Justification by faith and works in Scripture?

I’ve read the Catholic arguments for salvation by both faith and works, and they seem rather convincing. But these verses used in a Protestant argument seem quite convincing for sola fide. Could someone show me how a Catholic would disprove the argument that these verses stand for salvation by faith alone?

Rom. 9:30, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith.”

Rom. 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Rom. 11:6, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”

Gal. 2:16, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”

Thanks - a lot.

Two things jump out at me.

These passage are saying that faith is required. No Catholic disputes that. He here what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about it:
Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 "Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.’"43

42 Cf. 16:16; Jn 3:36; 6:40 et al.
43 Dei Filius 3:'DS 3012; cf. Mt 10:22; 24:13 and Heb 11:6; Council of Trent:'DS 1532.

You have to have faith.

What these passages don’t say, though many Protestants interpret them in this way is that faith alone is all we need. I like this example:

I am going to make a statement and you think of your answer. ‘I live by breathing.’

Is this true? Yes, you live by breathing. But you don’t live by breathing alone. Breathing is necessary, but it is not * sufficient*. In the same way is faith necessary, but it is not sufficient. You have to do the will of the Father. You have to believe in Him, you have to feed the hungry, love you neighbor, clothe naked, forgive those who trespass against you, etc.

ABC and the “Romans Road”! :slight_smile: Those and other verses from Romans undergird a LOT of Protestant theology about faith and works.

It’s difficult to “disprove” an argument like this, where bits and pieces of Scripture are abstracted–it’s certainly possible to do the same thing and support the Catholic understanding, even in the same Epistles:

Rom. 2:5-8, 11
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation . . . for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.

Ultimately, I think Catholics eventually just fall back on the Church. We trust and believe what She teaches. That’s a very dissatisfying answer for most Protestants. :frowning:

The basic problem with this argument, is that it’s a “these verses in the bible define Christianity, read no further” argument. Any good theology founded in a good understanding of scripture must always bear in mind 2 Tim 3:16,


16 All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice,

One can not read any scripture verse to the exclusion of any other. No scripture verse may be used to “disprove” another scripture verse. Either a theology meshes fully with the whole of Scripture, or it’s an unsound theology. Now another poster has already pointed out to you what St. Paul him self said in his very same letter to the Romans regarding works. Now lets further consider how this “select verses out of Paul theology” meshes with more Scripture:

1 Corinthians 13:2

2 And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity,* I am nothing*.

James 2:24

24 Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only?

James 2:18-19

18 But some man will say: Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without works; and I will shew thee, by works, my faith. 19 Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble.

End Part 1

Begin Part 2

And now lets see our Lord him self describing the general judgment

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.

Not that faith isn’t important, rather it is and most certainly it’s the root and begining of our salvation with out with we have no hope. But clearly, there’s more to being saved than simply believing.

One merely needs to remember the principals of good scripture study, frankly. We don’t just “have to fall back on the Chruch”, rather we use our reason and apply it to the study of scripture. Most protestants are very sincer in their beleifs, and when you point out a better way to study the bible eventually they will come around.

Thanks a lot, everyone for putting things in perspective. The arguments make sense and I can see the issue a lot better now. I appreciate the rationality and reasonableness of people around here unlike on some Protestant (and Catholic) sites where people go off on overly-emotional raves and lob irrelevant “satanic” photos and random CCC or Bible passsages together. :slight_smile:

Just to follow along with this, what is the correct Catholic understanding of Romans 3:20?

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Knowledge of sin, not the removal of sin. Thats why by the deeds of the law no flesh would be justified. This is why, IMO, faith alone does not fulfil the law. It ends up abolishing it because one can “sin boldly”.

Note that whenever you see the word “works” or “deeds”, the context should reveal if it means “good works” or “works of the law”. The Greek makes it clearer. See this for details. They are totally different words with different meanings, and Protestants will often blend the two words into the one word: “works of the law”, to support their argument of JBFA.

the deeds of the Law are = self righteousness through the law… (see Luke 18: 9-14 the parable of the pharisee and the publican)

God said, ‘all have fallen short’ and ‘there is none that seek God…’

When Jesus came he MAGNIFIED the Law so we understand that none are justified by it and Paul was affirming this in Romans…

GOD said, (in Jesus) ‘I came for those in need of a physician, not righteous’ thus this righteousness of faith is a state of mind, and heart… (as we later see by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost…)

Thus we need to put on the righteousness of Christ, is my understanding, not our own, for we ourselves were Lost without Him…

I have personally counted myself a sinner for Christ’s sake, in order to obtain His righteousness in God’s eyes, Christ Lives through me by the Holy Spirit dwelling within… I am born of both water and Spirit, I have the seal of God in Jesus Christ, I know live unto God who saved me and my righteousness is Christ… not my own so that none can boast…

Praise God for His never ending mercy…

Very helpful thank you.

They may come around, yes. I did. :slight_smile:

Sometimes, though, I’ve found that the conversations just go around and around in circles. It depends on the person, but sometimes I finally just have to give up and say I trust the Church. I might ask if the person is willing to come to Mass or something, instead of having a Scripture debate.

You’re right, though. We certainly should use our reason and good principals of study when we talk about Scripture. Thanks so much for your nuanced exegesis!

How about this verse?

(James 2:24 RSV) You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

I don’t think you can lump all Protestants in with a few who do not understand the relation of works to faith.

Also, this sounds like six of one and half a dozen of the other. To my understanding, works are the fruit of faith, not a forbearance of it- which would be legalistic. So yes, they do prove the validity of one’s faith, but if one has to think, ‘I need to do a good work today to show that I am saved’ they’re obviously not being very faithful. That doesn’t mean that one need to go out looking for people to help, (Unless the Spirit moves you to do so) but similarly it doesn’t give license to snub a starving homeless man because ‘I don’t need self-produced works.’ God knows that we all need works and He will provide the opportunity and the means to accomplish them.

I tend to think these things are more a matter or misunderstanding of doctrine than scripture.

So in a sense, it is true that we only obtain good works by faith- which make faith the only essential thing; but, it is equally true that they are necessary as proof of that same faith. However, as it is God who has deemed them necessary, it is God who must produce them. Jesus did say that he was the vine and that unless one abides, and remains in Him they will produce no fruit. So faith alone produces works BY the grace of God. Or at least that is my understanding of the matter. I came to this conclusion by simply reading scripture, so if I’m off somewhere, someone correct me please.

It’s also my opinion if one has real faith, poured out on them by the real Holy Spirit, then they will eventually produce real good works as a fruit of that faith whether they understand the relation of works to faith or not.

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