Updated Feb. 1, 2000
This article of Justification focuses on the book of Romans. Click on the underlined sections to go to that section. The sections are:
1. Romans 3: 10 - "None is righteous"
2. Romans 3: 28 - Works of the Law verses Good works - and the teachings of the Catholic Church
3. O. T. ritual laws verses the moral law
4. Abraham’s righteousness in Romans 4
5. Once saved always saved ?
"…as it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God.' " RSV
Some people look to
2 "In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes which they have devised.
3 For the wicked boasts of the desires of his heart,
and the man greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
4 In the pride of his countenance the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, "There is no God."
12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up thy hand; forget not the afflicted.
15 Break thou the arm of the wicked and evildoer; seek out his wickedness till thou find none.
17 O Lord, thou wilt hear the desire of the meek;
thou wilt strengthen their heart, thou wilt incline thy ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. RSV
"To the choirmaster. Of David. The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God.
3 They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt;
there is none that does good, no, not one.
4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people
as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord?
5 There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.
6 You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge."
RSV (emphasis added)
From the fuller context of chapter 14 in the Book of Psalms we can see that that there are two groups of people. The group of "evildoers" does not comprise the total population of the earth. If it did there could be no "my people" that were persecuted by them. In Psalm 14 King David was pointing out that the fools who do not seek God are all going astray and all doing evil. He is calling upon the Lord to deliver His "my people" from theseevildoers.
So, the "All" in "there is no one who seeks God. All have gone astray…" (Romans 3:11-12 NAB) is a reference to the "fools," "the children of men" who do not avail themselves of the help of God’s grace as opposed to the "children of God." It is only by the grace of God that man is able to do God’s will. An individual must get out of the family of "Adam" (which means man) and into the family of God. 1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. RSV
Psalm 14 exemplifies two fundamentally different ways of living. There are:
those who reject God and His grace and who consequently only do evil,
those who seek God and the help of His grace and are thereby enabled by it to act in a way pleasing to Him, to do good, and be called "my people."
Mankind, separated from God and from the help of His grace, is evil and wicked. They persecute God’s people, the generation of the righteous - the second group of people. God’s people are enabled to be righteous because they do seek after God and they avail themselves of the grace that He provides. (
Psalm 14 shows that the group of evil doers, which are characterized as "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God," does not comprise the total population of the earth. We know that
King David’s life is filled with evils and wars brought on by even his fellow Jews. Saul and his own son Absalom fought against him. Even some Jews were evil ! Therefore, Saint Paul’s point in quoting Psalm 14 in his letter to the Romans is that just because Jews are the descendants of Abraham ( according to the flesh), that does not make them justified. Rather, it is only by faith in God that will avail them of His grace that will enable them to do His will and be justified.
1 Corinthians 6:11 "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."
Matthew 12:50 "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother." Matthew 7:21 "Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." RSV
Romans 3:28 "For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law." NAB
Protestants quote this verse to support their view of Justification by faith alone apart from good works. Many Protestants misunderstand the Catholic Church on this and many of Her other doctrines. They mistakenly believe that Catholicism teaches that a person can earn his salvation and that "good works" are what we do to add to the grace of Christ so that we can be saved. So, three things must be examined in order to consider the accuracy of these Protestant perceptions: 1) the official teachings of the Catholic Church, 2) the meaning of the term "good works," and 3) the meaning of the phrase "apart from works of the law."
Justification is a free gift from God. We could never earn it by our own works. There was a heresy called Pelagianism that said a man could work out his salvation by his own efforts. This was condemned by the Catholic Church in the sixth century at the Council of Orange.
The Second Council of Orange (529 A.D.), accepted as dogma by the Catholic Church, dogmatically taught in its Canon 7, "If anyone asserts that we can, by our natural powers, think as we ought, or choose any good pertaining to the salvation of eternal life . . . without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit . . . he is misled by a heretical spirit . . ." [it goes on to cite Jn 15:5, and 2 Cor 3:5]
And on the Catholic notion of merit the Second Council of Orange stated in canon 18, "That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done."
CANON 20. "That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it."
CONCLUSION: "… We also believe and
confess to our benefit that in every good work it is not we
who take the initiative and are then assisted through the
mercy of God, but God himself first inspires in us both faith
in him and love for him… We must therefore
most evidently believe that the praiseworthy faith of the
thief whom the Lord called to his home in paradise, and of
Cornelius the centurion, to whom the angel of the Lord was
sent, and of Zacchaeus, who was worthy to receive the Lord
himself, was not a natural endowment but a gift of God's
On January 13, 1547 during the Council of Trent, in the sixth session a Decree On Justification was issued. In Chapter 8 it states, "And whereas the Apostle saith, that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed…And we are said to be justified by grace because nothing that precedes justification, whether faith or works, merits the grace of justification. For ‘if it is by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise,’ as the Apostle says, ‘grace is no more grace.’ [
Some Protestants seem to view justifying grace as something that God rewards to those who make their choice to have faith in Christ. Whereas, Catholics view that anything that a man does solely on his own does not result in or lead to his Justification. Only supernatural faith is a true and saving faith and that is only possible with the aid of God's grace. Thus, supernatural faith is a gift that can never be earned. So, the process of infant Baptism more clearly shows this freely given aspect of our Salvation. At Baptism the person (child) is freely given the supernatural gifts of Faith, Hope, and Charity - the theological virtues. Without the grace of Jesus Christ no one can enter heaven. John 14:6 "...No one come to the Father except through me."
Titus 3:5 "…he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit…" RSV
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
From the above quotation we can see that there are two types of works. There are works that we can do on our own - such as works of the law - which do not save us, and there are "good works" that are only made possible by the infinite power of God’s grace working in our lives.
"You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone."
We know that "good works" are truly good because the Bible tells us that they are "good." The reason that they are good is because they are the works of God through us. We are not capable of doing "good works" apart from the grace of God, since they are a manifestation of His grace in us. All that is good has God as its origin.
"Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.' "
Having faith is a good work that we must do.
The Council of Trent in the sixth session celebrated on the thirteenth day of the month of January, 1547, on its Decree On Justification, chapter XVI, states, " …Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own as from ourselves; nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated: for that justice which is called ours, because that we are justified from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ."
God does not force us to accept His grace. We assent to it by our ongoing yes to Him. Our good works is not some intrinsic good that is added to Christ’s work, rather it is the grace of Christ working through us. However, we must assent to accepting God’s grace in order for this to happen. But, even our Faith and our assenting to God’s grace is only made possible by the help of His grace. God gives to us the gift of free will to accept His grace or to reject it. In our Justification, or Sanctification God's grace is involved from beginning to end. His grace not only enables us to do His will, but it is even necessary to prompt us to choose to do it. So, therefore our good works are a manifestation of His Grace. And it is His grace that makes our faith a truly supernatural, and saving faith.
Catholics do not believe that our works are necessarily of value. This is also true of our faith. If either is of value it is only because God has graciously decided to make it so. They can be made meritorious, truly good, only by God’s grace. Only by grace are they raised to a supernatural and Holy level. When God connects them to Christ and the Cross they become truly good works and saving faith. "Grace… ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men" (CCC 2011). It is God’s grace working through us that enables our works and faith to be pleasing to Him. Augustine put it this way, "All our good merits are wrought through grace, so that God, in crowning our merits, is crowning nothing but his gifts." We must cooperate with God’s gift of grace: "Do not put out the Spirit’s fire." (1 Th 5:19).
Justification may seem complicated at first, but it is as simple as a child obeying his father because he has faith in his father to save and protect him. God says to obey the moral commandments. To have faith in God is to believe that His way is best. When I disobey I am showing that I am no longer walking in [perfect] faith. That is, if I sin in a serious way, mortal sin, I am saying that I believe this way other than God's way is better for me and hence, this is a rejection of faith. True faith involves doing the moral law, by God's grace working in love in us for Him. We cannot separate faith and good works as Martin Luther tried to do. The Bible never uses the term "good works" in a context outside of faith and God's grace.
Justification involves the opening of ourselves to the workings of God in our lives - good works. Isaiah 55:11 "…so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it." God’s word manifests whatever it declares. When God declares us to be justified we actually become justified.
Philippians 2:12-13 "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence,work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." RSV (emphasis added.) We see that justification is an ongoing process involving obedience and the doing of good works. The source of goodness of these good works is the grace that was won for us by Jesus Christ. Further, this verse shows that this grace is not just imputed, that is covering over us, as Protestants contend, but actually infused, that is within us.
Sin is a spiritual disease. God’s grace not only forgives us, but it also heals us of this retched state by removing our sin. To fail to appreciate the power of God’s grace is a mistake. We are not only covered by His righteousness, but we are also filled with His righteousness, His Grace, or in other words His Life. His grace transforms us and makes us righteous. He washes us clean as snow.
Psalm 51:7 (verse 9 in NAB) "…wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." RSV He makes us holy. To be filled with His grace involves picking up our cross and following Him. It means to die to our sins. If we really have faith in God then we believe that His way is best and out of love we choose His way instead of sin. In the book of Revelation we read that in order to enter heaven we must not only have our sins forgiven but we must also be transformed from the inside, by God’s grace, to be pure and without sin. Revelation 21:27 "But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life." ( A person could still be in a state of saving grace if the sins on his soul are not deadly sins. All sin is wrong, but not all sin is deadly. Cf. 1 Jn. 5: 14-17)
1 Corinthians 13:2
"…if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."
If we are justified by "faith alone," then, Saint Paul would have been constrained to say that, if we only have faith, then at least we are justified.
1 Corinthians 9:20-21 "To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law—though not being myself under the law—that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law." RSV
In order to help win their conversion Saint Paul identifies himself with the Jews, who are "under the law" that is, the Old Testament ceremonial laws, even though he, himself was not bound by them. He also identifies himself with the Gentiles who are not bound by these laws. However, he also says that he is bound by the "law of Christ"- which is the moral law of the 10 commandments. So, here we can see the term "the law" being used to mean two different things, the Old Testament ceremonial law, and the law of Christ.
The "law of Christ" is keeping the 10 commandments. 1 John 5:2-3 "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments."
Matthew 19:16-19 "And behold, one came up to him, saying, 'Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?' And he said to him, '… If you would enter life, keep the commandments.' He said to him, 'Which?' And Jesus said, 'You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal…' " RSV
Hebrews 7:11 "Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?"
This quotation from Hebrews is an example of "the law" being used to mean the Old Testament ceremonial ritual law rather than the Moral Law. The Levitical priesthood (see Ex. 32:29, Deut. 9:16, 10:8, and 18:1.) comes after the golden calf incident in Exodus 32. The Moral Law - the 10 commandments - comes before it. Therefore, the "Law," which was received under the Levitical priesthood, can’t mean the moral law. Instead, it means the Old Testament ceremonial ritual laws, e.g. the animal sacrifices, circumcision, dietary and Levitical observances, etc. See Leviticus. Again this illustrates the two different "laws " that the Bible speaks about. (Deuteronomy comes from "deutero" - meaning second, and "nomy" - meaning law.)
Galatians chapter three states how we are justified by faith and not by "works of the law."
Galatians 3:2 "Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?" RSV
From the context of Galatians, see below, we can see that the "works of the Law" refers to the Old Testament ritual laws like circumcision
"I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love."
The Judaizers had claimed that all of the Old Testament rituals, "works of the law," like circumcision were a requirement for Christians. Saint Paul corrects this by contrasting the two types of works. Notice that Saint Paul does not separate faith from good works done in love, that is, with the empowerment of God’s grace.
Romans 3:28 "For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law." NAB
The phrase "
When interpreting Romans 3: 28 we need to find out what Paul means by the phrase "works of the law." We want to consider the context. Paul is talking about "circumcision." He is explaining what circumcision means and what it doesn’t mean. He was correcting the misunderstanding of the Jews of his day who thought that circumcision had assured their justification before God, and was a requirement even for the Gentiles. In Romans 2: 25 through 3:1 he mentions circumcision ten times.
The phrase "works of the law" primarily means the old testament ceremonial laws like circumcision which no longer apply in the New Covenant. [ In a secondary sense it can apply to the whole law when we try to do the work of following it on our own power and apart from the grace that was won for us by Jesus Christ, and apart from His love working in our hearts.]
Following the discussion in chapter 3 Saint Paul gives Abraham’s life, in chapter 4, as an example to prove his point. Again he talks about circumcision over and over. In verses 4: 9 through 4: 12 he mentions it 11 more times and points out how Abraham was not circumcised when he was justified. The phrase "works of the law" is a reference to circumcision and the other out dated ceremonial ritual laws of the Old Testament. Notice what Saint Paul doesn’t say. He doesn’t mention feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or the spiritual works of mercy. He is not talking about good works here. Saint Paul is pre-occupied with the ceremonial laws that were dispensed with at the Council of Jerusalem, and how they are no longer necessary. This truth was in contrast to the Judaizers who were claiming that circumcision and the other Old Testament rituals were still in effect.
Romans 4:3 "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Protestants will look at this verse and contend that it supports their belief in Justification by "faith" apart from obedience to the moral law, that is good works. This is the moment, they contend, that Abraham was first justified. But, if Saint Paul is using Abraham’s life as an example to prove that a person is Justified by Faith alone, apart from obedience, then Saint Paul is wrenching a text out of context and trying to make it prove something contrary to its original meaning. This line of reasoning would have completely backfired with the people to whom he was speaking because they knew the Old Testament like the back of their hand.
Romans 4: 3 is a quote from Genesis 15: 6. However, we read in Hebrews 11: 8-9 "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise." RSV Abraham left his fathers home if Faith and obedience. But, this happens way back in Genesis 12, three chapters before Genesis 15: 6. And from the context in verse two we can see that the author of Hebrews is talking about a saving Faith. Hebrews 11: 1-2 "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval."
From Genesis 12 up to Genesis 15: 6 we see Abraham performing works of obedience to God’s commandments and living a life full of all kinds of good works. Abram is called by God to leave the land of his kinfolk and his father’s house when he is 75 years old in Gen. 12. God gives to him his promise to bless him in verse 2. Chapters 12 through 14 show Abram walking in obedience to the Lord. Abram builds holy altars for the Lord again and again, and invokes the Lord by Name, Gen. 12: 7, 8, and 13:18. God gives him the promised land. And Abram fights the battles of the Lord and defeats the four kings that had beat the five kings and frees his nephew Lot. Also in chapter 14 he worships God with Melchizedek who was a "priest of God the Most High." Melchizedek in turn gives to Abram a blessing. Abram gives him a tithe on everything. All these acts of obedience, or good works, are done in faith before Genesis 15:6.
If Paul is trying to demonstrate that Abraham was justified apart from obedience in Romans 4:3 then Paul’s own example contradicts his point. When Paul says that a person is Justified apart from the "works of the Law," he is not referring to good works but instead the Old Testament ceremonial laws like circumcision. When a Jew was circumcised, that initiated him into the Old Covenant and he was obliged to fulfill all the ceremonial laws, for example, the temple sacrifices, the Jewish Sabbath, and the dietary laws, etc. It is important to note that Abram was not circumcised until Genesis 17 and that is Paul’s point to the Judaizers, that the Gentiles don’t need it.
Romans 3:28 "For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law."
NAB If Paul is not referring to good works by the phrase "works of the law" in Romans 3:28 then by his reference to Abraham in Romans 4:3, he is: A.) respecting the context, B.) drawing proper conclusions from the context, and
C.) supporting the Catholic concept of Justification.
James 2:24 "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." RSV
The Holy Spirit inspired James to give us this teaching on Justification. From the context we can see that James has something different in mind from Romans 3:28 when he is talking about works.
James 2:14-16 "What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?" RSV James is not talking about circumcision or the other ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant. James is talking about the corporal works of mercy, that is good works, works that are a manifestation of God’s grace within us.
Someone might point out that Paul does speak about coveting later on in Chapter 7. However, notice what Paul doesn’t do. He doesn’t dispense us from the law against coveting like he does from the ceremonial laws like circumcision, Sabbathing, and the dietary laws.
Within the past eight or so years, with the help of a recently translated Dead Sea Scroll document, 4QMMT, they have been able to verify that the phrase "works of the Law" is an idiomatic phrase, or a stock formula, meaning Old Testament ceremonial, ritual laws.
Some Protestants understand Justification in the life of the believer as only a past event. Some will even quote John 19:30 "… 'It is finished'; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." and claim that this means that they cannot lose their salvation because it is past tense.
John 19:30 "…It is finished…" The "it" here cannot be a reference to our Justification because we read in Romans 4:25 " …who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification." We saw in Hebrews 11: 9, quoted above, how Abraham’s Justification was on ongoing event in his life. James also makes this same point. James 2:21 "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?" RSV Salvation has past, present, and future aspects in all of our lives. This is why the Bible speaks of it in the past, present, and future tense.
Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved through faith…"
1 Peter 3:21 "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you…"
1 Corinthians 1:18 "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
Galatians 2:17 "But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves are found to be sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? Of course not!"
Matthew 24:13 "But he who endures to the end will be saved." RSV
1 Corinthians 7:18-19
"Was any one at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was any one at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God."
Here, in Corinthians, Saint Paul contrasts the ritual law, circumcision, with the Moral Law of the 10 commandments. What counts is the Moral Law. If he had meant to say that we are justified by faith alone, apart from the good works of keeping the commandments, he would not have spoken this way. The keeping of the commandments is our life long journey of Justification. If we fail in a mortal way, 1 John 5: 16-17, we lose our salvation.
Galatians 5:16,19-22 "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh…19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…" If a person could not lose their salvation the warning would be meaningless. The breaking of these commandments leads a person to hell, (unless he is subsequently renewed by God’s grace. Cf. Jn 20: 21-23, James 5: 13-16, Lk 15: 23-24, and 1 Jn 5: 14-17.)
"... through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations …"
"... but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith ..."
RSV (emphasis added)
Those who wish to separate faith from good works are taking a position that Saint Paul never takes. Saint Paul not only begins but also ends his discourse on faith in the context of obedience. Saint Paul never separates obeying the moral law, from faith. Christ’s obedience of the moral law does not excuse us from obeying it, rather by it He won the grace for us to enable us to obey it.
Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things in him who strengthens me." RSV
Romans 6:15-16 "What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?" RSV
We know that Saint Paul is a Christian (Galatians 2:19-20), but even he points out how he could lose his salvation if he were to turn from the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:27 " …but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." RSV Protestants will contest that the word "disqualified" refers to Paul loosing his extra merit and glory and does not refer to Paul loosing his salvation. So, the key is to prove what this word means. The word "disqualified" is translated from the Greek word "ADOKIMOS" (Strong's # 96.) Saint Paul makes the meaning of this word clear in his second letter to the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 13:5 "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" RSV Here Saint Paul uses the same Greek word "ADOKIMOS" (#96), except here, in English, it is translated as "fail." The context is clear. It refers to people who are without the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Paul is speaking in 1 Cor 9:27 above how he could lose his salvation.
Salvation can be lost.
Imagine a man saying to his wife, "I still love you, I just love these other women so much more." Sin can break this covenant that we make with God.
The story of the Prodigal Son tells how a person can give up his inheritance of everlasting life. Luke 15:32 "But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found."
"Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. … 19 You will say, 'Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.' That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off." RSV
Therefore, this verse teaches that we could fail in kindness, i.e. love, and be cut off, that is lose our salvation.
In the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us in the same measure that we forgive others Matthew 6:12 "And forgive us our debts, [trespasses] As we also have forgiven our debtors; [those who trespass against us.]" The theology of this prayer is not compatible with the Protestant understanding of Justification. Jesus also said in Matthew 18:33-35 " '… and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." RSV
If a person claims that Romans 3: 10-12 teaches "justification by faith alone" apart from good works he is implying that Saint Paul is quoting a verse of the Old Testament contrary to its original meaning. He is also forced to explain away why Saint Paul "contradicts" himself when in Romans chapter 2 he saysRomans 2:6-11 (emphasis added) "For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality."
Such a person would also have to explain away the "contradictions" above such as Romans 16:26 as well as Jesus’s own account of the final judgment inMatthew 25:31-46 "…34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…" RSV and 2 Corinthians 5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body." RSV Whereas the Catholic position shows the harmony of all these scriptural passages. Our justification is solely by God’s grace. Good works, which are only made possible by the saving grace Jesus Christ won for us, are indeed that grace manifested in our lives.
1 Corinthians 13:2-3 " … and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." RSV Now if St. Paul believed that we are saved by faith alone he would have had to say, "If I only have faith at least I am a saved Christian."
Martin Luther misunderstood "good works" and the Catholic Church’s position. He thought that they were like our side of the bargain, the good that we supposedly added to grace and work of Christ. What he did not realize is that "good works" are the grace and work of Christ lived out in us.
Romans 3:28 - "modified by Martin Luther"
28 "For we hold that a man is justified by faith "alone " ? apart from works of law." RSV
Luther’s German translation of the book of Romans 3:28
So [So] halten [hold] wir [we] nun [now] dafür [of], daß [that] der [the] Mensch [mankind] gerecht [righteous or justified] werde [will be] ohne [without] des [the] Gesetzes [Law] Werke [Works], allein [alone] durch [through] den [the] Glauben [Faith].
Now, it is true that Saint Paul says that in order to be Justified we do not need "works of law" - Old Testament ceremonial rituals like circumcision - but Martin Luther intended to say that we don’t need good works either. Martin Luther added the word "alone" to Romans 3:28 in his German translation even though it does not appear in the original Greek.
He admitted that the word is not in the original Greek, but he thought that he was justified in adding it.
James 2:24 says "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." But, Martin Luther did not accept the book of James as the infallible inerrant Word of God because it contradicted his theology. Rather than alter his theology he "just" altered the Bible. In his preface to James he claimed,
"But this James does nothing more than drive to the Law and to its works. Besides, he throws things together so chaotically that it seems to me he must have been some good, pious man, who took a few sayings from the disciples of the Apostles and thus tossed them off on paper…In a word he wanted to guard against those who relied on faith without works, but was unequal to the task." (emphasis added)
For an external link showing Martin Luther’s view on other Sacred Books of the Bible see:
Martin Luther’s view on the Bible.
The Protestant model for Justification is the courtroom, where God declares the guilty criminal innocent. He is still guilty with all of his sins, it is just that they are covered over and God just pretends that the sinner is innocent.
However, when God declares something He causes it to be so. He Created the world with His Word. If God said, "You are a cat," you would start to meow. When God declares us to be Justified He actually makes us Justified.
The Catholic understanding of Justification, as defined at the Council of Trent, Session VI, chapter 4, is the gift of divine sonship. Our heavenly Father shares with us His own Divine Nature. "To father" means to give or to share your nature with your offspring. For example, a man could not adopt, nor could he father, a dog because he could not bequeath his nature to that animal.
1 John 3:1 "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are."
2 Peter 1:4 "… by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature." RSV
The Catholic model for Justification is not the courtroom but the family room, where God adopts us as his sons. The background for our understanding of our Justification is not the Roman courtroom, but instead, the family covenant bonds that God had made with Adam, Noah, and Abraham, Etc. This does not call us to a lesser standard, because a father demands more from his son than a judge does from a defendant. According to the Protestant understanding the guilty criminal is still full of sin. It is just that his sin is covered over and overlooked. Whereas, according to the Catholic understanding God’s grace not only covers over the sin, but it also removes the sin. The sinner is filled with God’s grace and transformed and made clean and whole again by that grace. The Protestant view of Justification is one of legal fiction, where God just pretends that the sinner is cleansed because of Christ, whereas the Catholic view is that of a reality. Our Loving Father adopts us as His sons and makes us holy by putting His Grace within us !
(All scripture verses are from the RSV - Revised Standard Version - unless otherwise noted and all underlining is emphasis added to the original works.)