Catholic Teaching on Justification


(I also posted this in the Apologetics page, lets pray it can be answered there as well)

Do I have this right? (as far as Catholic doctrine is concerned)

One is justified by grace through faith. But that faith must be a lively, working one. Therefore while faith is the most important ingredient, works is also important because works create a living, working faith.

“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Am I getting this right? Or is works seen more as the completion of faith?


Someone? Anyone?


So far so good my friend.

Consider this passage as well.
Matthew 25:31-46**
"31 And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. 32 And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. 34 Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in:

36 Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37 Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? 39 Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? 40 And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.

41 Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. 44 Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? 45 Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.

46 And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting. "

Pax tecum,


There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. These theological virtues govern our relationship to God. They are given by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit. God’s grace is at the core of each virtue. see the Catholic Catechism §§ 1812 et. seq.

The Apostle Paul tells us that of the theological virtues, love is the greatest. “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.” I Cor. 13:13. In this context, love and charity are being used interchangeably.

Charity (love) is the essence of the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is the fulfillment of the law (the ten commandments). In the context of salvation, the root of works must be charity. So when we say works are necessary for salvation, we really mean charity.

In his “Categories,” Aristotle distinguishes between “essence” and “accident.” The essence of a thing is that without which it cannot exist. An “accident” is a trait that is not of the “essence”. E.g., John has brown hair. The brown hair is an “accident” of John’s humanity. Without it, he would still be human. John’s being created in the image of God is of the “essence” of his humanity. If John lacked the image of God, he would not be human.

Analytically, many try to separate faith and works as if they were different categories. In the scheme of salvation they are inseparable. For, charity is at the root of saving faith.

Stated differently “charity” is of the “essence” of saving faith. Charity is not an “accident” that is simply added to faith as an afterthought. This is why the Apostle Paul can say that “charity” is the greatest, because it is the root of the other virtues and it reflects the very nature of God. I John 4:8

This is also why it is erroneous to separate faith and works in any discussion about justification. Most Protestants separate the two such that “charity” becomes merely an “accident” of saving faith. Usually, Protestants will speak in terms of sanctification (ie. works rooted in charity) following justification. The Catholic conception of justification does not allow for this separation even if the ultimate distinction is merely semantical. See Catechism §§ 1987 et. seq.

Final observations: faith, itself, is a work, although it is a grace given from God.

Catholics agree with sola gratia. They don’t agree with sola fide.


The expression that I like best concerning salvation reads more or less as follows:

We are saved by grace alone by the merits of Jesus passion, death, and resurrection, through faith and works but not by faith alone.

Placing weight on faith vs. works is difficult if not impossible. Scripture and Church teaching have never detailed justification and salvation in this fashion. I believe that Eph 2:8-10 is quite revealing and worth meditating on over and over again. This is especially true when coupled with James 2:24 that says that we are saved by works and not by faith alone.

Eph 2:8-10 says:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God–not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

We do nothing to earn our justification. It is a pure gift by grace as is our faith. That is why the passage tells us that our justification is not of our own doing. Once justified we become God’s workmanship created by Jesus for good works. Moreover, God prepared these good works that we are to perform in advance of our justification. As a new creation in Christ Jesus, our works are also by “way of God’s grace.” Once justified, our good works are nothing less than the work of the Father’s hands in our hearts, minds, and souls. Faith and works are inseparable and are both by way of God’s grace. Paul even tells us in 1 Thess 1:3 that faith itself is a work. Even Jesus in John 6:29 tells us that believing is a work. Believing in and loving the Lord are things that we do and are therefore essential works done by us through the power and gift of God’s grace.

I hope this helps.


Another observation concerning the supernatural gifts of faith, hope, and charity.

Arguments can be mounted from scripture quite easily that show that we are saved by faith, or that we are saved by loving God and neighbor, or that we are saved by hope.

Most protestants are unaware or simply ignore Romans 8:24 which says[KJV]: “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” It is also easy to mount scriptural arguments to show that we are saved by obedience. The interesting thing about all of this is that no argument for anything other than grace alone is sustainable, and that is especially true of the belief that “we are saved by faith alone,” which is specifically denied in James 2:24.


**I am a former Baptist fundamentalist who is now Catholic. Faith alone or justification was an issue with me and this is what I’ve concluded after juxtaposing Catholicism and Protestantism and in conversing with my former Baptist friends and other Protestants. **

** The heart of the issue is what Catholics and Protestants mean by their definition of the word “faith” and a few Catholic theological (and Latin) terms surely helped me. Catholic theology has what is known as “fide formata” or “faith formed by charity” and “fide informis” or “faith UNformed by charity.” Virtually every non-antinomian or anti-law of Christ Protestant would afirm that the word “faith” is an active verb an action word and NOT one of inaction and would agree that Scripture uses both formed and unformed charity to contrast the difference. **

** Gal 5:6 is a key verse to help others understand what Catholicism teaches regarding the word “faith.” It refers to “faith working by charity” or “faith working in love” in some translations. This type of faith the fide formata type of faith which is the ONLY type of faith that jusitifies. Fides informis" or unformed faith is found in James 2 and Romans 14. **

Also something of great importance when explaining what Catholicism means by the word “WORK(S)” when saying faith and works (someone also mentioned works meaning charity which is also good or use the word love=works)

*Now when Catholicism uses the word “WORKS” along with faith what we mean is WORKS UNDER GODS GRACE that of Mt. 25:40 Jesus said… do this unto the least of these and you have done them to Me. We NEVER could say that OUR SOLE AND ONLY WORKS justify us at all, they never could nor never will and this is what the council of Orange 529 condemned; it was called pelagianism or semi-pelagianism.

** Our works are under the umbrella of Gods grace so that as Mt 25 says; when we do them unto Him we are doing them to Him! Why because God is simply blessing His works through us; even though we are cooperating with His grace to physically do the works, they are Gods works because they are those done with “fide formata” or active faith. So the question all Protesants need to answer is what do you mean by faith in the mantra “faith alone?” Is it a formed fide formata faith then we don’t have anything to disagree with, however if it is the fide informis faith then in all reality and candor both sides would deny this type of faith that even the demons have yet shutter because they belief but don’t nor can’t have the Gal 5:6 faith working through love, nor the works under Gods grace and if we have faith, hope and charity (or love) and die with sanctifying grace then we go to heaven (well we eventually do but perhaps will have to be purified first)**

Hope that helped. :slight_smile:



Antinomianism simply means anti-law or lawlessness and is refering to the anti-law of Christ. It is simply head knowledge and professing faith with ones mouth without truly giving over their will to Christ and accepting Him in order to follow Him.

Martin Luther affirmed antinomianism when he challenged the Catholic Magisterium on justification and the council of Trent naturally condemned it. What is very ironic, is that virtually every Evangelical or Fundamentalist Protestant today would also agree with the council of Trent’s decree condemning Luther’s position on “faith alone” because he asserted that even antinomian faith alone justifies. The Magisterium condemned anyone who asserted that through their own means or only by ones works apart from Gods grace and doing the works under grace that one could be justified.

Council of Orange 529 AD

CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, “For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).

A good article is found here at

Justification by Faith Alone

Bishopite :slight_smile:


Great thread! :thumbsup:

I’ve been studying up on this teaching just recently, because I realized as a Catholic all my life, I don’t think I even understood it well enough to have confidence in it. The main thing that I discovered is that the grace given to us by God is a *transforming * grace - one that renews us, gives rise to rebirth, makes us holy. It’s deep, it’s real, and it’s profound. It opens us up to all the good virtues, especially charity, and with that, gives us the power to enact upon that grace. Once I realized that this gift that God has given us truely changes and confers us to God as His people, I became quite humbled, knowing that this gift wasn’t something that was asked by me. It’s pretty awesome to know that the graces you’ve received (through Baptism), and continue to recieve (through the Sacraments), comes from the Divine, sustains you, powers you to strive to do good.

I’ve heard these words before…just never sank in til now :slight_smile:

Just my :twocents:

God Bless!


The Church teaches that justification is by grace through faith and works. Sola fide (faith alone) is rejected by the Church as heresy, but sola gracia (grace alone) is upheld as sound teaching. We must realize that neither faith nor works can save us. All the faith in the world would be nothing, without grace. Likewise, all the works under the sun would be, as you said in the other thread, like filthy rags without grace. This is where the distinction must be made. Both faith and works are worthless if they do not flow from God’s grace. Our salvation is only made possible because Christ took our eternal penalty on the tree at Calvary; however, this perfect work of Christ must be applied to each of us. God has given us freewill, so we must accept this gift and co-operate with him. Not just once (the moment you accept Christ), but all through our lives. Catholics can say that we merit salvation, but only in a secondary and derivative sense. The grace that Christ gives us leads to faith. This grace-empowered faith leads to works. The two go hand in hand. Our faith and works become our way of co-operating with God’s plan for our salvation, and become worthy of merit before God because Christ’s merit is applied to us through his grace. Do you understand what I am saying? The faith and works in and of themselves are nothing, but when they flow from the grace Christ has given us, they become creditable.

One thing that really hit home for me was the realization that even the Evangelical position requires human effort to obtain salvation. If we are to say that there is nothing we can do to be saved, then logically, all human beings should be saved automatically…as Christ’s grace would be universally applied; however, we know that this is not the case. Even in the Evangelical view, one must make an conscious act of the will, exert a mental effort, to decide to accept Christ and to repent of one’s sins. In a sense, this is a work, as it is an act of the will, and takes effort on our part. But this is only made possible by grace in the first place (remember, the Father must draw us to His Son before we can accept Him), so we can not take credit for it, even though our effort was involved. So once you realize that even the Evangelical view requires human effort, it falls into place (at least for me) that works, those that are the fruit of the grace God has given us, can also play a role in our part in salvation.
If you are to say that salvation involves no effort on our part, then even personal repentance should be unnecessary. Every step of the way, we must choose to continue to co-operate with God, or to reject His grace. We should not be terrified, however, for we trust that God will always provide us with the grace necessary to persevere. I will sending you another PM with some Scripture passages that, in my opinion, demonstrate this connection between justification and works.

Jesus makes the necessity of works clear in many passages, especially in Matthew 25, as already mentioned. St. James, of course, also has a lot to say on this matter. I would highly recommend that anyone looking into this issue study this book very closely (chapter 2 in particular). Also checkout some of the other passages cited at

In Christ,


John 15 is another important passage that illustrates, I believe, the Catholic understanding of justification and salvation. All our works, including faith (as faith is also a work, as it requires an act of the will, and thus effort, on our part), must flow from, and be the direct fruit of, Christ’s grace. Christ’s metaphor tells us that we must be as branches growing on a vine. It is necessary for salvation, we learn in this passage, that we bear fruit (complete good works), but this fruit can not be grown by dead branches apart from the vine, but only once the branch has been grafted into the vine. It is only by the power of Christ’s grace that we can perform works that merit God’s favour, as through His grace, Christ’s merit is applied to us, allowing us to merit our salvation in an indirect and secondary fashion.

In Christ,


Thanks for this thread guys, there is more information here than you can shake a stick at.

*tries to shake a stick but it breaks.

I was on the right path with this, and I’m glad. I was never aware, however, that charity referred to love and now that I know that I have no reason to doubt at all.

I only wish protestants (which I soon will not be) would see the truth in this. That’s what drove me to the Catholic Church, TRUTH. God forbid they seek out the truth.


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