Jimmy Akin says Catholics and Protestants are both saved by faith alone

I think that Paul’s statement that God works in us both to will and to do, is a key to understanding the justificatory nature of works. The actual external results of works, the doing, cannot be said to justify us, because they cannot be said to effect (make) faith, by which we are saved. However, the willing, that is the assent of our will to do the works, DOES keep our faith alive and so has the justificatory nature spoken of in Canon 32.

But, because the work of God in us both to will and to do is a grace, then, by our assent of our wills, we go from grace (previous active faith) to grace (current active faith) as Paul says elsewhere.


From a practical perspective we are justified freely and initially at baptism. We can lose this justification through mortal sin. We can do nothing to merit justification back once it is lost. We receive justification back freely through the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a gift of God’s mercy. Therefore,

  1. We can never merit or earn being in a state of justification (or grace).
  2. Being in a state of justification is a gift, normally done through the Sacraments.

3. Being in a state of grace is necessary to enter heaven.
4. No one in a state of grace goes to hell.

Having established that justification is a free unmerited gift through the blood of Christ, normally applied to us in the Sacraments, we can move on to the concept of increases of justification.

We receive an initial justification from above which is as Paul calls the righteousness of Christ or the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ. It is important we grasp this fact. So that we can say along with Paul:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1)

Otherwise we might think we have to strive by our own efforts to be at peace with God, when it is a gift of God’s undeserved mercy, through the Sacrifice of God’s Son. That is why Christ died for us. If we think we can save ourselves we fall into pelagianism and make void Christ’s death and Resurrection. And we might as well be under the old covenant trying to be saved by following the law. Which Paul strongly disagrees with.

“You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Gal 5:4)

So we need to realize we are put right with God through grace, not through our own merits. For what could we merit before God in a state of mortal sin? This is why as it says in the council of Trent that we are said to be justified freely and gratuitously, and that neither faith nor works justify the grace of our initial justification.

It is only after we understand this that we can begin to think about the concept of works done in grace (already having received that initial justification) could possibly contribute to increasing our justification. As the council of Trent and Scripture both state, let him who is justified be justified still. This is the process of justification or of being made just (or righteous) actually in a person’s daily life, rather than just being legally declared just.

One of the things I find disconcerting and frustrating about the faith alone doctrine is the ease in which it can and is used-or abused?- to support faith-absent-anything-else. Doing the ‘will of the Father’ in Matt 7:21 or 12:50 becomes no more than believing. ‘Keeping My commands’ as directed by Jesus in John 14 is likewise fulfilled by faith alone, according to some. Everything can be twisted this way: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’, instructed by Jesus in Matt 5:48, is fulfilled by faith- faith that His perfection will stand in the place of our imperfection. Having our ‘righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees’ as Jesus tells us it must in Matt 5:20 is likewise fulfilled by faith; we cannot possibly achieve righteousness anyway according to these interpreters. The “holiness” in Heb 12:14, “…without *holiness *no one will see the Lord”, is rendered “faith” as well. Anything to make Scripture square with Sola Fide.

I agree that faith alone in the Christian life would leave a lot to be desired.
Paul says in Galatians 5:6 what counts in the Christian life is faith working in love. Paul also states elsewhere that one could have faith to move mountains but without love it is nothing. Faith, hope and love gives us a more complete view of the Christian life done in grace, rather than by faith alone. For the Christian who has already been initially justified freely by grace he has also received a measure of supernatural faith, hope and love. Which moves him to obedience and works of love. As John says we love because he first loved us. And he fills us with his Spirit who takes our stoney hearts and transforms them to hearts of flesh. And he writes his laws on our hearts. We are thus moved to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

I do too, but we must bear in mind that it was a reaction against abuses on the nature of salvation. The vast majority of European Catholics at the time of the Reformation believed they had to “merit” or work their way to heaven. This occurred as a result of centuries of poor catechesis. Certain clerics took advantage of this misunderstanding, and fleeced the flock financially and in other ways.

=Casilda;13624828]If Luther had his way, the Book of James would have been torn from the Biblical Canon.

And that’s why he included it? This is plain false.

Though this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God. However, to state my own opinion about it, though without prejudice to anyone, I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle, and my reasons follow.
In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works 2:24). It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac (2:20); Though in Romans 4:22-22 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15:6. Although it would be possible to “save” the epistle by a gloss giving a correct explanation of justification here ascribed to works, it is impossible to deny that it does refer to Moses’ words in Genesis 15 (which speaks not of Abraham’s works but of his faith, just as Paul makes plain in Romans 4) to Abraham’s works. This fault proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.

In the second place its purpose is to teach Christians, but in all this long teaching it does not once mention the Passion, the resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ. He names Christ several times; however he teaches nothing about him, but only speaks of general faith in God. Now it is the office of a true apostle to preach of the Passion and resurrection and office of Christ, and to lay the foundation for faith in him, as Christ himself says in John 15:27], “You shall bear witness to me.? All the genuine sacred books agree in this, that all of them preach and inculcate [treiben] Christ. And that is the true test by which to judge all books, when we see whether or not they inculcate Christ. For all the Scriptures show us Christ, Romans 3:21]; and St. Paul will know nothing but Christ, I Corinthians 2:2]. Whatever does not teach Christ is not yet apostolic, even though St. Peter or St. Paul does the teaching. Again, whatever preaches Christ would be apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod were doing it.” (ibid).

But this James does nothing more than drive to the law and its works. Besides, he throws things together so chaotically that it seems to me he must have been some good, pious man, who took a few sayings from the disciples of the apostles and thus tossed them off on paper. Or it may perhaps have been written by someone on the basis of his preaching. He calls the law a “law of liberty” [1:25], though Paul calls it a law of slavery, of wrath, of death, and of sin.

Moreover he cites the sayings of St. Peter [in 5:20]; Love covers a multitude of sins" [1 Pet. 4:8], and again [in 4:10], “Humble yourselves under he had of God” [1 Pet. 5:6] also the saying of St. Paul in Galatians 5:17], “The Spirit lusteth against envy.” And yet, in point of time, St. James was put to death by Herod [Acts 12:2] in Jerusalem, before St. Peter. So it seems that [this author] came long after St. Peter and St. Paul.

In a word, he wanted to guard against those who relied on faith without works, but was unequal to the task in spirit, thought, and words. He mangles the Scriptures and thereby opposes Paul and all Scripture. He tries to accomplish by harping on the law what the apostles accomplish by stimulating people to love. Therefore I cannot include him among the chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him. Therefore I will not have him in my Bible to be numbered among the true chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him. One man is no man in worldly things; how then, should this single man alone avail against Paul and all Scripture.

He disagrees with the way it was written. He believes that it was not written by an apostle. He doesn’t consider it among his chief books, for these reasons. But, considering its disputed past, he says he praises it as a good book

Later, under verse 12:


Now come all kinds of admonitions and precepts. It was the custom of the apostles that after they had taught faith and instructed the conscience they followed it up with admonitions unto good works, that the believers might manifest the duties of love toward each other. In order to avoid the appearance as if Christianity militated against good works or opposed civil government, the Apostle also urges us to give ourselves unto good works, to lead an honest life, and to keep faith and love with one another. This will give the lie to the accusations of the world that we Christians are the enemies of decency and of public peace. The fact is we Christians know better what constitutes a truly good work than all the philosophers and legislators of the world because we link believing with doing.


Can’t speak to what protestants believe, but only Lutherans. Our confessions also recognize the necessity of works. From the Epitome of the Formula of Concord:
Good Works:

our doctrine, faith, and confession is:

6] 1. That good works certainly and without doubt follow true faith, if it is not a dead, but a living faith, as fruits of a good tree.

7] 2. We believe, teach, and confess also that good works should be entirely excluded, just as well in the question concerning salvation as in the article of justification before God, as the apostle testifies with clear words, when he writes as follows: Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin, Rom. 4:6ff And again: By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast, Eph. 2:8-9.

8] 3. We believe, teach, and confess also that all men, but those especially who are born again and renewed by the Holy Ghost, are bound to do good works.

9] 4. In this sense the words necessary, shall, and must are employed correctly and in a Christian manner also with respect to the regenerate, and in no way are contrary to the form of sound words and speech.

10] 5. Nevertheless, by the words mentioned, necessitas, necessarium, necessity and necessary, if they be employed concerning the regenerate, not coercion, but only due obedience is to be understood, which the truly believing, so far as they are regenerate, render not from coercion or the driving of the Law, but from a voluntary spirit; because they are no more under the Law, but under grace, Rom. 6:14; 7:6; 8:14.

11] 6. **Accordingly, we also believe, teach, and confess that when it is said: The regenerate do good works from a free spirit, this is not to be understood as though it is at the option of the regenerate man to do or to forbear doing good when he wishes, and that he can nevertheless retain faith if he intentionally perseveres in sins.
12] 7. Yet this is not to be understood otherwise than as the Lord Christ and His apostles themselves declare, namely, regarding the liberated spirit, that it does not do this from fear of punishment, like a servant, but from love of righteousness, like children, Rom. 8:15.

13] 8. Although this voluntariness [liberty of spirit] in the elect children of God is not perfect, but burdened with great weakness, as St. Paul complains concerning himself, Rom. 7:14-25; Gal. 5:17;

14] 9. Nevertheless, for the sake of the Lord Christ, the Lord does not impute this weakness to His elect, as it is written: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, Rom. 8:1.

15] 10. We believe, teach, and confess also that not works maintain faith and salvation in us, but the Spirit of God alone, through faith, of whose presence and indwelling good works are evidences.

It seems to me that Akin has a good understanding of Lutheran thought on the subject.


Would Luther teach that grace is a necessary ingredient in our being able to love and do good works, not as an act of obligation but as a work of transformation in us?

I think we might benefit by asking, ‘what will we be judged on?’ Could we say, if asked that question, “I believed and trusted in you Lord”? Would that be a sufficient reason in itself-as some apparently maintain?

Or is it a whole package, judgment involving what we did with the grace given, beginning with the gift of faith but continuing on with our responses to all grace that followed- how we obeyed and followed God’s leading throughout our lives-again, what we did, as a matter of ongoing cooperation, ‘running the race’ as it were? And is that race itself nothing more or less than an act of faith? Certainly it would at least involve more than a one-time act.

If we recognize that faith is a gift and work of grace, this:

Thus faith is a divine work in us, that changes us and regenerates us of God, and puts to death the old Adam, makes us entirely different men in heart, spirit, mind, and all powers, and brings with it [confers] the Holy Ghost. Oh, it is a living, busy, active, powerful thing that we have in faith, so that it is impossible for it not to do good without ceasing. 11] Nor does it ask whether good works are to be done; but before the question is asked, it has wrought them, and is always engaged in doing them. But he who does not do such works is void of faith, and gropes and looks about after faith and good works, and knows neither what faith nor what good works are, yet babbles and prates with many words concerning faith and good works. 12] [Justifying] faith is a living, bold [firm] trust in God’s grace, so certain that a man would die a thousand times for it [rather than suffer this trust to be wrested from him]. And this trust and knowledge of divine grace renders joyful, fearless, and cheerful towards God and all creatures, which [joy and cheerfulness] the Holy Ghost works through faith; and on account of this, man becomes ready and cheerful, without coercion, to do good to every one, to serve every one, and to suffer everything for love and praise to God, who has conferred this grace on him, so that it is impossible to separate works from faith, yea, just as impossible as it is for heat and light to be separated from fire.


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