How do Catholics answer to John 3: 16?

I am wondering what the Catholic response is when Protestants site John 3:16(“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”) in support of their “saved by faith alone” belief.

Yes, Catholics believe that “whoever believes in Him should not perish.” However, faithin Christ is necessary, but not sufficient. Nowhere in the Bible are the words “faith alone”.

So Protestants make the mistake of looking at John 3:16 and claiming that faith is the only thing needed to get to Heaven, when in fact it doesn’t say that at all. It simply says that it’s necessary.

Notice how Baptism too is necessary for salvation (1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16, John 3:5, and others)

Hey, look. I’m not sure if I can give the definitive answer on this but I have a comment.

But first, in the second edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you can do a kind of reverse look-up on John 3:16. In the back, there’s a listing of Bible verses cross-referenced to the paragraphs in the Catechism where they are mentioned, directly or indirectly. This would help in a literal answer to the title question.

For the sake of discussion, let’s look at the verse for a moment. If you “believe” in Jesus, you’d better believe a whole lot of things that Jesus taught, and not only believe in John 3:16.

For example, when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said that it was to love God (etc.) and to love our neighbor as ourself. He taught us about forgiving others and taking care of others (which is one level of what the parable of the Good Samaritan is about), etc.

If you really believe in Jesus, you’re not just having a passing thought, while you’re sunning yourself at the side of the pool. Many things are required of us as His disciples.

Faith and deeds are always inseparable in the gospels.

The problem that Protestants have is that they read too much into passages that do not explicitly state “salvation by faith alone” and they reject Scripture when it explicitly state that “faith alone” does not save!

I was just reading through St. John 15:1-8… it is interesting reading since Jesus is very adamant that only He is Salvation and only if we ramain in Him are we Saved… what is interesting is that He states that the disciples (most likely eleven of the twelve) are saved by His Word only to clarify, in the same breath, that they (we) must remain in Him in order to bear much fruit; He continues to clarify that those who do not bear fruit will be cut of the vine and will eventually be burned!

Conversely, in another passage Jesus speaks about Love and He Commands that we Love Him… yet, He does not equate Loving Him with “Faith” (beliving in Him) but in obeying His Commandments. (St. John 14:15-21) Consequently when Jesus states that not all who call Him “Lord” will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven but those who do the Will of the Father (which is made known as “…He is my Son, listen to Him…” and other passages such as verse 8 of St. John 15).

Note also that St. John 15:1-8 is charged with action: Salvation is not a passive “feel-good” state of mind but an active and inter-active relationship with Christ, the Savior, and the world.

Finally, when we divorce Scripture from Scriptures almost anything can be claimed… when we read further than verse 3:16 (St. John) we get a complete picture of the full interaction that takes place:

3:16 those who believe in Jesus “may have” eternal life
3:17 God sent His Son that through Him the world “might be” saved
3:18 only those who do not believe in Him are already condemned–note that the same is not said about Salvation; it is definitive that those who do not believe are condemned while not definitive that those who believe are Saved! (Interestingly enough, if taken literally this passage speaks of Salvation for those who believe in the name of God’s only Son–just demonstrating how maleable a verse or two, taken individually, can be.)
3:19 This verse defines the world’s rejection of Christ (the Light)–no auto Salvation here but exact damnation.
3:20 This verse expands on the enmity that exists (see Genesis 3:15) between those of the world and God.
3:21 As the saying goes… action speaks louder than words: the Believers must seek the Light (Jesus), to abide (live) in the Light so that his/her actions (deeds/works) may be made manifest in the sight of God (through witnessing).

Not all who say “I am saved” are because Salvation is not determined by man’s will but by God’s who has determined that we are Saved in Christ through humble obedience to His Commandments!

Maran atha!


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The Catholic response is to not take scriptures out of context from other scriptures. And you don’t have to go far to get a fuller context. Keep reading to the end of the chapter and you’ll see this:

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

To believe means to obey, as far as God is concerned. So believe and obey everything Jesus taught, including the fact that His Church has full authority, and you will be saved. :thumbsup:

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I fully concur!

You’ve chosen to cite a passage that I find terribly demonstrative… when asked Jesus mentions that there is a Commandment that is greater and that a second which is similar… yet, when we read the Ten Commandments we find that there is no such wording (“neighbor as yourself”); we must understand that Jesus has divided the Ten Commandments into two distinct but not separate parts: Love of God and Love of man, Created in the Image and Likeness of God!

St. John puts it something like this: …if you say you belong to the Light you must walk in the Light.

Faith is not about a thought or a feeling but of action in Christ Jesus!

Maran atha!


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Actually, “faith alone” is in the Bible…

James 2:24 -

You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

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Well, a higher authority than John, Jesus Himself, said:

Matthew 10:22 “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Matthew 24:13 “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Mark 13:13 “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Saint Paul told us to:

Philippians 2:12 “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,”

How do you square the words of our Lord, and those of Saint Paul with the modern kindergarten Christianity that claims that a one-time statement of faith erases all punishment for sin? The bible is a seamless document. If you live only by your favorite verses, the remainder of the bible will condemn you.

When one separates scripture from the Church which was authorized by Christ to canonize it, trouble lurks. Those who use and interpret the bible apart from the Catholic Church are lead always into division. Proof? The existence of 30,000+ disagreeing Protestant denominations, as well as quasi-Christian sects like the LDS and JWs. None agrees on everything. Many disagree on major doctrines.

Ask them to read the entire bible, not just the parts they agree with!

I think that you’ve touched on the actual issue which gave birth to the sola Scriptura: refusal to accept the Authority of the Church!

Faith alone is based on the premise that anyone anywhere can claim Salvation by simply reciting some orchestrated prayer that claims that Salvation is not only automatically gotten upon man’s request but that once acquired it cannot be lost–I’ve not found such clauses in Scriptures, but they swear by it!

Maran atha!


Thank you everyone for your response. You’ve all been a wonderful help.

Hello Kortyr,
There are two ways you can answer them:

  1. Contradict them with theological, scriptural arguments to prove them that they are wrong.
  2. Agree with them since they are quoting from the bible, letting them know that we are not enemies but all members of the body of Christ, and that our differrences in doctrines should not hinder us in sharing the love of God to others and to each other

Your choice,

God bless you

You might also find this useful:

Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who keeps saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven”

It is clear then, faith alone is insufficient, one needs to ‘keep doing the will [of God]’

Again, if faith alone was all that was needed, how can we possibly reconcile this with what we read in Matthew 25:

"“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

It is said that performing the will of the Father is a demonstration of faith; without such works, faith is empty.

I think you can respond a number of ways to this:

1-ask them what it means to “believe” in Jesus?..once you ask them let them just ponder that for awhile and go from there. When they answer tell them their interpretation is different from yours ( if in fact it is, because they might say it requires one to obey His commandments then their “faith alone” doctrine has just been refuted) and then ask them how you all are supposed to settle the dispute? There one need to be a descisive authority.

  1. tell them the author(John) is not guranteeing salvation because in I think it’s 1john 4:9 I know it’s 1john we have the same verse practically except the word “might” is included, and it’s even in the NIV and the KJV that way.

Originally posted by Luke65"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)

I agree, John 3:36 is a great passage to give someone who quotes John 3:16. As a matter of fact, everyone should spread the word that if you go to a major sporting event you should take a sign with John 3:36 written on it!

Descend so that you may ascend, ascend to God. For you have fallen by ascending against God…St. Augustine

Great idea! I thought a good sign for sporting events would be:

[SIGN]Isaiah 53[/SIGN]
And then I saw it in a Stryper video!

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death." (John 8:51)

We need faith to keep Jesus’ word, but not faith alone.

[FONT=Times New Roman]The Church knows that this Gospel of life, which she has received from her Lord, 1 has a profound and persuasive echo in the heart of every person-believer and non-believer alike-because it marvellously fulfils all the heart’s expectations while infinitely surpassing them. Even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties, every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can, by the light of reason and the hidden action of grace, come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15) the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree. Upon the recognition of this right, every human community and the political community itself are founded.
In a special way, believers in Christ must defend and promote this right, aware as they are of the wonderful truth recalled by the Second Vatican Council: “By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being”.2 This saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16), but also the incomparable value of every human person.
The Church, faithfully contemplating the mystery of the Redemption, acknowledges this value with ever new wonder.3 She feels called to proclaim to the people of all times this “Gospel”, the source of invincible hope and true joy for every period of history. The Gospel of God’s love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel.
Evangelium vitae[/FONT]

Protestants quote John 3:16, but their understanding is extremely limited because we do not share the same definition of what a human being is. We are not totally depraved snow covered poop piles, we are God’s children, with the potential to be truly transformed from within, not just covered over, that we may share in the very divine life of God in the here and now.

First of all hi everyone and God bless you. It seems as though we’re all believers here so , I would like to respond. Though the actual words, “faith alone”, are not found in the Bible I would like to mention that the following “actual words” are also not found:
“blessed virgin”
Yet they still have people who believe in them. The fact that an actual set of words are not found, in Scripture, does not change anything. The same foundational meaning is there. For your consideration, I submit the following in defense of “faith only” salvation:
1 Peter 1:9
Ephesians 2:8-10
I would also like to know how everyday Catholics respond to the authority of the Bible? Any questions please feel free to contact me either here or just shoot me an email.

Keep in mind where the authority of the Bible comes from-the Catholic Church. The Church came hundreds of years before the Bible. So if you actually think about it, the Church created the Bible, so who does that leave with more authority?

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