Responding to Claim #2 (Grace and the Sacraments)

In continuation of my previous post (, here is the second claim of the article titled, “You Don’t Understand Catholicism”.


He states that Catholics are wrong to believe that the Sacraments are necessary for salvation. He cites Romans 11:6 to attempt to prove us wrong.

**“The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. . . . The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Saviour.” New Catholic Catechism, 1129

When Rome speaks of salvation by grace, it does not mean the free grace of the apostolic gospel. Rome has perverted the meaning of grace by intermingling sacraments and works with grace. Paul condemned this in Romans 11:6 –

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”**

I’m sure I could find the answer throughout the forums or the Catholic Answers site, but I am curious as to see all of the arguments that people may have, this goes for a lot of the claims, not all though.

So, how may I, or any of us, respond to such a claim?

Thank you ahead of time!

The problem arises because most Protestant denominations have an incorrect (sort of anemic) understanding of what saving “grace” is. Therefore, start by asking your father for his definition of “grace” – what does he think the “free grace of the apostolic gospel” consists of.

Then, you’ll have to explain to him the Catholic teaching about saving/sanctifying grace. Be sure to have the Scripture references for our Catholic teaching handy to share.

If you want, I can get some CCC and Scripture references and put them in another post.
Meantime, I think you will find the following paper very helpful. It will probably contain all the info and references you need. The title page reads:
by David J. Palm
Presented to The Midwest Baptist Conference Theological Workshop
29 February 1996
Abridged and Slightly Edited by Dave Armstrong

If this guy “base[d] [his] views of the Roman Catholic Church directly upon its authoritative declarations,” and truly understood Catholicism – as he claims he does – then he wouldn’t be making the claim that he does. He claims that “Rome has perverted the meaning of grace by intermingling sacraments and works with grace,” pointing to Romans 11:6 to attempt to bolster his case.

First, however, it’s necessary to note that you won’t find Romans 11:6 written in your Bible in the way he has it. Not all Greek manuscripts of Scripture agree with one another; therefore, scholars have to decide which are the best and most authentic versions, and make their translation decisions based on these considerations. Catholic Bibles do not contain the part of the verse that says, “but if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” If memory serves, the first Bible to insert this phrase into Romans 11:6 was the King James Bible.

Nevertheless, his understanding of Romans is deficient, and doubly so with respect to his understanding of Catholicism. In Romans 11, Paul is discussing the means of salvation, and in doing so, is comparing the belief systems of Jews and Christians. With respect to Jews, he uses the term ‘works’. He presumes that this means “good works,” but it doesn’t: Paul’s use of this term refers to ‘works of the law.’ That is, Paul is talking about adherence to the provisions of the Mosaic covenant: “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ… because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16). But, perhaps Paul was talking about a different kind of ‘works’ in Romans 11:6 – what if he had ‘good works’ in mind? That doesn’t make much sense; even in Romans, Paul talks about ‘works of the law’: “we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3:28).

So, this man is “greatly misled because [he] does not know the scriptures” (Mk 12:24) – when Paul speaks of ‘works’ and ‘grace’, he is not talking about ‘good works’. He is not denying the sacraments – which, themselves, are completely gratuitous gifts of God to us! – nor is he addressing the way in which we cooperate with God’s grace.

His claims, unfortunately, fail to address what the Catholic Church really believes; maybe he’d do well to go ahead and read some good Catholic apologists, if he needs to understand what he’s read of the Church’s documents… :wink:

Just wanted to add that I found the background design bothersome, so I just copied the whole thing and pasted it onto a Word document. Much easier on the eyes and brain. :slight_smile:

I would ask him if he really believes there is absolutely nothing we have to do as believers to receive God’s gift of forgiveness. Nothing? Not even repent? (Acts 2:38) Or believe in Jesus? (Jn 3:16, Mk 16:16,) Or confess our sins? (1 Jn 1:9) Aren’t all these things works that we must do to receive his forgiveness?

Does saying that we must repent and believe in the gospel somehow make null God’s free gift to us, or pervert the meaning of grace, since it’s something we as humans do? Nope. It’s through these actions of our’s that his free gift of salvation is applied to us. Repenting and believing doesn’t make us the source of our salvation, God is. But He chooses to communicate His free gift through and in response to certain actions that we do, like repenting and confessing Him as Lord. But it’s all from Him and for Him.

That’s how sacraments work. They are the means that Jesus himself established in order to communicate HIS grace and life to us. Their efficacy isn’t from us or our holiness, it’s not our work that makes them salvific. It’s His, His work on the cross. That’s what is being communicated to us through the sacraments, not something extra or added on to that. It’s all about Him.

Putting it in those terms may help your friend see what the sacraments really are about, not what we do for God, but what God does for us. :thumbsup:

Also, here’s a good article that discusses the sacraments that might be helpful for you and your friend.

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