Justification by Faith AND Works

I know the RCC teaches that we are justified before God by both our faith and our works. I understand that this belief comes in a big part due to James 2.

I’m starting this thread because I’d like to know how the RCC interprets the following section of scripture based on their definition of Justification.

Romans 4:1-11

1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?
2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
4Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.
5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,
6just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
9Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, "FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS."
10How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;
11and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them,

Specific comments on the bold sections would be helpful.


Any one willing to help me out:confused:

I’m not looking for a teaching to argue about. I just want to know what the teaching is. How does Romans 4 harmonies with RCC teaching of Justification?


Here is a link to the section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church concerning justification.

Please read it.

God bless,

I would suggest that the main purpose of the passage is to combat the Jews/Judaizers who believed that circumscision was necessary for salvation. Catholics affirm, along with Paul, that circumcision, as well as as the sacrafices and dietary laws were signs and teaching tools and not sources of salvation. He often argued in Romans and elsewhere that the idea that following the dietary laws and being circumcised caused one to be justified wasn’t even good Judaism, let alone Christianity.

Verse 9 actually suggests a Catholic understanding of justification as a process and not just a one time event. The reason I say this is that “faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” is quoted from Genesis 15:6. His faith in God was credited to him as righteousness, yet he already had faith in God as shown in earlier in Genesis. Hewbrews 11:8 says that Abraham went “by faith” to the place he would later receive as his heritage. This happens in Genesis chapter 12. If he was saved by faith alone as a one time event, he would have been saved in chapter 12 or earlier.
You mentioned James chapter 2. I would say that James chapter two is only one of very many verses that suggest a Catholic understanding of justification – that works are somehow involved (of course, I’d recommend reading up on the Catholic view of justificaton so as not to confuse it with pelagianism or other teachings not taught by the Church) with our salvation. It seems that many of Jesus’s parables suggest that we are saved in some sense by what we do or don’t do ("if your hand causes you to sin… better to enter paradise with no hand than be thrown into the fire… the parable of the vine – those who aren’t bearing fruit are cut off the vine and thrown into the fire… etc etc). Even the sometimes “Protestant souding” Paul often ties salvation with prases like “the obedience of faith” or saying things like “provided you suffer” or “persevering to the end” and actually seems to worry about his own salvation at times.
I think what James 2 does well is it ties in faith and works. It expands on what Paul is saying. It shows that the relationship between faith and works is intimate – the same as the soul’s to the body (verse 26) and that works complete faith (verse 22).

I’d recommend Scott Hahn’s *Romanism in Romans *except that it’s pretty expensive, it has poor sound quality (at least my version did), and it is repetitive and much longer than it needs to be. I wish he would clean it up and do a newer version of it because it had a lot of really great insights into the book of Romans.

You need to read all the bible to understand specific portions.

James adds clarification to Paul:

James 2
20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

Hi Stouts989

You raise an interesting question. And as CHESTERTONRULES points out, reading the total of Scripture is important. We can’t ignore James, as he, too, makes reference to Abraham.

I could be wrong (and correct me if I am) but I think many Protestants use your Scripture reference of Rom. 4 : 3 to place Abraham’s justification at Gen. 15:6. I think if we look at Romans in context, Paul is differentiating between faith and works of law, the chief work of the law being circumcision. Paul is pointing out that Abraham had faith in Gen. 15 but wasn’t circumcised until Gen. 17.

Again, as CHESTERTONRULES points out, James can not be ignored. And neither can Heb. 11:8-9. V8, By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. V9, By faith he sojoutned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.

So Abraham had “faith” in Gen. 12, long before Gen. 15. Reading all the things Abraham did in Gen. 13 and 14 it’s had to believe he did these things without “faith”.

You asked about the Catholic position. Again I could be wrong, but I think I’ve always been taught that Abraham’s initial justification was in Gen. 12, and that all the way to Gen. 22 Abraham continues to be justified as his faith grows.

Here’s an excerpt from a conversation I had with a Protestant. His words are in italics.

*“As I’ve said earlier good works result from true saving faith” *

“Faith is like a body, and works are like the spirit in the body. This is the analogy which the Holy Spirit has given us in James 2:26. The spirit does not result from the body. So how can you say that good works result from true saving faith? Faith is a gift from God (1 Cor 12:9). Works are also a gift from God! God is at work in us, enabling us to both will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil 2:13). So faith and works are both God’s gifts. It’s the same as our earthly life. Our body is a gift from God, so is our spirit. Both are essential for survivial. It is the spirit that makes the body alive. No matter how good the body is (faith by itself), if it has no spirit (no works) it is dead. Both the body and the spirit come from God.”

“If they (works) were (necessary) then I should conclude the Bible is self contradictory because St. Paul had repeatedly iterated that it is grace alone through faith alone that saves us.”

"It is not self contradictory we understand Paul’s usage of faith correctly. Let me illustrate by an example.

Paul says that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). If anyone destroys this temple, God will destroy that person (1 Cor 3:17). What happens when we bury a dead Christian’s body? Are we not destroying God’s temple then? No. Why? Because, when Paul refers to “body” he is talking about a living body, not a dead one. In the same way, when Paul says we are saved by grace through faith, he is talking about a living faith, not a dead faith.

So there is no contradiction. Because James just explains the difference between a living faith and a dead one. A living faith, just like a living body, is one which has a spirit, i.e. works, as James explains. This is the only way to resolve the apparent contradiction between Eph 2:8 and James 2:24."

I believe that this is the eternal question that all Chriistians face, regardless of being Catholic or Protestant in regards to justification by faith and works… Are we personally submitting to the righteousness of God, or are we holding on to our own form of righteousness? If your Christian faith is misplaced, then you will be eternally lost.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. - Apostle Paul

Thanks for the response everyone. I appreciate it very much!

So how can you say that good works result from true saving faith?

Because good works can only be done through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes into work within all true believers. The physical evidence for a true believe is how he/she lives his/her life. Justified by faith, faith justified by works. Paul says, “not before God” (vs 2). God know who has a true and real faith. The works are for people as we represent Christ here on this earth. They will know who we truly represent by what we do.

I just find it interesting that in the opening paragraph of the catechism on Justification it says that we are justified by faith in Christ and baptism.

Why does Paul leave baptism out?

Why does he point out that Abraham was declared Justified before he was circumcised?

Isn’t baptism to Christians like circumcision was for Jews? (Col. 2:11-12)

11and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;
12having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Also the rest of the context continues into Romans 5

1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,…

Also verses 5 and 6 haven’t been addressed.

5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,
6just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

How does this fit into the given interpretation of James 2?

I don’t except these questions to be addressed, but these are the kinds of questions I ask when reading scripture and comparing it to what I’m learning the RCC teaches.

Thanks again for the replies!

I would like verse 5 and 6 to be addressed to complete the thread topic though.

Great question. Here are three more:

If we disobey God persistently, will we go to heaven?

If we obey God persistently, will we do good works?

Is obedience an act of will or an irresistible impulse?

Quick question for you:

Do you agree that there is a difference between:

  1. the works of the Law


  1. obedience to the teachings of Jesus?

It seems to me that Catholic Theology does not make enough of a distinction between justification and sanctification in the process of our salvation. Therefore, as a Protestant… it seems many Catholics appear to merit their salvation by their definition of good works.

Jesus said if you love me, you would obey my commands. How obedient are you to the commands of Jesus?

If anything is guaranteed, it is, that this thread is going to be full of arguments - about:

*]the Bible
*]the canon of the NT
*]the Reformation
*]good works
*]saving faith
*]historic faith
*]the Council of Trent
*]The Lutheran-Catholic Agreement on Justification
[/LIST]- and every other subject that has been discussed in the countless previous threads on the topic; some of them of rather distant relevance to the topic.

Let hostilities continue !

It makes no difference. They both come from the same God. As mentioned by 2nd Adam…God’s standard is perfection. We can’t meet that standard…hence Jesus. There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation and keep/maintain it. Sanctification is a process done by the work of the Holy Spirit within all true believers…all of those who have been Justified by their faith due to the Grace of God. Evidence that sanctification is taking place and we truly are Justified/Saved from the Holy and Righteous wrath of God, is our attitude towards sin and the way we live our life (surrendered to Jesus, manifesting “good works”).

Also if there is a difference by which you’re saying that obedience to Christ is necessary for salvation…then how obedient? And that the works of the Law aren’t necessary for salvation. Then why are moral sins (sins that cause a person to fall from a state of grace…i.e lose chance of salvation), based on the Old Testament Moral Laws? (Ten Commandments)?

In short I see no difference. They both are commandments from God.

I understand that the RCC teaches that Justification and Salvation are two separate events.

What I don’t understand is that…if we are declared righteous and justified before God…then what are we being saved from later on when salvation takes place?


Is it you’re justified by your faith…and God says…if you can prove to me that your faith is a legit faith by your works…then I’ll decide later if your worthy enough or not for salvation.

No, I’m saying persistent disobedience can keep you freom heaven. We must cooperate with God’s grace, and this requires our free wills.

I guess we have to define good works. I look at the fruit of the Spirit as manifestation of a saved sinner. I believe God’s requirement is still perfection. We as Christians are commanded to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strenght, and mind… and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Not one Christian as able to keep the law of God for one day. Sinning is falling short of the glory of God which we all do as Christians. We live a life by the Spirit with a pattern of repentance and faith.

Is a command necessary for someone who cannot disobey?

If we don’t strive for holiness, will we be sanctified and saved?

Will we reap what we sow, as Paul tells us?

Is obedience an act of will or an irresistible impulse?

See Romans 8, for it is by the Spirit that we live… therefore our personal will cannot cut iit.

Romans 11
22Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness.** Otherwise, you also will be cut off. **

Remind me again where we find the words free will in the Bible?

Just a few of dozens of passages:

Gal 6
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.

2 Peter 2:20-21 “They were made free from the evil in the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But if they return to evil things and those things control them, then it is worse for them than it was before. Yes, it would be better for them to have never known the right way than to know it and to turn away from the holy teaching that was given to them.”

Romans 2
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. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

John 3
36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him."

Matt 7
24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.


This is a little off topic…but just curious.

Do you believe that we have the ability to choose God for salvation?

Or that God has to enable or allow us the ability to choose Him for salvation?

How does this work with our free will and God’s choosing of the elect?

A short comment is fine…I don’t want to derail the thread.

We cannot choose God without his grace.

We can reject God’s grace.

God’s grace reaches out to all men.

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