Just for Catholics

Is Salvation by Keeping the Commandments?

Question: "Just for Catholics" - How presumptuous! "This evangelical site is dedicated to Roman Catholics who are eager to know how to be saved." I already KNOW how to be saved: By being baptized into the Church that Christ founded, and then by keeping God's (and his Church's) commandments.

Answer: Your letter confirms the need for evangelism to Roman Catholics. While Christians endeavour to live in obedience to the Law of God, salvation is not by keeping the commandments. If we could become righteous before God by keeping His commandments, then Christ died needlessly. "I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain" (Galatians 2:21).

Please read carefully the following scriptures that prove conclusively that it is impossible to be justified before God by keeping the commandments. Rather, a sinner is justified by faith, and apart from the works of the Law:

  • And by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13:39).

  • Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19, 20).

  • Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28).

  • Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified (Galatians 2:16)

  • For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:10, 11).

  • Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24).

  • And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith (Philippians 3:9).

We have no excuse. God’s Word is clear. No man is justified by the law in the sight of God. Justification is by faith in Christ.

But you may object that the apostle Paul had the Law of Moses in mind, and in particular the ceremonial laws, such as circumcision.

Yes, it’s true, the apostle Paul is speaking about the Law of Moses. However there is no problem with the Mosaic Law as such. On the contrary, Paul says, “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12). In essence, the Law of Moses is identical to the moral and ethical commandments of the New Testament, namely, supreme love to God, and love to one another. Paul is not arguing in favour of a new moral code that is able to save. God has not and cannot lower His moral standards. The problem is with us, sinners, and not the Law. The Law exposes our guilt and shame, and takes us to Christ that we might be justified by faith in Him.

Regarding the ceremonial laws, the apostle warns: “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:2-4). False teachers had infiltrated the churches in Galatia, saying that a person must be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul refutes this idea. Accepting the initiation rite of circumcision implied an obligation to the whole law. Such a person was attempting the impossible task of being justified by the law, and so in principle, he has rejected salvation by grace, God's unmerited favour. Whether you are circumcised or not, if you're attempting to be justified by obeying the Law, Christ will profit you nothing; you are a stranger to Christ and to God's grace!

You said that salvation is by keeping God’s commandments. I hope that you change your mind. It’s an impossible feat because none of us keeps God’s law as we should. If God gives us what we deserve, He will condemn us to Hell. We need grace. We need Christ to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. Let us believe in Him!

Copyright Dr Joe Mizzi. Permission to copy and distribute this article without textual changes. < BACK TO Q&A