Help me understand salvation



I am a protestant searcher and I do not understand soteriology very well. I know what I have been told about being saved by faith alone and that seems to be completely Biblical. But from what I understand about Catholics, this is not denied, but is stipulated as a sort of -then what? Faith comes through faith in Christ and then it is a continued work in the life of the believer. (The parable of the sower seems to strike on that.) This is how I have understood the Catholic position, and it also seems completely Biblical. (This is also why purgatory makes sense to me. With an analogy of the temple, we may sacrifice in the outer courts for the justification of the people, but we still must be purified if we want to enter the Holy of Holies.)

My impression is that many Catholics and Protestants are arguing past each other. One says that it is God’s work to condemn because of His righteous judgement, and another saying it is a man’s choice and state of mind that is the cause of Hell. (This is not necessarilly C’s vs. P’s but free-will vs. Pre-destination and so crosses many denominational boundaries.) From my readings so far, this question is something that Catholics would say ‘yes, it is both.’ We choose Hell and God condemns us. Our free choice is completely in sync with His sovereignty.

The other thing that seems important about this question is that ultimately the answer must be really simple. I don’t believe God would make this essentially difficult because it ought to be understood by everyone, universally. This leads me to think that there is something to the status quo answer- live a good life and you will go to heaven. The problem is, who has really lived a good life? (Like Homer Simpson said when he was reading the Bible, “What a downer, everybody’s a sinner… except for this guy.”) Christ is the saviour for everyone who has sinned, but still we must still continue to try to live that good life. I think the people who usually say that they were basically good are deceiving themselves about their own goodness. Those who truly want to live the holy life don’t become more and more content with themselves.

I am sorry to ramble, but this is the gist of my understanding. I wanted to see what Catholics in particular would say about my understanding of salvation.

Peace in Christ,


What it boils down to in the Catholic understanding is this:

  1. Our first parents were created with sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace is a free gift of God that makes our souls supernaturally alive with God’s indwelling.

  2. Sanctifying grace is necessary for entrance into Heaven. Why? Because man has a supernatural destiny, that is, a destiny which is beyond what he has by nature. Therefore, God’s grace is necessary for him to achieve that destiny.

  3. After the Fall, all men–with the notable exceptions of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary–are created without sanctifying grace.

  4. Sanctifying grace is normatively given through baptism.

  5. Sanctifying grace may also be obtained through the desire, either explicit or implicit for baptism where there is the impossibility of being baptized or an invincible lack of knowledge of its necessity.

  6. Sanctifying grace is lost through mortal sin, that is, by comitting a serious sin with full knowledge that it is seriously wrong and the consent of the will.

  7. Sanctifying grace is regained normatively in the Sacrament of Penance (confession) or through having perfect contrition–sorrow out of love for God–together with the intention to go to confession when possible.

The bottom line: You need sanctifying grace to enter Heaven.

Our whole life is receiving and growing in that grace.


Catholics believe that we are saved by grace. It is God’s grace that brings us to repentance and faith. It is also God’s grace that enables us to have a faith that works through love. Catholics believe that we are saved by a faith that works. However, it must be a faith that does not cease to work, that perseveres to the end:

Romans 2:6-7

6God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

Galatians 6:7-9

7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

As Catholics, we believe a person can have a faith that ceases to work and that has eternal consequences. Our attitude toward the works we do should be one of humble service and obedience. We should not glory in our works because we know that apart from God we can do nothing. All glory should be given to God and our works should glorify Him.

God bless,


The easiest way for me, a convert, to think of this topic is this:

Jesus redeemed us on the cross making it possible for us to be saved. Redemption and salvation being two different things.

So, since the redemption of humankind is accomplished, what God expects of me to gain salvation is to cooperate with his saving grace (also obtained for us through Christ’s one sacrifice).

We Catholics do this by participating in the Sacraments, prayer, and good works of Christian charity.

I like to keep things simple, too. :wink:


Here is a Faith Alone thread I made a while ago, it shows the Biblical model of salvation is that it is a process, this is what Catholics teach:


From my understanding, there are two different types of works. “Works” were you do it just for a reward, and “works” were you do it just because you felt it is right and you expect nothing. I believe God wants us to “work” in a very personal way. The way when we can give to God but expect nothing, just because he deserves it.

Amen? If not, please teach me. :slight_smile:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit