- 1 Scripture
- 1.1 I. Faith Justifies Initially, but Works Perfect and Complete Justification
- 1.2 II. Works of Law versus Good Works
- 1.3 III. Justification = Inner Change of Person (Infusion); Not Just a Declaration by God (Imputation)
- 1.4 IV. Some Examples of Justification as Ongoing (not a one-time event)
- 1.5 V. Jesus and Apostles Teach that Works are Necessary for Justification
- 2 Tradition / Church Fathers
I. Faith Justifies Initially, but Works Perfect and Complete Justification
James 2:24 – the phrase “faith alone” (the Greek “pisteos monon”) only occurs once in the Bible. “Man is justified by works and NOT faith alone.” Unlike what many Protestant churches teach, no where in Scripture does it say that man is justified or saved by “faith alone.” To the contrary, man is not justified by faith alone. In Catholic theology, a person is justified by faith and works acting together, which comes solely from God’s divine grace. Faith alone never obtains the grace of justification (Council of Trent, chapter 8, canon 9). Also, the word “justified” (dikaiow) is the same word Paul uses for justification in Rom. 4:3 in regard to Abraham (so Protestants cannot argue James is not referring to “justification” in James 2:24 unless they argue Paul wasn’t in Rom. 4:3 either).
Heb. 11:6 – faith is indeed the minimum requirement without which we cannot please God. But this is just the beginning of the process leading toward justification. Faith alone does not justify a person. Justification is only achieved by faith and works, as we see below. Also, this gratuitous gift of faith from God also includes the grace of hope and love the moment the person is justified.
Eph. 2:8-9 – Paul teaches us that faith is the root of justification, and that faith excludes “works of law.” But Paul does not teach that faith excludes other kinds of works, as we will see below. The verse also does not say we are justified by “faith alone.” It only indicates that faith comes first. This, of course, must be true, because those who do works outside of faith are in a system of debt, not of grace (more on that later). But faith alone does not justify. A man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. James 2:24.
Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30 – the faith we have must be a repentant faith, not just an intellectual faith that believes in God. Repentance is not just a thought process (faith), but an act (work) by which we ask God for His mercy and forgiveness.
Psalm 51:17 – this means we need a “broken and contrite heart,” not just an intellectual assent of faith. Faith in God is only the beginning.
John 3:36; Rom. 1:5, 6:17; 15:18; 16:26; 2 Cor. 9:13; 1 Thess. 1:3; 2 Thess. 1:11; 1 Peter 2:7-8; Heb. 5:9; cf. Rev. 3:10; Ex. 19:5 – this faith must also be an “obedient faith” and a “work of faith.” Obedience means persevering in good works to the end.
2 Cor. 10:15 – this faith must also increase as a result of our obedience, as Paul hopes for in this verse. Obedience is achieved not by faith alone, but by doing good works.
2 Cor. 13:5 – Paul also admonishes us to examine ourselves, to see whether we are holding to our faith. This examination of conscience is a pious Catholic practice. Our faith, which is a gift from God, must be nurtured. Faith is not a one-time event that God bestows upon us.
Gal. 5:6 – thus, the faith that justifies us is “faith working through love,” not faith alone. This is one of the best summaries of Catholic teaching. Faith and love (manifested by works) are always connected. Faith (a process of thought) and love (an action) are never separated in the Scriptures. Cf. Eph. 3:17; 1 Thess. 3:6,12-13; 2 Thess. 1:3; 1 John 3:23; Rev. 2:4-5,19. Further, all faith (initial and perfected) are gratuitous gifts from God, and not earned or merited by any human action. God effects everything, both the willing and the achievement. But God also requires human action, which is necessary to perfect our faith.
James 1:22-25 – it’s the “doers” who are justified, not the hearers. Justification is based on what we do, which means “works.” Notice that there is nothing about “false faith.” The hearers may have faith, but they need to accompany their faith by works, or they will not be justified. See also Rom. 2:13.
James 2:17,26 – James clearly teaches that faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. Works are a cause, not just an effect, of our justification because good works achieve and increase our justification before God. Scripture never says anything about “saving faith.” Protestants cannot show us from the Scriptures that “works” qualify the “faith” into saving faith. Instead, here and elsewhere, the Scriptures teach that justification is achieved only when “faith and works” act together. Scripture puts no qualifier on faith. Scripture also never says that faith “leads to works.” Faith is faith and works are works (James 2:18). They are distinct (mind and action), and yet must act together in order to receive God’s unmerited gift of justification.
James 2:19 – even the demons believe that Jesus is Lord. But they tremble. Faith is not enough. Works are also required.
James 2:20 – do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? Good works in God’s grace are required for justification. But there is nothing in the Scriptures about “saving faith.”
James 2:22 – faith is active with works and is completed by works. It does not stand alone. Faith needs works to effect our justification.
James 4:17 – in fact, James writes that the failure to do works is a sin! So works are absolutely necessary for our justification.
James 2:15-17 – here are the examples of the “works” to which James is referring – corporal works of mercy (giving food and shelter to those in need).
James 1:27 – another example of “works” is visiting orphans and widows in their affliction. Otherwise, if they do not perform these good works, their religion is in vain.
James 2:25 – another example of “works” is when Rahab assisted the spies in their escape. Good works increase our justification and perfect our faith.
Joshua 2:9-11 – Rahab’s fellow citizens had faith in God, but in Joshua 6:22-25, Rahab alone acted and was saved. This is faith in action.
James 2:18 – to avoid the truth of the Catholic position that we are justified by both faith and works, Protestants argue the justification that James is referring to in James 2 is “before men” and not “before God.” Scripture disproves their claim.
James 2:14 – James asks, “Can faith save him?” Salvation comes from God. This proves the justification James is referring to is before God, not men.
James 2:19 – also, James reminds us that even the demons believe and tremble. This refers to our relationship with God, not with men. Thus, our justification that requires works and not faith alone relates to our status before God, not men.
James 2:21 – James also appeals to the example of Abraham. Abraham’s justification refers to his position before God, not men. This proves justification is before God, not men.
Acts. 10:35 – Peter teaches that anyone who fears the Lord and does what is right is acceptable to Him. It is both fear and works, not fear alone.
Rom. 2:7,10 – to those who by patience and good works will be granted glory and honor and peace from the Lord.
Rom. 2:13 – for it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. Paul is referring to the “law of Christ” in Gal.6:2, not “works of the law” in Rom. 3:20,28; Gal. 2:16; 3:2,5,10; and Eph. 2:8-9. The “law of Christ” is faith in Christ and works based on grace (God owes us nothing) and “works of the law” mean no faith in Christ, and legal works based on debt (God owes us something).
Rom. 4:5-6 – to him who does not work but believes, his faith is accounted to him as righteousness, like David, who was righteous apart from works. Here, Paul is emphasizing that works must be done in faith, not outside of faith. If they are done outside of faith, we are in a system of debt (God owes us). If they are done in faith (as James requires), we are in a system of grace (God rewards us). Hence, Paul accepts the works performed under God’s forbearance (grace) in Rom. 2:7,10,13 (see also Rom. 14:10-12; 1 Cor. 3:12-17; and 2 Corinthians 5:10) which lead to justification and eternal life. These verses have nothing to do with “faith alone.” Paul uses the word “alone” three times in Rom. 4:12,16,23, but never uses it with “faith.” Certainly, if he wanted to teach “faith alone,” he would have done so.
Rom. 6:16 – obedience leads to righteousness. Obedience is a good “work,” an act of the will, which leads to righteousness before God.
2 Cor. 9:8 – Paul teaches that God will bless us so that we may provide in abundance for “every good work.” Good works are encouraged to complete our faith.
Eph. 6:8 – whatever good anyone does will receive the same again from the Lord. God rewards good works done in grace.
Phil. 4:17 – Paul says “I seek the fruit which increases to your credit.” Fruits (good works) increase our justification. Paul says these works increase our “credit,” which is also called “merit.” These merits bring forth more graces from God, furthering increasing our justification as we are so disposed. But the fruits, works, and merits are all borne from God’s unmerited and undeserved mercy won for us by Jesus Christ.
Titus 3:8 – good deeds are excellent and profitable to men (just like the Old Testament Scriptures in 2 Tim. 3:16). Good deeds further justify us before God. This verse should be contrasted with Titus 3:5, where we are not saved by works of righteousness “we have done.” As further discussed below, in this verse what “we have done” refers to a work of law or obligation for which we seek payment. But verse 5 also says the “washing of regeneration” in reference to baptism saves, which is a work of grace, for which we are rewarded by God in Christ. There is a distinction between “works of law or obligation” and “works of grace.”
1 Peter 2:7-8; John 3:36 – shows that belief in Jesus means obeying Jesus. Having faith means being faithful, which requires good works as well. Hence, obeying Jesus means doing works of love, not just having faith alone.
II. Works of Law versus Good Works
Rom. 3:20,28; Gal. 2:16,21; 3:2,5,10; Eph. 2:8-9 – many Protestants err in their understanding of what Paul means by “works of the law” in his teaching on justification. Paul’s teaching that we are not justified by “works of the law” refer to the law of Moses or to any legal system that makes God our debtor. They do not refer to good works done in grace with faith in Christ. This makes sense when we remember that Paul’s mission was to teach that salvation was also for the Gentiles who were not subject to the “works of the law.” Here is the proof:
James 2:24 – compare the verse “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” to Gal. 2:16 – “a man is not justified by works of the law,” and Rom. 3:20,28 – “no human being will be justified in His sight by works of the law.” James 2:24 appears to be inconsistent with Gal. 2:16 and Rom. 3:20,28 until one realizes that the Word of God cannot contradict itself. This means that the “works” in James 2:24 are different from the “works of the law in Gal. 2:16 and Rom. 3:20,28. James is referring to “good works” (e.g.,clothing the naked; giving food to the poor) and Paul is referring to the “Mosaic law” (which included both the legal, moral and ceremonial law) or any works which oblige God to give us payment. Here is more proof:
Rom. 3:20,28; Gal. 2:16 – Paul’s phrase for “works of the law” in the Greek is “ergon nomou” which means the Mosaic law or Torah and refers to the teachings (legal, moral) and works (ceremonial) that gave the Jews the knowledge of sin, but not an escape from sin. We have further proof of this from the Dead Sea Scrolls which provide the Hebrew equivalent (“hrvt ysm”) meaning “deeds of the law,” or Mosaic law. James in James 2 does not use “ergon nomou.” He uses “ergois agathois.” Therefore, Paul’s “works of the law” and James’ “works” are entirely different types of works. Again, they could never contradict each other because the Scriptures are the inspired word of God.
Rom. 3:29 – Paul confirms that works of the law in this case refer to the Mosaic law by rhetorically asking “Or is God the God of the Jews only?” It does not mean “good works.”
Rom. 4:9-17 – Paul provides further discussion that righteousness God seeks in us does not come from Mosaic law, but through faith. But notice that Paul also never says “faith alone.”
Rom. 9:31-32 – righteousness is pursued through faith, not works of the law. Again, “works of law” does not mean “good works.”
Rom. 11:6,11 – justification is no longer based on “works” of the law, but on the grace of Christ. Why? Because salvation is also for the Gentiles.
Rom. 15:9-12 – Paul explains that Christ also saves the Gentiles. Therefore, “works of law” are no longer required.
Acts 13:39 – Luke also confirms this by providing that we have been “freed from the law of Moses.” This is the “works of the law” from which we have been freed.
Rom. 3:20,28 – in addition to the Mosaic law, as stated above, “works of the law” can also refer to anything that makes God a debtor to us. This is because law requires payment, but grace is a free gift from God. Therefore, faith must be behind every good work in order for it to be a work of grace. If not, it is a work of debt, and we cannot obligate God to do anything for us.
Rom. 4:3-4 – Paul refers to works apart from God’s grace. We do not obligate God to give us grace like an employee obligates his employer to pay wages. Faith in Christ must be behind our good works in order for it to be considered a work of grace; otherwise, it is a work of law or obligation.
Rom. 6:23 – this is why Paul says the “wages” of sin is death. Eternal life is a free gift from God. We cannot obligate God to pay us for our works; otherwise, we are in a system of law, not a system of grace.
Rom. 11:6 – Paul says that if justification is now based on grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.
Rom. 11:35 – it is impossible to obligate God for payment, and sinful to think we can. We cannot do “works of the law” to obligate God. We are not in a debtor/creditor relationship with God. He owes us nothing. Instead, we are in a Father/child covenant relationship with Him, and He will reward us for being faithful.
Gal. 6:8-9 – the earnings referred to here are from God’s grace. It is a free gift, not an obligation. This underscores that our relationship with God is Father/son and daughter, not employer/employee.
Rom. 8:14-17; Heb. 12:5-11 – these texts further emphasize our father/son relationship with God. Our relationship is familial, not legal.
Rom. 7:6 – we are now discharged from the “law,” that is “works of the law.” We now serve God in faith working in love.
Rom. 10:4 – Christ is the end of the “law.” We are now justified by faith in Christ, not faith in the law.
Rom. 13:8,10 – loving one another is fulfilling the new law of Christ. This is internal and personal, not external and impersonal.
Gal. 2:16 – again, man is not justified by “works of the law.” Again, Paul is referring to the Mosaic law and anything which views God as a debtor to us.
Gal. 2:19,21 – justification “through the law” means justification through the Mosaic law or a legal system that makes God a debtor to us.
Gal. 3:10 – shows that “works of the law” refers to the “book of the law” which was the strict and impersonal Mosaic law of the Old Testament.
Gal. 3:17 – this “law” came 430 years after Abraham. So “works of law” here clearly refer to the Mosaic law, not “good works.”
Gal. 3:13; 4:4-5 – in fact, the “works of the law” (not good works in God’s grace) is a curse from which Christ freed us.
Gal. 3:19 – these “works of law” were only good for showing us our sinfulness, but not teaching us how to live.
Gal. 5:4,14; 6:2 – the “law” is of no use. The new law is the law of Christ, which is faith working through love.
Eph. 2:8-9 – we have been saved by grace through faith, not because of “works,” lest anyone boast. This much-quoted verse by Protestants refers to the “works” of the Mosaic law or any works performed in a legalistic sense, where we view God as a debtor to us, and not as our heavenly Father. Paul is teaching us that, with the coming of Christ, we are now saved by grace through faith, not by Mosaic or legal works.
This is why Paul refers to “works of ourselves” and so we can’t “boast.” Paul says the same thing about “works” Rom. 4:2,4 – if Abraham was justified by “works,” he would have something to “boast” about. Here, the wages are not counted as grace, but debt. “Boasting” does not attribute works to God, but to oneself. But good works done in faith are necessary for justification (James 2:24, etc.) because we receive rewards by grace, not by legal obligation, and we attribute these works to God, not ourselves.
Eph. 2:10 – in quoting Ephesians 2:8-9, Protestants invariably ignore the very next verse. Right after Paul’s teaching on “works” referring to Mosaic law, Paul says we are created in Christ for “good works” – a clear distinction between “works of law” (Mosaic law/legal payment) and “good works” (law of Christ/reward of grace).
Eph. 2:11-16 – this section further explains Paul’s reference to “works” which relates to following the Jewish legal ordinances.
Eph. 3:17 – Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, but we also must be rooted and grounded in love.
III. Justification = Inner Change of Person (Infusion); Not Just a Declaration by God (Imputation)
Psalm 51:1-2 – O God, blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. This cleansing requires an inner change of heart. Many Protestants believe that we are so depraved that God only covers our sins up by declaring us righteous (imputing Christ’s righteousness to us). The Catholic (and Scriptural view), however, is that God is powerful enough to blot out our sins and remove them. The view that God just declares us righteous by “covering us up,” denigrates the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, who continues the work of Christ through His work of justification and sanctification (infusing His grace into souls and changing the inner person).
Psalm 51:7-9 – purge me and I shall be clean, wash me whiter than snow, fill me with joy, blot out my iniquities. We are purged and filled up internally, not just covered up externally.
Psalm 51:10 – create in me a clean heart, oh God, and put a new and right spirit within me (not “cover” me). God is so powerful that He brings about a real metamorphosis in ourselves.
Isaiah 1:18 – though my sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though red like crimson, they shall be like wool.
Isaiah 43:25 – I am He who blots out your transgressions and forgets your sins. God does not cover our sins up. He blots them out by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 44:22 – I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sin like mist. This is a real elimination of sin, not a covering up of sin.
Isaiah 64:5 – thou meetest him that joyfully works righteousness. This means righteousness is not just imputed to us. We can actually do works of righteousness by God’s grace.
Ezek. 36:26-27 – a new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you. These are interior changes effected by God.
Ezek. 37:23 – the Lord will save His people from all their backslidings in which they have sinned, and He will cleanse them (not cover them).
Matt. 5:3,5,8 – blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, and the pure of heart. These are internal dispositions, not just an external reality.
Matt. 5:6; Luke 6:21 – those who hunger for righteousness “may be filled.” It is an inner change, not snow covering up a dunghill.
Matt. 5:20; Luke 1:6; Acts 10:35 – here are more examples of “doing” righteousness, not just being “imputed” external righteousness. We are not just defendants in a courtroom who have been exonerated. We are children of God endowed with the power of the Holy Spirit by whose grace we can become righteous.
Matt. 5:28 – Jesus teaches that just looking lustfully at a woman is adultery. But avoiding this involves an inner change, a response to God’s grace.
Matt. 6:1 – beware of practicing righteousness before men. We are not just declared righteous; we can practice righteousness as well.
Matt. 8:3 – Jesus cleanses the man’s leprosy. Jesus’ power reaches both the external and internal conditions of human beings. See also Matt. 11:5.
Matt. 15:18; Mark 7:15 -Jesus teaches the interior disposition is what defiles man. Thus, God’s infusion of grace changes us interiorly.
Matt. 23:25-28 – the Pharisees appeared outwardly righteous to men, but inside they were filled with hypocrisy. God desires and helps us effect an inner change of heart. He doesn’t just declare that we are righteous.
Luke 11:39-40 – the Pharisees cleansed the outside of the cup but inside they were full of wickedness. God demands an internal change and gives us the grace to make that change.
John 1:29 – Jesus the Lamb of God literally takes away the sin of the world. He does not just cover up the sins of the world.
Acts 3:19 – repent, that your sins may be “blotted” out. The word blotted comes from the Greek word “exalipho” which means an actual wiping away or removal, not a covering up.
Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11 – again, the phrase “wash away” is from the word “apolouo” which mean a literal removal or an infusion of cleansing, not an imputation or covering.
Rom. 4:3 – it was “credited” to him as righteousness. The word “credited” comes from the Greek word “elogisthe” which means a book entry. God records what there actually is; He does not make a phony entry on the books.
Rom. 5:17 – we do not receive Christ’s personal level of righteousness (which is impossible), but we are made righteous on His account by God’s mercy and the Lord’s work on the cross. The word “made” in Greek is “katestathesan” which refers to a real, actual, ontological change in the person’s soul.
Rom. 5:19 – through “Adam/Christ” we were made “sinners/righteous.” This means that there is not just a relational change in status, but an objective change in nature. We are not just declared righteous, but are actually made righteous. God does not declare something without making it so. For example, in Gen. 1:3, God declares that there is light, and there is light. The declaration is followed by the reality.
2 Cor. 3:18 – Paul says that we are being changed into the Lord’s likeness from one degree of glory to another, by the power of the Spirit. This shows that justification is ongoing, and changes in degrees throughout one’s life, based upon one’s obedience of faith.
2 Cor. 4:16 – though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. Justification does not happen all at once, and is not an external declaration. Justification happens every day, and concerns our inner nature.
2 Cor. 5:17 – Paul says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. He is not just the old creation that is covered up. The old has passed away, and behold, the new has come.
2 Cor. 7:1 – Paul says that we must cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God. Holiness deals with being, what is, because its source is God, who is. It does not deal with what appears to be.
2 Cor. 13:5 – do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? This indwelling of Christ brings about an internal transformation to those who cooperate with His grace.
Gal. 6:15 – for neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
Eph. 4:22-24 – putting off the old nature for the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, involves an internal change. Our lives are actually transformed. This is required in order for us to become adopted sons (not just defendants acquitted in a courtroom).
Phil. 2:13 – God is at work “in you.” God is so powerful, he can actually transform us by working in us. He is not just outside us making declarations about us.
Col. 3:10 – we have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. We are new, and this newness is a continual process of renewal throughout our lives.
Titus 3:5 – justification is a generation of supernatural life in a former sinner. This means a real inner change or infusion, not just donning an outer cloak.
1 John 1:7,9 – Jesus will “cleanse” us from sin and unrighteousness. The word cleanse comes from the Greek word “katharizo” which means an actual “infused” cleansing, not an “imputed” pretend cleansing.
1 John 3:7,10 – righteousness may be obtained by “doing.” One who practices righteousness is righteous. God is not just declaring the person righteousness.
Rev. 19:8 – when we are clothed in fine linen in heaven, the fine linen is “our righteous acts.” It is our own righteousness, from the work and mercy of Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:4 – we are actually made righteous because God is the eternal family, and we partake of this divine nature as children. The Catholic position thus gives Jesus the most glory. His grace is powerful enough to change us interiorly.
1 Cor. 3:9 – this is because we are His fellow workers. God is not threatened by the grace and glory He gives His children!
IV. Some Examples of Justification as Ongoing (not a one-time event)
2 Cor. 4:16 – though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed “every day.” This not only proves that justification is internal (not legal and external), but that it is also ongoing (it’s not a one-time event of accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior). Our inner nature is being renewed every day as we persevere in faith, hope and love.
John 3:16 – justification is ongoing, not a one-time event. God so loved (past) the world, that He gave (past) His only Son, that whoever believes (ongoing) in Him may have eternal life. The word “believes” is “pisteuo” in Greek which necessarily includes obedience throughout one’s life. This is proved by 1 Peter 2:7-8 which also uses “pisteuo” (to obey) and “apitheo” (to disobey). The same word “pisteuo” is used in many other verses about “believing in Christ” such as John 3:36; 5:24; Rom. 4:24; 10:9-10; cf. Rom. 1:5,16; 6:17; 16:26; 1 John 5:13 (often used by Protestants to support their “faith alone” theology). To “believe” means to “obey” throughout one’s life; it is not a one-time acceptance of Jesus as Savior.
Heb. 5:9 – Paul also confirms this by writing that Jesus became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. Here are some examples of justification as an on-going process, and not a one-time event:
Gen. 12:1-4 – Abram is justified here, as God promises to make his name great and bless the families of the earth through his seed. Abram is justified by his faith in God. Heb. 11:8-10 confirms Abraham’s justification occurred here, before Gen. 15:6 (later) by referring to Gen. 12, not Gen. 15. Abraham’s justification increased over time because justification is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process of growing in holiness.
Gen. 14:19, 22-23 – Abram is also justified here, by being blessed by the priest-king Melchizedek. Melchizedek calls Abram blessed and Abram gives him a tenth of everything.
Gen. 15:6 – Abram is further justified here, as God promises him that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars. Because the Scripture says, “He believed the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness,” Protestants often say this was Abram’s initial justification, and cite Rom 4:2 to prove Abram was justified by his faith. Yes, it is true Abram was justified by his faith, but he was justified 25 years earlier in Gen. 12:1-4, as Heb. 11:8-10 proves.
Gen. 22:1-18 – Abraham is further justified here, this time by works, when he offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. James 2:21 proves this as James writes, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?” James then confirms this by writing, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (James 2:23). These verses prove that justification before God is an on-going process, not a one-time event of accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior, and is accomplished by faith and works.
1 Sam. 13:14 – David is justified here, as God describes him as “a man after his own heart.” No one in Scripture is described like this. Acts 13:22 confirms David’s justification before God.
1 Sam. 16:13 – David is also justified here. “The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.”
1 Sam. 17:37-54 – David is further justified here, as he responds to God’s grace and God delivers him from the hand of Goliath the Philistine.
2 Sam. 6:9,14 – David is further justified here, as he expresses a fear for the Lord in the presence of His ark, and dances before the ark of the Lord with all his might.
2 Sam. 12:7-15 – however, after David’s on-going justification before God, David falls out of justification by committing adultery with Bathsheba and slaying Uriah the Hittite. David still had faith in God, but he lost his justification because of his evil works.
Psalm 32:1-2; Rom. 4:7-8; cf. 51:2,7-10,17 – David repents of his sin and writes these beautiful psalms about God’s mercy and forgiveness. Of himself, he writes, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered up.” David is re-justified before God. This proves that we can be justified before God, then lose our justification, and then be re-justified through repentance and reconciliation with God.
Matt. 16:18-19 – Jesus blesses Simon for receiving a Revelation from God, changes his name to Peter, and gives him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. In John 6:68-69, Peter, justified before God, declares that Jesus has the words of eternal life. In Luke 22:31-32, Jesus prays for Peter that his faith may not fail and charges him to strengthen the rest of the apostles. In these and many other examples, Peter is justified before God.
Matt. 26:75; Mark 14:72; John 18:17, 25-27 – Peter denies he knows Jesus and loses his justification before God.
John 21:15-17 – Peter is re-justified before God after he negates his three-fold denial of Jesus with a three-fold confirmation of his love for him. Jesus then charges Peter to feed the Lord’s sheep. Peter was justified, loses his justification, and regains it again through repentance and love.
Luke 15:24,32 – the prodigal son was dead, and now is alive again; he was lost and now is found. The prodigal son regained his father’s favor through repentance (v. 18-19,21). When we ask our Father for forgiveness, we too will regain His favor and be justified.
Acts 9:1- 17 – Protestants would say that Paul is instantly justified here, when he encounters Christ, obeys His command to enter the city, and is moved by the Holy Spirit. They would say that Paul’s sins are now covered up and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to him.
Acts 9:18; 22:16 – then why does Ananias command Saint Paul (who was directly chosen by Christ) to stand up and be baptized and “wash away” his sins? Because justification, as the Church has taught for 2,000 years, is ongoing. It is not a one-time event of accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior. Justification is freely given by God through faith, hope, love and the sacraments of the Church (here, baptism).
V. Jesus and Apostles Teach that Works are Necessary for Justification
Matt. 5:2-11 – Jesus’ teaching of the beatitudes goes beyond faith – being pure, merciful, and peacemakers are all good works. They are acts of the will that are necessary for a right relationship with God.
Matt. 5:16 – Jesus confirms this by teaching, “let your light shine before men that they may see your ‘good works’ and give glory to God.” Good works glorify God and increase our justification before the Father.
Matt. 5:39-42 – give your striker the other cheek, give away your cloak, and go with him two miles. This faith in action, not faith alone.
Matt. 5:44-47 – this means even loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. Love is a good work, an act of the will.
Matt. 6:12 – forgive us our sins, not by how much faith we have, but as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Matt. 7:19-23 – just saying “Lord, Lord” and accepting Jesus as personal Savior is not enough. We must also bear the fruit of good works.
Matt. 19:16-22 – Jesus teaches the man to sell all he has and give it to the poor. It is not just about accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior. We also need good works by keeping Jesus’ commandments.
Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31 – Jesus says You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love is a good work – an act of the intellect and will.
Mark 9:39 – Jesus said no one who does good works in His name will be able to soon after speak evil of Him. Good works justify us before God.
Luke 6:46-47 – the Lord asks us to do what he tells us, and that is to keep His commandments, not just “accept” Him as personal Lord and Savior.
Luke 6:20-38 – again, beatitudes, the love of enemies, giving to the needy, forgiving, bearing fruit – all these good works justify a man before God.
Luke 8:21 – Jesus says that His mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.
John 5:24 – note that “eternal life” here means sanctifying grace (the life of God within us). We can choose to fall from this grace.
John 5:36, 10:37-38 – Jesus emphasizes that His works testify to who He is. We must imitate Christ’s works to be more fully united with Him.
John 5:39-42 – knowing the Scriptures is not enough if you do not have love in your heart.
John 8:31-32 – Jesus requires works even from those who believe in Him. Mere belief is not enough.
John 13:34-35 – Jesus gives us a new commandment, that we love one another as He loves us. He commands love which is an act of our will.
John 14:15 – Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This requires works, not just faith (and not faith alone).
John 14:21 – he who hears my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. This is doing good works for others.
John 15:8 – Jesus requires us to bear the good fruit of works if we are to be His disciples. These fruits are merits in Catholic teaching, all borne from God’s unmerited gift of grace.
John 15:10 – if you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, as I have kept the Father’s commandments.
John 15:12 – this is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. Love is both a cause and the fruit of our justification.
Rom. 12:10 – Paul commands us to love one another. Love is a good work, an act of the intellect and will, not just a feeling.
1 Cor. 3:8 – Paul teaches that he who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor.
1 Cor. 13:2 – Paul teaches that if our faith moves mountains, but we have not the works of love, we are nothing indeed.
1 Cor. 13:13 – abide in faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Love is the greatest work which justifies us (not faith, and most importantly, not faith alone!)
1 Tim. 6:18-19 – we are to do good and be rich in good works thus laying up a good foundation for a chance at eternal life.
Titus 1:16 – people claim to know God, but their deeds deny Him. Like Jesus, it is our works that testify to our faith in Christ.
1 John 2:3-5 – and by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. This requires good works, not faith alone.
1 John 3:23 – God’s commandment is to believe in His Son Jesus and love one another. Belief is not enough, but good works to perfect that belief.
1 John 4:7-21 – and this commandment we have from Him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. John gives us repeated exhortations to love one another.
1 John 5:2-3 – we know we love God and God’s children when we keep His commandments. We need to love which is manifested in good works and not faith alone.
2 John 6 – we must love one another and keep Jesus’ commandments. We must cooperate with Christ’s grace.
Tradition / Church Fathers
I. Justification Brings About Infused Righteousness
“so likewise men, if they do truly progress by faith towards better things, and receive the Spirit of God, and bring forth the fruit thereof, shall be spiritual, as being planted in the paradise of God. But if they cast out the Spirit, and remain in their former condition, desirous of being of the flesh rather than of the Spirit, then it is very justly said with regard to men of this stamp, ‘That flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God;’ just as if any one were to say that the wild olive is not received into the paradise of God. Admirably therefore does the apostle exhibit our nature, and God’s universal appointment, in his discourse about flesh and blood and the wild olive. For as the good olive, if neglected for a certain time, if left to grow wild and to run to i wood, does itself become a wild olive; or again, if the wild olive be carefully tended and grafted, it naturally reverts to its former fruit-bearing condition: so men also, when they become careless, and bring forth for fruit the lusts of the flesh like woody produce, are rendered, by their own fault, unfruitful in righteousness…For when men sleep, the enemy sows the material of tares; and for this cause did the Lord command His disciples to be on the watch. And again, those persons who are not bringing forth the fruits of righteousness, and are, as it were, covered over and lost among brambles, if they use diligence, and receive the word of God as a graft, arrive at the pristine nature of man–that which was created after the image and likeness of God.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:10,1 (A.D. 180).
“And since many saints participate in the Holy Spirit, He cannot therefore be understood to be a body, which being divided into corporeal parts, is partaken of by each one of the saints; but He is manifestly a sanctifying power, in which all are said to have a share who have deserved to be sanctified by His grace.” Origen, First Principles, I:I,3 (A.D. 230).
“You are mistaken, and are deceived, whosoever you are, that think yourself rich in this world. Listen to the voice of your Lord in the Apocalypse, rebuking men of your stamp with righteous reproaches: ‘Thou sayest,’ says He, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear in thee; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.’ You therefore, who are rich and wealthy, buy for yourself of Christ gold tried by fire; that you may be pure gold, with your filth burnt out as if by fire, if you are purged by almsgiving and righteous works. Buy for yourself white raiment, that you who had been naked according to Adam, and were before frightful and unseemly, may be clothed with the white garment of Christ. And you who are a wealthy and rich matron in Christ’s Church, anoint your eyes, not with the collyrium of the devil, but with Christ’s eye-salve, that you may be able to attain to see God, by deserving well of God, both by good works and character.” Cyprian, On Works and Alms,14 (A.D. 254).
“For He was made man that we might be made God…” Athanasius, Incarnation, 54 (A.D. 318).
“Moreover, when He teaches us to pray, He says not, ‘When ye pray, say, O God Unoriginated,’ but rather, ‘When ye pray, say, Our Father, which art in heavens.’ And it was His Will, that the Summary of our faith should have the same bearing. For He has bid us be baptized, not in the name of Unoriginate and Originate, not into the name of Uncreate and Creature, but into the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for with such an initiation we too are made sons verily, and using the name of the Father, we acknowledge from that name the Word in the Father. But if He wills that we should call His own Father our Father, we must not on that account measure ourselves with the Son according to nature, for it is because of the Son that the Father is so called by us; for since the Word bore our body and came to be in us, therefore by reason of the Word in us, is God called our Father. For the Spirit of the Word in us names through us His own Father as ours, which is the Apostle’s meaning when he says, ‘God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.'” Athanasius, On the Defense of the Nicene Creed, 31 (A.D. 351).
“‘To declare His righteousness.’ What is declaring of righteousness? Like the declaring of His riches, not only for Him to be rich Himself, but also to make others rich, or of life, not only that He is Himself living, but also that He makes the dead to live; and of His power, not only that He is Himself powerful, but also that He makes the feeble powerful. So also is the declaring of His righteousness not only that He is Himself righteous, but that He doth also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores ‘asapentas’ of sin suddenly righteous.” John Chrysostom, Romans, Homily VII:24,25 (A.D. 391).
“All His saints, also, imitate Christ in the pursuit of righteousness; whence the same apostle, whom we have already quoted, says: ‘Be ye imitators of me, as I am also of Christ.’ But besides this imitation, His grace works within us our illumination and justification, by that operation concerning which the same preacher of His [name] says: ‘Neither is he that planteth anything, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.’ For by this grace He engrafts into His body even baptized infants, who certainly have not yet become able to imitate any one. As therefore He, in whom all are made alive, besides offering Himself as an example of righteousness to those who imitate Him, gives also to those who believe on Him the hidden grace of His Spirit, which He secretly infuses even into infants…” Augustine, On the merits and forgiveness of sins, 1:9 (A.D. 412).
“Here, perhaps, it may be said by that presumption of man, which is ignorant of the righteousness of God, and wishes to establish one of its own, that the apostle quite properly said, ‘For by the law shall no man be justified,’ inasmuch as the law merely shows what one ought to do, and what one ought to guard against, in order that what the law thus points out may be accomplished by the will, and so man be justified, not indeed by the power of the law, but by his free determination. But I ask your attention, O man, to what follows. ‘But now the righteousness of God,’ says he, ‘without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.’ Does this then sound a light thing in deaf ears? He says, ‘The righteousness of God is manifested.’ Now this righteousness they are ignorant of, who wish to establish one of their own; they will not submit themselves to it. His words are, ‘The righteousness of God is manifested:’ he does not say, the righteousness of man, or the righteousness of his own will, but the ‘righteousness of God,’–not that whereby He is Himself righteous, but that with which He endows man when He justifies the ungodly. This is witnessed by the law and the prophets; in other words, the law and the prophets each afford it testimony. The law, indeed, by issuing its commands and threats, and by justifying no man, sufficiently shows that it is by God’s gift, through the help of the Spirit, that a man is justified; and the prophets, because it was what they predicted that Christ at His coming accomplished.” Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, 9:15 (A.D. 412).
“For what else does the phrase ‘being justified’ signify than being made righteous, — by Him, of course, who justifies the ungodly man, that he may become a godly one instead? For if we were to express a certain fact by saying, ‘The men will be liberated,’ the phrase would of course be understood as asserting that the liberation would accrue to those who were men already; but if we were to say, The men will be created, we should certainly not be understood as asserting that the creation would happen to those who were already in existence, but that they became men by the creation itself…In like manner, we attach one meaning to the statement, ‘God sanctifies His saints,’ and another to the words, ‘Sanctified be Thy name; ‘ for in the former case we suppose the words to mean that He makes those to be saints who were not saints before, and in the latter, that the prayer would have that which is always holy in itself be also regarded as holy by men, — in a word, be feared with a hallowed awe.” Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, 26:45 (A.D. 412).
“For then it is true wisdom; for if it is human, it is vain. Yet not so of God, as is that wherewith God is wise. For He is not wise by partaking of Himself, as the mind is by partaking of God. But as we call it the righteousness of God, not only when we speak of that by which He Himself is righteous, but also of that which He gives to man when He justifies the ungodly, which latter righteousness the apostle commending, says of some, that ‘not knowing the righteousness of God and going about to establish their own righteousness, they are not subject to the righteousness of God;’ so also it may be said of some, that not knowing the wisdom of God and going about to establish their own wisdom, they are not subject to the wisdom of God.” Augustine, On the Trinity, 14:12,5 (A.D. 416).
“Although there are many who appear to do what the law commands, through fear of punishment, not through love of righteousness; and such righteousness as this the apostle calls ‘his own which is after the law,’–a thing as it were commanded, not given. When, indeed, it has been given, it is not called our own righteousness, but God’s; because it becomes our own only so that we have it from God. These are the apostle’s words: ‘That I may be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ the righteousness which is of God by faith.’ So great, then, is the difference between the law and grace, that although the law is undoubtedly of God, yet the righteousness which is ‘of the law’ is not ‘of God,’ but the righteousness which is consummated by grace is ‘of God.’ The one is designated ‘the righteousness of the law,’ because it is done through fear of the curse of the law; while the other is called ‘the righteousness of God,’ because it is bestowed through the beneficence of His grace, so that it is not a terrible but a pleasant commandment, according to the prayer in the psalm: ‘Good art Thou, O Lord, therefore in Thy goodness teach me Thy righteousness.” Augustine, On the Grace of Christ, 13:14 (A.D. 418).
“But then who are those gods, or where are they, of whom God is the true God? Another Psalm saith, ‘God hath stood in the synagogue of gods, but in the midst He judgeth gods.’ As yet we know not whether perchance any gods be congregated in heaven, and in their congregation, for this is ‘in the synagogue,’ God hath stood to judge. See in the same Psalm those to whom he saith, ‘I have said, Ye are gods, and children of the Highest all; but ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.’ It is evident then, that He hath called men gods, that are deified of His Grace, not born of His Substance. For He doth justify, who is just through His own self, and not of another; and He doth deify who is God through Himself, not by the partaking of another. But He that justifieth doth Himself deify, in that by justifying He doth make sons of God. ‘For He hath given them power to become the sons of God.’ If we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods: but this is the effect of Grace adopting, not of nature generating. For the only Son of God, God, and one God with the Father, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, was in the beginning the Word, and the Word with God, the Word God. The rest that are made gods, are made by His own Grace, are not born of His Substance, that they should be the same as He, but that by favour they should come to Him, and be fellow-heirs with Christ. For so great is the love in Him the Heir, that He hath willed to have fellow-heirs. What covetous man would will this, to have fellow-heirs?” Augustine, On the Psalms, 49/50:2 (A.D. 418).
“But in order that he might be taught whose that was, of which he had begun to boast as if it were his own, he was admonished by the gradual desertion of God’s grace, and says: ‘O Lord, in Thy good pleasure Thou didst add strength to my beauty. Thou didst, however, turn away Thy face, and then I was troubled and distressed.’ Thus, it is necessary for a man that he should be not only justified when unrighteous by the grace of God,–that is, be changed from unholiness to righteousness,–when he is requited with good for his evil; but that, even after he has become justified by faith, grace should accompany him on his way, and he should lean upon it, lest he fall. On this account it is written concerning the Church herself in the book of Canticles: ‘Who is this that cometh up in white raiment, leaning upon her kinsman?’ Made white is she who by herself alone could not be white. And by whom has she been made white except by Him who says by the prophet, ‘Though your sins be as purple, I will make them white as snow’? At the time, then, that she was made white, she deserved nothing good; but now that she is made white, she walketh well;–but it is only by her continuing ever to lean upon Him by whom she was made white. Wherefore, Jesus Himself, on whom she leans that was made white, said to His disciples, ‘Without me ye can do nothing.'” Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 6:13 (A.D. 427).
“This then is the righteousness of God. As it is called, ‘The Lord’s salvation,’ not whereby the Lord is saved, but which He giveth to them whom He saveth; so too the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord is called the righteousness of God, not as that whereby the Lord is righteous, but whereby He justifieth those whom of ungodly He maketh righteous. But some, as the Jews in former times, both wish to be called Christians, and still ignorant of God’s righteousness, desire to establish their own, even in our own times, in the times of open grace, the times of the full revelation of grace which before was hidden; in the times of grace now manifested in the floor, which once lay hid in the fleece…Wherefore we are forced exceedingly to bewail our brethren, who strive not against hidden, but against open and manifested grace. There is allowance for the Jews. What shall we say of Christians? Wherefore are ye enemies to the grace of Christ? Why rely ye on yourselves? Why unthankful? For why did Christ come? Was not nature here before? Was not nature here, which ye only deceive by your excessive praise? Was not the Law here? But the Apostle says, ‘If righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.’ What the Apostle says of the Law, that say we of nature to these men. ‘If righteousness come by nature, then Christ is dead in vain.'” Augustine, Sermon 131:9, on John 6:53 (ante A.D. 431).
II. We are Justified by Grace Through Faith and Works
“Wherefore also the Lord promised to send the Comforter, who should join us to God. For as a compacted lump of dough cannot be formed of dry wheat without fluid matter, nor can a loaf possess unity, so, in like manner, neither could we, being many, be made one in Christ Jesus without the water from heaven. And as dry earth does not bring forth unless it receive moisture, in like manner we also, being originally a dry tree, could never have brought forth fruit unto life without the voluntary rain from above. For our bodies have received unity among themselves by means of that layer which leads to incorruption; but our souls, by means of the Spirit. Wherefore both are necessary, since both contribute towards the life of God.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:17 (A.D. 180).
“For God, never giving His sanction to the reprobation of good deeds, inasmuch as they are His own (of which, being the author, He must necessarily be the defender too), is in like manner the acceptor of them, and if the acceptor, likewise the rewarder. Let, then, the ingratitude of men see to it, if it attaches repentance even to good works; let their gratitude see to it too, if the desire of earning it be the incentive to well-doing: earthly and mortal are they each. For how small is your gain if you do good to a grateful man! or your loss if to an ungrateful!” Tertullian, On Repentance, 2 (A.D. 204).
“A corrupt tree will never yield good fruit, unless the better nature be grafted into it; nor will a good tree produce evil fruit, except by the same process of cultivation. Stones also will become children of Abraham, if educated in Abraham’s faith; and a generation of vipers will bring forth the fruits of penitence, if they reject the poison of their malignant nature. This will be the power of the grace of God, more potent indeed than nature, exercising its sway over the faculty that underlies itself within us–even the freedom of our will.” Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, 21 (A.D. 208).
“We add, also, and say, ‘Thy will be done, as in heaven so in earth;’ not that God should do what He wills, but that we may be able to do what God wills. For who resists God, that l He may not do what He wills? But since we are hindered by the devil from obeying with our thought and deed God’s will in all things, we pray and ask that God’s will may be done in us; and that it may be done in us we have need of God’s good will, that is, of His help and protection, since no one is strong in his own strength, but he is safe by the grace and mercy of God.” Cyprian, On the Lord’s Prayer, 14 (A.D. 252).
“He from the essence of the Father, nor is the Son again Son according to essence, but in consequence of virtue, as we who are called sons by grace.” Athanasius, Defense of the Nicene Creed, 22 (A.D.351).
“For when you hear, Not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy, I counsel you to think the same. For since there are some who are so proud of their successes that they attribute all to themselves and nothing to Him that made them and gave them wisdom and supplied them with good; such are taught by this word that even to wish well needs help from God; or rather that even to choose what is right is divine and a gift of the mercy of God. For it is necessary both that we should be our own masters and also that our salvation should be of God. This is why He saith not of him that willeth; that is, not of him that willeth only, nor of him that runneth only, but also of God. That sheweth mercy. Next; since to will also is from God, he has attributed the whole to God with reason. However much you may run, however much you may wrestle, yet you need one to give the crown.” Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration 37:13 (A.D. 383).
“You see indeed, then, how the strength of the Lord is cooperative in human endeavors, so that no one can build without the Lord, no one can preserve without the Lord, no one can build without the Lord, no one can preserve without the Lord, no one can undertake anything without the Lord.” Ambrose, Commentary on Luke, 2:84 (A.D. 389).
“All indeed depends on God, but not so that our free-will is hindered. ‘If then it depend on God,’ (one says), ‘why does He blame us?’ On this account I said, ‘so that our free-will is no hindered.’ It depends then on us, and on Him For we must first choose the good; and then He leads us to His own. He does not anticipate our choice, lest our free-will should be outraged. But when we have chosen, then great is the assistance he brings to us…For it is ours to choose and to wish; but God’s to complete and to bring to an end. Since therefore the greater part is of Him, he says all is of Him, speaking according to the custom of men. For so we ourselves also do. I mean for instance: we see a house well built, and we say the whole is the Architect’s [doing], and yet certainly it is not all his, but the workmen’s also, and the owner’s, who supplies the materials, and many others’, but nevertheless since he contributed the greatest share, we call the whole his. So then [it is] in this case also.” John Chrysostom, Homily on Hebrews, 12:3 (A.D. 403).
“Now for the commission of sin we get no help from God; but we are not able to do justly, and to fulfill the law of righteousness in every part thereof, except we are helped by God. For as the bodily eye is not helped by the light to turn away there from shut or averted, but is helped by it to see, and cannot see at all unless it help it; so God, who is the light of the inner man, helps our mental sight, in order that we may do some good, not according to our own, but according to His righteousness.” Augustine, On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism, II:5 (A.D. 411).
“‘No man can come to me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him’! For He does not say, ‘except He lead him,’ so that we can thus in any way understand that his will precedes. For who is ‘drawn,’ if he was already willing? And yet no man comes unless he is willing. Therefore he is drawn in wondrous ways to will, by Him who knows how to work within the very hearts of men. Not that men who are unwilling should believe, which cannot be, but that they should be made willing from being unwilling.” Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, I:19 (A.D. 420).
“Most bitter enemies of grace, you offer us examples of ungodly men who, you say, ‘through without faith, abound in virtues where there is, without the aid of grace, only the good of nature even though shackled by superstitions.’ Such men, by the mere powers of their inborn liberty, often merciful, and modest, and chaste, and sober. When you say this you have already removed what you thought to attribute to the grace of God: namely, effectiveness of will … If it pleases you so much to praise the ungodly that you say they abound in true virtues – as though you did not hear the Scripture saying: ‘They that say to the wicked man: You are just, shall be accursed by the people by the people, and the tribes shall abhor them’ – it were much better for you, who say they abound in virtues, to confess that these are gifts of God in them.” Augustine, Against Julian, 4:3:16 (A.D.421).
“As strong as we could, we urged on them, as on your and our brothers, to preserve in the Catholic faith, which neither denies free will whether for a bad life or a good one, nor allows it so much effect that it can do anything without the grace of God, whether to convert the soul from evil to good, or to preserve and advance in good, or to attain eternal good, where there is no more fear of falling away.” Augustine, Epistle 215:4 (A.D. 423).
“[L]est 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 laboured more abundantly than they all,’ he immediately added the qualifying clause, ‘Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.’ 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. For his call, however, from heaven and his conversion by that great and most effectual call, God’s grace was alone, because his merits, though great, were yet evil.” Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 5:12 (A.D. 427).
“‘There is henceforth laid up for me,’ he says, ‘a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.’ Now, to whom should the righteous Judge award the crown, except to him on whom the merciful Father had bestowed grace? And how could the crown be one ‘of righteousness,’ unless the grace had preceded which ‘justifieth the ungodly’?” Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 6:14 (A.D. 427).
“‘I have fought,’ says he, “the good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.’ Now, in the first place, these good works were nothing, unless they had been preceded by good thoughts. Observe, therefore, what he says concerning these very thoughts. His words, when writing to the Corinthians, are: ‘Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.'” Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 7:16(A.D. 427).
“The first man had not that grace by which he should never will to be evil; but assuredly he had that in which if he willed to abide he would never be evil, and without which, moreover, he could not by free will be good, but which, nevertheless, by free will he could forsake. God, therefore, did not will even him to be without His grace, which He left in his free will; because free will is sufficient for evil, but is too little s for good, unless it is aided by Omnipotent Good. And if that man had not forsaken that assistance of his free will, he would always have been good; but he forsook it, and he was forsaken. Because such was the nature of the aid, that he could forsake it when he would, and that he could continue in it if he would; but not such that it could be brought about that he would.” Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 11:31 (A.D. 427).
“And besides, this is the apostolic declaration, “No one saith, Lord Jesus, but in the Holy Spirit: and who is it that calleth Him Lord Jesus but he that loveth Him, if he so call Him in the way the apostle intended to be understood? For many call Him so with their lips, but deny Him in their hearts and works; just as He saith of such, ‘For they profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him.’ If it is by works He is denied, it is doubtless also by works that His name is truly invoked. ‘No one,’ therefore, ‘saith, Lord Jesus,’ in mind, in word, in deed, with the heart, the lips, the labor of the bands,–no one saith, Lord Jesus, but in the Holy Spirit.” Augustine, On the Gospel of John, 74:1 (A.D. 430).
“For just to keep any from supposing that the branch can bear at least some little fruit of itself, after saying, ‘the same bringeth forth much fruit,’ His next words are not, Without me ye can do but little, but ‘ye can do nothing.’ Whether then it be little or much, without Him it is impracticable; for without Him nothing can be done.” Augustine, On the Gospel of John, 81:3 (A.D. 430).
“Without God there is no virtue, nor does a man obtain what is proper to divinity unless he be enlivened by the Spirit of his Author. Since the Lord said to His disciples, ‘Without Me you are able to do nothing,’ there is no doubt that when a man does good works he has from God both the carrying out the work and the beginning of his will to do so.” Gregory the Great, Sermons, 38:3 (ante A.D. 461).
“We ought to understand that while God knows all things beforehand, yet He does not predetermine all things. For He knows beforehand those things that are in our power, but He does not predetermine them. For it is not His will that there should be wickedness nor does He choose to compel virtue. So that predetermination is the work of the divine command based on foreknowledge. But on the other hand God predetermines those things which are not within our power in accordance with His prescience. For already God in His prescience has prejudged all things in accordance with His goodness and justice. Bear in mind, too, that virtue is a gift from God implanted in our nature, and that He Himself is the source and cause of all good, and without His co-operation and help we cannot will or do any good thing, But we have it in our power either to abide in virtue and follow God, Who calls us into ways of virtue, or to stray from paths of virtue, which is to dwell in wickedness, and to follow the devil who summons but cannot compel us. For wickedness is nothing else than the withdrawal of goodness, just as darkness is nothing else than the withdrawal of light While then we abide in the natural state we abide in virtue, but when we deviate from the natural state, that is from virtue.” John Damascene, Orthodox Faith, 2:30 (A.D. 743).