HOW ARE WE SAVED?

 

JUDEO-CHRISTIAN DOGMA

 

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we are accountable for our actions on earth.  This ancient moral code is embodied in the Ten Commandments given to Moses [1400-1200 B.C.] and in a new covenant foretold by Jewish prophets and fulfilled in the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.  These provide strict guidelines demanding our obedience.  And so the belief is that after death, when we are no longer able to make physical choices, the cleanliness of our conscience will be weighed in judgment.  In consequence of which, we will either be joyously united with our Creator in heaven or separated from Him to suffer the eternal pains of hell.

 

 

                                 

 

Unfortunately from the dawn of humanity beginning with Adam and Eve, we have a propensity to betray our innate sense of right and wrong which forms the basis for all moral law.  In this tradition we believe our voluntary sins stain our souls and remove us from God’s favor.  And because the gulf between us and a supernatural Deity is so immense, no possible restitution that we mere mortals could make, can bridge that divide.

 

Fortunately the Christian good news or gospel is that a loving Creator took pity on us.  In an incredible act of mercy, God became incarnate in Jesus Christ, accepted responsibility for the sins of the world, and in atonement suffered and died on the cross.  The “grace” that Christ thus earned is of sufficient merit to wash away our sins and make us again spiritually pleasing.  And it is this undeserved gift alone that provides a path to God the Father in heaven. 

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT

 

While the Christian message is wonderfully comforting, we must take care lest our exuberance overwhelms our judgment.  In particular, it is irrational in the extreme to twist this bedrock Catholic dogma into the assertion that Christ did absolutely everything necessary for our salvation.  

 

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the distinction is that Catholics would make is

 

Everything Christ did was *necessary* for our salvation but Christ did not do everything that was *necessary*.   Christ’s sacrifice merited a saving grace which is able to wash away our stains of sin.  But while this grace is necessary for salvation, its existence alone is not *sufficient*.   Because absolute moral imperatives exist and we have free will, we have our own part to play.   We are required to avail ourselves of Christ’s grace by choosing to do good rather than evil.  Please note this should not diminish our gratitude for the undeserved and transcendent mercy of God‘s redeeming gift.

 

The alternative Protestant view, from its founder Martin Luther, is that we are morally unshackled to act in any manner that strikes our fancy.  We can lie and steal and covet and murder with impunity and joyous abandon never having to be sorry or intending to stop [1].   Nothing we do has any effective consequence.  In fact, moral codes are rendered meaningless because all our sins, past, present, and future, have been washed away by Christ. 

 

The logical consequences are that unrepentant mass murderers like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin or Mao Tse-tung, or serial killers, or an uncountable host of other villains, all go to heaven regardless of how much they harmed, or intended to do more harm to, tens of millions on earth.  Also it is difficult to understand how this spin could deny any non-Christian of any bent the gift of salvation.

 

Rather the Catholic view is that we will be judged for our mental choices and consequent physical actions in life.  Some of us will be saved but others will not.    Moral codes do exist compelling our actions as in obeying the Ten Commandments or Christ’s instruction to love our neighbor (by good deeds or charity).   Rather Christ’s example and teachings clearly form a coherent moral code.  And Christ’s sacrifice sanctifies our previously unworthy thoughts, words and deeds when we follow in His footsteps.

 

Who could read the Bible or examine their conscience and have any doubt of this?  What kind of society could we create that denied any foundation for social justice?

 

Clearly, Christ did not do everything needed to save us.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOTHING AND SOMETHING SMALL

 

Nevertheless, Protestants would argue, because human capabilities are so much less than God’s, our responsibilities must be less than vanishingly small.  In fact, they must be non-existent because Christ’s grace alone saves us.

 

The utter irrationality of this sophistry is breathtaking. 

 

The point is that if the intangible gift of grace is unconditionally bestowed on everyone, it should not require us to lift a finger.  We should not have to answer the doorbell to sign for it nor express our appreciation.   In keeping with the freely given purity of the supernatural inheritance, it should appear as if by magic on our next bank account balance in heaven.  The entire Bible could be reduced to a single sentence “I died, am risen, and so goodbye, good luck, remember me but do whatever you want, enjoy yourselves, and We’ll see everyone later in heaven!”

 

That this Protestant invention is not supported but rather condemned in the Old Testament, is precisely opposite to the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church from the time of Christ and the Apostles for nearly 1500 years before the Reformation, and is illogical in the extreme, also tends to mitigate against it.   The Judeo-Christian moral code is not non-existent, is not meaningless, and is not intended to be completely ignored.

 

Clearly, we must do something ourselves to be saved.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HAPPY THOUGHTS AND THE TEACHING OF FAITH AND GOOD WORKS.

 

Christ’s unmistakable gospel is that we must abstain from evil acts.  We are clearly instructed to forgive injury, pray for our oppressors, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison, be a Good Samaritan, and in general to honor Christian virtue.  Unfortunately, the road to heaven is a rocky one as we all have a propensity to indulge our disordered appetites with monotonous regularity.

 

Good works are necessary because to do otherwise, even by omission, is a sin.  When we voluntarily decide to act contrary to the teachings and example of Christ’s life, in thought, word, or especially deed, we have voluntarily removed ourselves from God’s favor and Christ’s gift of saving grace.  

 

What ultimately restores us to a union with Christ is the gift of grace attendant on a sincere and heartfelt repenting of our misdeeds.  But simply expressing a belief in Jesus Christ in a superficial feel-good instant of happy thought can hardly be considered sufficiently faithful.   Instead, logically, we must mindfully regret and acknowledge our error, we must make a firm unshakable intention never to relapse, and we must want to somehow make amends while here on earth given the chance.

 

We accept Christ’s grace not just by believing but more importantly in ACTING as He commanded.  Clearly, performing good works, to the extent possible, is an essential part of salvation.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ASKING AND GETTING

 

The question Protestants are not willing to consider, imperiling their immortal souls, is “Can God refuse us grace?”  Just because an opportunity is available does not mean God has lost control of the process and has no discretion whatever.   Just because God’s grace is available, does not mean everyone will get it.  Rather Christ’s own words are that only those who avoid sin, such not failing to do good works, or those who do evil deeds but then honestly repent and make restitution, will be undeservedly gifted Christ’s saving grace.

 

The Protestant requirement that we must somehow expend the effort to “accept” Christ’s grace, whatever that means, in itself “earns” our way into heaven.   Our act of acceptance requires a conscious effort and demands a conscious decision.  Indeed, the very act of reading the Bible to understand the questions requires effort; all of which “buys” a Protestant ticket to paradise.  It is not rational to claim nothing we do matters while at the same time requiring us to do something.  A “trivial requirement” is not “no requirement.” 

 

Protestants on the other hand say all they have to do to be saved is to realize there is nothing they have to do.   Indeed, one popular Protestant narrative, intended to make this illogic palatable, poses the following scenario.

 

Which of the following will be saved?  Is it the felon just released from prison with a new-found and feel-good understanding of the Bible?  Or is it Christian missionaries who have spent a lifetime in selfless service to the poor for the sake of Christ?   The felon is not sorry for his crimes nor does he intend to stop sinning.  He is just happy to suddenly have an infinite supply of free “get out of jail” cards.  On the other hand, the missionaries have a lifetime habit of loving one’s neighbor by ministering to the downtrodden because Christ so commanded.

 

Which of these, at the moment of death, are honestly sorry for their sins and in a loving state of mind to receive saving grace?  Believe it or not, and we find this incredibly painful to witness, some Protestants twist their minds into pretzels by betting on the felon rather than on the missionaries. 

 

Rather the hard truth is that any rational consideration of the issue, any honest examination of conscience, any thoughtful reading of sacred scripture, or any research into the writings of the early Church Fathers instructed by the Apostles, unequivocally demonstrates that all of the following, each and every one, are required to TRULY ACCEPT Christ’s gift of unmerited grace.  

 

We must take pains to study Christ’s message in order to understand it.  We must accept the truth of it.  We must make a real non-fuzzy non-Protestant commitment to act accordingly.  Most difficult of all, we must then actually act. And finally we must repent when we fail.  And truly repenting can only include a confession of error because it is contrary to Christian doctrine as well as personal conscience, a firm commitment not to repeat followed by actually living up to that, and yet another firm intent to make restitution to the extent possible.   And we must repeat this procedure a nearly uncountable number of times as we predictably and repeatedly fail to live up to God’s expectations.

 

The bottom line is that asking for something we don’t deserve is not the same as getting something we don’t deserve.   “Deserving” is not and never was the issue.  We have to believe that an all-powerful God can set standards, even much reduced ones in recognition of man’s limitations; but hopefully always out of love for His creations.  The quip is that “God loves us just the way we are, but much too much to let us stay that way.” 

 

Clearly we must do a great deal to be saved.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT

 

Faith, and the closely related words of belief, trust, and confidence, are all persuasions of the mind assuming the truth or factual accuracy of some assertion without proof.  While faith relates more to a body of knowledge, especially a religious creed, belief is more restrictive suggesting application to a single statement or person.   Trust and confidence have the additional connotation of hoping for a beneficial result such as being made strong or safe.  Confidence can also imply a bold assurance free from worry over unfortunate or unexpected outcomes.

 

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  The proof of Christian commitment is in the very act of physically obeying God’s commandments and in following Christ’s teaching and example.  When we fail to obey the Ten Commandments it is not our faith in their righteousness that fails us but in our will to ACT in the moral manner they require.   We accept the unmerited gift of Christ’s grace which can wash away our sins by our ACTIONS.  And we do this because we have faith in the truth of Christ’s teachings on how to lead our lives.  Christ specifically warns about fuzzy minded Protestant notions of good thoughts alone being somehow sufficient.  On our death bed we must be in a state of mind firmly intending to ACT as Christ commanded.  And we do that most easily by building lifetime habits of so behaving.

 

Unbelievably Protestants claim that one can understand Christ’s message and honestly yearn for salvation, and yet not, AT THE SAME INSTANT, also intend to enjoy the pleasures of sin, however transient and ultimately unfulfilling.  They are deluding themselves.   Indeed our consciences are not disabled when we choose to cut someone off in traffic, to abuse our spouse, to drink to excess, or to indulge in a host of other misdeeds.  We inwardly know, without a doubt, that sins are wrong but we choose to enjoy the moment anyway.   The human propensity to want to have one’s cake and eat it too, is so common a phenomenon as to be undeniable.

 

The thinking is that all we have to do to be saved is to mindfully realize that Christ’s grace saves us and think we might want some of that.  That is they can have their cake and eat it too if they can only believe that Christ died to save us while at the same time enjoying the transient joys of that which they know to be sinful.  Indeed criminal behavior, as differentiated from legally excusable criminal insanity, is defined as purposefully violating one’s conscience.   Among sinners, by definition and as opposed to saints, gratitude for being saved is never a deterrent to sin.

 

The net result is that our sins are not automatically discharged unrelated to our conscious thoughts or intent.  We must truly want to do good deeds and prove that by actually doing so.   Having faith in Jesus means we accept His entire world view without reservation, and act as if we did.  The difficult choice is never between believing Christ is the light, the way and the truth, but rather in acting as if we believed it.

 

Clearly, faith alone is not sufficient to get into heaven.

 

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CHURCH AND A RIBALD RABBLE

 

It does not seem reasonable, that simply believing Christ’s grace saves us, will meliorate our propensity to commit sin in the future.  To truly be accepting of Christ’s gift and having our sins forgiven, it only seems right that we must, in addition, confess our misdeeds, make the honest and difficult intention never to repeat, and try to make amends.   But finally, living as Christ unmistakably taught in the Bible clearly requires we listen to our innate sense of right and wrong and perform good works at every opportunity.   In consequence, advocating that a feckless faith alone can save, is simply a cowardly and self-serving tolerance of sin.

 

Fortunately, during our lifetimes while our supernatural souls are still united with our bodies, Christ’s gift of grace is somehow available to cleanse us of sin and to restore us to a spiritually pleasing or “graceful” condition.   But since our ability to act stops at moment of death, at that instant we are thought to be judged according to the purity of our soul.  If we die wholeheartedly accepting Christ’s message, we are saved. 

 

Unfortunately, a lifetime habit of sin is not so easily and honestly renounced at the last moment of life.  Indeed, deciding to enjoy the dubious pleasures of sin while smugly intending only to repent on one’s death bed, is in itself a sin.   And how does one come to truly repent that decision, of hoping to have one’s cake and eat it too, at the last moment?  And so the path to salvation is not a single good thought or even a single good act but rather a process by which we develop habits of Christian virtue by our thoughts, our words, and especially by our good deeds over a lifetime.  We all instinctively know the truth of this because they instill our lives with meaning and purpose.

 

The sacrament of Baptism comes directly from the Bible.   Jesus honored the tradition by having Himself baptized.

 

Clearly, we need Christ’s Catholic Church to sustain the Faith.

 

THE ENDURING CATHOLIC CHURCH

 

It is not now, nor has it ever been, Catholic dogma that we can buy our way into heaven with good deeds or donations.  That is the sin of simony which was condemned by the Catholic Church in the Edict of Milan (313 A.D.), the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.), the Third Lateran Council (1179 A.D.), and by the Ecclesiastical Council of Trent (1545-63 A.D.), the last of which was inspired in part by its resurgence by a thankfully few renegades and the attendant criticism of Martin Luther and others.  The Catholic Church does not, contrary to some Protestant assertions, sell tickets to heaven.

 

If we have trouble accepting the truth of the Catholic faith, we might ask ourselves these EIGHT questions in an HONEST examination of conscience.

 

“Can we go to heaven in a sinful state or do we have to be perfect as God is perfect?”

“Do our sins have to be forgiven for us to be washed clean and exist in a perfect or complete state?”

“Do we have to be sorry for our sins to be forgiven?”

“Unless we admit our sins and try to make restitution to those we have harmed are we truly sorry?”

“Unless we avoid sins in the future, or firmly intend to, are we truly sorry?”

“Do we avoid sin by obeying the Ten Commandments as God commanded?”

“Do we avoid sin by doing good works, like feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and being charitable to our neighbor as Christ commanded?

 “Do we have to accept the truth of the Bible when it says “You are not saved by faith alone?”

 

Any sincere examination of conscience, unfettered by the prejudice of the outside world to include those around us, can only lead to the truth of Christ’s clear and simple message of love and forgiveness.  And it is this message that was promulgated and sustained ALONE by the Catholic Church for the first 1500 years, often at great sacrifice.

 

Likewise, the necessity for good works could not be more clear.

 

Matthew 22: 36-40

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,

     and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

 

John 14: 15-31

15  If ye love me, keep my commandments.

 

Image result for picture of sheep and goats

 

Matthew 25: 31-46

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit

    upon the throne of his glory:

32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as

     a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the

     kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a

     stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

 

Matthew 7:21

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that

   doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

 

Revelation 20: 12-13

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another

    book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which

    were written in the books, according to their works.

13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which

    were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

 

James 2:14-26

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

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

18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

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?

 

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

 

25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

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

 

Ephesians 2: 8-10

8  For **by grace are ye saved** through faith; and that not of yourselves:

    It [Christ’s unmerited gift of grace] is the gift of God:

9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.   [But HOW do we get this saving grace?]

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before

    ordained that we should walk in them.

 

[ Please note this last verse from Ephesians does not in itself logically demonstrate whether justification is “automatic” or not.  That must stand or fall based on other considerations of the extent of our responsiblities. ]

 

The Bible is also clear that we must be sorry for our sins in order to be saved.

 

1 John 1:9

9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse

   us from all wickedness.

 

Luke 24:47
47  There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.
 
Acts 2:38
38  Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus 
      Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
 
Psalm 7:12-13
12 If a person does not repent, God will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. 
13  He will prepare his deadly weapons and shoot his flaming arrows.
 
2 Peter 3:9
 9  He [the Lord] does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
 
John 3:6, 8-10
 8  No one who lives in [Jesus] keeps on sinning. Anyone who keeps on sinning does not know
     Him or understand who He is.  But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to
     the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the 
     works of the devil.
 9  Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because 
     God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.
10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone 
     who does not live righteously [Please note this it *not* just thinking good thoughts] and 
     does not love other believers, does not belong to God

 

REFERENCES

 

1.      Martin Luther, who was the first Protestant reformer, on Thanksgiving day in 1517 started the revolt against the teachings of the Catholic Church as he himself rationalized in a FEW of his own words:

a)      "A person that is baptized cannot, thou he would, lose his salvation by any sins however grievous, unless he refuses to believe. For no sins can damn him but unbelief alone."  [Reference "The Babylonian Captivity"].

b)      "Be a sinner and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.  We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides...  No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day." [Reference Martin Luther’s letter, “Saemmtliche Schriften”, Letter No. 99, 1 Aug. 1521].

c)      "Do not ask anything of your conscience; and if it speaks, do not listen to it; if it insists, stifle it, amuse yourself; if necessary, commit some good big sin, in order to drive it away. Conscience is the voice of Satan, and it is necessary always to do just the contrary of what Satan wishes."  [Reference Martin Luther’s letters assembled by J. Dollinger, “La Reforme et les Resultants qu'elle a Produits”, translated by E. Perrot, Paris, Gaume, 1848-49, Vol III, pg. 248].

d)      “It is more important to guard against good works than against sin.” [Reference Trischreden, Wittenberg Edition, Vol. VI., p. 160].

e)      "Good works are bad and are sin like the rest." [Reference Martin Luther’s letters assembled by Denifle, “Luther et Lutheranisme, Etude Faite d'apres les Sources”, translated by J. Paquier (Paris, A. Picard, 1912-13), VOl. III, pg. 47].

f)       “There is no scandal greater, more dangerous, more venomous, than a good outward life, manifested by good works and a pious mode of life. That is the grand portal, the highway that leads to damnation." [Reference Martin Luther’s letters from Denifle, “Luther et Lutheranisme, Etude Faite d'apres les sources”, translated by J. Paquier (Paris, A. Picard, 1912-13), VOl. II, pg. 128].

g)      "Peasants are no better than straw. They will not hear the word and they are without sense; therefore they must be compelled to hear the crack of the whip and the whiz of bullets and it is only what they deserve."  [Reference Martin Luther’s letters from “Erlangen”, Vol 24, pg. 294].

h)      "To kill a [Catholic] peasant is not murder; it is helping to extinguish the conflagration. Let there be no half measures! Crush them! Cut their throats! Transfix them. Leave no stone unturned! To kill a peasant is to destroy a mad dog! If they say that I am very hard and merciless, mercy be damned. Let whoever can stab, strangle, and kill them like mad dogs." [Reference Martin Luther’s letters from Erlangen Vol 24, pg. 294].

i)        "I, Martin Luther, have during the rebellion slain all the [Catholic] peasants, for it was I who ordered them to be struck dead. All their blood is upon my head. But I put it all on our Lord God: for he commanded me to speak thus."  [Reference Martin Luther’s letters from Tischreden, “Erlanger Ed.”, Vol. 59. pg. 284].

j)        [I, Martin Luther, instruct you] …to burn down Jewish schools and synagogues, and to throw pitch and sulphur into the flames; to destroy their homes; to confiscate their ready money in gold and silver; to take from them their sacred books, even the whole Bible; and if that did not help matters, to hunt them of the country like mad dogs.  [Reference “Luther’s Works”, vol. Xx, pp. 2230-2632 as quoted in Stoddard JL, “Rebuilding a Lost Faith”, 1922, pg. 99].

APPENDIX : GRACE

 

The Catholic definition of “grace” (from the Greek ”Charis”) in the Bible is the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward rational creatures such as man and also as a supernatural gift proceeding from such disposition.  The essence of the term is its gratuity or unmerited nature as well as being necessary for salvation.  Where on occasion the Bible speaks of grace as a pleasing charm, this is a derived and not a primary usage.   The etymology of the English word is from the Latin “gratia” meaning a favor or a gift freely given.

 

The Bible only uses the term “faith alone” once and then to condemn the concept.   But in Ephesians, the phrase “not of [good] works” appears.   But nothing in this passage says we are saved by faith alone.  Especially it does not lend credence to the assumption that some nebulous appreciation of Christ’s sacrifice for us, absent any admission or confession of wrongdoing, absent any real remorse, absent any intent to reform, or absent any intent to make restitution or pay reparations to those we have harmed, is anywhere near sufficient for the forgiveness of sins; all other considerations aside. To think otherwise is pure sophistry and the road to hell on earth and the hereafter.

 

Notes on this much loved but much misinterpreted passage follows.  That such a short verse could be burdened with such a widespread rejection of Catholic truth is nearly unbelievable.

 

Ephesians 2:8-10

 

 8  For by grace are ye saved through faith;

     and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

 [ NOTES

a.      Grace is necessary for salvation.

b.      Faith is an important ingredient for salvation but not strictly stated to be absolutely sufficient; i.e. it says “through” and NOT “by sole means of”.

c.       The existence of grace is not the result of any human endeavor.

d.      Grace is rather a gift to mankind from God again implying mankind did not or could not earn it. ]

 

 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

[ NOTES

a.      This again emphasizes mankind does not deserve God’s gift of saving grace.   The issue is, and always has been, NOT whether we merit this gift BUT rather how we make use of it by our thoughts, words, intentions, and DEEDS.   And a propensity for sloppy thinking on this essential distinction is not a good excuse.

b.      Note that this also implies that if good deeds or “works” cannot “earn” grace, then neither can faith “earn” grace.  Again grace is a pure gift which by definition is unmerited by anything we mere mortals do or don’t do.  And so especially mankind doesn’t really deserve it.

c.       In particular it does not say whether or not good works are necessary.  The clear meaning of these last two lines is “Grace is a gift whose existence is not strictly merited by mankind”.   These lines clearly do NOT say “Salvation is a gift not requiring works or indeed anything on our part.”  It is important to be precise because the question remains, “What must WE do so that grace can save us?"]

 

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

[ NOTES

a.      Good works are an important ingredient for salvation.

b.      We must do good works as Christ instructed for His sake.

c.       God demands we do good works. ]

 

APPENDIX : WORKS OF THE LAW

 

It is a disingenuous Protestant misinterpretation of the Bible to confound Christ’s command to do “good works” of charity with the “works of the Old Testament Law” which he devalued.  The Jewish nation maintained its identity in no small part by a codified, hightly-structured set of rules and regulations.   The Jewish Talmud counts 611 commandments which with the first two commandments communicated directly from God make a total of 613.   But Christ went beyond the obsessive nitpicking of the old “Law” and made a new covenant with mankind.  His explicit charter to the Apostles was “to go forth and teach all nations.”

 

APPENDIX : FAITH

 

The word “faith” comes from the Latin “fides” and is loosely translated as trust, confidence, reliance, or belief.  As used in the Bible, faith is simply a firm belief, or trust, in the truth of a religious doctrine.  In original language of the Bible, Greek, faith and belief are the same word, and concept.

 

Rather all we have to do is to think happy thoughts.

We have to avoid sin.  And not doing good works is sinful.

 

On the other side of the argument, the Christian truth as maintained by the Catholic Church is that a lack of personal responsibility excuses unmistakable evil and is a violation of everything Christ taught and intended.  The clear teaching is that sin exists and sinners are not pure enough to go to heaven. 

 

In the real world, honestly accepting Christ’s instruction to love our neighbor irrefutably demands a lifetime of determined action and painful praxis.