HOW DOES ONE RECEIVE SALVATION, JUSTIFICATION, NEW BIRTH, AND ETERNAL LIFE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE?
What Does the Book Say?
Man receives salvation, justification, new birth (being born again), and eternal life by:
*Grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8)
*Believing in Christ (J. 3;16; Acts 16:31)
*Baptism (John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5)
*Repentance (Acts 2:38; 2 Peter 3:9)
*By eating his flesh and his blood (John 6:50-66)
*The work of the Spirit (John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6)
*Works (Romans 2:6,7; James 2:21, 24-25)
*By declaring with our mouth (Luke 12:8; Romans 10:9)
*By his blood (Romans 5:9; Hebrews 9:22)
*By his righteousness ( Romans 5:17; 2 Peter 1:1)
*By coming to know Truth (1 Timothy 2:4; Hebrews 10:26)
*By his cross (Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 2:14)
*By childbearing (1 Tim. 2:15)--women only...
How Protestant reformers squeezed all these things into ‘faith alone’ is beyond me. The Catholic Church believes we are saved by grace alone as a free gift of God. As you can see, each of the above listed elements can be, and are, channels of grace for Christians and so easily fit into Catholic teaching on how we are saved. Can we cut any one of these elements out of the list and declare that it ALONE is the means of salvation? Can we be saved without faith? Without God’s grace? Without repentance? Without baptism? Without the Spirit? Of course not. They are ALL involved in salvation (and entry into the Church). To exclude any is to turn away from the fullness of Christ’s teaching and the fullness of His salvation. The Protestant belief reminds me of a surgeon who saves a patient’s limb but ignores the internal injuries and cardiac arrest of the patient and declares the surgery successful.
Furthermore, a decisive factor in my remaining Catholic and turning to Mother Church with all that I had, was that it’s a ‘both/and’ Church and not an ‘either/or’ proposition. I understood Jesus’ mission to bring people to Him AND His Church whereas the lack of Protestant unity and inability to maintain a coherent ‘church’ for any prolonged period of time, promulgates a circumstance of only bringing people to Christ as we perceive him in Scripture. Currently, there are over 30,000 different perceptions of him, as evidenced by the 30,000+ Protestant denominations in existence. But Protestantism is inherently incapable of bringing anyone to Christ’s Church because its very definition of ‘church’ is some invisibly aligned entity in which it is OK to disagree with itself on fundamental Christian issues of salvation.
The Catholic Church, on the other hand, brings us to Christ AND His Church. St. Paul called the Church ‘the body of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:12) and calls Jesus the Head (Ephesians 4:15). While the Protestant churches ‘decapitate’ Christ from his body, the Catholic Church cannot and does not. If it is to bring people to Christ, it must be to the WHOLE Christ, which means bringing them to his Church, his body. The Catholic faith brings people to the King AND His Kingdom.
In like manner, the Catholic faith teaches that all the above listed elements are necessary for salvation precisely because they are channels of grace for the Christian. Bear in mind that the above is not an exhaustive list of elements provided by Christ as channels of grace. The Catholic sacraments are all found in Scripture and were instituted by Christ, not by man made tradition. This is why sacraments are so integral to God’s economy of salvation. They are oaths/covenants with Christ in which we give Him our selves and He makes what was humanly impossible (saving ourselves) possible through His divine grace.
Yeah But, Have You Seen The Problems Of The Catholic Church?
Coming into the Catholic faith anew from 20+ years of wandering through secularism and being my own pope, I did indeed see the shortcomings of the Church. How could these lukewarm Catholics, who were every bit as sinful as the un-churched, be who they said they were? Catechesis was (and still is in many places) inadequate and heterodox. Every news show had stories of sinful and criminal priests. Bishops were weak and unwilling to defend Christ’s Church or their own authority. Church goers were lazy, ignorant, and only willing to obey Church laws they wanted to follow. Bible knowledge was embarrassingly inadequate and it showed in the numbers of Catholics that were leaving to become Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, or Mormon.
Consider this. Had we lived in Old Testament times, they would’ve had the same problems. God defined his people as those who were under his appointed kings, prophets, and priests. They all had to be circumcised, had to follow the Law, and celebrate all the ceremonies. God had given them a Temple, Scriptures, and rules for life and worship. But many of the priests were cheats, many of the kings were diabolical and disobedient, and the even some prophets were self-serving! The people worshiped false gods, lived sinfully, and violated their covenant with God over and over.
The problems of the Old Testament Jewish church didn’t negate the Jews’ position as God’s first born or their covenant with God. They sure didn’t look like our preconception of God’s people—disobedient, stubborn, greedy, and immoral. But interestingly, the prophets, seeing the utter inadequacy and immorality of the Israelites, never said, ‘Leave this immoral people and create a Reformed Israel.’ Instead, they suffered trying to keep the people unified while crying out for repentance.
The Catholic Church is the fulfillment of the Jewish Church. It is the New Jerusalem and partakes of the new and everlasting covenant with God. She is the Bride of Christ, according to Scripture. And as Jesus taught, there is only ONE Bridegroom and ONE Bride. Leaving the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church to become a mistress of Christ is utterly unscriptural, not historical, and contrary to reason. When our families are troubled, the last thing God wants us to do is walk away from it and begin a new family. God is faithful to his Bride and to his family, so why aren’t we?
If we prayed for our priests, bishops, and laity to God as much as we complain, ignore, and defy them, we'd have virtuous and strong leaders. Instead, we take the easy way out by picking and choosing what we will follow and what we will not follow; or we outright abandon them, and God's one, holy, and apostolic church just when she needs us most.