Grace as Defined by the Catholic Church
Eph 2:8 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.
Does the Catholic Church agree with this verse? Do they teach that we are saved by grace through faith, and not from works? A large percentage of Christians seem to think that they do. However, when we examine the teachings of the Catholic Church, we find that they do not teach salvation by grace through faith as it is taught in the Bible. While the Catholic Church uses biblical terminology in defining their beliefs, they do not use these terms in the same way they are used in Scripture. Their definition of grace is a perfect example.
The Bible says we are saved by grace. This word is always found in the singular. In the NIV you will find the word "grace" appears in the Bible 131 times. The word "graces" never appears in the Bible. The Bible tells us it is by God's grace (singular) that we are saved.
2 Timothy 1:8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Eph 2:4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Acts 15:11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."
While the Bible tells us we are saved by grace, the Catholic Church says we are saved by graces. They have several different kinds of graces that they go to great lengths to define. Each of their sacraments (baptism, the eucharist, the mass, etc.) are said to impart grace upon us. They believe that conversion is the "first work of grace," not the entire process. The Bible simply does not teach this.
The Bible not only teaches that it is grace (singular, one act of God) that saves us, it also says that salvation is not by works.
Rom 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Rom 4:2-6 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: (from New International Version).
The Catholic Church, however, says that there are works of grace. While they agree that we cannot merit for ourselves the initial grace of forgiveness, they have defined (outside of Scripture) other graces that we can and are supposed to merit for ourselves including the "graces needed for sanctification...and for the attainment of eternal life." So basically, to sound in line with Scripture they agree that we are saved by grace through faith, but they only mean one grace as they have defined it to be the first work of many graces.
We must be careful that we are not deceived with "fine-sounding arguments" (Col 2:4). Just because they use similar terminology does not mean they are teaching the same grace the Bible teaches, and as we can see, they are not. Below are some excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It points out some of their teachings on grace. This does not line up with the Scriptures that reveal that grace (in the singular) saves us by faith, not by works.
Excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
|Grace and Justification |
1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."38 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.39
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:40 (emphasis ours)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:48
2000 Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God's call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God's interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.
2003 Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning "favor," "gratuitous gift," "benefit."53 Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.54 (emphasis ours)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.
2016 The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus.70 Keeping the same rule of life, believers share the "blessed hope" of those whom the divine mercy gathers into the "holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."71(emphasis ours)
Catechism of the Catholic Church