Catholic Justification

This is perhaps the biggest dilemma that in my opinion faces Catholicism. It presents itself as a conjoining of Jesus with a merit system in order to credit heaven while avoiding lengthy periods spent in a purgatorial realm. In other words according to this view eternal salvation is not achieved determinately by Christ but it requires our further assistance to complete the transaction successively in securing the wealth of an eternal bliss.

Concerning the motif of “works” I am aware that there are responsibilities and a cooperation of maintaining a relationship with God as a believer regarding the outworking of our faith. Yet according to biblical teaching this cooperation or response towards God is not an add on as if there is something insufficient or lacking in the perfect and complete atonement of Christ. It’s not as if He starts the work and now we have to finish it for Him. Rather works is a manifestation to the fruitful outcome of our relationship with Christ.

Anyway when viewing our relationship with God it is similar to other types of covenantal relationships such as a holy union between a husband and wife.

According to the analogy of marriage we can illustrate this natural relationship as compared to our devotion and commitment to God.

First it is God who initiates the process by drawing us into a loving relationship with him, John 6:44. This relationship is consummated and justified by joining oneself in covenant to Jesus through the sacrificial offering of Christ, Mark 14:24; Romans 5:9, which consequently results in us being spiritually regenerated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit Titus 3: 4-7 and 1 Corinthians 6:11 as we enter into this mystical union as the bride of Christ, Ephesians 5:22-33. This relationship will ultimately culminate in us receiving or being the heirs of eternal life having placed the seal of the Holy Spirit in us as a guarantee to this covenantal relationship, Ephesians 1:13 -14, 2 Corinthians 1:22, and Romans 8:9.

This living dynamic of a significant sign serves as a marked witness to the reality of being properly related to Him, Romans 8:16.

My question to you is are you properly related to Christ through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit or are you trying to secure your relationship through a dowry of impoverished works?

I discuss more about this in the blog that I posted on “Born Again” and “Catholic Tradition” at

When relating to the concept of the “works” of God, Jesus states that it is the nature of the tree that determines its fruitfulness or fruitlessness. In other words a good tree (nature) bears good fruit (works). The only way that we can authentically produce the works of righteousness is after we have received the fruit bearing nature of the Spirit through new birth. Galatians 5:22-23 and Romans 8:4.

One example of what I am saying is like relating this idea to that of a Christmas tree.

We may think that by adding ornaments (works) to a dead tree (unregenerate person) that it will bear the resemblance of beauty yet that does not make the tree alive unto God. This is an artificial beauty that at the end of the season causes us to put up the ornaments and discard the tree. So in reality there was no real value to the tree except for its temporal ceremonial purpose.

This idea also relates to the outward adornment of the righteous acts performed by the religious Jews in Jesus day who were spiritually dead unto God, Matthew 23.

Independent of Holy Spirit regeneration, “works” is an inadequate attempt to achieve righteousness, Romans 3:20.

The problem with combining faith with self works is that this is also the same expression of belief that is practiced among many religions and cults in which they share this mentality of earning and achieving as a means of gaining heaven while avoiding the pitfalls of hell.

To read more on these themes it would be good to study and meditate on the books of Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews to get a better understanding of these interrelated concepts.

To give a quick glance to the concept of a “works” related program and its shortcomings it would be best to take a preview of the transitory system of the Old Covenant law.

Biblical history indicates that the covenant community of the Israelites had the revelatory word of God as based in the Torah, Prophets, and the Writings for over a millennium before the advent of Christianity. This Old Testament law proved to be an imperfect system of which never achieved for them righteous because it was intended to be merely a foreshadow to the ultimate reality of Christ as the sacrifice given once and for all and therefore could not make oneself perfect in drawing them near to God Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 10:1-18.

The Israelite community could not live up to the standards of the law and even David who was a man after God’s own heart states that there is no one who does good and this is also reiterated by Solomon who was the wisest of all men who stated that there is not a righteous man on the earth that never sins, Psalms 14:1-3, Ecclesiastes 7:20, and Romans 3:10-12; 23. Even the prophet Isaiah states that our righteous acts are like filthy rags Isaiah 64:6.

The New Testament clearly portrays that the old covenant was imperfect due to the problem of fallen humanity, Romans 8:1-17. The law could not be upheld due to the weakness of human nature but by faith in Christ this would be overcome through the Spirit filled life. That’s why it’s good news and not the same old news because Jesus did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves and that is to absolve sin and it consequences Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:4,5.

You know Paul had great credentials and under the old covenant law he was a very religious man who zealously claimed his legalistic righteousness as being faultless and yet he considered it rubbish compared to the riches of knowing Christ, Philippians 3:1-9; Galatians 1:14.

You might ask yourself at this point the same question that the disciples asked Jesus when he was explaining to them the stringent requirements of the law in which they remarked “Who then can be saved” and Jesus replied,”with man it is impossible but with God all things are possible” and therein lays the revelation to this picture of redemption. He is able to accomplish what we can not, Matthew 19:16-26.

The mystery of salvation would be fully realized through the saving blood of Christ under the new covenant as outlined in Jeremiah 31:31-34, Luke 22:20 which would restore our relationship with God resulting in the new birth with the advent of the Spirit age John 3:3-8, 1 Peter 1:3;23, and  Ezekiel 36:25-29.

God was doing away with the obsolete system of a works related relationship and just 40 years proceeding Jesus death the destruction of the temple occurred in 70AD as a way to emphatically say that this program is kaput and no more and even to this day it has never been rebuilt.

If we could obtain righteousness apart from Christ then why was the first covenant abolished and made obsolete, Hebrews 8:13? If Israel could have made itself righteous through observing the law then why did the nation end up in exile and the Diaspora?

The bottom line is that without Jesus and the Holy Spirit living in you there is no salvation and it is an impossibility no matter how diligent or observant a person is regarding the keeping of sacramental legislation.

In Romans 3:20 it states that no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.

In 1 Corinthians 1:30 and Romans 3:21-22 it is Christ that is our righteousness.

Righteousness is a work of God and “work” related results are merely his handiwork on display in our lives Ephesians 2:10, John 15:5.

Works doesn’t earn salvation but rather it is the proof of it. Works is an expression or manifestation of our faith, not the substance of it.

Galatians 2:15-21 shows that a man is not justified by observing the law and if we could gain it then Christ died needlessly.

Paul wrote allot about this overachiever mentality of works because that was the order of the system that they had just transitioned from and it was still hardwired within the main frame of their being.

The Jews, particularly those to whom Paul referred to as Judaizers, where struggling with this whole concept of grace and justification by faith and Paul spent much of his time refuting this system of belief which resulted in the first council meeting at Jerusalem in Acts 15.

Lastly to ensure that there is no misunderstanding the scripture spells it out plainly in Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

Finally the Pharisees were notorious for upholding the law in a meticulous fashion in that they would strain at a gnat over the details. They were so careful to keep the law that they built a hedge about the law by adding requirements that went beyond the scope of biblical orthodoxy. They were zealous for God as spoken of in Romans 10:1-4 and they weighed down people with the burdens of their laws in Matthew 23:4, Acts 15:10-11, and Mark 7:1-13.

In conclusion, you may sense that you have been weighed down with the burdens of religious activity and rituals which has left you with a sense of insecurity in your standing with God. So in closing I would like to encourage you to heed the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”



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