Category: Justification

Can a man do meritorious works before regeneration (i.e. being justified)?

Can a man do meritorious works before regeneration (i.e. being justified)?

Some Protestants say that man can do nothing good in God’s eyes.  Ever.  They claim that man is “totally depraved” and therefore, his works are like filthy rags in God’s eyes. If you don’t believe me, here’s an example:

All we assign to man is that, by his impurity he pollutes and contaminates the very works which were good. The most perfect thing which proceeds from man is always polluted by some stain. (Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion)

Thus we sin even when we do good, unless God through Christ covers this imperfection and does not impute it to us. (Luther’s works, Vol 25).

Some Catholics, although they would disagree with these statements, say something similar.  They will say something like:

The Catholic Church teaches that good works done before regeneration, have no merit in God’s eyes.

Are these statements true?  You be the judge.

The documents of the Council of Trent contain the infallible Teaching of the Catholic Church.

In the Council of Trent, Session 6, Canon 7, the Council says:

Canon 7.

If anyone says that all works done before justification, in whatever manner they may be done, are truly sins, or merit the hatred of God; that the more earnestly one strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins, let him be anathema.

Let’s break that down.

If anyone says that all works done before justification,

Anybody who says that works doen before Baptism

in whatever manner they may be done,

Whether they be good or bad

are truly sins, or merit the hatred of God;

are all against God’s law and deserve His punishment

that the more earnestly one strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins,

or if anyone says that the more an unregenerate man tries to do good, the more he does evil

let him be anathema.

Let that man who says these things be condemned.

Let me explain.

Before justification means before Baptism.  And it is in Baptism that we are regenerated.  Therefore, the context here is the man who has not yet been regenerated.

This canon, then, condemns the idea that one who is not baptized can only do evil in the eyes of God.    If we flip that around then, it means that the unbaptized can do good and meritorious works in the eyes of God.

That is the Council of Trent, there is no higher authority for a Catholic.  But, there is another authority which is very highly regarded in the Catholic Church.  It is that of St. Thomas Aquinas, who is called the Angelic Doctor of the Catholic Church.

What does he say?

Summa Theologica > First Part of the Second Part > Question 21

Article 4. Whether a human action is meritorious or demeritorious before God, according as it is good or evil?

A human action, as stated above (Article 3), acquires merit or demerit, through being ordained to someone else, either by reason of himself, or by reason of the community: and in each way, our actions, good and evil, acquire merit or demerit, in the sight of God. On the part of God Himself, inasmuch as He is man’s last end; and it is our duty to refer all our actions to the last end, as stated above (Question 19, Article 10). Consequently, whoever does an evil deed, not referable to God, does not give God the honor due to Him as our last end. On the part of the whole community of the universe, because in every community, he who governs the community, cares, first of all, for the common good; wherefore it is his business to award retribution for such things as are done well or ill in the community. Now God is the governor and ruler of the whole universe, as stated in the I, 103, 5: and especially of rational creatures. Consequently it is evident that human actions acquire merit or demerit in reference to Him: else it would follow that human actions are no business of God’s.

What does it all mean?

I know, St. Thomas’ writings are difficult to understand.  But let’s  unpack that:

A human action, as stated above (Article 3), acquires merit or demerit, through being ordained to someone else, either by reason of himself, or by reason of the community:

1st, he says that all human actions have merit or demerit with regard to someone else.  In other words, you might do something that your mom or dad or you club, might like or dislike.  People around you, then, judge the merit of your actions.

our actions, good and evil, acquire merit or demerit, in the sight of God.  On the part of God Himself, inasmuch as He is man’s last end; and it is our duty to refer all our actions to the last end,

2nd, he focuses on God.  And he says that our actions are also judged by God.  Why?  Because all men are made in His image and are made for Him.  He is the “last end” of men.  In other words, God wills that all men be saved and judges their actions in accordance with that criteria in mind.

Consequently, whoever does an evil deed, not referable to God, does not give God the honor due to Him as our last end. On the part of the whole community of the universe, because in every community, he who governs the community, cares, first of all, for the common good; 

3rd, then he says, that all man’s actions are God’s business.  Because all our actions either move us in God’s direction or away.  They are either meritorious or demeritorious in His eyes.

wherefore it is his business to award retribution for such things as are done well or ill in the community. Now God is the governor and ruler of the whole universe, as stated in the I, 103, 5: and especially of rational creatures. Consequently it is evident that human actions acquire merit or demerit in reference to Him:

4th, he concludes with this.  If men’s actions are not judged by God, then that would mean that man is God’s superior and can tell God to stay out of His business.  But that is wrong.  Everything that man does is God’s business.  God is sovereign over the entire world.

wherefore it is his business to award retribution for such things as are done well or ill in the community. Now God is the governor and ruler of the whole universe, as stated in the I, 103, 5: and especially of rational creatures. Consequently it is evident that human actions acquire merit or demerit in reference to Him: else it would follow that human actions are no business of God’s.

Let me explain:

St. Thomas is saying that all men’s actions are God’s business.  It doesn’t matter if they are regenerated or not.  It doesn’t matter if they are pagan or Christian.  All human actions are God’s business and He judges them as to whether they are meritorious or not.

Let’s play a game.  What do you think, merit or demerit?

A non-believer, who has never been baptized, murders his parents.  Merit or demerit in the eyes of God?

A Christian who has been baptized and church goer, murders his parents.  Merit or demerit in the eyes of God?

A non-believer, who has never been baptized, helps a little old lady across the street.  Merit or demerit in the eyes of God?

A non-believer, who has never been baptized, feeds the hungry, helps the poor, heals the sick and helps orphans and widows in their afflictions.  Merit or demerit in the eyes of God?

Have you ever read the Scripture which says:

Matthew 21:31…. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Conclusion

God is the Judge of all men’s actions.  Whether they are baptized or not.  Whether they are regenerated or not.

Acts 10:34…. God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

They never did answer the question

ERIC May 17, 2015 at 7:52 pm
Mateo–
We don’t cherish the “ability to sin” but the assurance that we will be forgiven. 

If you repent. Repentance is key.

But then, you already knew that.

No, I don’t. Now, you are saying you don’t cherish the ability to sin. But you know you will be forgiven IF you sin. That is totally different. And that is Catholic Doctrine. We also believe that God will forgive us, when we repent of our sins.

So Bird and Magic gave themselves athletic talent

Yes. They are both known as hard workers who would practice longer hours than their contemporaries.

and grew themselves to be 6 feet 9 inches tall?

Are you insinuating that any man who is 6 foot 9 inches tall would be considered an all star in the NBA and NCAA?

What we have here is an example of synergism. Even if God had given them all the ability in the world, they would still have to put that into practice and show up for the games and do the things they needed to do to win. They did what they had to do to win their perishable crowns.

Merit. All merit, you say.

That is correct. They merited their position in the NCAA and NBA. There were plenty of other people 6 feet 9 inches tall who were not even considered for these positions.

(For the sake of the analogy, let’s just call them “freaks of nature” who never had to practice or train a single day of their lives. Happy now? No merit involved.)

Did they have to show up for the games? Did they have to run and play and master their positions? Yeah. There’s merit involved.

De Maria–

You wrote:

“Did they have to show up for the games? Did they have to run and play and master their positions? Yeah. There’s merit involved.”

Someone held a gun to their heads and forced them to show up. They learned their positions by osmosis. There was absolutely no merit involved.

ERIC May 18, 2015 at 3:51 pm
De Maria–
You wrote:
“Did they have to show up for the games? Did they have to run and play and master their positions? Yeah. There’s merit involved.”
Someone held a gun to their heads and forced them to show up. They learned their positions by osmosis. There was absolutely no merit involved.

Lol! You absolutely don’t get it. Even if they were forced to show up. Even if they learned their positions by osmosis. They still had to perform.

Your example absolutely demolishes monergism and faith alone.

De Maria,

So, if someone holds a gun to your head and you rake my yard as a result, I will owe you all sorts of kudos for the good turn you did me. Is that what you”re telling me?

I”ll call the police to get that miserable gunman arrested, but you’ll be waiting a long time to receive thanks for all your hard work.

De Maria,

I”ve heard it said (in some location, at some point in time, by somebody or other) that the human psyche cannot hold to a contradiction without surrendering its rationality.

If a gift is of grace, merit is ruled out.
If a reward is merited, grace is ruled out.

One cannot earn that which is freely given.
One cannot receive free of charge that which one has earned.

ERIC May 18, 2015 at 8:10 pm
De Maria,
So, if someone holds a gun to your head and you rake my yard as a result, I will owe you all sorts of kudos for the good turn you did me. Is that what you”re telling me?

Eric, is God holding a gun to your head in order for you to do good? Because that is the comparison you’re making.

You’re saying that God is holding a gun to your head in order for you to do good and therefore, you don’t deserve any merit for any good which you do.

Whereas, we believe that we do good because we love God and God sees the good which we do and credits it to us as righteousness and rewards us with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

I”ll call the police to get that miserable gunman arrested, but you’ll be waiting a long time to receive thanks for all your hard work.

Well, its your metaphor, I guess you can do whatever you want. But your metaphor is nowhere near the truth of Scripture. It is totally against the Teaching of the Word of God.

ERIC May 18, 2015 at 8:28 pm
De Maria,
I”ve heard it said (in some location, at some point in time, by somebody or other) that the human psyche cannot hold to a contradiction without surrendering its rationality.

We are saved by faith alone but not by a faith which is alone.

If a gift is of grace, merit is ruled out.

Hebrews 5:9
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

If a reward is merited, grace is ruled out.

Romans 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

One cannot earn that which is freely given.

Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

One cannot receive free of charge that which one has earned.

There’s a difference between earning and meriting. Those who merit something in the eyes of God, are deemed “worthy” of receiving His Gift.

Luke 20:34 And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: 35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:

Matthew 10:37
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 22:8
Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.

Ephesians 4:1I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Those who earn it, merely work to repay a debt.

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 it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Fred is avoiding the question and so are the rest of the Protestants.

What does it mean where Scripture says we need to be “worthy of” Him?

Matthew 10:37
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:38
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

If we don’t merit salvation, why does Scripture say we must be worthy?

If it isn’t merit, why does Jesus say we must be “worthy” of Him?

FRED May 17, 2015 at 7:28 am


DeMaria said ” Then what does it mean ” worthy of Him” it strongly suggests merit.”

FRED: No, it doesn’t. Christians are justified by faith alone. …. 

Don’t change the subject, Fred. If it isn’t merit to say, “worthy of Him”, then what is it?

mer·it
?mer?t/
noun
1.
the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward.
“composers of outstanding merit”
synonyms: excellence, quality, caliber, worth, worthiness, credit, value, distinction, eminence
“composers of outstanding merit”
antonyms: inferiority
a feature or fact that deserves praise or reward.
plural noun: merits
“the relative merits of both approaches have to be considered”
synonyms: good point, strong point, advantage, benefit, value, asset, plus
“the merits of the scheme”
BRITISH
a pass grade in an examination denoting above-average performance.
“if you expect to pass, why not go for a merit or a distinction?”
LAW
the intrinsic rights and wrongs of a case, outside of any other considerations.
plural noun: merits
“a plaintiff who has a good arguable case on the merits”
THEOLOGY
good deeds regarded as entitling someone to a future reward from God.
plural noun: merits
verb
verb: merit; 3rd person present: merits; past tense: merited; past participle: merited; gerund or present participle: meriting
1.
deserve or be worthy of (something, especially reward, punishment, or attention).
“the results have been encouraging enough to merit further investigation”
synonyms: deserve, earn, be deserving of, warrant, rate, justify, be worthy of, be worth, be entitled to, have a right to, have a claim to/on
“the accusation did not merit a response”

Focus, Fred. Focus. What does it mean to “be worthy of Him”?

FRED May 18, 2015 at 5:11 am
DeMaria, You need to focus. 

No, Fred, you do. You’re changing the subject again. Here’s my response again. Simply answer the question.

DE MARIA May 17, 2015 at 7:20 pm
FRED May 17, 2015 at 7:28 am
DeMaria said ” Then what does it mean ” worthy of Him” it strongly suggests merit.” No, it doesn’t. Christians are justified by faith alone. ….

Don’t change the subject, Fred. If it isn’t merit to say, “worthy of Him”, then what is it?
mer·it
?mer?t/
noun
1.
the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward.
“composers of outstanding merit”
synonyms: excellence, quality, caliber, worth, worthiness, credit, value, distinction, eminence
“composers of outstanding merit”
antonyms: inferiority
a feature or fact that deserves praise or reward.
plural noun: merits
“the relative merits of both approaches have to be considered”
synonyms: good point, strong point, advantage, benefit, value, asset, plus
“the merits of the scheme”
BRITISH
a pass grade in an examination denoting above-average performance.
“if you expect to pass, why not go for a merit or a distinction?”
LAW
the intrinsic rights and wrongs of a case, outside of any other considerations.
plural noun: merits
“a plaintiff who has a good arguable case on the merits”
THEOLOGY
good deeds regarded as entitling someone to a future reward from God.
plural noun: merits
verb
verb: merit; 3rd person present: merits; past tense: merited; past participle: merited; gerund or present participle: meriting
1.
deserve or be worthy of (something, especially reward, punishment, or attention).
“the results have been encouraging enough to merit further investigation”
synonyms: deserve, earn, be deserving of, warrant, rate, justify, be worthy of, be worth, be entitled to, have a right to, have a claim to/on
“the accusation did not merit a response”

Focus, Fred. Focus. What does it mean to “be worthy of Him”?

We are talking about justification.

Yeah and you brought up taking up our cross. And you claimed it was descriptive and not prescriptive. But it sounds prescriptive.

No one denies that someone who isn’t willing to follow Christ isn’t worthy of Him.

What does that mean, Fred?

But we aren’t freed from the penalty of our sin by our worthiness, only his. 

Then what does it mean to be worthy of Him? Why is that unimportant? That sentence says that the only way to be worthy in God’s eyes is to take up our cross and follow Him. It sounds very much like the only way to merit salvation is to take up our cross and follow Him.

Hence, this scripture is about sanctification, which comes after justification in Christianity. ALL of our sins are already stoned for, unlike for you where you are making satisfaction for temporal punishment on the instalment plan. K

You are still avoiding the question, K. What does it mean to be “worthy of Him”? If it doesn’t have anything to do with merit, why is the word “worth” used there?

Response to Craig Truglia said:April 13, 2015 at 12:52 am
But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, 14 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.

You ought to read the whole chapter. Its talking about suffering for and with Christ in order to be saved.

2 Cor 4:16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

That is the Doctrine of the redemptive nature of suffering. It is a Catholic Doctrine. It is in Scripture. And Protestants reject it.

Romans 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

“I saw no sense is duplicating his work.”
I don’t think you have an exegesis to actually put forward,

You don’t know me very well, do you?

I don’t see where any of the points made in the article have been answered. 

I think the Restless Pilgrim was doing an excellent job of addressing all your points. Which one do you think he missed?

If you can show me I would be grateful, but I am honestly not seeing it.
“That is exactly the opposite of that which James 2:24 says…”
Again, that is why it is so important that if someone wishes to reply to the article, instead of just my replies to the article, that there be some attempt to rebut the specific exegesis of the article. 

Your word is my command.

You said:

Catholic apologists (as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, and other works-salvation groups) will use James 2 as evidence that we are saved by works, and not by faith alone.

The Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox agree on this teaching. Salvation is by faith and works.

Now, being saved and not by faith alone should not be scandalous. After all, that is what James 2:24 says word-for-word.

Good. Then you agree with works salvation.

However, how do we square this with Rom 4:4, 5 which states, “Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness?”

Easily. Remember that St. Paul was not talking to Luther or Calvin. He was talking to former Jews and former gentiles at a time in Christian history when there were as yet, no cradle Christians.

Let’s break this down:

“Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due.

This is a reference to the Old Testament Jew. Remember that God made a pact with them through Moses:

Exodus 19:4-6King James Version (KJV)

4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.

5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

And they said to Moses:
8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.

Therefore, the Jews expected their salvation as their wage.
But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness?

This is a reference to the Christian who is justified in Baptism. We, Catholics, are children of Abraham. We believe God and His promises. We request Baptism. God sees our faith and reckons us righteous. He then gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Are we justified by works, 

Yes.

yet made righteous by faith without works as Rom 4:5 says, at the same time? No. This would be a contradiction.

Its a contradiction to you. But not in Catholic Teaching.

We are justified by faith apart from works in Baptism.

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

We are justified by faith and works at the Bema Seat of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Now, there is a lot of Scripture that mitigates any understanding that man can contribute anything whatsoever to his own justification. Chief among them is John 14:6: “”I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus did not say “mostly Me and a little bit of you.” Christ’s work, and His work alone, on the cross, makes a man righteous, not his own attempts at righteousness.

As long as we’re arguing what Jesus didn’t say, Jesus also didn’t say: “I will carry them to the Father without any effort on their part.”

But John 14 also says:
12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

Notice the emphasis on works.

So, how do we deal with James 2? We will exegete the text while responding to a Catholic defense of Faith+Works salvation from the Shameless Popery blog.

The rest of James 2 has some pretty clear justification before God statements that don’t make sense if he just means justifying yourself to men.

Agreed.

And, as we shall see, a correct understanding of James 2 does not compel us to believe that works add to Christ’s work on the cross.

Interesting. We don’t believe that our works add to Christ’s work on the Cross. We believe that Jesus Christ came to give us an example to follow in order that we would walk in His steps. Therefore, our works are in obedience to Christ’s will:

1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Jesus called us to good works and to imitate Him:

Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Before responding point by point, the following is a synopsis of the “tough parts” of James 2:

Christian orthodoxy teaches that we are justified by faith alone,

False. Catholicism teaches Christian orthodoxy. Faith alone is a heresy which is taught by Protestants.

but we are judged by works. Judgement by works is explicit in the Scripture:

Correct. Justification is the forensic result of Judgment. There are two forensic results possible at the Judgment, justification and condemnation.

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds (Rev 20:12-13).

Indeed, we are judged by works. Let’s read James 2. In verse 22, were his works ever divorced from his faith?

James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

No, and that is exactly James’ point. Abraham believed God. And then he lived according to his beliefs.

That is Catholic Teaching.

The belief occurred first. It is common sense. People don’t act a certain way, and then as a result believe because of their actions. Instead, people have a belief, and their actions are informed by their beliefs. Beliefs precede actions.

Very good. You are teaching in conformity with Catholic Doctrine.

Here’s a simple example: Let’s say we really like chocolate. So, when we see it we reach for it and then eat it. The desire for the chocolate preceded the eating of it.

Not so. The desire for chocolate does not precede one’s experience of its good taste. Unless we first taste, we won’t know that we like it.

But that is the same with faith in God. Until we perceive that God is good we will not have faith in Him. And until we have faith in Him, we won’t obey His commands.

Likewise, the faith of Abraham in God preceded doing the good works out of faith (by as much as 20 years in the case of Isaac). 

Uh-uh. You are contradicting Scripture. Abraham exhibited works of faith in God from the very first time that God spoke to him:

Heb 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

James makes this point to show that we are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.

On the contrary, as you confirmed earlier, “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?”

Without works, Abraham’s faith would not have been a saving faith.

That is why he says in verse 18, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

And also why he says:
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

The fact that James speaks of works as something that shows faith instead of something that is needed in addition to faith speaks volumes. James is never saying we need something in addition to faith. He is saying that his faith is something you can actually see (i.e. it is not imaginary.)

He says that you can see his faith in his works. And he denies that you can claim to have faith by your words at the very same time. Something that Protestants boast about everytime they claim they are saved by their faith alone.

Does this interpretation hold up?

Your interpretation has a lot of holes in it.

We have James 2:21-23 where Abrhamam’s believing in Gen 15 is conflated with his near-sacrifice of Isaac, two events 20 years apart. Clearly, James’ point is NOT that Abraham was made righteous by faith 20 years previously and then lost it and regained/maintained it by doing the good work of listening to God’s request for sacrifice.

Protestantism conflates the two. The reason being that Protestantism equates faith and justification. Another reason being that Protestants believe in a one time justification.

However, if having faith alone justifies anyone, then Abraham would be justified in Gen 12. Listen to St. Paul:

Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

When did that happen?

That happened in Gen 12.

Genesis 12 King James Version (KJV)

1 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. 4 So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

Furthermore, Protestants are confused by Moses’ narrative comment. Yes, Moses. It is Moses who wrote Gen 15:6 and James reveals that it was a narrative comment pertaining which was fulfilled in Gen 22.

23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

Don’t get it? In other words, when Moses said, “and Abraham believed God and it was imputed him as righteousness”, he meant that Abraham would live by faith, obeying God until God would justify him in Gen 22.

Finally, all of this agrees with Catholic Doctrine that justification is a process and not a one time event. Abraham’s justification, as you noted, took over 20 years.

2 Corinthians 4:16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

James is merely reiterating what he said in verse 18: I’ll show you my faith by what I do. Isn’t it clear to all, even 20 years later, that when Abraham believed God that He really meant it? Of course! He was willing to offer up Isaac specifically because “when put to the test [Abraham] offered up Isaac” after he had “considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead” (Heb 11:17, 19). Did you catch that? Abraham did the good work, because he believed God’s promise that his descendants would be through Isaac (Heb 11:18), and he believed this so much that he figured even if he were to kill Isaac, God would have certainly raised Isaac from the dead in order to fulfill His promise! Have you even seen such faith? I know I have not!

Nor have I. And this proves faith PLUS works. Because unless he had faith, he would not have done the works which God required.

Now let’s look at verse 25: “..was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?”

What do we know about Rahab? When she received the spies, she told them that she heard of the mighty works of Jehovah, how he humbled Egypt and the kings east of the Jordan, and she knew that no one can deliver her or her family from Israel’s hand because God was with Israel (Josh 2:8-11). She then asks that the Israelite spies “swear to me by Jehovah” that they will spare her family when they come to take the city of Jericho (Josh 2:12).

Clearly, her beliefs were behind her actions. She didn’t merely say she believed something, and did nothing about it like so many false Christians. She feared the Lord and lived in accordance with that Godly fear. See Heb 11:31: “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.” Notice that? She received the messengers “by faith.” Her works, therefore, are synonymous with her faith and not some additional criteria she had to bring to bear for her own salvation with God.

That proves faith and works. Ask yourself, what if she had not done any works but simply said, “I believe in your God, but your on your own.” What then?

With this in mind, let’s respond to Shameless Popery’s rebuttal to one reformed thinker’s take on James 2.

[A] claimed faith, without works, doesn’t exist. That is, that it’s not faith. James clearly disagrees, calling it “that faith.” This is reinforced by James 2:20 and 2:26.

You need to put quotation marks on the things you ascribe to Shameless Popery. Are you saying that the statement labeled [A] above, is from Shameless Popery?

If that is true, then you missed what else James calls it. He calls it a “dead faith”.

James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

So what’s the point. A faith without works can’t save and is therefore dead. Why call it faith at all?

It has been ascribed to Luther the quote, “‘We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.” So, whether or not he really said it is besides the point. The idea is repeated by Reformed Theologians such as R.C Sproul, and it is a pretty good explanation as to what James is really talking about in James 2:24.

On the contrary, it is gibberish.

To say that you are saved by faith alone but the faith by which you are saved is not alone is a self contradiction. Both statements can’t be true at the same time.

I do not believe James’ calling it “that faith” means he is equating it with saving faith,

Nor does any Catholic. So, with whom are you debating?

a faith that actually exists in the mind of someone and affects every facet of that person’s life. Obviously, Abraham and Rahab were two good examples of this.

Obviously. But that proves faith and works.

While the Reformed claim that a saving faith results in works, the Catholic (and Biblical) view is more nuanced: we view faith and works as interconnected…[This is] why James says that Abraham’s “faith was active along with his works” – because the works he was doing were works of love done out of faith.

Correct.

So far, such a differentiation would literally be nominal. So, the problem is not terminology (nor’s James’ terminology) but our application of what he taught. How does Shameless Popery interpret what it means to do works of love out of faith?

So rather than a simple causality, like in science, this is more relational: we must believe in God to obey Him, but obeying Him proves to us that He’s trustworthy, and we begin to trust Him more; this, in turn emboldens us to obey Him about things which might have seemed unrealistic before.

Is it just me, or does this read like nonsense? 

Its just you.

How does obeying God prove that God is trustworthy?

Because God rewards obedience.

Doesn’t it prove that our faith is trustworthy?

God judges our faith by our works.

What does God’s trustworthiness have to do with our works? 

If you don’t trust God, you won’t obey Him.

This is simply not a sensible application, it does not make sense.

To you.

The notion that James is becoming image-obsessed, and wants to make sure everybody looks good publicly by playing good Christians just isn’t supported either by the text or basic New Testament doctrine. Thus, it is quite evident how James 2:24 is understood by Protestants.

Does Shameless Popery really believe this? Has my pretty run-of-the-mill defense of Sola Fide resorted to such argumentation? Perhaps “Shameless” is the name of the website for a reason.

You aren’t the only Protestant, are you? There are many Protestants who claim that St. James teaches that works are for justification before men and not God.

Here’s an example.

“Paul is speaking about justification before God, while James is talking about justification before humans.”

That is a direct quote from that link. It is a very common Protestant argument against faith and works.

Calvinists claim that justification refers only to the initial act of being justified (forensic justification), and that everything after that is sanctification and not justification…Yet both James (as seen here) and Paul (as seen in 1 Corinthians 6:11, e.g.) seem to think of them as co-occurring….the Calvinist notion that justification is merely forensic, and precedes sanctification, lacks obvious Biblical support.

While 1 Cor 6:11 may be grounds for Calvinists to perhaps change the terminology of what we call the “sanctification process,” it hardly proves his point. Justification is not an ongoing process. Paul uses the past tense to refer to it. In fact, Rom 4:9-10 makes it abundantly clear:

We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

Unless you claim that Scripture contradicts itself, you need to handle two things.

1. Paul says that Abraham exhibited faith in Gen 12.
2. St. James says that the statement “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness” was fulfilled in Gen 22.

Did you catch that? Before Abraham was circumcised and before he was obedient to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac, he was justified. How much more clear can Paul be? The only consistent way to read the Scriptures on this point is that Abraham was already justified before the Isaac episode and therefore, we are compelled to interpret James 2:24 as consistent with this fact. James is making a point about how nominal faith is not faith at all, not how works are needed on top of nominal faith because both have salvific qualities.

On the contrary, James is saying that without works, Abraham’s faith was not a saving faith.

Shameless Popery claims any distinctions made about justification is “making a mountain out of a mole hill.” However, simply put, the question is whether good works are the basis of our salvation.

On the contrary, all Catholics admit that faith is necessary for salvation. But, we also admit that works are necessary for one to exhibit faith in God. Therefore, both elements are necessary for salvation and God reveals that He will judge our faith based upon our works. As you have admitted above.

The answer is yes, good works ARE the basis of our salvation: Christ’s good works, specifically His sacrifice and resurrection! Our good works cannot possibly add anything in the least to our justification in light of what Christ has done for us.

On the contrary, our good works are absolutely necessary for our salvation. Without them, God will not save us. See Matt 25:31-46.

God demands perfection from His people (Deut 18:13). If your good works are in anyway imperfect, they are no good, and they are filthy rags to Him (Is 64:6).

On the contrary. Look at the context of Isaiah’s verse. It is the works of unbelievers which are filthy rags to God. But God looks at our works and takes them into account. Listen to St. Paul:

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Hence, if I am saved upon belief in Christ, then God gets all the glory and no longer do I work for my own salvation. If I need to maintain a saved state, as Catholicism teaches, then Christ’s works was only good enough to get me in the game and I have to now exert myself to win it.

Let’s see what Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 5:15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

Yep. Scripture says that He died for us in order that we might turn and live for Him.

Let’s see another verse:

1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Yep. He died for us in order that we would also die for our brethren.

This is no molehill. The very Gospel is at stake in this issue. So yes, true faith will result in good works. And works, the proof of real faith save and not faith in name only alone. But, in the grand scheme of things faith alone justifies, faith alone results in good works, and faith alone saves, to Christ’s glory. Amen.

Faith which results in good works is not faith alone:
James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Faith which saves is not alone. Because faith alone, is dead.
James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Works make faith perfect.

James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

Continue reading

Is Justification a process?

According to Heb 11:8,

Hebrews 11:8 King James Version (KJV)

8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Abraham came to faith in Gen 12:1-4,

but according to Romans 4:3 he was not justified until Gen 15:6.

Romans 4:3King James Version (KJV)

3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

And according to James 2:24, Abraham is further justified in Gen 22:1-18.

James 2:20-22King James Version (KJV)

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?  21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?  22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

So, it took a long time for Abraham to be justified.

But Scripture also says:

2 Corinthians 4:16 King James Version (KJV)

16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

St. Paul says we are justified (i.e. renewed) day by day.  That sounds like a long process.  One that lasts a life time.

1 Samuel 13:14 King James Version (KJV)

14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.

1 Samuel 16:13King James Version (KJV)

13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

God justifies David twice in 1 Samuel.

2 Samuel 12:7-13 King James Version (KJV)

7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;  8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11 Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.

13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

Then he loses his justification when he sins by adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, then begs forgiveness and gets it back.

In the New Testament, all the Apostles and disciples were justified by Jesus Christ and then they fell away when He was arrested by the Jews. Then they came back when He rose again from the dead.

Yeah, it sounds to me like justification is a process.  A lifetime process.

Against the Protestant doctrine of imputation

The Protestant doctrine of imputation is that God declares someone to be innocent who is not, in fact, innocent.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this what Protestants claim happened with Abraham when Scripture says?

Genesis 15:6

6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Because, if Abraham was declared innocent when God declared him righteous, why is is that Abraham did not receive the promise?

Hebrews 11:39King James Version (KJV)

39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

Nor was he made perfect:

40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

So, if the righteousness of Christ was “imputed” to him in Gen 15:6, why didn’t he go to heaven when he died? Why did he not receive the promise when he died?

Here’s why.  Because the Spirit of Jesus Christ was not given until Christ died upon the Cross.  That is why.  Scripture says:

John 7:39 

39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Judged according to our works

If we are not saved by works, why does St. Paul say,

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Notice that he includes himself.  He says, “we” must all appear.

I’m thinking that means that Jesus Christ is going to Judge our salvation according to our works.  And it says it elsewhere as well:

Romans 2:6-12King James Version (KJV)

6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;