Gospel of Life

Why Are You Here?

Old catechisms asked, “Why did God make you?” The answer: “God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next.” Here, in just 26 words, is the whole reason for our existence. Jesus answered the question even more briefly: “I came so that [you] might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

God’s plan for you is simple. Your loving Father wants to give you all good things—especially eternal life. Jesus died on the cross to save us all from sin and the eternal separation from God that sin causes (CCC 599–623). When he saves us, he makes us part of his Body, which is the Church (1 Cor. 12:27–30). We thus become united with him and with Christians everywhere (on earth, in heaven, in purgatory).

What You Must Do to Be Saved

Best of all, the promise of eternal life is a gift, freely offered to us by God (CCC 1727). Our initial forgiveness and justification are not things we “earn” (CCC 2010). Jesus is the mediator who bridged the gap of sin that separates us from God (1 Tim. 2:5); he bridged it by dying for us. He has chosen to make us partners in the plan of salvation (1 Cor. 3:9).

The Catholic Church teaches what the apostles taught and what the Bible teaches: We are saved by grace alone, but not by faith alone (which is what “Bible Christians” teach; see Jas. 2:24).

When we come to God and are justified (that is, enter a right relationship with God), nothing preceding justification, whether faith or good works, earns grace. But then God plants his love in our hearts, and we should live out our faith by doing acts of love (Gal. 6:2).

Even though only God’s grace enables us to love others, these acts of love please him, and he promises to reward them with eternal life (Rom. 2:6–8, Gal. 6:6–10). Thus good works are meritorious. When we first come to God in faith, we have nothing in our hands to offer him. Then he gives us grace to obey his commandments in love, and he rewards us with salvation when we offer these acts of love back to him (Rom. 2:6–11, Gal. 6:6–10, Matt. 25:34–40).

Jesus said it is not enough to have faith in him; we also must obey his commandments. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do the things I command?” (Luke 6:46, Matt. 7:21–23, 19:16–21).

We do not “earn” our salvation through good works (Eph. 2:8–9, Rom. 9:16), but our faith in Christ puts us in a special grace-filled relationship with God so that our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life (Rom. 2:7, Gal. 6:8–9).

Paul said, “God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work” (Phil. 2:13). John explained that “the way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3–4, 3:19–24, 5:3–4).

Since no gift can be forced on the recipient—gifts always can be rejected—even after we become justified, we can throw away the gift of salvation. We throw it away through grave (mortal) sin (John 15:5–6, Rom. 11:22–23, 1 Cor. 15:1–2; CCC 1854–1863). Paul tells us, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

Read his letters and see how often Paul warned Christians against sin! He would not have felt compelled to do so if their sins could not exclude them from heaven (see, for example, 1 Cor. 6:9–10, Gal. 5:19–21).

Paul reminded the Christians in Rome that God “will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life for those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness” (Rom. 2:6–8).

Sins are nothing but evil works (CCC 1849–1850). We can avoid sins by habitually performing good works. Every saint has known that the best way to keep free from sins is to embrace regular prayer, the sacraments (the Eucharist first of all), and charitable acts.

Are You Guaranteed Heaven?

Some people promote an especially attractive idea: All true Christians, regardless of how they live, have an absolute assurance of salvation, once they accept Jesus into their hearts as “their personal Lord and Savior.” The problem is that this belief is contrary to the Bible and constant Christian teaching.

Keep in mind what Paul told the Christians of his day: “If we have died with him [in baptism; see Rom. 6:3–4] we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:11–12).

If we do not persevere, we shall not reign with him. In other words, Christians can forfeit heaven (CCC 1861).

The Bible makes it clear that Christians have a moral assurance of salvation (God will be true to his word and will grant salvation to those who have faith in Christ and are obedient to him [1 John 3:19–24]), but the Bible does not teach that Christians have a guarantee of heaven. There can be no absolute assurance of salvation. Writing to Christians, Paul said, “See, then, the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness to you, provided you remain in his kindness, otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22–23; Matt. 18:21–35, 1 Cor. 15:1–2, 2 Pet. 2:20–21).

Note that Paul includes an important condition: “provided you remain in his kindness.” He is saying that Christians can lose their salvation by throwing it away. He warns, “Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor. 10:11–12).

If you are Catholic and someone asks you if you have been “saved,” you should say, “I am redeemed by the blood of Christ, I trust in him alone for my salvation, and, as the Bible teaches, I am ‘working out my salvation in fear and trembling’ (Phil. 2:12), knowing that it is God’s gift of grace that is working in me.”

The above is an excerpt from:

Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth by Catholic Answers. The source can be seen in its entirety by clicking on the link.

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6 Responses

  1. When it comes to the “are you saved?” question, I love how Father John Trigilio put it: “I have been saved, I am being saved and I hope to be saved.” It’s lovely as it speaks to Christ’s death and resurrection once and for all, our participation in the work of the Cross, and our hope for Mercy at our judgment.

    Great blog–keep it up.

  2. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  3. “”The Catholic Church teaches what the apostles taught and what the Bible teaches: We are saved by grace alone, but not by faith alone (which is what “Bible Christians” teach; see Jas. 2:24). “”

    You made general sweeping statment thats not true
    and its false teaching.

    That statement needs to be read in its entire contexted,
    and a acuall theological disapline applied.
    .
    Jas 2:14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
    Jas 2:15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
    Jas 2:16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
    Jas 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
    Jas 2:18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
    Jas 2:19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
    Jas 2:20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
    Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
    Jas 2:22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
    Jas 2:23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God.
    Jas 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
    Jas 2:25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
    Jas 2:26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

    Faith proves itself by works
    Faith must come first. Verse 23, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD” belief and faith have the same meaning in the common Greek. Verse 22 they go hand in hand.
    Works without faith is dead verse 26
    But no faith with works is a sin. Rom 14:23 ,Heb 11:6

    Rom 14:23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

    Peace

  4. roboman,

    What exactly is false teaching and please give us the verses that say so.
    You have quoted the James passage in context and emphasized the “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

    But let’s be honest, Abraham believed and trusted God so much he was willing to sacrifice his only son, the son of promise, the miraculous son of his old age.
    Yes Abraham believed. BUT..he also OBEYED God. He DID something. A GOOD WORK!

    Come on now, do you think we ever even would have heard of Father Abraham if he had not ACTED upon his FAITH?

  5. Pam,
    I guess I don’t know how these things work but I can’t figure out how to email you from here. I had some questions about conversion as a wife whose husband isn’t. 🙂 Peace be with you.

  6. I believe the truths which the Catholic Church teaches, because The Lord Jesus founded it who cannot deceive nor be deceived. I love your testimony.

    In the same spirit, please pray for my health for the Church teaches us to pray for one another, including with our brothers and sisters in heaven. I’ve been recently diagnosed with an STD. Please pray for me and for God’s saving power to rescue from STDs. In Jesus’ name, I humbly ask you to pray for me to The Lord, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary & all His Saints. Amen.

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