Biblical Catholic Teaching on Justification and Salvation
I. Faith Justifies Initially, but Works Perfect and Complete Justification
II. Works of Law versus Good Works
III. Justification is an Inner Change of Person (Infusion), Not Just a Declaration by God (Imputation)
IV. Some Examples of Justification as Ongoing (not a one-time event)
V. Jesus and Apostles Teach that Works are Necessary for Justification
biblical texts based on the book Not By Faith Alone: The Biblical Evidence for the Catholic Doctrine of Justification by Robert Sungenis (Queenship, 1997)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
1992. Justification has been merited for us by the passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men.
1996. Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life [John 1; Rom 8; 2 Peter 1].
1997. Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.
But when the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely [Romans 3:24; 5:1], 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 [Heb 11:6] 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 [Rom 11:6].
Having, therefore, been thus justified and made the friends and domestics of God [Eph 2:19], advancing from virtue to virtue [Psalm 83:8], they are renewed, as the Apostle says, day by day [2 Cor 4:16], that is, mortifying the members [Col 3:5] of their flesh, and presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification [Rom 6:13,19], they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith cooperating with good works, increase in that justice received through the grace of Christ and are further justified, as it is written: He that is just, let him be justified still; [Rev 22:11] and, "Be not afraid to be justified even to death" [Sirach 18:22]; and again, "Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?" [James 2:24] This increase of justice holy Church asks for when she prays: "Give unto us, O Lord, an increase of faith, hope and charity."
James 2:24 -- the phrase "faith alone" (the Greek "pisteos monon") only occurs once in the Bible. "Man is justified by works and NOT by faith alone." Unlike what many Protestant churches teach, nowhere in Scripture does it say that man is justified or saved by "faith alone." To the contrary, man is not justified by faith alone according to Scripture. In Catholic theology, a person is justified by faith and works acting together, which comes solely from God's divine grace. Faith alone never obtains the grace of justification (Council of Trent, chapter 8, canon 9). Also, the word "justified" (dikaiow) is the same word Paul uses for justification in Rom 4:3 in regard to Abraham (so Protestants cannot argue James is not referring to "justification" in James 2:24 unless they argue Paul wasn't in Rom. 4:3 either).
Heb 11:6 -- faith is indeed the minimum requirement without which we cannot please God. But this is just the beginning of the process leading toward justification. Faith alone does not justify a person. Justification is only achieved by faith and works, as we see below. Also, this gratuitous gift of faith from God also includes the grace of hope and love the moment the person is justified.
Eph 2:8-9 -- Paul teaches us that faith is the root of justification, and that faith excludes "works of law." But Paul does not teach that faith excludes other kinds of works, as we will see below. The verse also does not say we are justified by "faith alone." It only indicates that faith comes first. This, of course, must be true, because those who do works outside of faith are in a system of debt, not of grace (more on that later). But faith alone does not justify. A man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. James 2:24.
Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30 -- the faith we have must be a repentant faith, not just an intellectual faith that believes in God. Repentance is not just a thought process (faith), but an act (work) by which we ask God for His mercy and forgiveness.
Psalm 51:17 -- this means we need a "broken and contrite heart," not just an intellectual assent of faith. Faith in God is only the beginning.
John 3:36; Rom 1:5, 6:17; 15:18; 16:26; 2 Cor 9:13; 1 Thess 1:3; 2 Thess 1:11; 1 Peter 2:7-8; Heb 5:9; cf. Rev 3:10; Exod 19:5 -- this faith must also be an "obedient faith" and a "work of faith." Obedience means persevering in good works to the end.
2 Cor 10:15 -- this faith must also increase as a result of our obedience, as Paul hopes for in this verse. Obedience is achieved not by faith alone, but by doing good works.
2 Cor 13:5 -- Paul also admonishes us to examine ourselves, to see whether we are holding to our faith. This examination of conscience is a pious Catholic practice. Our faith, which is a gift from God, must be nurtured. Faith is not a one-time event that God bestows upon us.
Gal 5:6 -- thus, the faith that justifies us is "faith working through love," not faith alone. This is one of the best summaries of Catholic teaching. Faith and love (manifested by works) are always connected. Faith (a process of thought) and love (an action) are never separated in the Scriptures. Cf. Eph 3:17; 1 Thess 3:6,12-13; 2 Thess 1:3; 1 John 3:23; Rev 2:4-5,19. Further, all faith (initial and perfected) are gratuitous gifts from God, and not earned or merited by any human action. God effects everything, both the willing and the achievement. But God also requires human action, which is necessary to perfect our faith.
James 1:22-25 -- it's the "doers" who are justified, not the hearers. Justification is based on what we do, which means "works." Notice that there is nothing about "false faith." The hearers may have faith, but they need to accompany their faith by works, or they will not be justified. See also Rom 2:13.
James 2:17,26 -- James clearly teaches that faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. Works are a cause, not just an effect, of our justification because good works achieve and increase our justification before God. Scripture never says anything about "saving faith." Protestants cannot show us from the Scriptures that "works" qualify the "faith" into saving faith. Instead, here and elsewhere, the Scriptures teach that justification is achieved only when "faith and works" act together. Scripture puts no qualifier on faith. Scripture also never says that faith "leads to works." Faith is faith and works are works (James 2:18). They are distinct (mind and action), and yet must act together in order to receive God's unmerited gift of justification.
James 2:19 -- even the demons believe that Jesus is Lord. But they tremble. Faith is not enough. Works are also required.
James 2:20 -- do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren. Good works in God's grace are required for justification. But there is nothing in the Scriptures about "saving faith."
James 2:22 -- faith is active with works and is completed by works. It does not stand alone. Faith needs works to effect our justification.
James 4:17 -- in fact, James writes that the failure to do works is a sin! So works are absolutely necessary for our justification.
James 2:15-17 -- here are the examples of the "works" to which James is referring -- corporal works of mercy (giving food and shelter to those in need).
James 1:27 -- another example of "works" is visiting orphans and widows in their affliction. Otherwise, if they do not perform these good works, their religion is in vain.
James 2:25 -- another example of "works" is when Rahab assisted the spies in their escape. Good works increase our justification and perfect our faith.
Joshua 2:9-11 -- Rahab's fellow citizens had faith in God, but in Joshua 6:22-25, Rahab alone acted and was saved. This is faith in action.
James 2:18 -- to avoid the truth of the Catholic position that we are justified by both faith and works, Protestants argue the justification that James is referring to in James 2 is "before men" and not "before God." Scripture disproves their claim.
James 2:14 -- James asks, "Can faith save him?" Salvation comes from God. This proves the justification James is referring to is before God, not men.
James 2:19 -- also, James reminds us that even the demons believe and tremble. This refers to our relationship with God, not with men. Thus, our justification that requires works and not faith alone relates to our status before God, not men.
James 2:21 -- James also appeals to the example of Abraham. Abraham's justification refers to his position before God, not men. This proves justification is before God, not men.
Acts 10:35 -- Peter teaches that anyone who fears the Lord and does what is right is acceptable to Him. It is both fear and works, not fear alone.
Rom 2:7,10 -- to those who by patience and good works will be granted glory and honor and peace from the Lord.
Rom 2:13 -- for it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. Paul is referring to the "law of Christ" in Gal 6:2, not "works of the law" in Rom 3:20,28; Gal 2:16; 3:2,5,10; and Eph 2:8-9. The "law of Christ" is faith in Christ and works based on grace (God owes us nothing) and "works of the law" mean no faith in Christ, and legal works based on debt (God owes us something).
Rom 4:5-6 -- to him who does not work but believes, his faith is accounted to him as righteousness, like David, who was righteous apart from works. Here, Paul is emphasizing that works must be done in faith, not outside of faith. If they are done outside of faith, we are in a system of debt (God owes us). If they are done in faith (as James requires), we are in a system of grace (God rewards us). Hence, Paul accepts the works performed under God's forbearance (grace) in Rom 2:7,10,13 (see also Rom 14:10-12; 1 Cor 3:12-17; and 2 Cor 5:10) which lead to justification and eternal life. These verses have nothing to do with "faith alone." Paul uses the word "alone" three times in Rom 4:12,16,23, but never uses it with "faith." Certainly, if he wanted to teach "faith alone," he would have done so.
Rom 6:16 -- obedience leads to righteousness. Obedience is a good "work," an act of the will, which leads to righteousness before God.
2 Cor 9:8 -- Paul teaches that God will bless us so that we may provide in abundance for "every good work." Good works are encouraged to complete our faith.
Eph 6:8 -- whatever good anyone does will receive the same again from the Lord. God rewards good works done in grace.
Phil 4:17 -- Paul says "I seek the fruit which increases to your credit." Fruits (good works) increase our justification. Paul says these works increase our "credit," which is also called "merit." These merits bring forth more graces from God, furthering increasing our justification as we are so disposed. But the fruits, works, and merits are all borne from God's unmerited and undeserved mercy won for us by Jesus Christ.
Titus 3:8 -- good deeds are excellent and profitable to men (just like the Old Testament Scriptures in 2 Tim. 3:16). Good deeds further justify us before God. This verse should be contrasted with Titus 3:5, where we are not saved by works of righteousness "we have done." As further discussed below, in this verse what "we have done" refers to a work of law or obligation for which we seek payment. But verse 5 also says the "washing of regeneration" in reference to baptism saves (cf. 1 Peter 3:21), which is a work of grace, for which we are rewarded by God in Christ. There is a distinction between "works of law or obligation" and "works of grace."
1 Peter 2:7-8; John 3:36 -- shows that belief in Jesus means obeying Jesus. Having faith means being faithful, which requires good works as well. Hence, obeying Jesus means doing works of love, not just having faith alone.
Rev 22:11-12 -- he who is righteous [justified], let him be righteous [justified] still [more]; he who is holy, let him be holy still....and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
Rom 3:20,28; Gal 2:16,21; 3:2,5,10; Eph 2:8-9 -- many Protestants err in their understanding of what Paul means by "works of the law" in his teaching on justification. Paul's teaching that we are not justified by "works of the law" refer to the law of Moses or to any legal system that makes God our debtor. They do not refer to good works done in grace with faith in Christ. This makes sense when we remember that Paul's mission was to teach that salvation was also for the Gentiles who were not subject to the "works of the law." Here is the proof:
James 2:24 -- compare the verse "a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" to Gal 2:16 "a man is not justified by works of the law," and Rom. 3:20,28 "no human being will be justified in His sight by works of the law." James 2:24 appears to be inconsistent with Gal 2:16 and Rom 3:20,28 until one realizes that the Word of God cannot contradict itself. This means that the "works" in James 2:24 are different from the "works of the law" in Gal 2:16 and Rom 3:20,28. James is referring to "good works" (e.g. clothing the naked; giving food to the poor) and Paul is referring to the "Mosaic law" (which included both the legal, moral and ceremonial law) or any works which oblige God to give us payment. Here is more proof:
Rom 3:20,28; Gal 2:16 -- Paul's phrase for "works of the law" in the Greek is "ergon nomou" which means the Mosaic law or Torah and refers to the teachings (legal, moral) and works (ceremonial) that gave the Jews the knowledge of sin, but not an escape from sin. We have further proof of this from the Dead Sea Scrolls which provide the Hebrew equivalent ("hrvt ysm") meaning "deeds of the law," or Mosaic law. James in James 2 does not use "ergon nomou." He uses "ergois agathois." Therefore, Paul's "works of the law" and James' "works" are entirely different types of works. Again, they could never contradict each other because the Scriptures are the inspired word of God.
Rom 3:29 -- Paul confirms that works of the law in this case refer to the Mosaic law by rhetorically asking "Or is God the God of the Jews only?" It does not mean "good works."
Rom 4:9-17 -- Paul provides further discussion that righteousness God seeks in us does not come from Mosaic law, but through faith. But notice that Paul also never says "faith alone."
Rom 9:31-32 -- righteousness is pursued through faith, not works of the law. Again, "works of law" does not mean "good works."
Rom 11:6,11 -- justification is no longer based on "works" of the law, but on the grace of Christ. Why" Because salvation is also for the Gentiles.
Rom 15:9-12 -- Paul explains that Christ also saves the Gentiles. Therefore, "works of law" are no longer required.
Acts 13:39 -- Luke also confirms this by providing that we have been "freed from the law of Moses." This is the "works of the law" from which we have been freed.
Rom 3:20,28 -- in addition to the Mosaic law, as stated above, "works of the law" can also refer to anything that makes God a debtor to us. This is because law requires payment, but grace is a free gift from God. Therefore, faith must be behind every good work in order for it to be a work of grace. If not, it is a work of debt, and we cannot obligate God to do anything for us.
Rom 4:3-4 -- Paul refers to works apart from God's grace. We do not obligate God to give us grace like an employee obligates his employer to pay wages. Faith in Christ must be behind our good works in order for it to be considered a work of grace; otherwise, it is a work of law or obligation.
Rom 6:23 -- this is why Paul says the "wages" of sin is death. Eternal life is a free gift from God. We cannot obligate God to pay us for our works; otherwise, we are in a system of law, not a system of grace.
Rom 11:6 -- Paul says that if justification is now based on grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.
Rom 11:35 -- it is impossible to obligate God for payment, and sinful to think we can. We cannot do "works of the law" to obligate God. We are not in a debtor/creditor relationship with God. He owes us nothing. Instead, we are in a Father/child covenant relationship with Him, and He will reward us for being faithful.
Gal 6:8-9 -- the earnings referred to here are from God's grace. It is a free gift, not an obligation. This underscores that our relationship with God is Father/son and daughter, not employer/employee.
Rom 8:14-17; Heb 12:5-11 -- these texts further emphasize our father/son relationship with God. Our relationship is familial, not legal.
Rom 7:6 -- we are now discharged from the "law," that is "works of the law." We now serve God in faith working in love.
Rom 10:4 -- Christ is the end of the "law." We are now justified by faith in Christ, not faith in the law.
Rom 13:8,10 -- loving one another is fulfilling the new law of Christ. This is internal and personal, not external and impersonal.
Gal 2:16 -- again, man is not justified by "works of the law." Again, Paul is referring to the Mosaic law and anything which views God as a debtor to us.
Gal 2:19,21 -- justification "through the law" means justification through the Mosaic law or a legal system that makes God a debtor to us.
Gal 3:10 -- shows that "works of the law" refers to the "book of the law" which was the strict and impersonal Mosaic law of the Old Testament.
Gal 3:17 -- this "law" came 430 years after Abraham. So "works of law" here clearly refer to the Mosaic law, not "good works."
Gal 3:13; 4:4-5 -- in fact, the "works of the law" (not good works in God's grace) is a curse from which Christ freed us.
Gal 3:19 -- these "works of law" were only good for showing us our sinfulness, but not teaching us how to live.
Gal 5:4,14; 6:2 -- the "law" is of no use. The new law is the law of Christ, which is faith working through love.
Eph 2:8-9 -- we have been saved by grace through faith, not because of "works," lest anyone boast. This much-quoted verse by Protestants refers to the "works" of the Mosaic law or any works performed in a legalistic sense, where we view God as a debtor to us, and not as our heavenly Father. Paul is teaching us that, with the coming of Christ, we are now saved by grace through faith, not by Mosaic or legal works.
This is why Paul refers to "works of ourselves" and so we can't "boast." Paul says the same thing about "works" Rom 4:2,4 if Abraham was justified by "works," he would have something to "boast" about. Here, the wages are not counted as grace, but debt. "Boasting" does not attribute works to God, but to oneself. But good works done in faith are necessary for justification (James 2:24, etc) because we receive rewards by grace, not by legal obligation, and we attribute these works to God, not ourselves. God crowns His own gifts (
Eph 2:10 -- in quoting Eph 2:8-9, Protestants invariably ignore the very next verse. Right after Paul's teaching on "works" referring to Mosaic law, Paul says we are created in Christ for "good works" -- a clear distinction between "works of law" (Mosaic law / legal payment) and "good works" (law of Christ / reward of grace).
Eph 2:11-16 -- this section further explains Paul's reference to "works" which relates to following the Jewish legal ordinances.
Eph 3:17 -- Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, but we also must be rooted and grounded in love.
Psalm 51:1-2 -- O God, blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. This cleansing requires an inner change of heart. Many Protestants believe that we are so depraved that God only covers our sins up by declaring us righteous (imputing Christ's righteousness to us). The Catholic (and Scriptural view), however, is that God is powerful enough to blot out our sins and remove them. The view that God just declares us righteous by "covering us up," denigrates the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, who continues the work of Christ through His work of justification and sanctification (infusing His grace into souls and changing the inner person).
Psalm 51:7-9 -- purge me and I shall be clean, wash me whiter than snow, fill me with joy, blot out my iniquities. We are purged and filled up internally, not just covered up externally.
Psalm 51:10 -- create in me a clean heart, oh God, and put a new and right spirit within me (not "cover" me). God is so powerful that He brings about a real metamorphosis in ourselves.
Isaiah 1:18 -- though my sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though red like crimson, they shall be like wool.
Isaiah 43:25 -- I am He who blots out your transgressions and forgets your sins. God does not cover our sins up. He blots them out by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 44:22 -- I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sin like mist. This is a real elimination of sin, not a covering up of sin.
Isaiah 64:5 -- thou meetest him that joyfully works righteousness. This means righteousness is not just imputed to us. We can actually do works of righteousness by God's grace.
Ezek 36:26-27 -- a new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you. These are interior changes effected by God.
Ezek 37:23 -- the Lord will save His people from all their backslidings in which they have sinned, and He will cleanse them (not cover them).
Matt 5:3,5,8 -- blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, and the pure of heart. These are internal dispositions, not just an external reality.
Matt 5:6; Luke 6:21 -- those who hunger for righteousness "may be filled." It is an inner change, not snow covering up a dunghill (Luther's analogy).
Matt 5:20; Luke 1:6; Acts 10:35 -- here are more examples of "doing" righteousness, not just being "imputed" external righteousness. We are not just defendants in a courtroom who have been exonerated. We are children of God endowed with the power of the Holy Spirit by whose grace we can become righteous.
Matt 5:28 -- Jesus teaches that just looking lustfully at a woman is adultery. But avoiding this involves an inner change, a response to God's grace.
Matt 6:1 -- beware of practicing righteousness before men. We are not just declared righteous; we can practice righteousness as well.
Matt. 8:3 -- Jesus cleanses the man's leprosy. Jesus' power reaches both the external and internal conditions of human beings. See also Matt 11:5.
Matt 15:18; Mark 7:15 -- Jesus teaches the interior disposition is what defiles man. Thus, God's infusion of grace changes us interiorly.
Matt 23:25-28 -- the Pharisees appeared outwardly righteous to men, but inside they were filled with hypocrisy. God desires and helps us effect an inner change of heart. He doesn't just declare that we are righteous.
Luke 11:39-40 -- the Pharisees cleansed the outside of the cup but inside they were full of wickedness. God demands an internal change and gives us the grace to make that change.
John 1:29 -- Jesus the Lamb of God literally takes away the sin of the world. He does not just cover up the sins of the world.
Acts 3:19 -- repent, that your sins may be "blotted" out. The word blotted comes from the Greek word "exalipho" which means an actual wiping away or removal, not a covering up.
Acts 22:16; 1 Cor 6:11 -- again, the phrase "wash away" is from the word "apolouo" which mean a literal removal or an infusion of cleansing, not an imputation or covering.
Rom 4:3 -- it was "credited" to him as righteousness. The word "credited" comes from the Greek word "elogisthe" which means a book entry. God records what there actually is; He does not make a phony entry on the books.
Rom 5:17 -- we do not receive Christ's personal level of righteousness (which is impossible), but we are made righteous on His account by God's mercy and the Lord's work on the cross. The word "made" in Greek is "katestathesan" which refers to a real, actual, ontological change in the person's soul.
Rom 5:19 -- through "Adam/Christ" we were made "sinners/righteous." This means that there is not just a relational change in status, but an objective change in nature. We are not just declared righteous, but are actually made righteous. God does not declare something without making it so. For example, in Gen 1:3, God declares that there is light, and there is light. The declaration is followed by the reality.
2 Cor 3:18 -- Paul says that we are being changed into the Lord's likeness from one degree of glory to another, by the power of the Spirit. This shows that justification is ongoing, and changes in degrees throughout one's life, based upon one's obedience of faith.
2 Cor 4:16 -- though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. Justification does not happen all at once, and is not an external declaration. Justification happens every day, and concerns our inner nature.
2 Cor 5:17 -- Paul says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. He is not just the old creation that is covered up. The old has passed away, and behold, the new has come.
2 Cor 7:1 -- Paul says that we must cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God. Holiness deals with being, what is, because its source is God, who is. It does not deal with what appears to be.
2 Cor 13:5 -- do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you. This indwelling of Christ brings about an internal transformation to those who cooperate with His grace.
Gal 6:15 -- for neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
Eph 4:22-24 -- putting off the old nature for the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, involves an internal change. Our lives are actually transformed. This is required in order for us to become adopted sons (not just defendants acquitted in a courtroom).
Phil 2:13 -- God is at work "in you." God is so powerful, he can actually transform us by working in us. He is not just outside us making declarations about us.
Titus 3:5 -- justification is a generation of supernatural life in a former sinner. This means a real inner change or infusion, not just donning an outer cloak.
1 John 1:7,9 -- Jesus will "cleanse" us from sin and unrighteousness. The word cleanse comes from the Greek word "katharizo" which means an actual "infused" cleansing, not an "imputed" pretend cleansing.
1 John 3:7,10 -- righteousness may be obtained by "doing." One who practices righteousness is righteous. God is not just declaring the person righteousness.
2 Peter 1:4 -- we are actually made righteous because God is the eternal family, and we partake of this divine nature as children. The Catholic position thus gives Jesus the most glory. His grace is powerful enough to change us interiorly.
1 Cor. 3:9 -- this is because we are His fellow workers. God is not threatened by the grace and glory He gives His children!
Rev 19:8 -- when we are clothed in fine linen in heaven, the fine linen is "our righteous acts." It is our own righteousness, from the work and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Rev 22:11-12 -- he who is righteous [justified], let him be righteous [justified] still [more]; he who is holy, let him be holy still....and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
2 Cor 4:16 -- though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed "every day." This not only proves that justification is internal (not legal and external), but that it is also ongoing (it's not a one-time event of accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior). Our inner nature is being renewed every day as we persevere in faith, hope and love.
John 3:16 -- justification is ongoing, not a one-time event. God so loved (past) the world, that He gave (past) His only Son, that whoever believes (ongoing) in Him may have eternal life. The word "believes" is "pisteuo" in Greek which necessarily includes obedience throughout one's life. This is proved by 1 Peter 2:7-8 which also uses "pisteuo" (to obey) and "apitheo" (to disobey). The same word "pisteuo" is used in many other verses about "believing in Christ" such as John 3:36; 5:24; Rom 4:24; 10:9-10; cf. Rom 1:5,16; 6:17; 16:26; 1 John 5:13 (often used by Protestants to support their "faith alone" theology). To "believe" means to "obey" Jesus as Lord throughout one's life; it is not a one-time acceptance of Jesus as Savior.
Heb 5:9 -- Paul also confirms this by writing that Jesus became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. Here are some examples of justification as an on-going process, and not a one-time event:
Gen 12:1-4 -- Abram is justified here, as God promises to make his name great and bless the families of the earth through his seed. Abram is justified by his faith in God. Heb 11:8-10 confirms Abraham's justification occurred here, before Gen. 15:6 (later) by referring to Gen 12, not Gen 15. Abraham's justification increased over time because justification is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process of growing in holiness.
Gen 14:19, 22-23 -- Abram is also justified here, by being blessed by the priest-king Melchizedek. Melchizedek calls Abram blessed and Abram gives him a tenth of everything.
Gen 15:6 -- Abram is further justified here, as God promises him that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars. Because the Scripture says, "He believed the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness," Protestants often say this was Abram's initial justification, and cite Rom 4:2 to prove Abram was justified by his faith. Yes, it is true Abram was justified by his faith, but he was justified 25 years earlier in Gen. 12:1-4, as Heb. 11:8-10 proves.
Gen 22:1-18 -- Abraham is further justified here, this time by works, when he offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. James 2:21 proves this as James writes, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?" James then confirms this by writing, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (James 2:23). These verses prove that justification before God is an on-going process, not a one-time event of accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior, and is accomplished by faith and works.
1 Sam 13:14 -- David is justified here, as God describes him as "a man after his own heart." No one in Scripture is described like this. Acts 13:22 confirms David's justification before God.
1 Sam 16:13 -- David is also justified here. "The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward."
1 Sam 17:37-54 -- David is further justified here, as he responds to God's grace and God delivers him from the hand of Goliath the Philistine.
2 Sam 6:9,14 -- David is further justified here, as he expresses a fear for the Lord in the presence of His ark, and dances before the ark of the Lord with all his might.
2 Sam 12:7-15 -- however, after David's on-going justification before God, David falls out of justification by committing adultery with Bathsheba and slaying Uriah the Hittite. David still had faith in God, but he lost his justification because of his evil works.
Psalm 32:1-2; Rom 4:7-8; cf. 51:2,7-10,17 -- David repents of his sin and writes these beautiful psalms about God's mercy and forgiveness. Of himself, he writes, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered up." David is re-justified before God. This proves that we can be justified before God, then lose our justification, and then be re-justified through repentance and reconciliation with God.
Matt 16:18-19 -- Jesus blesses Simon for receiving a Revelation from God, changes his name to Peter, and gives him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. In John 6:68-69, Peter, justified before God, declares that Jesus has the words of eternal life. In Luke 22:31-32, Jesus prays for Peter that his faith may not fail and charges him to strengthen the rest of the apostles. In these and many other examples, Peter is justified before God.
Matt 26:75; Mark 14:72; John 18:17, 25-27 -- Peter denies he knows Jesus and loses his justification before God.
John 21:15-17 -- Peter is re-justified before God after he negates his three-fold denial of Jesus with a three-fold confirmation of his love for him. Jesus then charges Peter to feed the Lord's sheep. Peter was justified, loses his justification, and regains it again through repentance and love.
Luke 15:24,32 -- the prodigal son was dead, and now is alive again; he was lost and now is found. The prodigal son regained his father's favor through repentance (v. 18-19,21). When we ask our Father for forgiveness, we too will regain His favor and be justified.
Acts 9:1-17 -- Protestants would say that Paul is instantly justified here, when he encounters Christ, obeys His command to enter the city, and is moved by the Holy Spirit. They would say that Paul's sins are now covered up and Christ's righteousness is imputed to him.
Acts 9:18; 22:16 -- then why does Ananias command
Rev 22:11-22 -- he who is righteous [justified], let him be righteous [justified] still [more]; he who is holy, let him be holy still....and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
Matt 5:2-11 -- Jesus' teaching of the beatitudes goes beyond faith -- being pure, merciful, and peacemakers are all good works. They are acts of the will that are necessary for a right relationship with God.
Matt 5:16 -- Jesus confirms this by teaching, "let your light shine before men that they may see your 'good works' and give glory to God." Good works glorify God and increase our justification (righteousness) before the Father.
Matt 5:39-42 -- give your striker the other cheek, give away your cloak, and go with him two miles. This faith in action, not faith alone.
Matt 5:44-47 -- this means even loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. Love is a good work, an act of the will.
Matt 6:12 -- forgive us our sins, not by how much faith we have, but as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Matt 7:19-23 -- just saying "Lord, Lord" and accepting Jesus as personal Savior is not enough. We must also bear the fruit of good works.
Matt 19:16-22 -- Jesus teaches the man to sell all he has and give it to the poor. It is not just about accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior. We also need good works by keeping Jesus' commandments.
Matt 22:39; Mark 12:31 -- Jesus says You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love is a good work -- an act of the intellect and will.
Mark 9:39 -- Jesus said no one who does good works in His name will be able to soon after speak evil of Him. Good works justify us before God.
Luke 6:46-47 -- the Lord asks us to do what he tells us, and that is to keep His commandments, not just "accept" Him as personal Lord and Savior.
Luke 6:20-38 -- again, beatitudes, the love of enemies, giving to the needy, forgiving, bearing fruit -- all these good works justify a man before God.
Luke 8:21 -- Jesus says that His mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.
John 5:24 -- note that "eternal life" here means sanctifying grace (the life of God within us). We can choose to fall from this grace.
John 5:36, 10:37-38 -- Jesus emphasizes that His works testify to who He is. We must imitate Christ's works to be more fully united with Him.
John 5:39-42 -- knowing the Scriptures is not enough if you do not have love in your heart.
John 8:31-32 -- Jesus requires works even from those who believe in Him. Mere belief is not enough.
John 13:34-35 -- Jesus gives us a new commandment, that we love one another as He loves us. He commands love which is an act of our will.
John 14:15 -- Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." This requires works, not just faith (and not faith alone).
John 14:21 -- he who hears my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. This is doing good works for others.
John 15:8 -- Jesus requires us to bear the good fruit of works if we are to be His disciples. These fruits are merits in Catholic teaching, all borne from God's unmerited gift of grace.
John 15:10 -- if you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, as I have kept the Father's commandments.
John 15:12 -- this is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. Love is both a cause and the fruit of our justification.
Rom 12:10 -- Paul commands us to love one another. Love is a good work, an act of the intellect and will, not just a feeling.
1 Cor 3:8 -- Paul teaches that he who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor.
1 Cor 13:2 -- Paul teaches that if our faith moves mountains, but we have not the works of love, we are nothing indeed.
1 Cor 13:13 -- abide in faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Love is the greatest work which justifies us (not faith, and most importantly, not faith alone!)
1 Tim 6:18-19 -- we are to do good and be rich in good works thus laying up a good foundation for a chance at eternal life.
Titus 1:16 -- people claim to know God, but their deeds deny Him. Like Jesus, it is our works that testify to our faith in Christ.
1 John 2:3-5 -- and by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. This requires good works, not faith alone.
1 John 3:23 -- God's commandment is to believe in His Son Jesus and love one another. Belief is not enough, but good works to perfect that belief.
1 John 4:7-21 -- and this commandment we have from Him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. John gives us repeated exhortations to love one another.
1 John 5:2-3 -- we know we love God and God's children when we keep His commandments. We need to love which is manifested in good works and not faith alone.
2 John 6 -- we must love one another and keep Jesus' commandments. We must cooperate with Christ's grace.
James 2:17-24 -- Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead....that faith without works is dead...Abraham our father [was] justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar...faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect....You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.