Paul, Faith, Works, Obedience, Righteousness, and Matt1618

Paul, Faith, Works, Obedience,
Righteousness, and Salvation
By: Matt1618

This page will be a foundational/index page for a long examination of Paul’s view of salvation and the necessity of not only Faith, but grace-empowered works and obedience to not only be a fruit of salvation, but a cause of salvation. I will give those passages which show the necessity of works, obedience, inherent righteousness, endurance, etc. At the same time I and the Catholic Church acknowledge that Paul does not teach that we earn salvation. I will examine each of Paul’s letters (with the exception of Philemon, which does not address the issue of salvation) to show the relation of works, obedience, endurance and salvation. I will also look at the issue of imputation vs. infused righteousness. When I approach this topic, I realize that there are varying Protestant views on these issues, so I do not claim that all those who believe in Sola Fide (Faith Alone) express the view that I am opposing here. Click on the following, and you will see an examination of some Biblical passages from each of the letters of Paul on these issues. Below that, I will give an introduction to two views (Catholic and Calvinist) on the relation of works, obedience, and righteousness to salvation.

Romans .......................................... Galatians and 1st Corinthians..............
2nd Corinthians................................ Ephesians and Phillippians..................
Colossians, 1st & 2nd Thessalonians.. 1st & 2nd Timothy & Titus................
Hebrews .........................................


Many say that Paul is the preeminent teacher on justification. He no doubt is a preeminent teacher on the issue. Some Protestants who believe in ‘Faith Alone’, where through faith one appropriates Christ’s righteousness to ones account, will often avoid speaking of James, Jesus, Peter, and others on the issue. For an examination of Jesus teaching on salvation, click here. For an examination of James on salvation Click here. It is as if, when Jesus was asked about salvation, he should have said, “Well, the truth about salvation will not really be known until the apostle Paul starts to write in 20-30 years, check with him.” While these Protestants do not blatantly ignore their (Jesus, Peter, James, etc) teachings, they will relegate their authority to second class status because of what they call Paul’s superior authority on salvation. For example, James White, in his book, The Roman Catholic Controversy, Bethany House Publishers, 1996, p. 147 writes: "We must allow the primary expositor of this issue (justification), in this case, the apostle Paul, to speak first; his epistles to the Romans and the Galatians must define the issues, for it is in them that we have direct discussions exactly how justification takes place. Once we have consulted these sources, we can then move on to garner other elements of the biblical revelation that are found in tangential ways elsewhere. "

We see White and other Protestants apologists relegate teachers such as Jesus, James, John, Peter to mere tangencies, because of the supposed clear teaching of Paul, especially in Romans and Galatians. This I find contrary to Peter's analysis of Paul's writings on the issue, 2 Peter 3:15-16: 15 "And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures." Note that the issue that Peter says that is hard to understand is salvation in Paul's writings. I do find that James (Jm 2:14-26) and Jesus (Mt. 19:16-17, Jn 5:24, 28-29, Mt. 25:31-46, etc.) to be clearer on the issue of salvation. That said, as Paul is a significant writer on the issue, as a Bible Christian, it is important that we do examine his view on the issue.

Protestants from a so-called Reformed perspective will say that by ‘Faith alone’ one appropriates, imputes God’s righteousness to one’s account, and this is the sole grounds of one’s justification. Living the life of faith is only the fruit of this justification, and is even necessary to show that one is indeed saved, but it is never any of the grounds of one’s justification. Works, inherent, infused righteousness, and obedience is relegated to mere fruits of one’s justification, and evidence of one being justified. Romans and Galatians are indeed the most referred to letters of Paul by those who argue that an inherent righteousness, works, and obedience, are never any of the grounds of one’s justification. I do not believe that we should relegate Jesus’ teachings on salvation to second class status, but in this examination of Paul, I indeed will examine Paul's view on salvation, holiness, obedience, endurance and works, starting with Romans and Galatians, but also in other letters as well. I will show that Paul’s letters do indeed confirm the Catholic view of salvation. I intend in this extended piece to take the challenge of giving a fairly comprehensive look at Paul, works, fruits, righteousness, and justification.

I have already written on what Paul means when he denies the efficaciousness of works of the law, in these pieces here: Romans 4:4-8: Proof for Justification by Faith Alone? and Romans 4, David and Abraham - One Time Imputation Or Process?, Galatians 3:10-14, Faith, Works, and Works of the Law, and Dialogue With an Ex-Catholic, Now Protestant Author on Justification

The Catholic view is that we are saved by grace alone, and that we do not earn one’s justification. The Catholic view is that works of the law do not save. We do not put God into a position of owing us anything, let alone salvation. Session six, canon 1 of the Council of Trent spells this out:

"If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law,[110] without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema."

The law, in and of itself, does not save anyone. When Paul speaks of works of the law that do not save, the Catholic affirms that (per Gal. 3:10, Gal. 2:16, Rom. 3:20, 28) as well. The Catholic view is that God justifies us exclusively by his grace. We are put into a relationship with him, which is based on sonship, grace, and mercy. The rigid requirements of the law were put to death by Christ on the cross, per Col. 2:16. However, once within the realm of grace, obedience is still necessary to maintain salvation. The fact that although one is not under the works of the law (Gal. 3:10, Rom. 3:28) there is still a law of the Spirit and Christ (Rom. 8:2, Gal. 6:2). We are released from the rigid requirements of the law (See Romans 7:6, Col. 2:13-14, Eph. 2:15) but now we serve in the new law of the Spirit (Rom. 7:6, Rom. 8:2). It does not mean that the law is done away with. God must circumcise our hearts (Rom. 2:27) and we must approach him humbly and recognize our total dependence on him. Paul warns that if one lives in the life of the flesh (even if one is an adopted child) he will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (Gal. 5:19-21). If one manifests the fruit of the Spirit one indeed will inherit this kingdom (Gal. 5:22-23). This can be done only through the power of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 24). Although one can not work to earn salvation, once inside God's grace, one must bear fruit in his life to get the end of salvation. If one sows instead disobedience, one's end is eternal damnation (Gal. 6:7-9). Thus, once one is justified by God, the Catholic view is that grace empowered obedience is necessary to maintain one’s state of justification. Works , obedience and infused righteousness, is not only a necessary fruit of one’s justification, but is also a cause of it.

The Council of Trent spells out the Catholic view of the various causes of ones' justification:
CHAPTER VII IN WHAT THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE SINNER CONSISTS, AND WHAT ARE ITS CAUSES This disposition or preparation is followed by justification itself, which is not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting.[30](Tit. 3:7) The causes of this justification are: the final cause is the glory of God and of Christ and life everlasting; the efficient cause is the merciful God who washes and sanctifies[31](1 Cor. 6:11) gratuitously, signing and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance,[32](Eph 1:13 f.) the meritorious cause is His most beloved only begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies,[33](Rom. 5:10) for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us,[34] (Eph. 2:4)merited for us justification by His most holy passion on the wood of the cross and made satisfaction for us to God the Father, the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which no man was ever justified finally, the single formal cause is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind,[36](Eph. 4:23) and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills,[37](1 Cor. 6:11) and according to each one's disposition and cooperation.

Thus, the Catholic view, as seen, has as its ultimate cause the glory of God and Christ, and his death on the cross merited for us justification. The instrumental cause is baptism, infused righteousness, and cooperation with God’s grace as necessary to achieve final justification. Infused righteousness is an important aspect of the Catholic view of justification. It means the Holy Spirit continually renews us, and we are ontologically transformed into Christ's image. This righteousness that becomes a part of the person, becomes a part of the grounds of our justification before God.

The Protestant/Calvinist view is that the instrumental cause is faith alone. The Calvinist view is that justification may have those effects (good works, obedience), but works even done in the state of grace, and one’s infused righteousness can never be any of the grounds of one’s justification. James Buchanan, in his book: The Doctrine of Justification, The Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1867, Reprint 1997, p. 230, writes:

"Since justification is the opposite of condemnation , it can only be, like the latter, a forensic and judicial term; and the one can not be signified to sanctify or to make one righteousness inherently." Buchanan continues: “A proof of the forensic or judicial sense of the term ‘Justification’ is supplied by those equivalent expressions, which are sometimes substituted for it, and which serve to explain it. If these expressions cannot imply infusion of righteousness, but denote merely either the forgiveness of sin, or the acceptance of the sinner, they show that Justification denotes a change in his judicial relation to God, and not a change in his moral or spiritual character. It is expressly described as the ‘imputation of righteousness’ ‘Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. .; . ..””Then he quotes Rom. 4:3, 6-8, Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification, 231. For an examination of Romans 4, see the following urls: Romans 4:4-8: Proof for Justification by Faith Alone? Matt1618, and Romans 4, David and Abraham - One Time Imputation Or Process? Matt1618

Catholics do agree that the meritorious cause of justification is Christ’s atoning sacrifice and his mediatorial work, but the Calvinist view is that the ground of justification, is only Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to the person’s account. (Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification, p. 315. Buchanan writes “It is called, pre-eminently and emphatically, ‘The righteousness of God.’ By this name it is distinguished from the righteousness of man, and even contrasted with it, as a ground of Justification. It is brought in as a divine righteousness, only when all human righteousness has been shut out....The two righteousness are not only distinct, but different; but directly opposed, and mutually exclusive, considered as grounds of Justification."

With this summary of the positions in their own words, I will show that what Paul means by faith, grace empowered, obedience, and works, throughout his letters, is not merely evidence of one’s justification, but constitute an instrumental cause of it. As mentioned earlier, I have encountered some of the favorite passages of the Protestants who attempt to prove justification by faith alone at not only the ones mention on Romans 4, but also: Galatians 3:10-14, Faith, Works, and Works of the Law, and Dialogue With an Ex-Catholic, Now Protestant Author on Justification It is not the purpose of this examination to rehash the arguments already given in these prior pieces. In this examination, I want to look only at Paul’s letters, and especially the favorite ones that are used by believers in in Sola Fide (such as Romans and Galatians), and show that grace empowered works, pursuit of holiness, and endurance(which of course can only be done when in God’s grace) are not merely an effect, but a cause of one’s justification. In this endeavor, I hope to prove that for Paul, obedience is not just a nice side effect to prove one is justified in order to get more rewards in heaven, but when in a state of grace, a cause of justification.

Definition of Faith

Before I go into the Scriptures, I must spell out one aspect of the definition of faith. There are many aspects of faith that I do not intend to go into. The aspect that I want to concentrate on, is does faith, in the way that Paul uses the term, include obedience? Is faith not only trust in Christ and belief in him, but, does Paul’s use of the term incorporate obedience? This issue is central, because if faith alone, includes the aspect of obedience to God and the necessity of ongoing faithfulness to God’s commands, that is different from the view of Sola Fide, Protestant apologists espouse, as we have seen. The Protestant, Sola Fide view, includes the idea that by Faith one accepts Christ’s death on the cross as the means to incorporate Christ’s righteousness to one’s account. After writing that salvation is not done or maintained by one’s obedience, James White writes: “Sola Fide - faith alone, that is, saving faith, resting solely in the perfection of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in my stead. That is my hope. That is the Good News. Not justification by baptism, then rejustification after committing a mortal sin...No, justification is by faith alone, so that it can be by grace alone. That is the Gospel.” James White, Roman Catholic Controversy, p. 151.

Buchanan also emphasizes that Justification ‘by grace’ is identified in Scripture, with Justification ‘by faith,’ and opposed to Justification ‘by works.’ (Proposition XXII), Buchanan, Justification, p. 343.

The Catholic view is that justification and faith, per the Catechism:

1990. "Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God's merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals. "

1991. "Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or 'justice') here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us."

1992. "Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:[Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1529.] But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. "

1993. "Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent: When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight.[Council of Trent (1547): DS 1525.] "

The faith that appropriates justification sees transformation, obedience, holiness and faith, according to the Catholic view as a means of one’s justification, not merely a necessary effect of one’s justification, as the Protestant view holds. The Protestant/Calvinist will not deny that one will be sanctified on an ongoing basis, and man will cooperate with God, but will deny that this obedience is any of the grounds of their justification.

Definition of Faith

I will here highlight from the Protestant Vine’s Complete Expository of Old and New Testament Words the definition of ‘faith.’

The word pistis (4102), faith.
The word is used of (a) trust, e.g., Rom. 3:25; 1 Cor. 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor. 1:24; Gal. 3:23; Phil. 1:25; 2:17; 1 Thess. 3:2; 2 Thess. 1:3; 3:2; (b) trustworthiness, e.g., Matt. 23:23; Rom. 3:3 “the faithfulness of God”; Gal. 5:22 (“faithfulness”); Tit. 2:10, “fidelity” (c) by metonymy, what is believed, the contents of belief, the “faith,” Acts 6:7; 14:22; Gal. 1:23; 3:25 [contrast 3:23, under (a)]; 6:10;; Phil. 1:27; 1 Thess. 3:10; Jude 3, 20 (and perhaps 2 Thes. 3:2); (d) a ground for “faith’, an assurance; Acts 17:31 (not as ; (e) a pledge of fidelity, plighted “faith,” 1 Tim. 5:12.

The main elements in “faith” in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from “faith” in man, are especially brought out in the use of this noun and the corresponding verb, pisteuo; they are (1) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgment of God’s revelation or truth, e.g. 2 Thess. 2:11-12; (2) a personal surrender to Him, John 1:12; (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender, 2 Cor. 5:7. Prominence is given to one or other of these elements according to the context. All this stands in contrast to belief in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good “faith” without necessary reference to its proof. The object of Abraham’s “faith” was not God’s promise (that was the occasion of its exercise); his “faith”: rested on God Himself,” Rom. 4:1`7, 20-21.” Vine’s Complete Expository of Old and New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville. Atlanta. London. Vancouver, 1985, p. 222.

It is interesting to note, in this definition that Vine cited, in part d, is fidelity as part of what faith is. Faith, according to Vine, includes fidelity to this pledge of faith. It is possible, according to Paul, in the passage cited by Vines, to lose one’s faith, and can lead to condemnation. The passage quoted, 1 Tim. 5:12 , says, “and so they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge.”

The second paragraph, which highlights what faith does, includes conduct inspired by a person’s belief in God. Faith according to Paul, includes the actions that are inspired by this belief in God (as Vine’s dictionary uses 2 Cor. 5:7 as an example). The definition that Paul uses of faith includes one acting upon this belief, and the salvific efficacy is thus conditional to not violating this pledge made to God. Not one of the definitions of faith included a definition, coming from the Bible, which says faith reflects White’s view that it is “resting solely in the perfection of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in my stead. That is my hope.”

Father William Most notes that the Protestant’s Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Supplement p.333, gives this explanation of Paul’s meaning of faith: “Paul uses pistis to mean, above all, belief in the Christ kerygma [preaching], knowledge, obedience, trust in the Lord Jesus. It comes by hearing with faith the gospel message. . . . by responding with a confession about Christ . . . and by the ‘obedience of faith’ . . . ‘the obedience which faith is’.

On the Catholic side, Father William Most views faith as defined by Paul as “a total adherence of a person to God, so that if God speaks a truth, we assent in our mind (1 Thess. 2:13), if He makes a promise, we are confident in it (Rom. 4:3), if He gives a command, we obey (Rom. 1:5), all to be done in love (Gal. 5:6). At times, e.g., Rom. 1:5, Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith” - the obedience that faith is.’ (Rev. William Most, The Thought of St. Paul: A Commentary on the Pauline Epistles, Christendom Press, Front Royal, VA, 1994, p. 286.

We see in the definitions of faith, from Catholics and Protestants alike the role obedience plays. Nowhere did anyone define this obedience as merely a ‘fruit’ of faith, but a part of that faith. Also, nowhere did anyone say that one part of faith (such as believing in God’s promises) is the instrumental means of salvation, while the aspect of obedience is a separate part of that faith. Apparently, at least according to those who define the term faith see obedience as necessary to appropriate that salvation, not a mere after effect.

Now we will examine whether the obedient aspect of faith is a necessary aspect to one’s justification. Many on the Sola Fide side will argue that obedience is a necessary fruit, that will lead to more rewards in heaven., but the aspect of faith that appropriates one’s justification does not include this obedience. Is infusion of sanctifying grace a grounds for justification or a mere fruit?

The following is an examination of Paul's first letter to see who is correct:

Romans, Part 1

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Last modified January 10, 2000.