I go through life confused, and find it difficult to understand my Catholic faith. I may have asked this question before, but I am still unclear. I am even confused as to where I should post this.
Are we saved by which of the following?
1 through the birth, life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus;
2 by the faith/trust (as a human) of Jesus in God;
3 by accepting that Jesus is saviour/savior;
4 by an unmerited gift of God;
5 by our good actions when we are in the state of grace;
6 by our good actions combined with an unmerited gift of grace;
7 by carrying out our ordinary duties conscientiously.
8 through prayer, mass, sacraments and religious observances.
9 all of the above
10 none of the above.
I quote from St Paul. Does this clarify or add to the confusion?
[yet] who know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Gal. 2:16 NAB)*
We are saved by Jesus Christ. All salvation come from Jesus Christ.
What this means is if Jesus did not come down and pay for our sins, we could not have eternal life. With that said although without Jesus eternal life would not be possible, we do have our part in the plan. To obey the commands, and this is a work. But any works that we do is not by us alone, (faith alone) we need the grace from God to do a work.
“There is no other name given among men by which we must be saved.”-st Simon Peter the apostle. Acts 4
Only Jesus can save. He is motivated to save and has gone the maximum distance to make sure there is a means of salvation for as many as possible.
I would reframe the mechanism of salvation from the original question as follows:
Because of His great love he has saved us by His grace. Faith is a grace he gives in order that we might receive his salvation. Regeneration is a grace he gives that we might live worthy of the salvation we have received. So, through grace, we come to the knowledge of faith. Through faith receive the Son. By grace through faith we are born again, and by faith we continue in the grace that metamorphs us into the divine character.
The sacraments are signs that effect the above pattern. Sacraments are not the works of Moses or of man although we actively receive them. God is not bound by them and provides them entirely from Himself. Sacraments don’t earn us grace; god gives us grace through the sacraments. By faith Abraham offered up Isaac. By faith Catholics receive confirmation and reconciliation. My personal opinion is that a man who believes God is justified and destined for salvation by grace through faith in anticipation of the righteousness God graciously expresses in his life. Romans 1-7 James 2 eph 2
The cross of Jesus is the epicenter of grace. The death of Jesus is the moment in time where Jesus destroyed the devils agenda. So in a sense the cross saves us. But specifically, Jesus saves us by the cross at the cross. A carpenter builds a house with a hammer. Titus 2
A final thought, when reading the Bible, it is important not to be distracted by chapter titles. These were entered some time later for reference purposes only. The authors often are expressing a logic that builds from one chapter to the next and some times in reverse order. in several books there is a central thesis that is being expounded. Galatians, for example is about not returning from the gift of righteousness which comes as a grace through faith to a mosaic bondage to law.
By his Death and Resurrection…by his blood …by his love…by his obedience…
One receives that theologians call “initial justification” – by Faith and Baptism.
We are thus saved by faith not by works as Paul repeats…nor is it earned by any other work of ours.
Then of course one is to remain in Christ …in his Church…remain in that life of grace …in that true life we have received when we became a new creation. When we were baptized into Christ.
We live in him and become more and more holy…living in love…working by grace…following him. Avoiding mortal sin and becoming more holy.
If one should fall into a moral sin - one would then turn again to the Lord by grace and repent and confess the sin and be absolved in the Sacrament of Confession and thus returned by him to that true life.
Of course God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are all involved in all of this…
(this is dashed off quickly…I have to run…wife called…:))
The replies I have received so far are excellent, being both Catholic and understandable, at least partially, by me. I am very grateful. They demand that I read, think, study, and perhaps pray. So initially I will only reply to one.
You claim that we are saved by Jesus. I agree. But what does this actually mean?
You hold ‘What this means is if Jesus did not come down and pay for our sins, we could not have eternal life.’ I disagree. God could have decided otherwise, he is almighty, but he decided that he would pardon us through Jesus. That is the way he chose things to be. I do not know why God chose thus, He has his own ways.
Again you claim ‘With that said although without Jesus eternal life would not be possible, we do have our part in the plan.’ Things might have been different, but they are not. So I agree that we have our part to play. But works do not save us. We can do nothing without grace to gain merit, but we can of our own free will do acts that damn us. Maybe this is not fair, but again God’s ways are what happens.
I am trying to read Barclay’s Paul and the Gift. It seems we can agree that grace is an unmerited, gratuitous gift given to us by God. It is unconditional, meaning freely given without our earning it. But it is not unconditioned, it expects us to avoid sin.
It’s good to be challenged like this, thanks. These terms are very deep. I am not familiar with the term theological virtue. What I mean by “faith is a grace” is that the initial capacity to believe God which leads to piety is a gift. Without God’s initiative on this, we would be incapable of seeking God. So the ability to choose God is a gift we cannot earn. That does not mean as the reformers claim that our choice is coerced by grace. It also does not mean that faith does not mature in us who continue in it. So it is a gift that is also a virtue.
St Paul the apostle: “You were dead in your transgressions and sins[c] 2 in which you once lived following the age of this world,[d] following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh, following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ[e] (by grace you have been saved), 6 raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so no one may boast. 10 For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” Ephesians 2:1-9
Noelfitz, regeneration is a fancy word for reborn. This is an example of where a sacrement is ordinarily the vehicle of grace. " [a]What then shall we say? Shall we persist in sin that grace may abound? Of course not! 2 How can we who died to sin yet live in it? 3 Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.
5 For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. 7 For a dead person has been absolved from sin. 8 If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. 10 As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. 11 Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as [being] dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore, sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires. 13 And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness. 14 For sin is not to have any power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace." Romans 6:1-14
Noelfritz, with all do respect, it seems a bit speculative to say what God could have done. We are really only told what He HAS done. For a reason beyond me, God is not willing that any should parish and yet some do. I speculate that the answer to the old challenge, ‘can Omnipotent God make a rock so big he can’t lift it’ has its answer in the man or women who refuses His saving grace. When I say He went the maximum distance to save as many as possible I am thinking of one of the parables of Jesus.
"Matthew 13:44New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,[a] which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
Philippians 2:5-7Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)
5 For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man.
Notice the length he went: from the form of God to the form of man. From the Light of Life to death on a cross.
That’s maximum distance.
He bought the whole world, the field, to acquire the church, the beautiful pearl. Why some refuse him is beyond me, but “straight is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life and few there be that find it.”
“He saved us by the cross at the cross” vs “He saved us by grace through faith because of his love for us”
Notice the mention of the bronze serpent as a type of:
2 Corinthians 5:21Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)
21 Him, who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us, that we might be made the justice of God in him.
John 3:13-19 DR1899
13 And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him, may not perish; but may have life everlasting.
16 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him.
18 He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the judgment: because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil.
Finally Sr Fritz, the phrase “by grace” to me means essentially that God is providing something based on His own character and wealth and not because we have the capacity to be deserving within ourselves. As you know, even demons believe in God but God has offered them no remedy for their rebellion that we know of. As mentioned above God loved us when we were as good as enemies. That is the measure of His grace. His favor is expressed in acts we perceive as graces. The ccc has the best description of categories of graces. However, these graces are the fruit of the fact that God regards us better than we deserve because of His great love. This love is not mutual at first. “We know love because He first loved us,” as St John writes. Motivated by this great Love, God the father acted by sending His son into the world. God the Son, one with the father, volunteered Himself to do The Father’s will. It is the Son who laid His life down and the Father commanded Him the power to lay it down and take it up again. We did not deserve this loving gift, so the cross is a grace.
6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it** with thanksgiving.
8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins[c] of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.**
It is closer to 9 all of the above. Salvation is offered to all because God has only allowed us to live in a world where we have distance from God to learn to draw close to Him in a real loving way. There is no punishment from God that does not have behind it the greatest love one could imagine. So from before we are born, our salvation is part of God’s plan for each of us. Christ did not die to pay for sins in a sense that God needs to punish us purely for justice. Christ entered into death to defeat death as a human. Since one of our own (a man) has conquered death, we can all claim it and share in it. The older, normal method of sharing in another’s accomplishment was to be a descendant of the person by blood, but Christ has made us all part of His body by baptism and a life in imitation of Him. So we must continue to grow more and more like Him our whole life, or we can be cut off of the vine that we have been grafted on to. So yes, we only have life, and restoration of life purely because of God’s love, but what will differentiate a life in Heaven or Hell, is purely up to us, God is not partial.
The reason I turned to God, years after leaving the Church, was because of the person of Jesus Christ. He spoke like no other, His actions were like no other-and I was studying the words of many others at the time. I heard the voice of truth and love-and I didn’t think either really existed then. Awesome. "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." Matt 7:28
He revealed the heart and face of the Father, of God, as never before, when the time was ripe in human history, when man was perhaps becoming just able to grasp the light:
**“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” **John 14:19
And this isn’t just a matter of doing a comparative religion study, choosing the best of the bunch, rather it’s ultimately a matter of grace; there is no alternative religion, no guru who can compete: "Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68
He turned around the “distorted image of God” for me, an image the catechism teaches was conceived at the Fall of man and which seems to have persisted through our day. “They hated Me without reason”, Jesus said of Himself and the Father, quoting Psalms. I certainly hadn’t conceived of God as the essence of love as I do now; rather He was primarily a rather aloof deity, smug and fearful in His power and superiority. My God is humble, strictly a counter-hero, bloody, humiliated, rejected, dead on a cross-nothing like the super-star heroes of our world-opposite to them, in fact. And willing to go through all that to show just what extent He’d go to to prove His love, to declare that love eternally from that cross, beckoning humanity to come, as they’re ready, to turn from the world and themselves to something much greater, much more important, much more beautiful than anything the world has to offer. Once we know that God forgives unconditionally, then *we *can decide whether or not we want to let go of sin; we’re now free from it’s captivity, as we become jaded by it and are willing to let go of the pride that generally compels and sustains it.
And then He rose again to cap it all off, confirming all that He said and did, and demonstrating in the flesh the promise God has for us all-of conquering death, the promise of eternal life. Man’s problems and fears, of sin and death, are resolved. Man is reconciled with God as the knowledge of Him is regained and faith is restored-or formed for the first time, actually- so that they may commune again as was always meant to be the case, as truth and righteousness and order demand. Our wholeness and happiness are the only things at stake :).
To sum it up another way, to be saved means to come to the knowledge of God, and from there is a matter of what we do with that knowledge, that truth.
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3
To know God is to come out of the darkness and into the light, to be lost and now found. Think of it, from birth we don’t know where we came from, if anywhere, what we’re here for, if for anything, and where we’re going, if anywhere. That pretty well describes the state of being lost. And this was not meant to be. Communion with God means to return home to our very source, to become enlightened by and grounded in the truth, of who God is: of His existence and nature and will, and of who we are.
And from there it’s a matter of what we do with that knowledge, how we live our lives. It’s a synergistic endeavor, our working with God who works in us (Phil 2:12), even as He must initiate and guide us through it. But man’s will is never uninvolved as long as he has breath here on earth. In one sense it’s all about the will. Adam willfully fell and God is working to help us see the fallacy of his choice, to reverse that decision within each of us, with the help of revelation and grace combined with the experience of this life, this exile from Him and from the pure goodness we were made for.