For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God.
~ Ephesians 2:8, NAB
Today’s verse actually caused me to do a little research. Not because I was confused on its meaning, but more that I wanted others who aren’t Catholic to understand what the Catholic Church REALLY teaches about grace/faith/works.
Before I became a Catholic I believed that all Catholics thought they had to earn their salvation. I remember thinking that was so stupid—“the bible clearly states that if I believe with my heart and confess with my mouth Jesus is lord then I am saved.” I was wrong and the crazy thing is most Protestants don’t truly believe that nonsense either. The funny thing is Catholics and Protestants believe the same thing; it’s just that each group says it differently.
It is ONLY by the grace of God that we have faith in our salvation. It is through the good works that we do, that we demonstrate that faith. You see, it’s not a matter of faith vs. works. Sadly, that’s where the dialog gets all messy. Catholics do not participate in all of our rituals because we think our works will save us. Far from it! We go to mass, confession, pray the rosary, abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, and receive communion and all of our other traditions so as to demonstrate our faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. These things won’t save us—it is the grace of God and the blood of Christ that saves us.
Interestingly enough, Protestants do the same things to demonstrate their faith in Christ’s sacrifice—attend church, meet for bible studies, do missions work, tithe, etc., etc., etc. All of us Christians do some kind of works to show our faith in Christ, not to earn our salvation. In the book of James, there is a verse that makes this perfectly clear:
Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?
~ James 2:24, The Message
We are called to put our faith into action. Protestants do it, Catholics do it—we live our faith BY doing good works. The author further makes the point in verse 20:
Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?
~ James 2:20, The Message
The final point is this, we cannot separate faith and works—they must go hand-in-hand. ALL Christians are not saved by works and faith is not enough for salvation, but by God’s grace we receive faith that we put into action with our good works. Let’s come together and remember we are all serving the same lord…Jesus Christ.