Faith Alone: Is it Justifiable?
By Ed Mazza, PhD
Grace is given freely, not earned by human effort
Nothing can act beyond its species, since the cause must always be more powerful than its effect. Now the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should cause grace. For it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness, as it is impossible that anything save fire should enkindle.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, 112, 1.
‘But when the kindness and love of our Saviour God shone upon us — not of works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the laver of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost, whom He shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life’ (Titus 3:4-7).
From these and similar passages of Scripture, we gather the proof that God's grace is not given according to our merits. The truth is, we see that it is given not only where there are no good, but even where there are many evil merits preceding: and we see it so given daily. But it is plain that when it has been given, also our good merits begin to be — yet only by means of it; for, were that only to withdraw itself, man falls, not raised up, but precipitated by free will. Wherefore no man ought, even when he begins to possess good merits, to attribute them to himself, but to God, who is thus addressed by the Psalmist: Be Thou my helper, forsake me not. By saying, Forsake me not, he shows that if he were to be forsaken, he is unable of himself to do any good thing.
St. Augustine, On Grace & Free Will, Chap 12, 13
Faith AND works, Grace AND Free Will
Now there was…a decided merit in the Apostle Paul, but it was an evil one, while he persecuted the Church, and he says of it: ‘I am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God’ (1 Corinthians 15:9). And it was while he had this evil merit that a good one was rendered to him… and, therefore, he went on at once to say, ‘But by the grace of God I am what I am (1 Corinthians 15:10). Then, in order to exhibit also his free will, he added in the next clause, ‘And His grace within me was not in vain, but I have worked more abundantly than they all.’ This free will of man he appeals to in the case of others also, as when he says to them, ‘We beg you that you receive not the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1). Now, how could he so enjoin them, if they received God's grace in such a manner as to lose their own will? Nevertheless, lest the will itself should be deemed capable of doing any good thing without the grace of God, after saying, His grace within me was not in vain, but I have worked more abundantly than they all, he immediately added the qualifying clause, ‘Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10) In other words, Not I alone, but the grace of God with me.’ And thus, neither was it the grace of God alone, nor was it he himself alone, but it was the grace of God with him…
St. Augustine, On Grace & Free Will, Chap 12, 13
Someone might find fault with this because our Lord did not say that the apostles would do greater things, but he who believes in me. Should we say, then, that those who do not do greater things than Christ are not to be counted among those who believe in Christ? Of course not! That would be too harsh.
We should say, rather, that Christ works in two ways. In one way, he works without us, as in creating the heavens and the earth, raising the dead to life, and things like that. In the other way, he works in us but not without us: the result of this is faith, by which the impious are brought to life. Our Lord is speaking here of what is found in all believers: this is the result which Christ produces in us, but not without us. The reason for this is that whoever believes is producing the same result since what is produced in me by God is also produced in me by myself, that is, by my free choice. Thus the Apostle says: "it was not I," that is, I alone, "but the grace of God which is with me" (1 Cor 15:10). Christ is speaking of this result or work when he says that believers will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, for it is a greater thing to justify the impious than to create the heavens and the earth. For the justification of the impious, considered in itself, continues forever: "Righteousness is immortal" (Wis 1:15). But the heavens and the earth will pass away, as Luke (21:33) says. Further, effects which are physical are directed to what is spiritual. Now the heavens and the earth are physical effects, but the justification of the impious is a spiritual effect.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on John 14, Lecture 3, 1900
“See, how rich therefore is a Christian, the one who is baptized! Even if he wants to, he cannot lose his salvation, however much he sin, unless he will not believe. For no sin can condemn him save unbelief alone. All other sins — so long as the faith in God's promise made in baptism returns or remains —all other sins, I say, are immediately blotted out through that same faith, or rather through the truth of God, because He cannot deny Himself.”
Martin Luther, Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 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. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.
2 Peter 10-16
Unintelligent persons, however, with regard to the apostle[Paul]'s statement: ‘We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law,’ (Romans 3:28) have thought him to mean that faith suffices to a man, even if he lead a bad life, and has no good works. Impossible is it that such a character should be deemed a vessel of election by the apostle, who, after declaring that in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, Galatians 5:6 adds at once, but faith which works by love. It is such faith which severs God's faithful from unclean demons — for even these believe and tremble, James 2:19 as the Apostle James says; but they do not do well. Therefore they possess not the faith by which the just man lives — the faith which works by love in such wise, that God recompenses it according to its works with eternal life. But inasmuch as we have even our good works from God, from whom likewise comes our faith and our love, therefore the selfsame great teacher of the Gentiles has designated eternal life itself as His gracious gift (Romans 6:23).
St. Augustine, On Grace & Free Will, Chap 18
‘To him that believes in Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness’ (Romans 4:5). This is the work in which we may be doing the works of Christ, for even our very believing in Christ is the work of Christ. It is this He works in us, not certainly without us. Hear now, then, and understand, ‘He that believes in me, the works that I do shall he do also’: I do them first, and he shall do them afterwards; for I do such works that he may do them also. And what are the works, but the making of a righteous man out of an ungodly one?
‘And greater works than these shall he do.’ Than what, I ask? Shall we say that one is doing greater works than all that Christ did who is working out his own salvation with fear and trembling? (Philippians 2:12) A work which Christ is certainly working in him, but not without him; and one which I might, without hesitation, call greater than the heavens and the earth, and all in both within the compass of our vision. ‘For both heaven and earth shall pass away,’ (Matthew 24:35) but the salvation and justification of those predestinated thereto, that is, of those whom He foreknows, shall continue forever. In [heaven and earth] there is only the working of God, but in the latter [justified men] there is also His image. But there are also in the heavens, thrones, governments, principalities, powers, archangels, and angels, which are all of them the work of Christ; and is it, then, greater works also than these that he does, who, with Christ working in him, is a co-worker in his own eternal salvation and justification?... And it is assuredly something less to preach the words of righteousness, which He did apart from us, than to justify the ungodly, which He does in such a way in us that we also are doing it ourselves.
St. Augustine, Tractate on John 72, 2-3 (14:10-14)
(The Catholic Monitor is honored to post this piece by the scholar Dr. Ed Mazza at his request.)
of the Church St. Francis de Sales totally confirmed beyond any doubt
the possibility of a heretical pope and what must be done by the Church
in such a situation:
"[T]he Pope... WHEN he is EXPLICITLY a heretic, he falls ipso facto from his dignity and out of the Church, and the Church MUST either deprive him, or, as some say, declare him deprived, of his Apostolic See."
(The Catholic Controversy, by St. Francis de Sales, Pages 305-306)
Saint Robert Bellarmine, also, said "the Pope heretic is not deposed ipso facto, but must be declared deposed by the Church."
- "If Francis is a Heretic, What should Canonically happen to him?": http://www.thecatholicmonitor.com/2020/12/if-francis-is-heretic-what-should.html
- "Could Francis be a Antipope even though the Majority of Cardinals claim he is Pope?": http://www.thecatholicmonitor.com/2019/03/could-francis-be-antipope-even-though.html
- LifeSiteNews, "Confusion explodes as Pope Francis throws magisterial
weight behind communion for adulterers," December 4, 2017:
The AAS guidelines explicitly allows "sexually active adulterous couples facing 'complex circumstances' to 'access the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.'"
- On February 2018, in Rorate Caeli, Catholic theologian Dr. John Lamont:
"The AAS statement... establishes that Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia has affirmed propositions that are heretical in the strict sense."
- On December 2, 2017, Bishop Rene Gracida:
"Francis' heterodoxy is now official. He has published his letter to the Argentina bishops in Acta Apostlica Series making those letters magisterial documents."
Pray an Our Father now for the restoration of the Church by the bishops by the grace of God.
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- Will US be Venezuela?: Ex-CIA Official told Epoch Times "Chávez started to Focus on [Smartmatic] Voting Machines to Ensure Victory as early as 2003": http://catholicmonitor.blogspot.com/2020/12/will-us-be-venezuela-ex-cia-official.html