Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #56

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

A quick comment on last week’s newsletter…about the email that’s making the rounds saying that Psalm 118 is the exact middle of the Bible and so on. I received an email from someone who said that he and a friend actually counted the chapters and such, and found that whoever originally sent the email, was a bit off in their calculations. I suspected that might be the case, but there was no way I was going to take the time to count…I’m glad someone did though. But, again, even if the numbers are not made up, it still doesn’t matter…they’ve left 7 books out of the Bible.

If you would like some really good Catholic apparel – t-shirts and such with good Catholic messages on them – for yourself or your kids, I suggest you check out www.RomanticCatholic.com. They have some excellent designs on short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts. They have one that is a very clever take-off of the iPod commercials, but it is called iPray and it is about praying the Rosary. You really need to see it.

I’ll be leaving tomorrow for Steubenville. I am speaking at the “Defending the Faith” Conference on Saturday. If any of you are attending the conference, please come by and say “Hello,” I’d love to see ya.


I still haven’t heard back from Matthew Janzen regarding my last reply in our debate on whether or not Jesus is indeed God. Hopefully, I’ll hear something back from him in the next few days and we’ll be able to continue the debate in the next issue.

In the meantime, I thought I would just do a short reflection on why, from a purely scriptural standpoint, Catholics believe that while salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, faith and works are both necessary responses to God’s grace.


Ephesians 2:8-9, “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.”

“Amen!” says the Catholic. We are saved by God’s grace and by God’s grace alone! It is not by works. It is not even by faith that we are saved. It is by God’s grace and God’s grace alone. Now, as this passage mentions, it is by God’s grace “through faith”, but it is not our faith that actually saves us. As the Council of Trent stated, nothing that comes before justification, whether faith or works, merits the grace of justification. Justification, salvation, is a free gift of God’s grace.

The fact that we believe, as Catholics, that salvation is a free gift from God and that we do absolutely nothing to merit this salvation, is nowhere better evidenced than in our practice of infant baptism. We believe that, through baptism, we receive salvation. The fact that infants can receive this gift of salvation through baptism is proof that we believe salvation is by God’s grace alone. An infant cannot perform works and cannot make a profession of faith. But, through the faith of the parents, the child, upon being baptized, receives salvation…he is saved.

1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism, which corresponds to this [Noah and his family being saved through water], now saves you…” And, in Titus 3:4-7, “…but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 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, which He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”

“Baptism…now saves you.” That is a direct quote from 1 Peter 3:21. Baptism saves us. Also, the passage from Titus backs up what we believe – “[God} saved us…by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit…so that we might be justified by His grace.” What is the “washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit”? Baptism. John 3:5, “…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Baptism. What happens in all 4 accounts of Jesus’ baptism (John 1:31-34; Luke 3:21-22; Mark 1:9-11; Matt 3:16-17)? After Jesus is baptized with water, the Holy Spirit descends upon Him. Water and the Spirit…Baptism.

So, what do we see quite clearly from Scripture? We see that Baptism involves water and the Spirit. We see that through Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit. Through baptism we are regenerated (Titus 3:5) or “born again” (John 3:3). Through Baptism we are saved. All by God’s grace alone. That is what we, as Catholics, believe.

But, salvation does not stop there. Unlike those who believe in once saved always saved, we do not believe salvation is a one-time event. We believe salvation is a process. That it is like running a race. We believe that after one’s initial justification – by God’s grace alone, through Baptism – one must continue to “abide” in Christ in order to be saved in the end. We believe one can lose their salvation by what they do or by what they don’t do. We believe that after one starts the race, they can indeed lose it.

So, we cannot earn our salvation by the works we do, or by the faith we have, but we can lose it if we do not do keep our faith and do not do the works that God requires of us. We can lose our salvation if we do not abide in Christ through our faith and works.

John 6:56, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in me, and I in him.” We must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to abide in Him…whether you interpret that in a literal sense or in a symbolic sense, it is still something we must do…a work…in order to abide in Christ.

John 15:4-6,10, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned…If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…”

If you do not abide in Christ…if you do not bear good fruit and do not keep His commandments, what happens? You are cut off from Christ, wither, and are thrown into the fire to be burned. In other words, you lose your salvation. But, if you do bear good fruit and you do keep His commandments, you abide in Christ and are saved. But, what does it say about producing good fruit? It says the branches (us) cannot bear good fruit by themselves, it is only by being attached to the vine (the Body of Christ) that we can bear good fruit. Which is exactly the point I labored, apparently in vain, to convey to Joe Mizzi in our debate (see Issues #28-31 on the “Newsletter” page of the website).

All that is necessary to produce good fruit comes through the vine, but, the vine doesn’t do it alone…the vine produces fruit through the branches. What, then, is the difference between the branches that produce good fruit and those that don’t? Is it the vine? No. The vine is the same. So, the difference lies with the branches. Some branches cooperate with the vine…cooperate with the grace provided by Christ…allow Christ to work through them…and some branches don’t. So, as Catholics, we are very much in tune with Scripture when we say that, as branches of the vine, our good works are necessary for salvation, but they do not earn us salvation. In other words, we are not branches of the vine because of our good works, but we will not remain branches of the vine if we do not produce good works (fruit). It’s all right there in the Bible.

1 John 2:6, “…he who says he abides in Him, ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” We have to walk in the same way that Jesus walked in order to abide in Him. Sounds like a series of works, doesn’t it?

1 John 3:23-24, “And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. All who keep His commandments abide in Him, and He in them.” Believing and loving (faith and works). Keeping the commandments (works), enables us to abide in Christ. And we must abide in Christ in order to be saved.

1 John 4:15-16, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Faith and love (works) allow us to abide in God and He is us.

2 John 9, “Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son.” Abiding in correct doctrine (which falls into the works category) allows us to abide in Christ. If we do not abide in correct doctrine, we do not have God…we are not saved.

1 Tim 4:1, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” We can depart from the faith…not abide in Christ…if we give heed to the doctrines of demons. Again, as we just saw in 2 John, believing or not believing certain doctrines causes us to “not have God.”

I guess that’s enough on “abiding” to show that the Scripture is very clear that we must abide in Christ…remain in Christ…in order to be saved, and that it is through faith and works that we abide in Christ. And, I hope I have shown, particularly from John 15 that while we do not become branches of the vine because of our works, we do, however, remain branches of the vine because of our works (fruits). In other words, we are not justified because of our good works, but we can lose our justification if we do not do the good works that God has prepared for us beforehand “that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). But, again, we can only produce fruit…do the works…by the grace of God. It is not us working, but Christ working in us and through us for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). We, however, have to cooperate with…we have to work with…God’s grace in order for the fruit to be produced. We can block Christ from working in us and through us and we can block Him from producing good fruit.

What I want to do now is give you a number of other Scripture verses that show the importance of works in the process of our salvation:

Heb 12:14, “Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness whithout which no one will see the Lord.” We won’t see the Lord if we aren’t holy, and we won’t be holy unless we strive for it. And listen to what it says just a few verses earlier:

Heb 12:10-11, “…but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” God’s discipline yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 13:4, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous.”

James 1:22, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

James 2:14, “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?”

James 2:20, “Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?”

James 2:24, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

James 2:26, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.”

1 Ptr 1:17, “And if you invoke as Father Him Who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.”

Phil 2:12, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

1 Ptr 3:10-11, “He that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do right.”

Romans 2:6-7, “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.”

1 John 3:17, “…he who does the will of God abides for ever.”

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.”

1 John 3:17, “If any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

James 2:15-17, “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? So faith, by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

1 Tim 5:8, “If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Matt 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Matt 18:23-25 “…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.”

Matt 25:14-30; and 31-46. The first set of verses is the parable of the talents. The servants who have faith in their master and do something with what he has given them “enter into the joy of their master.” However, the one servant who had faith in his master but did not do anything with what his master had given him…provided no return…produced no fruit…got tossed into the outer darkness. And this parable of the talents is immediately followed up with a description of the Last Judgment. Those who feed the poor, clothe the naked, etc. inherit the kingdom. Those who do not do these things, go into the eternal fire.

Luke 9:23, “If an man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

I could go on and on and on, but I think we see a very clear connection, in Scripture, of the relationship between faith and works and salvation. God’s free gift of salvation is by His grace alone. However, we have to respond to this free gift with not just faith, but works, as well. As it says in James 2:26, both faith and works are necessary for life. God gives us the free gift, but we have to open the gift and put it to use. We do that through faith and works, not just faith alone. Or, as Galatians 5:6 puts it, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.”

In Conclusion

Well, that turned out to be a little longer than I thought. As always, your comments are welcomed and will all be read.

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Apologetics for the Masses