

The Good Thief placed his hope in God. Those who hope in God will never have their hope misplaced.

From James 2:20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;…

CA has the following links that can help with this. Have at it.:thumbsup:

*]Is the story of the good thief in Luke 23:39–43 proof that baptism isn’t necessary?
*]Where did the “Good Thief” go when he died?
*]Justification Sola Fide
*]How Is Man Saved? The Catholic View Of Justification
*]It’s Not Over ‘til It’s Over
*]We Can Work It Out
*] Salvation is “just believing in Jesus”…
*] Doesn’t the good thief prove sola fide?
*] Sola Fide before the Reformation?

As a quick clarification of my last post, I do not mean to suggest that the Good Thief did not eventually make it to heaven. It was just not an instantaneous trip from the cross. Jesus was basically assuring the Good Thief that upon dead he would be counted with the righteous who were (at the time) being housed in the Bosom of Abraham, awaiting for the Messiah to be revealed to them. But we do not know what process was involved concerning their transition from the Bosom of Abraham to heaven. My point is that Scripture does not provide enough information about the Good Thief to serve as a proper basis for a universal doctrine concerning the role of faith and works (which is what the OP’s father is attempting to do).

My interpretation of the Good Thief is that it represents at that moment of dying when you can still repent and have good things come of it. :slight_smile:

God’s grace can save anyone. Most, if not all, denominations must concede that God’s grace can save anyone. He chooses, not us. These are free gifts from God, which is why we baptize infants (why should they have to earn God’s grace?). That usually sends Baptists into bouts of confusion. In fact, the term “faith alone” is only used once in the Bible, where it is condemned in the epistle of St. James.

The Baptist view of salvation is an interesting one. Albeit completely unbiblical and results from cherry picking verses out of context (Romans 10:9 for example). They believe, that once you say/pray accepting Christ as “your personal Lord and Savior” that you are saved. Period. End of discussion. You’re saved no matter what happens after that point. That is their doctrine, but if you challenge them with the enormous amount of Scripture that contradicts this, they begin to backtrack a bit.

You could bring up that literally every single time judgement or the day of judgement is mentioned in the New Testament, it is tied directly to works/how one lived life.

Romans 2:6-10
James 2:14-26
Matthew 25:30-46
John 3:20-21
1 John 2:4
Matthew 7:21
1 Cor 3:12-15
Philippians 2:12-13
Matthew 19:17-19

Not only that, if one considers the whole witness of the New Testament, it is clear that salvation isn’t a simplistic concept like the Baptists wish it was. For example:

Perseverance saves you (Matthew 10:22, 24:13, Romans 5:3-4), which directly contradicts OSAS.
Baptism saves you (1 Peter 3:21, John 3:5)
Consuming the Bread of Life saves you (John 6)

I imagine their view on salvation was developed purely in the fact that it makes evangelization simplistic and easy. “Just come here, walk down the aisle, and pray that Christ is your Savior and you’ll be saved.” It is easy to see why that appeals to folks. To me, it’s simply a lazy interpretation of the Gospel.

Heck, St. Paul talking about in Galatians (5:4) that Christians of the early church were already falling from grace.

Also: 1 Cor 10:12

Throughout St. Paul’s letters he warns against committing mortal sins (he lists them multiple times) and living a good life. He is talking to Christians in these letters mind you.

He actually did do works:

  1. Admonished/corrected a sinner, a spiritual work of mercy
  2. He publicly portrayed his belief in Jesus, even as Jesus was dying, which is amazing
  3. Confesses and acknowledges his sin before God
  4. Affirms the justness of his punishment and the unjustness of the crucifixion of Jesus
  5. Asks for forgiveness from Jesus
  6. Comforts Our Lord at His weakest and most neediest
  7. Encourages Our Lord that His sacrifice is not in vain when Our Lord is at His worst moment.

I WISH I could do all the works that the Good Thief did!

WOW! Really good and helpful. THANKS!

Exactly. To get an idea of what would’ve been expected of the thief had he lived, with more grace and opportunity given, and what can happen when we don’t “invest” it, we should read the Parable of the Talents.

Yes, we must make good usufruct of the gifts which we receive.

Ownership or title without usufruct is a waste and is no more good than storing up too many old cars in barns or too much wealth in bank accounts or too much knowledge in thine brain.

The latest Catholic Answers magazine to show up at my house (we might be behind) covers this in depth. I’d suggest reading that for a better understanding than what I will write, which basically copies what the author (Mr. Horne perhaps) says. However, the gist of it is that Catholics and Protestants are referring to different concepts with the word justification.

In the “once saved, always saved” mentality common to many Protestants, justification is seen as a one time deal. When you first come to Christ, the only thing that can save or justify you is your faith. We Catholics agree. There is nothing we can do to merit our initial justification. That must be through faith and faith alone. If you are standing before the firing squad (or suffocating on a cross) and suddenly, for the first time in your life without your parents having made the decision for you, realize that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and truly have faith in him, you are good to go.

Now before I get jumped for saying that, Catholics also believe in further justification throughout life, or perhaps that justification is not a one time event, but a process. Our original belief and acceptance of Jesus is through faith, but our lives need to be acting in faith, or what Catholics refer to as works. We sin, we fall from grace. Some of that is through action, some through inaction. Faith alone saves us but once. We must confess our sins, an action, and we must right our wrongs (to the best of our ability), another action. Jesus himself asks us to care for others throughout the Gospels. (Love your neighbor is a prime example.) Also, faith should be understood as a verb. If your faith is nothing more than an intellectual assent, it won’t save us. Our faith must move us to action. Through perservance in the virtues (action) we work toward a holier life and more faith so that in times of trial we may persevere in faith too.

You can find huge numbers of Bible passages to support this. James is a great go-to book. A great question to ask is, “by faith alone is mentioned but once in the Bible, so why do you think Catholics have a problem with it when, that once, it is immediately proceeded by the word NOT?” (James 2:24, though James 2:14-26 is good.) Jesus, throughout the New Testament also speaks toward works (take nearly any passage of him speaking to people, since he is commanding them to do more than just believe, even in cases where their "faith has saved them, they took action to come to Jesus) and Paul is fond of telling us what behaviors we must chose in his letters. (1 Tim 5, for example, isfull of things one must do.)

However, as I am not nearly so eloquent, please read the article. It will answer all your questions.

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