Justification by ‘Faith Formed in Love’ (Not By ‘Faith Alone’) in the Bible & Early Church Writings.

Leipzig Debate

>> Please click here to read the full Catholic teaching on Justification (CCC, par. 1987-2005)

As has been pointed out by various recent dialogues between Catholic bishop conferences and Lutheran church leaders, much confusion has resulted from protestants and Catholics using different meanings for the same words in regards to their understanding of the ‘doctrine of justification’. (Click this link to go to a great compare/contrast of the language we use in speaking of justification).

For most protestants, justification is a term for a one time event in which God forgives sins and declares (or one could say ‘labels’) a sinner to be just on account of their trusting belief (faith) in the saving work and merits of Jesus Christ.  Though this faith (if genuine) will lead to good works, the works done by the believer do not have any effect on one’s state of justification, only possibly on the ‘heavenly rewards’ that will be received after the final judgement.  The overall emphasis is on what Christ has done for us (‘imputed righteousness’ from outside of us), not within us.

For Catholics, justification is not just a one time event, but a process.  Our ‘initial justification’ occurs when God graciously forgives our sins and ‘pours forth’ his spirit into our hearts.  This normally occurs when we are united to Christ in baptism (according to Scripture and the unanimous consent of the Early Church Fathers). Our ongoing ‘progressive justification’ involves maintaining and increasing this actual change by overcoming the habitual moral weakness of our fallen humanity (‘concupiscence’), which requires us to honestly strive to  cooperate with God’s indwelling Holy Spirit in our daily lives. This cooperation is itself impossible without grace and manifests itself in good works as ‘faith working through love.’ Our ‘final justification’ occurs on the day of final judgement, where our Lord himself and St. Paul both promised that all will be judged according to their deeds.  While affirming what Christ has done for us (outside us), the overall emphasis is on what Christ does within us (‘infused righteousness,’ as St. Paul writes; “…Christ in you, the hope of glory).

Many protestants/evangelicals accuse the Catholic view of being ‘works righteousness,’ as though Catholics think that through their own efforts they ‘earn’ God’s favor and saving blessings. This is a false accusation, as will be shown here from the Council of Trent (which was called in response to the errors of the Protestant Reformation):

“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 which precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification; for if it is by grace, it is not now by works; otherwise, as the Apostle [Paul] says, grace is no more grace” (Decree on Justification 8, citing Rom. 11:6).

Some protestants will admit that Catholic teaching on ‘initial justification’ is not ‘works righteousness,’ but declare that the Catholic understanding of ‘ongoing progressive justification’ is. Hopefully the following passages will illustrate why this is too is not true:

Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2001, 2008 & 2011:

“The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:…”

“…The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.”

“…The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.”

As I gradually came to know  the very sophisticated Catholic view of justification, it was amazing to reread the new testament.  Passages that never fully made sense to me were suddenly clear.  No longer did the words of St. Paul appear to contradict many of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ or the book of James or the epistles of John.  A new and beautiful harmony could be detected underlying all of the passages that previously caused confusion.  I will attempt to share some of these Biblical examples and then show how they were understood in the early Church:

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gospelBiblical Refutations of the Protestant Doctrine of ‘Faith Alone’

 

…The words ‘faith alone’ appear only once in the Bible, in James 2 where it is clearly stated that man is ‘justified by works and not by faith alone.’  It is well known that this passage frustrated protestant forefather Martin Luther so much that called the book of James an ‘epistle of straw’ and he wanted to remove it from the canon or else put in an appendix in the back of the New Testament.  In effort to save the doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’, many protestants will claim that this passage is referring to ‘justification before men, not before God.’  In so doing they twist Biblical terminology by neglecting the clear context of the passage: “What does it profit…if a man says he has faith but has not works? can his faith save him?”  Notice how this passage also stresses that ‘works complete faith’:

  • James 2:14-26: “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? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe — and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.”

…But What about St. Paul’s teaching that we are not justified by ‘works of the law’?

  • Rom. 3:20,28; Gal. 2:16,21; 3:2,5,10; Eph. 2:8-9 – Clearly, none of these passages contradict the Catholic understanding of our initial justification.  Neither due they contradict the understanding of ongoing progressive justification since we don’t believe that anything originating from ourselves ‘earns’ God’s grace or favor.  Yes, our cooperation with God’s grace does further our ongoing progressive justification, but this is not the ‘works of the law’ that St. Paul refers to.  Remember the context in which he writes: he is an apostle to the Gentiles who is continually battling the ‘Judaizer’ heresy of the first century (which demanded gentile believers to obey the Mosaic law). To paraphrase St. Augustine, ‘God graciously crowns his own gifts’ in rewarding us for our cooperation in our ongoing progressive justification.

…Justification is not a one-time event, but a process, as is evident in the account of Abraham’s initial justification in Romans and his ongoing justification as described in James:

  • Romans 4:1-8:  “What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:“Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin.”
  • James 2:21-23:  “Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.”

…Sacred Scripture speaks of sin being actually cleansed/removed/taken away, not merely covered over:

  • John 1:29:  “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
  • Acts 3:19:  “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,”
  •  1 John 1:7-9:  “but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Acts 22:16: And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’”
  • 1 John 3:5-7:  “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:  “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. 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.”                                                                                                                           Notice the order that St. Paul lists when describing the sinner’s transformation into actual righteousness:  ‘But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified…’

…’Justification’ and ‘Sanctification’ are co-dependent in the theology of St. Paul.  As stated in the verse above, formerly we were sinners, but ‘we were washed, we were sanctified, we were justified.’  He goes so far as to explicitly state that we are saved…’by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit…So that we might be justified’:

  • Titus 3:4-8:  “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.The saying is sure.”

…The Justified are ‘new creations’ who have God’s love ‘poured into their hearts.’  The ‘image of God’ is truly being restored in them, and they are ‘being renewed day by day.’  They are no longer ‘slaves to sin,’ and have at least the potential of escaping every temptation.  Jesus Christ lives within them and they are ‘partakers of the Divine nature’ (‘infused righteousness’, not merely ‘imputed righteousness’).  As St. Paul stated above, this ‘renewal in the Holy Spirit’ occurs ‘so that we might be justified by his grace.’  It is an integral part of our actual justification:

  • Romans 1:6-7:  ‘What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be {in the likeness} of {His} resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with {Him}, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.”                                                                                                                                 When St. Paul writes ‘he who has died has been freed from sin,’ he actually uses the Greek word “justified” (dikaioo) where modern translations render the word ‘freed.’  The passage therefore reads ‘he who has died has been justified from sin.’  As protestant scholar E. Sanders points out, the phrase “that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been justified from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7) is paralleled by, “though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart . . . [a]nd having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18) meaning that, “has been justified” is paralleled with “having been set free,” indicating that justification includes being freed from sin (sanctification) in St. Paul’s thought.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17:  “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”
  • Galatians 6:15:  “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16:  “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.”
  • Romans 5:5:  “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
  • 1 Corinthians 3:18:  “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
  •  Ephesians 4:22-23:  “Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
  • Colossians 3:9-11:  “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scyth′ian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all.”
  • 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!”
  • 2 Peter 1:3-4:  “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 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.”

If justification and sanctification do not depend at all on one another (as those who believe in ‘faith alone’ claim), then the following verses would be entirely illogical:

  • 1 Timothy 2:25:  “But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
  • Matthew 6:15: “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

…The purpose of Apostolic Ministry is to bring about the ‘obedience of faith’:

  •  Romans 1:5: ‘…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,’
  • Romans 16:26: but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith…’

…Obedience is a matter of ‘working out’ our salvation, as ‘God is working within us’:

  • 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.”

…Without obedient love, faith does not profit us:

  • John 15:6,10: “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, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:2: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
  • Galatians 5:5-6: “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.”
  • John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
  • Hebrews 5:9: “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”
  • 1 John 2:3-6:  “And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments.  He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected.  By this we may be sure we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8: “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know Godand on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
  • Acts 10:34-35: ‘So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’

…St. Paul is comfortable in using the terms ‘belief’ and ‘obedience’ synonymously:

  • Romans 10:16: ‘But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

…Real personal righteousness in needed to see God and enter Heaven, not a mere declaration of innocence:

  • Revelation 21:27: “But nothing unclean shall enter it [Heaven], nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood…”
  • Hebrews 12:14: “strive… for the holiness without which one cannot see God.”
  • Matthew 18:1-4: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Matthew 5:48: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
  • 1 John 3:5-7:  “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous.”

…The way we live effects whether or not we ‘abide in Christ’ and will be forgiven of our sins:

  • John 15:6,10: “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, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
  • Matthew 6:15: “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
  • Matthew 5:29-30: “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”
  • Ephesians 5:5: “Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
  • 1 John 3-6:  “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
  • Luke 14:33: “So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
  • Matthew 19:16-21: “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, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • 1 John 5:16-17: “If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.”
  • Galatians 5:19-21: “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.”
  • In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus warns the Church of La-odice’a,  “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”
  • Hebrews 10:26-29: “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?
  • 1 Corinthians 9:26-27: “Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:8-12: “We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:18-20: “This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenae’us and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
  • 1 Timothy 6:9-12: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.”
  • 2 Peter 2:20-22: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.”

…All will be judged according to their works, not just for heavenly rewards (as protestants often claim), but also for whether one is worthy of either heaven or hell.  Nowhere in Scripture does it state that the believer will be personally judged according to Jesus’ deeds instead of his or her own deeds:

  •  Revelation 20:12-13: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.”
  • Matthew 7:19-23: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. “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. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? ‘And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’
  • Mathew 12:36: “I tell you, on the day of judgement men will give account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • Matthew 25:31-46: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 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, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’… Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me… And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
  • John 5:28-29: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.
  • Romans 2:6-8: “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.”
  • 2 Corinthians 11:15: “…Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
  • Colossians 3:23-25: “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
  • 1 Peter 1:14-17: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 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.”

…In preparation for heaven, the Church is clothed with the righteous deeds of the saints (which we know the ‘righteousness of Christ’ has worked within them):

  • Revelation 19:7-8:  “for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

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Refutations of the Protestant Doctrine of Justification by ‘Faith Alone’ in the Early Church Writings

(most quotes from Dave Armstrong’s ‘Biblical Evidence for Catholicism’ Blog)

pope st Clement1Pope St. Clement of Rome (c. 95 A.D.)

…Many protestants assert that Clement taught their notion of justification by ‘faith alone’ based upon the first quote here, but by reading the rest of the quotes, you will see that this 1st century pope taught what the Catholic Church has always taught; it is through God’s grace that we are justified, not our efforts apart from him, though our continued efforts in union with him are necessary for salvation.

“All these [kings, princes, rulers, priests, and Levites that descended form Abraham] therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” -(Letter to the Corinthians)

“Take care, dear friends, lest his many benefits turn into a judgment upon all of us, as will happen if we fail to live worthily of him, and to do harmoniously those things which are good and well-pleasing in his sight . . . It is right, therefore, that we should not be deserters of his will.” (Letter to the Corinthians / First Clement, 21: 1, 4)

“Since, therefore, all things are seen and heard, let us fear him and abandon the abominable lusts that spawn evil works, in order that we may be shielded by his mercy from the coming judgments. For where can any of us escape from his mighty hand? And what world will receive any of those who desert him?” (Letter to the Corinthians / First Clement, 28: 1-2)

“Let us therefore join with those to whom grace is given by God. Let us clothe ourselves in concord, being humble and self-controlled, keeping ourselves far from all backbiting and slander, being justified by works and not by words. “(Letter to the Corinthians / First Clement, 30: 3)

“Let us therefore make every effort to be found in the number of those who patiently wait for him, so that we may share in his promised gifts. But how shall this be, dear friends? If our mind is fixed on God through faith; if we seek out those things which are well-pleasing and acceptable to him; if we accomplish those things which are in harmony with his faultless will, and follow the way of truth, casting off from ourselves all unrighteousness and lawlessness, covetousness, strife, malice and deceit, gossip and slander, hatred of God, pride and arrogance, vanity and inhospitality. “(Letter to the Corinthians / First Clement, 35: 1-5)

“Let us, therefore, join with the innocent and righteous, for these are the elect of God.” (Letter to the Corinthians / First Clement, 46: 4)

“Blessed are we, dear friends, if we continue to keep God’s commandments in the harmony of love, that our sins may be forgiven us through love. For it is written: “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will reckon no sin, and in whose mouth there is no deceit.” (Letter to the Corinthians / First Clement, 50: 5-6)

“[S]urely will the one who with humility and constant gentleness has kept without regret the ordinances and commandments given by God be enrolled and included among the number of those who are saved through Jesus Christ, through whom is the glory to him for ever and ever. Amen.” (Letter to the Corinthians / First Clement, 58: 2)

Saint_Ignatius_of_AntiochSt. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop (d.c. 110 A.D.)

“[T]hose who profess to be Christ’s will be recognized by their actions. For the Work is not a matter of what one promises now, but of persevering to the end in the power of faith.” (Letter to the Ephesians, 14:2)
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justinSt. Justin Martyr, apologist (c. 155 A.D.)
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“[E]ach man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions.” (First Apology, Chapter XII)
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“[F]or not those who make profession, but those who do the works, shall be saved, according to His word: “. . . (First Apology, Chapter XVI)
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“So that if they repent, all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God: . . . not as you deceive yourselves, and some others who resemble you in this, who say, that even though they be sinners, but know God, the Lord will not impute sin to them . . . how can the impure and utterly abandoned, if they weep not, and mourn not, and repent not, entertain the hope that the Lord will not impute to them sin? (First Apology, Chapter CXLI)
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SaintIrenaeus- 2St. Irenaeus, bishop (d. 202 A.D)
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“God has given that which is good, and those who do it will receive glory and honor because they have done good when they had it in their power not to do so. But those who do not do it will receive the just judgment of God, because they did not do good when they had it in their power to do so. “(Against Heresies, IV, 37, 1; commenting on Romans 2:7)
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“This able wrestler, therefore [having just cited Paul in 1 Cor 9:24-27], exhorts us to the struggle for immortality, that we may be crowned, and may deem the crown precious, namely, that which is acquired by our struggle, but which does not encircle us of its own accord “. . . (Against Heresies, IV, 37, 7)
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“[T]he ungodly and unrighteous and wicked and profane among men [shall go] into everlasting fire; but [he] may, in the exercise of his grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept his commandments, and have persevered in his love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their penance, and may surround them with everlasting glory” -(Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).

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Clement_alexandrinSt. Clement of Alexandria, theologian (d. 215 A.D.)
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“[W]hen we hear, “Thy faith hath saved thee,” we do not understand Him to say absolutely that those who have believed in any way whatever shall be saved, unless also works follow . . . No one, then, can be a believer and at the same time be licentious . . . those that have been glorified through righteousness.” (Stromata / Miscellanies, Chapter XIV)
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hippolytusSt. Hippolytus of Rome,  bishop / martyr (d. 236 A.D.)
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“He, in administering the righteous judgment of the Father to all, assigns to each what is righteous according to his works . . . the justification will be seen in the awarding to each that which is just; since to those who have done well shall be assigned righteously eternal bliss, and to the lovers of iniquity shall be given eternal punishment.” (Against Plato, 3)
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OrigenOrigen, theologian (d. 254 A.D.)
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“[B]elievers are to be instructed not to think that it is enough merely to believe; they ought to realize that the just judgment of God will reward each one according to his works.” (Commentary on Romans [2:5])
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“Let no one think that someone who has faith enough to be justified and to have glory before God can at the same time have unrighteousness dwelling in him as well.” (Commentary on Romans [4:2])
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cyprian-of-carthage0012St. Cyprian of Carthage, bishop (d. 258 A.D.)
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“There is need of righteousness, that one may deserve well of God the Judge; we must obey His precepts and warnings, that our merits may receive their reward.” (On the Unity of the Church, 16)
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LactantiusLactantius, advisor to Constantine I (d. 320 A.D.)
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“[W]e may either lose that true and eternal life by our vices, or win it by virtue.” (Divine Institutes, 7:5)
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HilaryofPoitiers-790x480St. Hilary of Poitiers, bishop (d. 368 A.D)
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“Election, therefore, . . . is a distinction made by selection based on merit. (“On Psalm 64 [65], section 5)
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athanasiusSt. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (d. 373 A.D.)
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“[E]ach one will be called to judgment in these points–whether he have kept the faith and truly observed the commandments. “(Life of Antony)
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Basil_of_CaesareaSt. Basil the Great, bishop of  Caesarea (d. 379 A.D.)
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“In like manner they which have grieved the Holy Spirit by the wickedness of their ways, . . . shall be deprived of what they have received, their grace being transferred to others; . . . meaning complete separation from the Spirit.” (De Spiritu Sancto, chapter 15)
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It is yours according to your merit to be “ever with the Lord” . . . (De Spiritu Sancto, Chapter 28)
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St._Gregory_of_Nyssa,_prothesisSt. Gregory of Nyssa, bishop (d. 394 A.D.)
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“[F]aith without works of justice is not sufficient for salvation “. . . (Homilies on Ecclesiastes, 8)
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ambrose of milanSt. Ambrose of Milan, bishop (d. 397 A.D.)
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“Nor again is any one more blessed than he who is sensible of the needs of the poor, and the hardships of the weak and helpless. In the day of judgment he will receive salvation from the Lord, Whom he will have as his debtor for the mercy he has shown. “(On the Duties of the Clergy, Book I, 11, 39)
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“But the sacred Scriptures say that eternal life rests on a knowledge of divine things and on the fruit of good works.” (On the Duties of the Clergy, Book II, 2, 5)
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john_chrysostomSt. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople (d. 407 A.D.)
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“Is it then enough,” saith one, “to believe on the Son, that one may have eternal life?” By no means. . . . let us not suppose that the (knowledge) spoken of is sufficient for our salvation . . . Since though he has said here, “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life,” . . . yet not even from this do we assert that faith alone is sufficient to salvation. And the directions for living given in many places of the Gospels show this.” (Homily XXXI, 1, On John 3:35-36)
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“Here Paul stirs up those who had fallen away during the persecutions and shows that it is not right to trust in faith only. For God’s tribunal will demand deeds as well. “(Homilies on Romans, 5; commenting on Romans 2:7; Bray, 59)
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“Hence I beseech you, let us be zealous in practicing those very deeds (by no other way, in fact, is it possible to be saved) “. . . (Homilies on Genesis 47,18; commenting on Romans 2:13)
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“For what he saith is this, “Your salvation is not our work alone, but your own as well; . . . for not through believing only cometh your salvation, but also through the suffering and enduring the same things with us. “(Homily on the Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians; on 2 Cor 1:6-7; speaking as if from St. Paul’s perspective)
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“[L]et us have a regard for our own salvation, let us make virtue our care, let us rouse ourselves to the practice of good works, that we may be counted worthy to attain to this exceeding glory, in Jesus Christ our Lord” . . . (Homily IV on Ephesians 2:10)
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jeromeSt. Jerome, priest / theologian / historian (d. 420 A.D.)
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“God created us with free will, and we are not forced by necessity either to virtue or to vice. Otherwise, if there be necessity, there is no crown. As in good works it is God who brings them to perfection, for it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that pitieth and gives us help that we may be able to reach the goal.” (Against Jovinian, Book II, 3)

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Theodore of Mopquestia, bishop (d. 428 A.D.)
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“Paul . . . said it in order to counter those who concluded from this that anyone who wished to could be justified simply by willing faith.” (Pauline Commentary From the Greek Church; commenting on Romans 3:28)
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Saint_Augustine_by_Philippe_de_ChampaigneSt. Augustine of Hippo, bishop / theologian (d. 430 A.D.)
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“But if someone already regenerate and justified should, of his own will, relapse into his evil life, certainly that man cannot say: “I have not received’; because he lost the grace he received from God and by his own free choice went to evil. “(Admonition and Grace [c. 427], 6,9)
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“Now, if the wicked man were to be saved by fire on account of his faith only, . . . then faith without works would be sufficient to salvation. But then what the apostle James said would be false.” (Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love, Chapter XVIII, paragraph 3)
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“Unintelligent persons, however, with regard to the apostle’s statement: “We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law,” have thought him to mean that faith suffices to a man, even if he lead a bad life, and has no good works. “(A Treatise on Grace and Free Will; Chapters 18)
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“[E]ven those good works of ours, which are recompensed with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, . . . the apostle himself, after saying, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast;” saw, of course, the possibility that men would think from this statement that good works are not necessary to those who believe, but that faith alone suffices for them . . . “Not of works” is spoken of the works which you suppose have their origin in yourself alone; but you have to think of works for which God has moulded (that is, has formed and created) you. . . . grace is for grace, as if remuneration for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God “shall reward every man according to his works.” (A Treatise on Grace and Free Will; Chapter 20)
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“Wherefore, even eternal life itself, which is surely the reward of good works, the apostle calls the gift of God . . . We are to understand, then, that man’s good deserts are themselves the gift of God, so that when these obtain the recompense of eternal life, it is simply grace given for grace. Man, therefore, was thus made upright that, though unable to remain in his uprightness without divine help, he could of his own mere will depart from it.” (Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love, chapter 107)
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“This must not be understood in such a way as to say that a man who has received faith and continues to live is righteous, even though he leads a wicked life. “(Questions 76.1; commenting on Romans 3:28)
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“He who made you without your consent does not justify you without your consent. He made you without your knowledge, but He does not justify you without your willing it.” (Sermons, 169, 3)
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“Someone says to me: “Since we are acted upon, it is not we who act.” I answer, “No, you both act and are acted upon; and if you are acted upon by the good, you act properly. For the spirit of God who moves you, by so moving, is your Helper. The very term helper makes it clear that you yourself are doing something.” (Sermons 156, 11)

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