Protestants frequently say that we need no longer do anything to be saved. They claim, for example, that Abraham was saved before he did anything. Then, the question is, what happened between Gen 12 and Gen 15 or 22, whichever you prefer as the point of Abraham’s justification? Was that just filler in the Old Testament? By no means! (Read more).
In this article, I would like to explain:
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.
If we have two groups of people:
The first group, composed of people who obey God, keep the Commandments and feed the hungry, clothe the naked and do good deeds.
The second group, fornicators, adulterers, liars, and all around ne’er do wells.
Which group will have the right to the tree of life? (Rev 22:14-15).
Don’t get me wrong. We are not saved by the works. But only those who do the works will be saved.
Someone might ask, what if someone does nothing good and nothing bad, but claims to have faith in Christ? Scripture is absolutely clear about that person, he is condemned (Matt 25:31-46).
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit…..6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
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;
St. James actually teaches the imprecise lesson. We are saved by faith and works, “so to speak”. Because they are necessary prerequisites.
I think we all agree that “faith” is a necessary prerequisite, do we not?
Hebrews 11:6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
And works are also a necessary prerequisite. St. John says:
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:….
Does that mean then, that we work our way to heaven? By no means.
Does it mean that we cleanse our own souls of sins? No way.
Here is what the Catholic Church officially says:
HOW THE GRATUITOUS JUSTIFICATION OF THE SINNER BY FAITH IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD
But when the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely, these words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the fellowship of His sons;
and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification.
For, if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the Apostle says, grace is no more grace.
For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
The only thing he needs to add to that to be absolutely precise are the words, “by God”. It would then read:
For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified by God.
Here’s the rest of the Catholic Teaching from Trent:
IN WHAT THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE SINNER CONSISTS, AND WHAT ARE ITS CAUSES
This disposition or preparation is followed by justification itself, which is not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting.
The causes of this justification are:
the final cause is the glory of God and of Christ and life everlasting; the efficient cause is the merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance, the meritorious cause is His most beloved only begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, merited for us justification by His most holy passion on the wood of the cross and made satisfaction for us to God the Father, the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which no man was ever justified finally, the single formal cause is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills, and according to each one’s disposition and cooperation.
Again, please note the bold italics.