the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
Sola gratia! Grace
alone -- but a grace we have to co-operate with. Thinking that all one has
to do is pray the "Sinner's Prayer" once to be saved is wrong. Thinking that
all one has to do is be a "good person" to be saved is wrong.
It takes more than simply knowing Jesus is the Messiah to be saved; even the Evil One knows Who Christ is.
The Bible and the Catholic Church don't separate the "works of faith," preceded and caused by grace, from salvation (see relevant Scripture below) You can have all the faith in the world, enough to move mountains, but if you don't have charity, you are nothing:
I Corinthians 13:2 2
The Catholic Church
and Her Bible condemn the idea that one can work his way to Heaven on his
own merit or that God "owes" a person for doing the right things.
The pastor, almost completely misunderstanding Catholicism but who has an entire ministry devoted to "saving Catholics", responded in part by saying:
that's what Catholics have been saying all along!
As to "personal
relationship with Jesus, " think of the great Saints -- everyone from
Thérèse de Lisieux to St. Francis -- are these people not "born
again" in the Protestant sense of "having a deep relationship with Christ"
while still remaining 100% believers in traditional Catholic doctrine? Read
about the life of St. Patrick and then talk to me about a "personal relationship"
with Jesus that some Protestants think Catholics just don't understand.
What of our holy martyrs like Maximilian Kolbe or Nikolaus Gross, murdered by Nazis because of the virtue compelled by their Catholic faith? What about Joan of Arc, martyred for her refusal to deny the divine origins of the voices that led her to defeat the English? If you want "personal relationship with Jesus," read the writings of St. Teresa of Avila or St. John of the Cross!
Have you been saved?
Another question Catholics often hear is, "Have you been saved?" Catholics, though, don't see eternal salvation as a one-time event that one can pinpoint and relate to others by saying, for example, "I was saved at 5:30 pm on 23 October 1988 when I got on my knees and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior." We think of salvation, ultimately, as a process that is begun with faith and Baptism (or just Baptism in the case of infants) and is then "worked out" (Phillipians 2:12) as we endeavor to "put on Christ." Additionally, we don't see salvation as something that can't be lost (2 Peter 2:20-21). Even St. Paul himself, the one who did more than anyone else to spread the Gospel, wasn't sure of his own salvation. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Who are we to be
more "sure of our salvation" than the Apostle Paul?
Most Catholics, of course, are able to speak of specific events such as the first time they truly "got it" that Jesus is Lord or that the Church and its Scriptures are true; many are able to tell specific stories of experiences of the Holy Spirit. Many have wonderful stories of healings, consolation, and miracles. But to speak of "having been saved," in the past tense, is something we tend not to do unless we are speaking about our Baptism, at which time we were first justified. We speak, instead, of "being saved," in the present tense, as we obey Him after Baptism and endeavor to keep accepting the gift of salvation which we could never earn on our own.
Many Protestants tend to see salvation in legal terms: "I believe, therefore, I am saved because that is God's promise to me. As long as I believe, I can't lose my salvation because the terms of the contract are that I simply believe and I will be saved." Catholics see salvation more in terms of kinship, our adoption into God's very family, our becoming, literally, true children of God and inheriting Christ's sonship through Jesus' sacrifice. We see "working out our salvation" as those things we, inspired by the Holy Spirit, are called to do as children of God, in the same way that a child honors an earthly parent -- and we see God's gift of eternal salvation to us as an inheritance from our Father rather than a "pay-off" for having fulfilled a "contract" by a simple assertion of faith. And as a father can "disinherit" a child if that child no longer treats him as father and freely walks away from his inheritance, so our Father in Heaven can "disinherit" those who don't treat Him as Father (Romans 11:22; Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Peter 3:17-18). For more in-depth information, read the transcript of this debate on "justification" between Scott Hahn, Catholic and former Presbyterian minister, and Dr. Robert Knudson of Westminster Seminary.
So, here's how
a Catholic would answer the standard questions from Protestants:
|Q.||Have you been "born again"?|
|A.||Yes, when we are baptized, we are "born again of water and Spirit" (John 3).|
|Q.||Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?|
are good Catholics and have a deep personal relationship with Jesus by trusting
in Him and receiving His Sacraments. Other Catholics are mere "cultural
Catholics" who call themselves "Catholic" because they were baptized once,
but don't believe what Christ's Church teaches or don't have the will to
practice what His Church commands. Such Catholics are "dead members" of the
Church and must be restored by faith and the Sacraments.
|Q.||Have you been "saved"?|
Those Catholics who have faith and obey the will of the Father are being saved, by the grace of Christ alone. Catholics who don't have faith and don't obey the will of the Father will not be saved unless they repent and begin to have faith and keep the commandments.
If you were to die tonight, do you know for an absolute certainty that you would go to Heaven?
No more than St. Paul did when he wrote to the people of Corinth. But we do have the assuredness of knowing that God keeps His promises, that He is good and merciful and just, and that He so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son so we might not perish but have everlasting life if we believe, repent, obey, and trust in Jesus.
|Q.||By what means are we saved?|
|A.||By the grace of Christ Whose Blood was poured out for us at Calvary. This Sacrifice is the only means of salvation; by Christ and Christ alone may a man be saved. There is no other way to the Father.|
Why was His Sacrifice necessary? Why did He have to die?
God is infinite Justice and Perfection. Because He is infinite, our sins offend Him infinitely. There is such a chasm between God in His vast perfection and us in our creaturely weakness that nothing we could do could possibly assuage Him for our offenses. But as much as we deserve death, He loves us still and wants us with Him for eternity. In order to restore His honor and maintain the perfection of His justice, there had to be an infinite Sacrifce of appeasement. So, God Himself took on flesh by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary and became man, not only to teach us with His words, but to save us with His Blood. Only God Himself could save us from the effects of our offending Him because we are so imperfect and weak.
What must we do to accept the fruits of this Sacrifice and be saved?
In three words,
"Believe, repent, and obey." We must:
Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
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.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
For many are called, but few are chosen.
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them. And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
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.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit [Baptism]. You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.' [This entire chapter is about baptizing, John the Baptist, "ceremonial washing", etc.]
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
God will render to every man according to his WORKS.
For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the DOERS of the law shall be justified.
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. [Note that the verbs here are in the past tense; Paul is undoubtedly referring to those who've died in a state of grace and whose justification and santification have been completed. And don't read this verse out of context of the one that came 12 verses before it -- Romans 8:17, which says that our glorification depends on our suffering along with Christ, and Matthew 22:14 that says "For many are called, but few are chosen." Being "called" doesn't mean automatic justification.]
For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graff them in again. [In other words, you're "grafted in," a part of the New Covenant -- but don't brag because you can be cut off]
1 Corinthians 6:9
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind [It doesn't say "unless these people have had the experiences of "feeling saved" or having been born again.]
1 Corinthians 9:27
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. [Even Paul wasn't sure of his own salvation!]
I Corinthians 10:8-12
Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. [NIV: "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!"]
I Corinthians 13:2
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. [Charity is greater than Faith!]
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which WORKETH BY LOVE.
For 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.
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of [lacking in] the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church. [the NKJV and the NIV translate this last part accurately as: "and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church."]
1 Thessalonians 1:3
Remembering without ceasing your WORK OF FAITH, and LABOUR OF LOVE, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
2 Thessalonians 1:11
Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the WORK OF FAITH with power:
1 Timothy 5:8
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. [RSV: "...worse than an unbeliever." What is being said here is that "believing" is not enough!]
1 Timothy 6:17-19
Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
2 Timothy 2:12
If we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
2 Peter 2:20-21
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. [the Greek word for knowledge here is epignosei, which means a knowledge from experience, not just intellectual knowledge, which would be oida. In other words, the people being talked about here "knew Christ", they had a "personal encounter with Christ" and had the experience of "getting saved"; they didn't just simply "know of Him."]
2 Peter 3:17-18
...beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever.
1 John 2:24
Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. [in other words, it is possible not continue in the Father and the Son; it is possible to fall away]
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But BE YE DOERS OF THE WORD, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 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. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD ALSO.
Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
and Eternal Salvation Important article on Protestant and Catholic uses
of term "faith"
Righteousness and Merit another article highlighting the differences in Catholic and Protestant language
Justification by Faith Alone
Justification in James 2
Salvation Past, Present and Future
Resisting and Cooperating with God
Are all Christians Predestined to Persevere?
The Evangelical notion that Christians can't lose their salvation is unbiblical