Have you ever been asked this question? Has anyone ever told you that Catholics think they can work their way into Heaven, or that we are not saved unless we say out loud that we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior? That, if we do this, our salvation is absolutely assured and we can know with certainty that we are going straight to Heaven, regardless of anything we may do ornot do in the future?
The Catholic Church does not now, nor has it ever, taught a doctrine of salvation by works – that we can “work” our way into Heaven. And, the Bible does not teach that we are saved by “faith alone.” The only place in all of Scripture where the phrase “Faith Alone” appears, is in James 2:24, where it says that we are not justified (or saved) by faith alone.
If works have nothing to do with our salvation, then how come every passage in the New Testament that talks about judgment says we will be judged by our works, not by whether or not we have faith alone? (See Rom 2, Matthew 15 and 16, 1 Ptr 1, Rev 20 and 22, 2 Cor 5, and many, many more verses). Scripture is crystal-clear that once saved does not mean always saved.
If we are saved by faith alone, why does 1 Cor 13:13 say that love is greater than faith? Should it not be the other way around?
As Catholics we believe that we are saved by God’s grace alone. We can do nothing, apart from God’s grace, to receive the free gift of salvation. We also believe, however, that we have to respond to God’s grace. Protestants believe that, too. However, many Protestants believe that the only response necessary is an act of faith; whereas, Catholics believe a response of “faith and works” is necessary, or, as the Bible puts it in Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” (Just as the Church teaches.)
St. Paul said he needed to work out his salvation with “fear and trembling.” If anyone professed their faith in Jesus it was Paul. If he felt so assured of his salvation because of his faith alone in Jesus, why then would he be trembling, and have to “work out” his salvation?
If you think about it, even the devil believes in God. Belief is not enough. St. James tells us, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17)
So, the next time someone asks you if you are saved, the Catholic should reply:
As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:8, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13).”