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 Do Catholics really go around trying to save themselves by works? Well, not exactly...

We are justified by faith - provided that we live by that faith.

What does being justified by faith mean? It means we are made right with God by faith. But what is it about faith that makes us right with God? Faith is belief. And the faith that we need is to believe in Jesus Christ as our savior, Lord, and Son of God. But what happens to us when we make this act of faith? We receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of God, and the second person of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit that makes us right with God, that is to say justifies us. It makes us right provided that we accept this spirit and live according to it. It is possible to reject this spirit or refuse to live by it, even to deny it. This is the sin against the Holy Spirit.

To live by the Holy Spirit means to follow its inspirations in our hearts and minds. And these will inspire us to live according to the teachings of Christ.  Jesus went about doing good.  It is then these good works that we do in the Holy Spirit that make us pleasing to God, that justify us in His sight.

Belief alone is not enough. The devils believe and tremble. Works done by our own will and our own personal inspirations are not sufficient. What is pleasing to God is when we live the life of Christ. That is, to live according to the inspirations of the spirit of God. It means to do the good works that result when we believe in God and accept his Holy Spirit in our lives. These are the works that lead to salvation, for faith without works is dead.

Some teach that as long as you believe in Jesus, that is enough. Some even teach that we can sin mightily, as long as we believe even more mightily. But no, this is wrong. Rather, it is essential to live according to the Holy Spirit, which we received when we believed. To willingly sin, or to say to oneself I believe in Jesus but I can still do whatever I want, does not make us right with God. No, rather we are justified by faith provided that we live by that faith.

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Copyright Frank M. Rega 1999.
Last revised: November 03, 2008.