Salvation, as defined by the Bible, is the deliverance from sin and the penalty for that sin, which is eternal damnation; as well as entrance into the Kingdom of God for all eternity. (Mat.19:24-25; Phil.1:19; Acts 16:30-31; Rom.6:23).
Justification, as defined by the Bible, is to be declared righteous by God, based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. (Rom.3:21-26; Rom.5:18-19; 2 Cor.5:21).
Roman Catholicism teaches that both salvation and justification are initially by the grace of God alone, and for the glory of God alone (Sola Gratia, Soli Deo Gloria). On this point, both Roman Catholicism and Monergistic Protestantism are in complete agreement. The differences between the two revolve around the role of faith and works, and how these two points figure into salvation and justification. While both groups believe faith and works are essential elements of salvation, Roman Catholicism teaches that faith and works result in salvation (and justification); while Monergistic Protestantism teaches that faith results in salvation (and justification), and that good works are both the result and the evidence of salvation (and justification). Therefore, the elements (grace, faith, works) that make up salvation and justification are the same within both Roman Catholicism and Monergistic Protestantism. It is the placement of these elements, and what these elements do with regard to salvation and justification, that are the basis of the disagreement between the two groups.
Like the Monergistic Protestants, the Roman Catholic church teaches that salvation (and justification) is a free gift from God, by the grace of God, and is not “earned.” However, unlike Monergistic Protestants, Roman Catholicism teaches salvation – and thus justification – can be lost. This results in those adhering to this doctrine constantly striving by their works to either maintain their salvation, or regain it once it has been lost. This places the impetus for their salvation, or at least the maintaining of their salvation (by performing good works), on man rather than God. This results in the synergistic view of salvation taught by Roman Catholicism.
This of course begs the question, can man lose his salvation (and justification) once he has attained it by the grace of God? Roman Catholicism and other synergistic faiths say yes; while Monergistic Protestantism says no, man cannot lose salvation once it has been freely given by God.
Monergistic Protestantism teaches that salvation, and as a result justification, is the free gift of God, and that man plays no direct role in attaining it. It is all the result of the grace God alone, through faith alone (with said faith being given by God and not mustered up by man), in Jesus Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, and never by works. Monergistic Protestants refer to this as Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria. Grace Alone, Faith Alone, in Christ Alone, for the Glory of God Alone. This core belief of Monergistic Protestantism is clearly stated in Ephesians 2:8-10, “8)For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9)not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10)For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
Of course, this is not the only verse in Scripture which teaches salvation (and justification) by faith totally apart from works. We see this taught in:
Romans 3:23-26, “23)since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24)they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25)whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26)it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”
Romans 9:30, “What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith”
Philippians 3:9, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.”
2 Timothy 1:9, “who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”
Titus 3:5, “he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 9:16, “So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.”
See also in: Gen.15:6; Hab.2:4; Jn 1:12; Jn 3:18; Jn 5:24; Acts 16:31; Acts 26:18; Rom.1:17; Rom.3:20-22,27-31; Rom.4:1-25; Rom.5:2,9-10,18-19; Rom.6:23; Rom.8:33; Rom.9:33; Rom.10:4,9-10; 1 Cor.1:29-30; 1 Cor.9:29; 2 Cor.5:21; Gal.2:16,20; Gal.3:5-6,8,10-14,22,24; Gal. 5:4,6; Eph.1:7; Eph.2:5; 1 Tim.1:16; Heb.10:38; Heb.11:4; 1Jn.1:8-9; Rev.5:9
As can be seen through these multitude of passages, salvation (and justification) is by grace through faith, and never, ever, by works that we might do. As Paul clearly states, “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Rom.5:15-17).
Paul goes on to clarify, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” (Rom.11:6). Salvation and justification must be grace through faith, and never by works. It must be, because if it is by works, then the grace of God is nullified, and Christ died needlessly (Gal.2:21). “For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us)” (Rom.4:16).
You see, Christ was delivered up and crucified because of our sin, and He was raised from the dead for our justification! Those who have faith in Him have been justified by His shed blood! His righteousness, therefore, was imputed to those who have faith in Him! Therefore, because those who have faith in Jesus Christ have had His righteousness imputed to them and are thereby justified (made righteous in the eyes of God), “there is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No Condemnation! (Rom.4:11,25;5:9;8:1)
But where do works fit into all of this? According to Roman Catholicism, works are necessary for salvation, either gaining it or maintaining it or regaining it, once it is lost. In contrast, Monergistic Protestantism teaching is in line with the many, many passages (as noted above) that state works are not necessary for salvation. They are, however, the result of, and evidence of, true salvation.
James writes in his epistle, that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” It is this verse that Roman Catholicism points to, to support its faith plus works doctrine of salvation and justification; and taking this verse, by itself and out of the immediate context of the rest of the chapter and other passages, seems to validate the Roman Catholic position. However, when taken in its proper context, it quickly shows that this is not the case.
Remember Ephesians 2:10 which states, “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
This passage is written to Christians. Not to unbelievers, but to those who have already been saved and who have already been justified. Our Lord prepared works for His followers beforehand, and those works are “to be our way of life.” Looking at the second chapter of James, in its entirety, it is clear that not only is James giving instruction to those who profess to be Christians, but he is telling them that a mere profession of faith, devoid of charitable works, is a “dead” faith, a false faith. In other words, faith that is not evidenced by charitable good works is not a true saving faith, and those who profess to be Christian, but do not present any evidence of their conversion, are not saved. They are not Christians. Paul also teaches this. In Romans 7:4, he instructs Christians – again, not unbelievers but Christians – that they are to “bear fruit for God.” This fruit is charitable good works, which, according to Paul, are not only prepared by God for us to do, but we are enabled by Him to do them for “His good pleasure.” (Phil.2:13).
Paul goes so far as to tell his readers that his own good works are not due to his abilities, but rather due to “the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Cor.15:10). That we recognize these good works and our ability to perform them is important. We must realize that they are the result of faith, and not of our own sinful desires or abilities because, as Paul states, “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Rom.14:23); and Paul gives himself as an example: “even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.” (Phil.3:4-9)
If we do works for our own self-serving reasons, then we are not saved, and we can expect nothing but hell and the full wrath of God. If, however, we are doing them as the result of our faith, we can fully expect our reward of eternal life with the Lord in heaven (Rom.2:6-16). Therefore, our salvation and justification is not due to any good works we may do, as Roman Catholicism teaches, but as a direct result of our salvation. First God calls us to salvation. Then He gifts us with the faith we need to come to him (and without which we would never come to Him), then, after we are saved, we “do deeds consistent with repentance” (Acts 26:20) – deeds which are evidence of our salvation. A lack of charitable good works for the Lord is evidence of our lack of salvation. (see also Rom.8:4; 2 Cor.5:17-18)
This brings us to the issue of salvation. Can one lose their salvation as taught by Roman Catholicism, and therefore must perform good works in order to avoid losing it? According to Scripture, the answer is a very clear, no. Every person who is truly born again of the Spirit and is united with Christ by faith, will be kept secure in their salvation by the power of God until such a time as they go to be with Him.
Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 2:24, that Jesus Christ bore our sins and the result of His sacrifice of atonement by His blood is that we are free from sins. The purpose of this is that we might live for righteousness. (cf. Rom.3:25). By His wounds the true believer has been healed/saved. (see also Heb.2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 1 Jn 4:10; Acts 20:28; Rev.5:9)
Once saved, we are a new creation. The old person has passed away, and we are a new person in Christ Jesus – IF, we have truly and fully committed ourselves to Him. We cannot live with one foot in the Church and the other foot in the world. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve both the world and the Lord. In order to serve the world we must be of the world, and that the true believer cannot be. The true believer cannot maintain a friendship with the world. Doing so places one at enmity with God.
(see 2 Cor.5:17; Mat.6:24; James 4:4; Jn.17:16-26; 1 Jn. 2:15-17).
Christ's blood provides a complete and total atonement for the sins of every true believer. One of the most well-known verses in Scripture is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.” Notice the sentence stops after the phrase, “have eternal life.” It does not say, “have eternal life until such a time as they lose it.” John 5:24, however, does add to the phrase when Jesus Himself states quite clearly, “Very truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life, AND does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.” “Passed from death to life.” Upon believing in Him, they are saved, they have passed from eternal death to eternal life, and the true believer becomes a citizen of heaven. While here on earth we are simply awaiting the promise that He will transform our body into a glorified body so we can enter heaven. We're in a waiting room, so to speak; and no, we will not leave this waiting room to return to the world. We know this because God has stated in His word that he will complete the good work that He has started in us. He will strengthen us, and maintain us, and ensure our entrance into heaven.
The fact of the matter is, that, “those whom God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn of a large family.” (Rom.8:29). “There is, therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom.8:1), and, we can be convinced, as Paul was, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom.8:38-39).
(see also: 1 Cor.1:8; Rom.8:29; Rom.8:38-39; Phil.1:6; Phil.3:20-21; Jude 1:24; 1 Jn.5:10-13; Acts 13:38-39)
Jesus Himself states quite clearly that we cannot lose our salvation. He assures us in John 10:27-29, “27)My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28)I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29)What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.” He also tells us, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away” … “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” … “This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” … “Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (Jn.6:37,39,40,47)
The Lord knows those who are His, and He will never – yes, NEVER, leave us or forsake us. (2 Tim.2:19; Heb.13:5)
One of the ways our Lord ensures our salvation is to seal us. 2 Corinthians 1:22 states, “by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.” The word “seal” is translated from the Greek word sphragizō, which is defined as a seal of ownership, to prove, or attest, or confirm and authenticate beyond all doubt. In the case of the true believer, it confirms they have been saved. Ephesians 1:13-14 states this even more clearly: “13)In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14)this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” (cf. Eph.4:30; 2 Cor.5:5)
As further assurance, Jesus not only places His seal of ownership upon us, but He continually intercedes for us with God the Father (Rom.8:34). Some may no doubt contend that Jesus may, if our actions call for it, stop interceding and thus we would lose our salvation. However, in Hebrews 7:25 we read, “Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” In this passage, the phrases “for all time” and “always” jump out at us. The phrase “for all time” is translated from the Greek phrase, eis to panteles, which means “unto the complete end” i.e., “completely and utterly.” The word “always” is translated from the Greek word, pantote, which means “at all time, always, ever.” In other words, Jesus does not simply make intercession for us with God the Father, but He does so at all times, every second of every day, from the point of our salvation until we enter the presence of the Lord; and there is absolutely nothing in this passage to indicate that He stops or gives up on us. Remember His promise from Deuteronomy 31:6, reiterated in Hebrews 13:5, when God Himself tells us that He will never leave us, nor forsake us. Ever.
This gift of salvation, that God has given us, that Jesus has sealed us for, that Jesus continually and non-stop intercedes for us is guaranteed. It is irrevocable (Rom.11:29). 1 Peter 1:4-5 tells us that once saved, we are brought into, “4)…an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5)who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
(see also: Job 42:2; Ps.33:10-11; Is.46:9-10; Dan.4:35; Ps.34:22; 1 Jn. 5:4; 2 Tim.4:18; Col.1:13; Heb.9:15; Eph.2:19; Ecc.3:14; Gal.3:29; Gal.4:6-7; 1 Cor.1:8-9; Rom.8:30)
The most common objection to the doctrine of eternal security, or “once saved, always saved” as some call it, is their belief that this doctrine teaches that one can be saved and then engage in whatever sin they choose and still go to heaven. The truth is, however, that one cannot engage in whatever sin they choose and still go to heaven. Such an idea is known as antinomianism, and is a heresy that Paul dealt with in Romans 6.
In the first two verses of chapter 6, Paul asks, and then answers, the question of true believers sinning. He states, “1)What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2)By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” He goes on in verses 11-16, “11)So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12)Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13)No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14)For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15)What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16)Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
Two things are evident in Chapter 6. The first is that true believers can and will sin, and second, not only should Christians not sin, but there is no reason for them to sin. Paul states in Chapter 6, verses 3-4, “3)Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4)Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” As we can see, being baptized into Christ, into His death, also breaks the bond we have with our sin nature. We are no longer slaves to it because we have been raised (symbolically through our baptism) to “walk in newness of life.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that when we are raised with Christ through baptism, we are a new creation, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Therefore, there is no reason to engage in any sin at any time.
Additionally, although a true believer may from time to time fall into sin, these periods are short lived, and not a pattern of life; plus they will create within the true believer, an emotional pain, a loathing for the sin they have fallen into. This is the conviction of sin which is brought upon the true believer to drive him/her away from sin and into repentance. As mentioned, the common objection raised against the doctrine of eternal security is that it teaches a Christian can engage in whatever sin they choose, for as long as they choose, because they are going to heaven no matter what. As shown, however, not only does the Lord keep those who have come to Him until they enter heaven, but He also prevents them from engaging in a life patterned by sin. This is clearly stated in 1 John 3:1-10. As a new creation in Christ (2 Cor.5:17), the true believer not only cannot engage in a life patterned by sin, but is actually incapable of living such a life. Specifically, verses 6-9, lay this out very clearly.
The Mounce Reverse-Interlinear™ New Testament presents these verses in both the Greek, and an exact translation of the Greek, thus,
6)ou pas ho menō en autos hamartanō ou pas ho hamartanō horaō autos oude ginōskō autos 7)teknion mēdeis planaō hymeis ho poieō ho dikaiosynē eimi dikaios kathōs eimi dikaios
8)ho poieō ho hamartia eimi ek ho diabolos hoti ho diabolos hamartanō apo archē ho hyios ho theos phaneroō eis houtos hina lyō ho ergon ho diabolos
9)ou pas ho gennaō ek ho theos poieō hamartia hoti autos sperma menō en autos kai ou hamartanō hoti gennaō ek ho theos
6) No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.
7) Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever makes it a practice to do what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous.
8) The one who continues to sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose – that He might destroy the works of the devil.
9) No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, because God's seed abides in him. He cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
Scripture also clearly teaches that once a person is truly saved, their salvation is ensured and guaranteed – they cannot lose their salvation, and they cannot walk away from their salvation (1 Jn.2:19). They will remain secure in the Lord until that moment when they enter the presence of the Lord.
Additionally, Scripture also clearly teaches that once a person is saved they will not and cannot live a life patterned by sin. Only those who belong to the devil – the unsaved – are capable of living a life patterned by sin. (see also: Heb.10:26-29; 1 Jn.2:19; Lk.8:4-8,13)
Of the two views, the synergistic view of salvation (held by the Roman Catholic church, the Orthodox church, liberal or “progressive” Protestants, and some who hold to an Arminian view of salvation), and the monergistic view of salvation (held by conservative Protestants, Reformed Protestants, some Presbyterians, some Baptists, and some Lutherans), it is the monergistic view of salvation that is based on Scripture, and not the synergistic view. The monergistic view accepts and depends upon the total and complete sufficiency of God and of Christ's atonement; while recognizing that man is completely unable to come to the Lord of his own accord (Rom.3:9-20). The synergistic view, on the other hand, denies the sufficiency of God and the sufficiency of Christ's atonement, by teaching that man must perform works in order to attain salvation, and must perform works to ensure that God is able to hold him secure in his salvation.
Of these two views of salvation and justification, the Biblical monergistic view and the unscriptural synergistic view; the words of the Apostle Paul seem clearly apropos:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!” –– Galatians 1:6-9
1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Chapter 3, Article 2, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a2.htm (accessed 28 April 2017)
2. Eternal Word Television Network Website, Article: Bible Says Faith and Works Needed For Salvation by Sal Ciresi, https://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/FAWORKS.htm (accessed 28 April 2017)
3. Eternal Word Television Network Website, Article: Justification: “By Faith Alone? By James Akin, http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/solafide.htm (accessed 28 April 2017)
4. Catholic Answers Website, Article: Are Good Works Necessary for Salvation? By Tim Staples, April 30, 2015, https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/are-good-works-necessary-for-salvation (accessed 28 April 2017)
All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition (NRSVCE), copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Mounce Reverse-Interlinear™ New Testament (MOUNCE) Copyright © 2011 by Robert H. Mounce and William D. Mounce. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Reverse-Interlinear” is a trademark of William D. Mounce.