Trying understand Salvation, faith and works, the early church

The latest of my attempts to wrap my head around theology:

First let me preface this by saying I find this subject really hard to understand.

Sorry if it is a little messy.

Catholic view: We are justified initially by faith which should lead into works that produce sanctification. Since sanctification and justification go hand in hand, once we are sanctified and completely free from sin, we are also justified.
Sanctification is by faith working through works of love.
Works are necessary because we need to keep away from sin/become sanctified and grow in love of God and our neighbour.
Justification is actual, in the sense that we are truly free from a sin nature and thereby justified.
It is a process because sanctification produces justification and we are not sanctified instantly.
We can lose justification by defiling our souls i.e. committing mortal sin.
Of course, all by the merits of Christs death and resurrection.

Protestant view:
We are justified by faith alone, and because justification and sanctification are different we are not “actually” justified because justification is declaring a sinner righteous in the eyes of God by having him covered by Christs righteousness.
Justification is an event.
Sanctification, by works, follows naturally on from a true faith but does not go toward salvation because we only need to be justified to go to heaven. We work because we love God. Because of this, works are not necessary in the truest sense of the word but will always be done by the truly saved.
Justification is an event, but sanctification and the Christian life take a lifetime.
We can lose justification by losing faith in Christ. Sin does not separate us from God, but if one is not repentant then one probably is not saved.

Firstly, is this a fair treatment of the subject?

Secondly, I am having trouble finding out what the early church believed on the subject. I have tried catholic answers articles and scripturecatholic but I can never figure out when they are talking about works they are talking about justification or sanctification. If anyone can help then that would be great.

It’s as simple as this:

1 Corinthians 3:9
For** we are labourers together with God**: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

Through Baptism, which is a gift available to all who desire it, we become co-workers with God – that is, we work with the grace of God to reap eternal life. As Paul wrote, God is not mocked and we reap what we sow. If we sow to the Spirit, that is, co-operate with the grace of God, we will reap eternal life.

:smiley:

…but I can never figure out when they are talking about works they are talking about justification or sanctification.

You make a good point. In addition, Catholics and Protestants can use the same word “justification” for instance, and the word means something entirely different for each Church.

I think you probably need to have a Catholic convert who was a protestant of your particular denomination to help explain the connections and differences.

Have you checked out the online Catechism - I hate to add more confusion to what you already are trying to sort out:

scborromeo.org/ccc/index/a.htm

Justification

conversion precedes, 1989
definition and significance of, 1987, 1989, 1991-92
effects of, 1266, 1990
forgiveness and justice from on high as aspects of, 2018
as the most excellent work of God’s love, 1994
purpose for justifying men, 402, 617, 654, 1987, 1992
ways to receive, 1446, 1996, 2001

Sanctification

of the Church as the mission of the Holy Spirit, 767
the Church for sanctification of men, 824, 827
of day and night in the Liturgy of the Hours, 1174
elements of sanctification outside the Catholic Church, 819
grace as a source of the work of man’s, 1999, 2001
“Hallowed be thy name,” 2807-15, 2858
the Holy Spirit sent to bring about all, 2818
human work as an instrument of, 2427
justification as, 1989, 1995
liturgy for man’s, 1070
man’s definitive sanctification accomplished only through Christ’s, 1540
in marriage, 1637
parents and their participation in the office of sanctifying, 902
of persons in secular institutes, 928
sacraments for man’s, 1123, 1152, 1668, 1677
sanctifying office of bishops, 893
of Sundays and holy days, 2187
through material things, 1670
as work proper to the Holy Spirit, 703
See also Holiness

Faith

central mysteries of the, 234, 647, 2558
the Church as guardian of the, 171, 181, 507
deposit of the, 84-95, 173-75
dogmas of the, 88-90
education in the, 1656, 2225-26
education in the faith and catechesis, 4-6
of the faithful as the faith of the Church, received from the apostles, 949
perseverance in the faith and its defense, 162, 2088
proclamation, institution, and propagation of the, 3-10, 24, 91, 171, 425, 927, 935, 939
professing the faith as a duty and task, 2145, 2471-72
witness to the, 1816, 2220, 2473-74

Works

of charity and mercy, 1458, 1473, 1815, 1829, 1853, 2044, 2447
of Christ manifesting Him as “the Holy One of God,” 438
of the Devil, 394
of the flesh, 1852
of God, 198, 214, 295, 339, 1328
of God as a way to know Him, 32, 176, 236, 286
of men, 679, 901
of penance, 1430, 1460

P.S. Few Catholics think of justification or sanctification. At least I don’t.

We have conversion of heart & mind through the receiving of grace in the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the receiving of Jesus in the Eucharist. And our love of God inspires us toward works for the Church and for other people.

Wolfpup…there is a series of articles exploring the Catholic and protestant viewpoint here:

chnetwork.org/journals/justification/justificationbyfaith.html

Go the Journal on “Salvation and Justification”

Excerpt:

Justification By Faith

By Dr. William Marshner

The Catholic Church holds that faith in Jesus Christ is not saving faith unless it bears fruit in good works. Vice-versa, the Church holds that such works are so intimately joined to faith, that, without them, it is impossible for the believer to grow or persevere in his faith.1 In this way, good works are necessary for salvation.

Most Protestants are uncomfortable with such a statement. Without denying the importance of good works, Protestants tend to see them as symptoms of the one thing necessary rather than as necessities in their own right. For Luther, good works were merely symptoms of confident faith; for Calvin, they were symptoms of irresistible grace. Few Protestants today are familiar with the details of Luther’s or Calvin’s personal thought; what they have inherited from these great forebearers is rather a general orientation, whose core is the conviction that according to St. Paul, we are justified sofa fide (by faith alone) or sola gratia (by grace alone), either formula being understood to exclude any essential role of good works.

I like Fr. John Corapi’s description of salvation the best: “You are not saved until your butt is in heaven”. Our conversion is a process. Many heretical doctrines have developed, claiming that it is some sort of miraculous, single point in time event. Read the letter of James.

An awful lot of confusion stems from the use of “works” in the NT. “Works”, as used in context, often referred to the empty physical rituals of Pharisaic Judaism. Under Judaism as practiced at that time, men were believed to be justified by physical acts which did not involve the human heart.

I’m glad you’re trying to tackle this. If it seems insurmountable, it may help in the final analysis to put it into terms that directly impact your faith life. If, for example, you posit something like:

“The wages of sin are death.”
“Jesus Christ died for our sins.”
“You must have faith in order to be saved.”
“God wants us to do good works.”

You’ll get universal agreement among Christians if you take these at face value - an agree/disagree sort of question. It’s the why that brings so much head-hurt, and the when and but, if of special cases where so much disagreement pops up. Remember when you’re looking at a lot of these differences, they reflect nuances that we don’t necessarily see but are important from a theological perspective.

Also, realize that the theological differences translate somewhat imperfectly into cultural differences. I still have difficulty understanding the difference between Lutheran and Catholic theology on the Eucharist - and please, let’s not go down that road just yet, this is just an example. I think few Lutherans or Catholics would be able to fully elucidate why they cannot receive Eucharist in the other’s church.

I won’t make it messier, but I will note that within Protestant soteriology, there are differences among Calvinists, Lutherans and Arminians, as well as others. An individual evangelical pastor may take inspiration from one or any school of thought.

On justification/sanctification it might be helpful to read this bit on the background of the Joint Declaration:

catholic.com/thisrock/1999/9911fea1.asp

Also, justification and sanctification are about as intertwined as faith and works are - it is difficult if not impossible to have one without the other. Let’s take faith and works first.

Among other things. Would it help if I pointed out that works:

  • Are a sign of faith (and even that one is on the way to salvation)
  • Are a response to faith
  • Are a thanksgiving for the blessings one has received
  • Make one more Christ-like
  • Help fight the influence of temptation to sin
  • Are done because Scripture commands
  • Are pleasing to God (not in a way that replaces Christ’s work on the Cross)

In each instance, faith and works are tied, but for a different reason, and while I don’t think you can neatly separate out any good act and say it was uniquely caused by this facet of faith (sheer obedience to Scripture vs. desire to thank God vs. desire to imitate Christ), it may help to call them out here.

I’ve spent the past 15 minutes writing and rewriting trying to find the difference between sanctification and justification. I honestly don’t know if there is one other than a matter of intent. Justification is initial and restorative - it brings the believer back into right relationship with God. Sanctification keeps the believer there. That doesn’t mean they don’t coexist, either - repentence after baptism, for example is both justifying (by restoring the sinner to God’s Grace) and sanctifying (by strengthening the sinner against further lapses). There is otherwise not a difference in agency (for both are works of the Spirit and are only possible by Grace), nor even in degree.

Having read quite a bit by the early Christian fathers, I can’t say they used justification and sanctification in the same sense that they were used during the Reformation. These were initially words that quite often were analogous to one another - and if a specific one was chosen it was chosen to follow a quote from Scripture. Scripture is not completely clear on the difference, either, though Paul most often uses justification when discussing the differences between the Mosaic and New Covenants, and he uses it in context of legal metaphor because it is a legal term.

If I do manage to find something more definitive, I’ll post it.

The protestant view:

Justification is the doctrine that God pardons, accepts, and declares a sinner to be “just” on the basis of Christ’s righteousness (Rom 3:24-26; 4:25; 5:15-21) which results in God’s peace (Rom 5:1), His Spirit (Rom 8:4), and salvation. Justification is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ apart from all works and merit of the sinner (cf. Rom 1:18-3:28).
Justification is a legal act, wherein God deems the sinner righteous on the basis of Christ’s righteousness. Unlike Sanctification, Justification is not a process, but is a one-time act, complete and definitive.
God’s act of justification may be seen to involve a double imputation. On the one hand, the sin and guilt of the believer are imputed to Christ. On the other hand, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer, whereby he is declared righteous.
Justification is seen in two parts: (1) The sinner is forgiven on the basis of Christ’s righteousness. The pardon does not merely cover sins already committed – but reaches to all sins. (2) The sinner is adopted as a child of God. God places them within his household, giving them all the rights of heirs and children (Rom 8:17, 1 Peter 1:4).

Sanctification, or in its verbal form, sanctify, literally means “to set apart” for special use or purpose, that is, to make holy or sacred. Therefore, sanctification refers to the state or process of being set apart, i.e. made holy.
For Protestants, the concept of sanctification is tied closely to grace and the term is usually reserved for reference to people rather than objects. Following a particular reading of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, the word “sanctified” can be used as a shorthand for “born again” in the sense of “set apart by God.”

When a Protestant is born again repentance is a direct consequence of having been convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus Christ sent to be His Substitute; our Helper and Comforter after our Lord ascended to heaven to sit on the right hand of God, until He comes again to collect those who believe on Him. When we by the Grace of God through Faith in Christ are baptised with the Holy Spirit we hate sin, and we find that addictions disappear, we desire to walk the straight and narrow and we hunger for the word of God in Scripture as we long to get closer to and know our only Saviour Jesus Christ who once offered Himself for the sins of the world, for so God loved the world, and Christ Jesus said on the Cross: It is finished. He was the final sacrifice, our Passover Lamb, once offered. A Protestant believes that salvation is based On the authority of Scripture alone, By Grace alone, Through Faith alone, In Christ Jesus alone, To God alone be all the Glory. So we turn and speak to our Abba Father directly in the name of Christ Jesus, and we don’t bow down to any man, since Jesus Christ is our Prophet, High Priest and King, and we as His, given by our Abba Father, are all brethren as Children of God. Praise God.

This is the Protestant faith.

Thanks for all the help. The articles and references have really helped.

nikella: Thank you for taking the time to help me understand the protestant view point.

I don’t want to turn this into a debate, but how do protestants get around that fact that justification is tied in with works and is seen as a process in other passages in the bible. In particular:
Philippians 2:12
John 15: 1-11
James 2:22-24
?

I think the main difference between the two viewpoints is that the Catholic sees salvation as a struggle, constantly battling against temptation and the devil, not a once-for-all event. It is completed when we are in heaven. This is why works are needed - because we need to “work with god”, “remain in him”. We have a choice - to resist sin and make our lives more holy, or not to do this. It does not rest on whether we have a “saving faith” or not. Would this be correct?

Does anyone know of any resources that deal with Infused righteousness vs imputed righteousness?

Wolfpup.

I think most of the posts so far are helpful.

Keep in mind when you read in the Bible verse A, verse B, and verse C, which verse do you believe? ALL of the verses and don’t ADD the word “ALONE” to any of them if it’s not there. Reading Scripture this way, will emulate the way the early Church thought (and the current Church as well) I believe.

I would suggest thinking of your justification as a moment followed by a process. A lifelong PROCESS. A moment yes, but NEVER think of your justification in terms of a moment ALONE!

I would also suggest thinking of grace as God’s Divine life IN YOU. Don’t reduce it to a mere covering ALONE over you or Divine favor ALONE.

Divine favor and covering to be sure but then going beyond favor and covering and His Divine life really and actually being infused in you so that you abide in Him and He in you – not in a New Age sense where you lose your identity but where your identity is preserved yet you abide in the Branch (Christ) as a vine would.

Meditate on these things even before addressing the issue of Justification by faith (which we as Catholics affirm), but not reducing it to justification by faith ALONE (which is taught nowhere in Sacred Scripture).

There are other aspects to all of this too but I think the above will be more fruitful for your foundation in the faith.

Of course much prayer and repentance of any sin is necessary too to have a clear spiritual vision. Might I suggest, “praying the crucifix”? This is where you just look at the crucifix as a vehicle for meditation on the passion and death of our Lord Jesus and what He did for YOU Wolfpup. Jesus thought of YOU while on that Cross.

I hope this helps.

Well its Got to be faith Alone to start your Salvation. Then works as evidence to maintain your salvation=Faith in Action.

From a Lutheran perspective, not exactly.

=wolfpup;7842947]
Protestant view:
We are justified by faith alone, and because justification and sanctification are different we are not “actually” justified because justification is declaring a sinner righteous in the eyes of God by having him covered by Christs righteousness.
Justification is an event.

While it is true that we believe that justification is forensic, and that it is a declaration based on the righteousness of Christ, we would not say that we are not “actually” justified.
Actually, we are.

Sanctification, by works, follows naturally on from a true faith but does not go toward salvation because we only need to be justified to go to heaven.

No. To quote Luther, “There is no justification without sanctification, no forgiveness without renewal of life, no real faith from which the fruits of new obedience do not grow.”

We work because we love God. Because of this, works are not necessary in the truest sense of the word but will always be done by the truly saved.

Yes and No. Yes to the first part. We perform good works out of joyful thanks and obedience, not out of fear. No in the 2nd, in that works are necessary in the truest sense (see my signature), but they do not merit us salvation. Works are the command of God, to help the least of His children (works are for our fellow man) and by necessity, we are to obey God. Failure to obey God is sin.

Justification is an event, but sanctification and the Christian life take a lifetime.
We can lose justification by losing faith in Christ. Sin does not separate us from God, but if one is not repentant then one probably is not saved.

Essentially, in Lutheran thought. Others would probably object to this. It depends on the communion you are speaking about.

Jon

Hello again,
well, in James the point is made that those who call Jesus Christ Lord and Master of their lives should walk their talk and not treat people according to them being rich or poor in worldly status, but preach and teach the gospel like Jesus did, ministering unto everyone as servants of God, loving everyone as Jesus told us to.
In Philippans there was lack of unity because of intellectual arguing which was hindering the work in proclaiming new life in Christ, and Paul told them to be of the same mind, to work out their differences.

Justification is not a process. Once saved, saved. See Ephesians 2:8-9. We are saved by grace through faith and not of ourselves, not of works, lest any man should boast.

There is a reason why the Last Supper was called the Last, and not the perpetual.

God bless.

While it is true that we believe that justification is forensic, and that it is a declaration based on the righteousness of Christ, we would not say that we are not “actually” justified.
Actually, we are.

What I meant was that, in Lutheran thought, justification is not dependant on our ongoing sanctification, whereas Catholics believe that unless we are fully sanctified we are not fully justified. Lutherans believe that you are declared righteousness before God independent of the actual state of your soul. Or am I missing something here?

Yes and No. Yes to the first part. We perform good works out of joyful thanks and obedience, not out of fear. No in the 2nd, in that works are necessary in the truest sense (see my signature), but they do not merit us salvation. Works are the command of God, to help the least of His children (works are for our fellow man) and by necessity, we are to obey God. Failure to obey God is sin.

So true true faith leads to works not because we need them, but because someone with true faith will want to follow God, and God commands us to do works. Would a sin of, say disobeying one of the commandments, lose for us our salvation, according to Lutheranism?

I guess the only difference between that and Catholic thought is that justification is ongoing - and therefore dependant on works.

Nikella: Thank you for your post. I am at this moment very ignorant of the whole context of those verses and the theology behind it so I can’t reply at the moment.

From the Catholic position I would add that, stated positively, the definition of justification-or that which makes man just- is the fulfillment of the greatest commandments, to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.

From here: vivacatholic.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/infused-righteousness-versus-imputed-righteousness-which-one-entitles-us-to-enter-heaven/

[SIGN]There is still on-going discussion on infused righteousness (Catholic position) and imputed righteousness (Protestant/Reformer position). [/SIGN]

Imputed righteousness means we use Christ’ righteousness accepted by faith alone to cover our unrighteousness – in other words we do not contribute anything and we are declared righteous. It is like Christ covers our dirty robe (the dirt represents our sins) with his spotless robe and He needs to do it only once. Infused righteousness, on the other hand, means God through Christ helps us to become righteous. Note that the source of righteousness is God, not us, yet the outcome of justification is we become righteous. Using similar analogy of dirty robe representing our sin, in infused righteousness God through Christ helps us to clean our dirty robe. This needs our cooperation and it is an on-going process. Our dirty robe is first washed clean through (Sacrament of) Baptism. Whenever we make it dirty again through sinning, God through Christ helps us to clean it through (Sacrament of) Reconciliation. When we die with our robe still stained with venial sin then purgatory will cleanse it. Imputed righteousness concept cannot go inline with purgatory – purgatory makes what Christ did (covering our dirty robe) insufficient.

Which righteousness entitles us to enter heaven? In Matthew 25:31-46 the sheep are welcomed into heaven while the goats are sent to hell Verse 46 boldly says that the righteous will go to eternal life. Are they declared righteous or made righteous (hence are righteous)? Verses 35 and 36 tell us that they did righteous acts, i.e. they did not use Christ’ righteousness to cover their unrighteousness or to make their unrighteous things appear righteous (before God). 1 John 3:8 defines righteousness as “He who does right is righteous, as he [Christ] is righteous”. Certainly to believe in Christ is one act that leads to righteousness – but it is not the only one. The phrase “He who does right” implies our cooperation. The goats are condemned to hell because they did not do righteous acts or they are not unrighteous (1 Corinthians 6:9). They are not declared unrighteous but they are indeed unrighteous.

The reason why Protestants are against infused righteousness is they view it as work-based justification, in contradiction to their concept of faith alone justification. Catholics do not believe in working on or earning our justification either. God’s Grace always first moves us to do righteous acts, be they believe in Christ, love one another, repenting etc. This means without His Grace we can neither do them nor even have the initiative to do them. Protestants, while insist on justification by faith alone, at the end of the day have to admit that faith that justifies is not alone as what Rev. Sears, quoting from Calvin, wrote below (emphasis added):

Calvin said, “When we say a man is justified by faith alone, we do not fancy a faith devoid of charity, but we mean that faith alone is the cause of justification.” Again Calvin makes this remarkable statement “I wish the reader to understand that as often as we mention Faith alone in this question, we are not thinking of a dead faith, which worketh not by love, but holding faith to be the only cause of justification. It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.”

I can pull out at least a dozen Scriptures that say we are saved by faith by The Grace of God. And not of Works>We are not saved by works.

Can you Answer these Questions. Somebody has Just told me the Good news about Jesus Christ and salvation. I accept the message and really believe in Jesus Christ and his Offer of salvation. Am i saved at this stage Just by my faith?

Now the church has arranged for me to be taught the whole gospel and sometime in the near future i am going to be baptised. But before i have had chance to learn all the Gospel and get baptised and start doing Good works i have a accident in my car and get killed.
Although i have faith i did not have chance to follow through with this faith by doing my works. Have i now lost salvation because of this?

=wolfpup;7848149] What I meant was that, in Lutheran thought, justification is not dependant on our ongoing sanctification, whereas Catholics believe that unless we are fully sanctified we are not fully justified. Lutherans believe that you are declared righteousness before God independent of the actual state of your soul. Or am I missing something here?

That would probably be a fairly correct statement, in that justification is monergistic. Be careful not to think that Lutherans do not believe in growth in grace, or the goal of being fully sanctified, however. We are declared righteous, for Christ’s sake, based on the fact that we access justification by grace through faith. This isn’t an ending, however, but a beginning for the regenerate.

So true true faith leads to works not because we need them, but because someone with true faith will want to follow God, and God commands us to do works. Would a sin of, say disobeying one of the commandments, lose for us our salvation, according to Lutheranism?

It certainly can, particularly if sin is repeated and unrepented.

I guess the only difference between that and Catholic thought is that justification is ongoing - and therefore dependant on works.

I suggest reading the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html

Jon

Thanks for the info Pablope.

Be careful not to think that Lutherans do not believe in growth in grace, or the goal of being fully sanctified, however. We are declared righteous, for Christ’s sake, based on the fact that we access justification by grace through faith. This isn’t an ending, however, but a beginning for the regenerate.

No, I think I understand. Justification is not sanctification or dependant on it, but sanctification is necessary for salvation. I have read that Protestants believe in Infused grace but that infused grace does not cause justification.
Do Lutherans have a concept of “sanctifying grace”, and is this granted by baptism or faith?

It certainly can, particularly if sin is repeated and unrepented.

I’m not sure if I understand. If Justification is by Faith alone, then how can it be lost by anything other than by losing faith? I can see how unrepentant sin could be a symptom of loss of faith, but it doesn’t necessarily require it.

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