Uh oh. What do we do now? Someone just discovered a Bible verse that destroys the Catholic view of salvation. Here is the previously “undiscovered verse” which Catholics seem to have missed somehow! Ephesians 2:8–9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Actually, humor aside, this passage from Ephesians is the groundwork for a correct understanding of the Catholic teaching of salvation. A friend wrote to inquire about his passage so I took a few minutes to help explain it and how it fits into the whole picture.

Dear Richard:
Glad to hear my humble efforts have had a positive influence in your life. Very personally gratifying but the glory goes to God who has blessed us, made it all possible and continues to grant his grace.
Regarding Ephesians 2:8-9, people forget to keep reading on through verse 10:  “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”  Protestants are great with “sound bites” and “marketing slogans” and are very good at pulling a verse or two out of its context to misrepresent the understanding of the cultural and historical context of Scripture. They love to extract a verse or two out of context and to absolutize it.
So let’s look at this passage in context and in the whole of Scripture.
downloadBut let’s back up a bit to Square #1.  You are a sinner, there is an insurmountable chasm between you and a holy God. What can you do to get across? What good works or efforts can you perform to bridge the gap and make you acceptable to that holy God on the other side? Is there any way sinful and condemned “you” will be successfully able to stand before that holy God and say, “You owe me eternal life since I did so many good works for you!”
Now take another scenario. You are a sinner, there is an insurmountable chasm between you and a holy God. You have no way to get across or to appease that holy God because if you’re condemning sin and disobedience. But that God in his great mercy decides to have pity on you and by a free gift of undeserved grace builds a bridge across the chasm which is the cross and the death of his Son (Jn 1:51) who took your penalty of sin upon himself and now by his grace opens the bridge across for you to freely be accepted as part of God’s heavenly family.
download (1)Now take another scenario.  God extends a bridge across that chasm which only requires one to accept the gift of the bridge through faith and baptism (Jn 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21; Rom 6:3-4). You take those first steps to cross the bridge of grace given freely by faith. It is not your works that put that bridge there or enabled you to cross. But now, you have been given the grace to be holy and live the life required by God. You are leaving the sin and old way of life behind. Now, are now required to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matt 5:48). You are required to work out your salvation, notice the word work
           Philippians 2:12–13  “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
              Yes, we are INITIALLY saved by the simple grace of God received by faith. But when I believe, I DO something. Even in the act of believing I am doing something—a spiritual good work. Even when I receive the grace of God I am DOING something. Receive is a verb. The initial work was accomplished by God through Jesus Christ, but now it requires a response on our part enabled by the Holy Spirit.
download (1)Now take another scenario. You have accepted and received that initial free gift of salvation earned for you by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You are “saved,” correct? But what about Abraham who had already believed (Gen 15:6)? Would Abraham have been “saved” or justified before God if he had believed in God but refused to leave his homeland and refused to renounce the pagan gods? What pleased God? Faith alone or the obedience of faith? Would Abraham have been the Friend of God without good works? What if he said, “I’ll believe in you but I won’t do everything you ask?”
We are required to become holy (Heb. 12:14). We are to do the works God now requires of us as his children. They are necessary for our salvation. Consider Colossians 1:22–23  “He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, [the gift, the grace, the ladder of the cross to heaven] if indeed you continue in the faith [good works, obedience, works of righteousness], stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.”
download (2)James 2:20–25  Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God.” See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route?
Protestants of course have “fifty ways to leave their lover” when it comes to this passage. They do all kinds of gyrations and twisting in their effort to fit this round peg into their square “faith alone” hole. But its message is quite clear if you just read it and let it speak for itself.
As a Baptist I believed in “cheap grace” in which I only accepted the gift of God but nothing was really required of me. My sins were forgiven past, present and future. I have eternal security; once saved, always saved. I now know that it is not only unbiblical, but a harmful and heretical position. Much is required of us! But how can I do good works acceptable and meritorious to God?
download (3)Consider my grandson Dominic wants to buy me a Christmas present but he has no money. He comes to me and asks for $100 so that he can buy me a nice Christmas present. On Christmas morning he proudly presents me with the present. Let me ask you a question. Who bought that gift? Dominic did? No I did? Wait, it was Dominic! No, it was me!

God gives us the free gift of grace and the assistance of the indwelling Holy Spirit and requires us to live a holy life, to be sanctified…. We are required to do the good works in accordance with our new status and goal of holiness and heaven. It is God that gives us that grace—like I gave the $100 to Dominic. When God rewards our good works, he is simply rewarding his own good works achieved through his grace.
Catechism 2023 Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.
2024 Sanctifying grace makes us “pleasing to God.” Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. God also acts through many actual graces, to be distinguished from habitual grace which is permanent in us.
2025 We can have merit in God’s sight only because of God’s free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man’s collaboration. Man’s merit is due to God
2026 The grace of the Holy Spirit can confer true merit on us, by virtue of our adoptive filiation, and in accordance with God’s gratuitous justice. Charity is the principal source of merit in us before God.
2027 No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.
download (4)John 5:28–29  “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
Hope that helps. God bless you!



On his podcast Pints with Aquinas, Matt Fradd and I discussed the Papacy. Very lively and wide-ranging conversation. Matt is an excellent interviewer. He entitled the show “A Conversation with the “Indiana Jones” of the Catholic Church”

I interviewed on Reason & Faith on the Crisis in the Church with William Albrecht, Erick Ybarra and Michael Lofton.

Topics we discuss on Reason & Faith: What do we mean “Crisis in the Church”? What can we do as faithful members of the Church? You chose to become Catholic even though you saw the problems in the Church, why? What are your thoughts on the current papacy? and much more.


Two fun, energetic interviews today in case you are interested.

First is a short 15-minute interview with John Harper on Relevant Radio sharing Janet and my experience meeting St. John Paul II twice in Rome at his private Mass and our two married kids meeting him together with their wedding clothes and his prayer for the two babies in utero.

is a bit unusual. A congenial Evangelical pastor named Jordan Orick interviewed me for 1 1/2 hours about why I am Catholic. He is doing a series called “Unity in Diversity” and I was the Catholic segment. Hope you enjoy it.


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