Prepared by: Bro. Xavier C V OFM Cap

Apostle Paul, having written some 13 Epistles, stands out as being the most prolific of all the New Testament holy authors, in expounding instructions of Christian living. The significant contents of Paul’s letters prompt us to rightfully regard Pauline Corpus as the ‘Second Gospel’, attracting attention from both thinkers and ordinary faithful. Presenting themselves as an important and necessary appendix to the teachings of the Gospel, the Epistles of the Apostle Paul have become the subject of attentive and earnest study of every person who seeks a deeper understanding of the Christian faith. These Epistles are outstanding in their remarkably elevated religious thoughts, reflecting the Apostle Paul’s extensive knowledge and scholarship of the Old Testament, which were equal to his profound understanding of Christ’s New Testament teachings.

Salvation is one of the main themes in Pauline theology. In Rom 1:16, Paul says that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith. Proclamation of the Gospel and the response to it in faith brings salvation for all. The Good News that Paul, other apostles and missionaries proclaimed was about the salvation of all in Jesus Christ. Rom 1:3-4 and 1 Cor 15:3-7, taken together, gives us the content of the Gospel and the content of proclamation: Jesus, the Christ was born in the line of David according to the flesh; he died for our sins, was buried and raised to life in accordance with the scriptures; he appeared to his apostles and disciples; due to his resurrection, he is made the Son of  God in power; and he, Jesus Christ, the Son of God in power, is the Lord. And Rom 10:9-10 tells: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” Also in Galatians (2:16-17; 3:1-4:31), Paul categorically asserts that salvation can no more be based on the works of the law. The basis of salvation is the faith in Jesus Christ.

This paper, entitled ‘Faith as The Basic Principle of Salvation in Pauline Corpus’, makes an attempt to detail  the very meaning of faith according to Paul and its implications in the life of a Christian and how it becomes as a basic condition for our salvation.


In order to understand the thought of any theologian it is necessary to understand his or her background. No matter how great the grace received, grace still builds upon nature. God reveals himself to all but this revelation has to be understood within one’s own terms of reference. Some of the terms of reference may be inherited, others may be determined by cultural background, education, or by class interest.  As Marx said: “Men make their own history but…they do not make it under circumstances chosen by them.” [1]

In Acts 22:3, Paul asserts about himself: “I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cicilia, but brought up in this city (Jerusalem) at the feet of Gamaliel, educated according to the strict manner of the Law of our fathers…” Thus Paul was a man of two worlds; Greek or Hellenistic (Tarsus) and Jewish (Jerusalem).[2] We may say that Paul was influenced not only by the religion of his fathers, but also by the cultural and religious movements of the Hellenistic world. Both Hellenistic and Judaism were Paul’s tutors unto Christ.[3] One may think of seven factors that might have influenced Pauline theology.


According to St. Jerome, Paul’s family originally came from Gischala in northern Galilee, either migrated or deported to Tarsus.[4] Tarsus was the capital of Cilicia; standing at the cross roads of Asia Minor. It was an important city, both commercially and culturally. The cosmopolitan character of the city was conducive to religious tolerance. The Jewish people were relatively prosperous and were held in high rank in the community. The Mediterranean world of the time had a largely slave-based economy. The peasant class was poor and many city dwellers were unemployed.  His father had become a free man of Tarsus and a Roman citizen. The family belonged to a moderately affluent class. The date of Paul’s birth is calculated from the statement that he was a young man at the time of the death of Stephen (Acts 7:58), i.e. between 24 and 40 A.D. And he calls himself an old man in his letter to Philemon; his birth could not have been later 10 A.D.[5]

It was quite common for Jews to give their children two names, one biblical, and the other a Greek name. Since his family belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, his parents called their son Saul after King Saul, also Benjaminite. In addition they gave him a Greek name Paul.[6] Saul was a keen student of the law in the pharisaic tradition and showed great promise as rabbinic scholar. His education in Pharisaism was completed under the tutorship of Gamaliel, one of the most prestigious teachers of the school of Hillel and successor of the Rabbi Hillel himself. [7] Still, Saul appears to have adopted a rather harsh attitude towards Christianity, though the school of Hillel was much more liberal and tolerant.[8] Paul also had served his apprenticeship in tent-making (Acts 18:3; 2 Cor 11:8; 2 Thes 3:8). [9]


The Pharisees were the most observant Jews of their time. The name ‘Pharisee’ was originally coined by their enemies and means ‘separated ones’. The Pharisees made great efforts to keep not only the Law of Moses, as written in the Pentateuch, but also the unwritten law which had grown up around it. [10] The minute observance of the law was seen as a vital pre-requisite for the coming of the messianic age.

As with orthodox Jews in modern time, the Pharisees practiced a life style which marked them out as completely distinct from the Gentiles around them. As John Mackenzie expresses it in the following words: “The haughtiness of the Jew towards the Gentile was found sevenfold in the Pharisee”.[11] All the theological tenants of pharisaism can be seen as having a positive or negative influence upon Paul’s theology. Humanly speaking, it is possible that many of the pharisaic beliefs he rejected were those which most conflicted with his instincts as middle class Roman cosmopolitan. [12] From the perspective of faith, it is also possible to see how his encounter with the Risen Christ enabled him to reconcile the positive values from both sides of his background.

The most characteristic way in which Paul retains the pharisaic outlook is in the manner and the extent of his use of the OT. Apart from the many direct quotes from OT, Paul makes great use of OT metaphors and literary types.[13]Paul’s reaction against the Mosaic Law should not overshadow the fact that he looked with pride at his Jewish past in the pharisaic tradition (Phil 3:5-6; Gal 1:14). This strong background makes him think in OT categories and images. He cites OT almost 90 times. [14]  Though his use of OT is similar to that of Qumran and Intertestamental Jewish literature, he quotes it according to the LXX. At times he accommodates the OT text to give new meanings to the passages he cites (Hab 2:4 in Rom 1:17); he may allegorize a text (Gen16:15) or wrest it from its original context (Deut 25:5 in 1 Cor 9:9).

His Jewish background makes him quote OT, with the supposition that there is a unity of God’s action in both dispensations and Testaments. He sees OT often as announcing the Christian Gospel (Rom 1:2) or preparing for Christ. And OT is still a means through which God speaks to humanity (1 Cor 9:10). Luke depicts Paul as trained under a rabbi in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3). But Paul himself does not say of his rabbinical background.[15]


Although Paul was steeped in Jewish culture he was also deeply influenced by his Gentile background. How far his theology shows signs of being influenced by Gentile religion and Greek philosophy is a matter of debate among scholars. Certainly Paul uses many images which reflect Gentile city life. He uses Roman legal terminology (Gal 3:15; 4:1-2; 1 Cor 7:22). Paul uses the language of the Greek city state to communicate his understanding of Christian citizenship of the people of God. Similarly, the description of the Church as a body with various members (1 Cor 12:12-27) is very like the political allegory in one of Aesop’s fables.[16] Jesus’ images were from the agrarian life of Galilee and its culture, whereas Paul’s images are of urban life, especially Hellenistic. For example, he alludes to Greek political terminology (Phil 3:20 politeuma “citizenship”), Greek games (Phil 2:16) and refers to Greek slave trade (1 Cor 8, 7).[17]

Though Paul does not write literary Koine (traditional Greek language), his style betrays a good Greek education. Paul may not have been a professional rhetor, but his mode of composition and expression reveals the influence of Greek rhetoric. Traces of the Cynic-stoic mode of argumentation are found in Paul: diatribe is an argument done with an imaginary interlocutor, e.g., Rom 2:1-20.[18]


The Damascus event (Acts 9:1-19) changed Paul thoroughly. It is more than a conversion (Gal 1:11-24). [19] It changed his view of human history: a) From Adam to Moses (without the Law); b) From Moses to Messiah with the Law); c) The Messianic age (the period, when the Law would be perfected or fulfilled). Thus the end time has started.[20] The following theological motifs emerge implicitly, if not explicitly, from the accounts of Damascus encounter:

  • The Crucified Jesus, now risen, is the Lord and the Messiah

The Damascus experience brought home to Paul that Jesus, who had died on the cross, was now indisputably alive (cf. Acts 23:6; 26:6-8). Thus Paul was convinced that he saw the invisible God become visible in the person of the Risen Jesus. He could therefore, and he always would henceforth, call the Risen Jesus the Lord (Kyrios).[21]

  • The eschatological age has dawned

Paul saw that God had intervened through the coming of Jesus into the world, especially through his death and resurrection and the evil powers were conquered decisively, though in an ‘inaugurated’ manner.[22] The Holy Spirit was being given to the believers, making them glow with the divine life, though as a guarantee of the fullest communication later on. In this way, the Eschaton, New Age, had already dawned on the believers (2 Cor 5:17; 1 Cor 10:11).

  • Justification, a gratuitous Gift of God, received through faith

Paul received justification from the Lord, not as a reward merited by his works of the Law, but  as a sheer gift[23] bestowed upon him by the Lord in response to his personal self – surrender to the Lord, i.e., his faith (Acts 22:16).

  • The Church as the Body of Christ

Paul’s doctrine of the Church is to a certain extent rooted in the Damascus encounter.[24] Paul realized that the Lord wanted him to know that in his persecution of Christians, he was persecuting Christ himself. This identification is fundamental for Paul’s understanding of the Church as the body of Christ (Acts 9:4).


If the main inspiration of Paul’s theology was the revelation granted near Damascus, that event was not the only source of his knowledge about Christ and the Christian movement. Paul was not the founder of the movement but joined after missionary activity had already been begun by those who were apostles before him (Gal 1:17). It is a priori likely, then, that Paul inherited from pioneer tradition of the Church at least some ideas about Christ.[25] At first this observation might seem to contradict what he himself says in Galatians about the origin of his gospel, that he was not taught it and that it came to him rather through a revelation of Jesus Christ (1:11,15-17; 2:6). Yet here especially we must be sensitive to the nuances of Paul’s expression: these passages in Galatians were written in the heat of controversy. Paul had been under attack, accused of not being a real apostle and of preaching only a watered down version of the Gospel because of his attitude toward the Law of Moses and Jewish practices.[26] When he wrote Galatians, Paul was at pains, therefore to emphasize his divine, direct and undelegated apostolic commission and the heavenly origin of his Gospel. Yet this emphasis must not be allowed to obscure what is found elsewhere in his letters clearly indicating a dependence on the apostolic tradition of the early tradition – on its fragments of early kerygma are found in Paul’s letters: 1 Thes 1:10; Gal 1:3-4.

Paul has incorporated elements of the liturgy into his epistles: the Eucharist formula; prayers like “Amen” (1 Thes 3:13); “Maranatha” (1 Cor16:22); “Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6); doxologies (Gal 1:5) and hymns (Phil 2:6-11). His confessional formulas echo Church usage: “Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11) or “the Messiah” (Rom 9:5). He inherited as well a number of theological terms, e.g., the titles “Lord,” “Son of God”, etc. At times, he calls attention to the fact that he is “handing on” what he has “received”; (1 Cor11:23). [27]

Another aspect of Paul’s dependence on early church tradition is seen in his acquaintance with what Jesus did and taught. He is not writing a gospel, but at the same time he is drawing from the Gospels.[28] Paul alludes to remarkably few events of the life of Jesus: he was born of a woman under the law (Gal 4:4), instituted the Eucharist (1 Cor 11:23), was betrayed (1 Cor 11:23), was crucified (Gal 2:20) etc. Such details as these suggest that Paul had derived information from the traditions of early churches (Jerusalem, Damascus, Antioch).[29]


Faith was the basic condition for the entry into the believing community, the Church. Despite the every considerable importance he attached to his own personal experience of Christ, Paul was the recipient of a living tradition (1 Thess 2:2; 1 Cor 11:2; Gal1:9). Frequently he appeals to the practice and belief of the churches.[30]

The really surprising omission in Paul’s theology is the apparent ignorance of the material found in the gospels. There are only seven clear references to sayings of Jesus other than the institution of the Eucharist (Rom 12:14; Rom 13:8, 1 Cor 13:2;  1Cor 9:14; 1 Thes 4:2; 1 Thes 4:15; 1 Cor 7:10).[31] Only two of these are direct quotations:  Rom 12:14 (of Mt 5:44 and Lk 6:28) and Rom 13:8 (of Mt 22:39-40).

To understand this omission it is important to remember first of all, that the gospels as we have them were not available at the time Paul was writing. Secondly, and more importantly, it was the Risen Christ who had appeared to  Paul in the Damascus road and he was much more concerned to stress the saving significance of the risen Lord through faith rather than anything that Jesus may have said or done during his life time.[32] Thirdly, Paul’s primary concern was the foundation of the churches. [33]


Another factor in the development of Paul’s theology was his experience as an apostle and a missionary proclaiming the Gospel and founding churches throughout Asia Minor and Europe. The real meaning of the universal scope of Christian salvation probably dawned on Paul as he worked with Jews who failed to accept his message and with Gentiles who did heed him. In his earliest letters, he reveals an awareness of the privileged position of his fellow Jews in the divine plan of salvation (1 Thes 2:13-14). But he was keenly aware that he had been called to preach to the Gentiles (Gal 1:15-16); he calls himself the “apostle of the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13). He admits that he is “indebted to Greeks and to Barbarians”(Rom 1:14).[34] The problems that Paul himself encountered in founding and governing individual churches were almost certainly responsible for his gradual awareness of what the “Church” meant in a transcendent, universal sense. To his apostolic experience must also be attributed a number of references to Hellenistic world, which are met in various developments of his teaching (1 Cor 8:5; Gal 4:9-10).

Indeed, with all these there is no other theologian of the NT, except possibly John, who has understood the profundity of the Christ-event. The apostles who had seen Jesus did not understand the true importance of Christ. Here in Paul we have a Rabbi who probably understood most of its implications.


As Paul says repeatedly, the gift of redemption which God offers to sinful people through the Christ-event, is appropriated by people themselves through faith (Rom 3:28, Eph 2:8-9). Here in this section, we shall see the meaning of faith according to Paul and its object and nature.


Faith according to Paul is the free response of man to the call of God, obedience to the Gospel and the preaching of Christ who died and rose again.[35] Faith is not a work which would merit justification as a salary; it is submission to the divine liberality and as such is reckoned as righteousness. A. Nygren says: “To believe is simply to accept the Gospel and thereby become a participant in the new life of Christ.”[36]

C.H. Dodd explains beautifully the idea of Pauline faith in his commentary on Romans:

For Paul faith is that attitude in which, acknowledging our complete insufficiency for any of the high ends of life, we rely utterly in the sufficiency of God. It is to cease from all assertion of self, even by way of effort after righteousness, and to make room for the divine initiative. By such faith a man enters into life in every sense in which that phrase can be used. It is a radical trust in God the All-sufficient, leaving no place for human merit of any kind.[37]

The word ‘faith’ as noun (pistis) or verb (pisteuo) occurs almost 200 times in Pauline Corpus. [38] Paul, can carry various shades of meaning according to the context: ‘faithfulness’( Rom 3:3), ‘conviction of the unseen’(2 Cor 5:7) it is almost a synonym for ‘Christianity’(Gal 1:23)  . But the truly Pauline meaning of the word is ‘trust’ as its OT exemplar par excellence is ‘the father of the faithful Abraham, who, when God spoke to him took God at his word and obeyed. Faith for Paul is taking God at His word in Christ: and it has a strong element of obedience (Rom 1:5; ‘the obedience of faith’, i.e., the obedience which consists in faith). Nor is the element of belief is absent. [39] As Abraham believed that God’s promise to him was reliable, so Christian faith is the confident belief that Christ is not an illusion but the reality of God.


It is necessary to distinguish in the act of faith the formal object – the motive for believing – and the material object, to which faith is directed. That which incites the mind to adhesion is always the testimony of God, whether it is produced directly or comes through the intervention of the authorized preachers of revelation. [40] God himself spoke to Abraham and Moses; he speaks to us by the prophets and apostles; but this difference in the manner of transmission changes nothing in the divine testimony itself: “When you had received of us the word of God, you received it not as the word of men, but the word of God (1 Thess 2:13).”

While the formal object does not change, the material object varies infinitely. It can be concerned with revelation as a whole, or with a group of truths, or with a particular dogma: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is the Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9). “For since  we believe  that Jesus died  and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died” (1 Thess 4:14). Here faith is an intellectual adhesion to an historical truth, without any accessory idea of confidence or self-abandonment; [41] nevertheless, it is genuine Christian faith, since salvation is connected with it. In fact, how limited the material object may be, the formal object remains always the same, and this is which specifies the kind of faith. When the object of faith is indicated –aside from certain exceptional expressions like “faith in the Gospel”, “faith in truth”- it is always God or Christ.


Pauline faith may characterize as follows: it is directed not to a proposition, but to a person, sometimes God, sometimes Christ; but there is no difference of meaning, since the Risen Lord is the visible image of the invisible God. [42] As the principle of salvation, faith as opposed to ‘works’, i.e., every scheme of salvation by human effort, every attempt by meritorious acts lay up ‘credit’ in heaven.

Faith is not only an act, as in Rom 10:9, but an attitude of life: “The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and  gave himself up for me” (Gal 2:20). For the act of faith initiates a faith-union between the sinner and his Saviour, so that he as a believer now enters into the virtue of all that Christ has done for him, and lives henceforth in vital communication with his living Lord, committed to him in personal self surrender. The faith that commits us to Christ in the same act commits us to his community, the Church, the ‘Body of Christ’, of which he is the ‘Head’.

Faith, unless it is deception (1 Cor 13:2), operates through love (Gal 5:6) and issues in ‘good works’. Or, put more simply, the good live by faith and work by love. [43] For though Paul rejected ‘works’ as a condition of salvation, no one more firmly demanded them as consequence of it. If the Christian’s life did not produce good works, Paul would seriously question the genuineness of such a Christian’s faith. Thus good works are an indication that the Christian’s faith is genuine as alive, not dead.

Paul proposes Abraham as perfect illustration of faith. In Rom 4:17-22, he characterizes the faith of Abraham as trust – utter trust – in God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. [44] His illustration of Abraham shows another fact that faith is something which did not begin with Christianity, but lies deep at the heart of all true religion. It is an Abraham-like self surrender, in face of all odds, to the God who reveals Himself to man. Now, since God has revealed Himself to humankind decisively in Christ, Christian faith is taking God at His word in Christ: the decision to live no more by reliance on our own resources, but only by trust in His saving grace offered to the humankind in Christ. Without this faith it is impossible to please God; but where God finds it, He asks for nothing more; and in very truth the person who so believes is set right with God, he/she is justified, he/she is transformed by a new life, the life of God Himself in Christ.


Having seen the meaning of Pauline faith and its nature, we now move on to see its implications from different angles like its identification with baptism, its contrast to the law, its implications, conversion, and life in the church.


Paul identifies faith experience with baptismal experience[45]: “But how that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3: 25-27). Here Paul affirms that the condition of the Christians as ‘sons of God’ in Christ Jesus through faith is brought about by means of their “baptism into Christ.”

For Paul, person is justified by faith, i.e., through an act of personal self surrender to God in Christ. Now Baptism is the seal of the reality of this faith. It is the sacramental complement of faith, the rite whereby man achieves union with Christ and publicly manifests his commitment to him. The two notions, faith and baptism, are essentially and intimately connected for Paul as for all early Christian preachers. They are the inside and outside of the same thing. “And you were buried with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith…” (Col 2:12). “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3: 25-27). Paul ascribes personal fellowship with Christ first to faith and then similarly to baptism. He guides the thought from faith over to baptism obviously to bring out more clearly our fellowship with Christ and with one another.[46] In two passages (Rom 6:3ff. and Col 2:12) Paul describes baptism as the believers ‘co-dying’ with Christ to the old life of sin, and ‘co-rising’ with him unto newness of life;

For Paul, as for his Christian predecessors, baptism was the rite of initiation into the community of believers, i.e., the Church, the Body of Christ, the ‘new humanity’ of which he is the head. The faith which committed the Christians to Christ committed him also to the community of Christians as a member of the body.[47] “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor12:12).

In Rom 6:1-14, speaking about the significance of the Christian’s baptism into Christ, Paul asserts that it really means the death of the ‘old person’ of sin and emergence of the ‘new person’ alive to God in Christ. In baptism the believer, in a real but mystical way, participates in the death-resurrection event of Jesus made present in the sacrament of baptism.  He/she joins Jesus in his paschal mystery.[48] As R. Schnackenburg remarks, that which happened to Christ happens to the Christian. [49] Dying and rising with Christ, the inclusive representative of all humans becomes a rule in the Christian life. What has been done for us all, is now represented and effected in us who commit ourselves to Christ in faith-baptism. It joins or identifies  ourselves with Jesus in his act of faith, i.e., his total self-surrender to the Father’s will, made all times; and thus ‘co-dying with Christ’ he is ‘co-raised with Christ’ by the power of God, and begins to live experientially a radically new life ‘in Christ,’ the life of God Himself. Thus Christian Faith is the grand venture in which we commit our whole being and future to the confidence that Christ is not an illusion but the reality of God Himself.

Paul’s letters, thus bring out very vividly that for the early Christians, faith- baptism was indeed a tremendous experience in their conscious and adult lives, which perhaps most of us who have been born in the Church cannot fully fathom.


It is the faith that has arrived after period of the Law: “Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed, so that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian” (Gal 3:23-25). It is through this faith we are all sons of God in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26). In the whole section of Gal 3:19-29, faith is presented in contrast to the law or the OT dispensation.

From Jewish viewpoint, justification can be done only by observing the Law; by Pauline standards, however, only by faith in Christ. The Law is good if a person uses it rightly (1 Tim 1:8). It is the great prerogative of the Jews (Rom 3:2) which the pagans could never attain.[50] The Torah is good, just, holy, and even spiritual (Rom7:12-14). And yet, the Law is the great accomplice of sin, for it gives the knowledge of right and wrong, but not the power to act accordingly. Thus justice could not come from the Law.

In fact no one ever was justified by observance of the Torah but only by faith. And that again Paul proves by Torah itself: (1) God promised Abraham a large posterity. Abraham believed God and this faith was credited him as justice.(2) But at that time there was not yet a law. (3) Therefore Abraham was justified by faith (Gal 3:19-29).

Using the sixth interpretation rule of the Tannaim, going back to Hillel, St. Paul comes to the same conclusion. This rule says: If two verses contradict each other, one has to look for a third one that solves the contradiction: [51]

(1) The first statement of Scripture says: “The one who is righteous will live by faith” (Hab 2:4 = Gal 3:11).

(2) The contradictory verse runs: “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” (Lev 18:5 = Gal 3:12).

(3) And the third harmonizing verse says, Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6 = Gal 3:6).

Thus, the Law abolished itself according to rabbinical hermeneutics, proving that any man can be justified only by faith. The Law was only a guide to Christ (Gal 3:24). Christ is end of the Law (Rom 10:4), because he is the Messiah. The Talmud stated that the Torah would cease with the time of the Messiah: “The world is to exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand years the Torah flourished, and the next two thousand years is the Messianic era, but through our many iniquities all these years have been lost.”[52] Obviously, the Messiah would make the Torah superfluous. He should have arrived already at the beginning of the last two thousand years. His delay is due to “the many iniquities” of the people.  The statement of St. Paul that “Christ is the consummation of the law unto justice for everyone who believes” (Rom 10:4) is, therefore an exact Jewish conclusion, possible, however, only for a man who is convinced that Christ is the Messiah spoken of in the Torah. But the sentence, “Christ is Messiah; with the death and resurrection of Christ starts the third era of the world, mentioned in Sanhedrin” cannot be proved from the Law but is a matter of faith. [53] Rabbinical literature makes clear that all observance of the Law does not mean anything without faith. “And so also you find that our father Abraham inherited both this world and the world beyond only as a reward for the faith which he believed, as it is said: ‘And he believed in the Lord.’ ” (Gen 15:16).


Though faith is necessarily an ecclesial experience nevertheless the fact remains that this faith experience of the community is appropriated and responded by each believer in a personal way. This is evident from the fact that the Church is the sacrament of the Kingdom of God, and the basic requirement to enter into the Kingdom of God is conversion. Actually Conversion and faith were inseparable conditions[54] to enter the Kingdom: “Jesus came into Galilee preaching the Gospel of God, and saying… the Kingdom God is at hand; be converted and believe in the Gospel (Mk 1:14-15). In fact ‘conversion’ was a response to preaching. Speaking of the preaching of Jona among the Ninivites, Jesus says: “for they repented at the preaching of Jona” (Mt 12:41). When Peter preached the Gospel, the response demanded was: “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Hence the baptismal initiation into the believing Community of the Church demands a subjective appropriation and response from the part of the believer in terms of conversion.

Another fact to be noted is the following: as the number of the occurrence of the words ‘metanoia’ (conversion) and ‘pistis’ (faith), in the NT indicates, the use of term metanoia’ was gradually diminished while the term ‘pistis’ came to be of frequent use in the  later writings. The occurrence of the terms metanoia and metanoein is as the following: Mk 3 times, Mt 7 times, Lk 14 times, Acts 11 times, Paul 8 times and John not at all. On the other hand, the occurrence of the terms pistis and pisteueinis as the following: Mk 19 times, Mt 20 times, Lk 20 times, Acts 52 times, Paul 221 times and John 90 times.[55] So faith implied a conversion to the Gospel, and was in fact the ongoing conversion.


The word ekklesia is found just twice in the Gospels (Mt 16:18; 18:17). But it is found frequently in Paul. In Paul’s uncontested letters it is found 44 times, in Deutero Pauline letters, 15 times and in the Pastorals 3 times. The term ekklesia  plays an important role as a crucial part of the “mystery of Christ.” The barrier between Jew and Greek has been broken down, and all human beings have been reconciled to God in Christ’s “body, the Church” (Col 1:17). According to the view of Paul’s disciple, the cosmic Christ is now the head of the Church, which is his body; [56] the Church is said to be the “fullness” of Christ (Eph 1:22-23). It  is given cosmic dimensions, and even the spirits, who are not members of the Church, are said to learn about the Father’s plan of salvific activity in Christ through the Church (Eph 3:9-11). Note the order in the praise given to by Paul’s disciple to the Father for his wisdom “through the Church and through Christ” (Eph  3:21). The Church becomes so important that it seems to take precedence over Christ!

Since it is in the Church that God is at work, revealing and realizing his redemptive mystery in Christ, our faith involves participation in the life, teaching and liturgy of the Church,[57] for these are the different ways of dispensation of the one mystery of Christ. Therefore, one cannot claim to have an authentic faith in Christ apart from the faith of the Church and a full-fledged life in the Church.


In this section, we will mainly deal with the doctrine of justification through faith which is one of the most important teachings of Paul and how it becomes an assurance to salvation.


Dikaiosis, dikaioo and dikaioun are the three Greek terms used by Paul to speak of justification.  It is drawn from Paul’s Jewish background, being an OT image expressive of relationship between God and human beings or between human beings themselves. But it denotes a societal or juridical relationship, either ethical or forensic (related to law courts). Though Noah is described as “a righteous man” before God (Gen 6:9), the dikaios, “righteous, upright” came to denote normally  one who stood acquitted or vindicated before a judge’s tribunal (Exod 23:7). Its covenantal nuance was expressive of the status of “righteous” or ‘uprightness” to be achieved in the sight of God the Judge by observing the status of the Mosaic Law (Ps 7:9-12; 119:1-8).[58] But the OT noted the difficulty of achieving this statutes (Job 4:17;9:2; Ps 130:3). Whereas Josephus could imagine nothing “more righteous” than obeying the statutes of the Law (Against Apion 2:41) The Essene of Qumran sang of his sinfulness and sought justification only from God (1QS 11:9-12). Here we find an idea similar to that of Paul. When Paul, therefore, says that Christ has justified human beings, it means that Christ by his Passion, Death and Resurrection has caused them to stand before God’s tribunal acquitted or innocent – and this apart from deeds prescribed by the Mosaic Law. [59] For “God’s uprightness” now manifests itself toward human beings in a just judgment that is one of acquittal, since ‘Jesus our Lord was handed over to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25).

The usage of the verb dikaioo in Paul clearly indicates that he uses it with a causative meaning, as a metaphor; the verb in his lips has for the most part become soteriological and means ‘forgive’ or ‘pardon’, with a connotation of an interior transformation in the person caused by God. [60] The justified man, in Paul’s words, is a ‘new creature or creation’ (kaine ktisis , Gal 6:15). He becomes now, through God’s grace, a son of God in a true sense, sharing the very life of God himself through the reception of the Holy Spirit, so that he can authentically call God, “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15), which Jesus alone dared to do in invoking God. He can, as a justified man, truly say: “It is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). J. Jeremias rightly observes that justification is forgiveness in the fullest sense. [61] It is not a mere covering up of the past. Rather, it is an antedonation of the full salvation: it is a new creation by God’s Spirit; it is Christ taking possession of the life already now, already here.


Having seen the meaning of justification, a glance at the two basic letters of Paul, namely the letter to Galatians and the  letter to Romans is necessary where Paul presents this doctrine in depth.

4.2.1. THE LETTER TO GALATIANS (3:1-4:31)

The Christian Jews from Jerusalem advocated that the already baptized Christians of Galatians should undergo circumcision and observe Torah for perfection and to become heirs to the promises to Abraham. Paul vehemently opposes and rejects this because for Paul, to treat initiation into Christ as preliminary to initiation into Moses is to deny the ultimacy of Christ, and finally, the oneness of God (3:30).Paul piles up mainly four arguments to prove his doctrine of justification through faith:

Argument-1(3:1-5): Paul reminds his readers that the Gospel of the crucified Christ rules out any other means of achieving righteousness before God. They were taught this truth when they became Christians.[62]  Paul cannot understand the change that has come in their understanding of the crucified Christ. The Galatians would certainly admit when they became Christians, they received the Spirit and experienced the gifts of the Spirit in their lives. Paul reminds them that this occurred in their profession of their faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of law. Once they have accepted Jesus as the saviour, they did not need anything else for perfection, any supplement to their faith in Christ (3:5). This is Paul’s argument from experience.

Argument-2 (3:6-14): In 3:6-9, Paul quotes Gen 15:6 using Abraham as an example and gives his own interpretation of the covenant to Abraham which is different from that of the Christian Jews. Abraham was blessed by God for his faith. Similarly the Christians are blessed by God together with Abraham for their faith in Jesus Christ[63] and they would share in the blessings and promises made to Abraham. Thus Christians are already sons of Abraham by faith[64] and they do not need anything else to become heirs to the promises of God to Abraham.

Argument-3 (3:15-18): Paul says that God established his covenant with Abraham in an irrevocable manner just as a man’s last will is not changed after it is ratified (Gal 3:15). Paul is then rebutting the argument of the Judaizers that the Jewish people alone are the heirs to the Abrahamic promises (Gal 3:16). He takes the Scriptural expression of God’s promise to Abraham’s descendants in Gen 12:7 as singular (“to your offspring”) and identifies it with Christ rather than with the Jewish people.[65] Paul further argues that God’s covenant with Abraham with its promise had precedence over the Mosaic Law with its regulations and that the latter has not annulled or replaced the former. [66]  Since God’s blessing to Abraham was by promise and not by law, Christians without the Mosaic Law would become inheritors of them through Jesus Christ, who is the offspring of Abraham and heir to his inheritance.

Arguments-4 (4:21-31): The Judaizers appealed to Abraham, Hagar and Sarah but drew the wrong conclusion. Hagar, the slave woman does not represent the descendance of the Gentiles but the present, earthly Jerusalem that rejects Christ and clings to the Law. Sarah, the free woman, represents the heavenly Jerusalem[67] that becomes the mother of all believers, who share in the promise that Christ received. Through this allegory Paul wants the Galatians to consider themselves children of Sarah and thereby, of the promise, resisting any pressure to enslave themselves under any law.

After these arguments Paul finishes the Body of Galatians with a passionate exhortation (5:1-6:10) against the Judaisers and warning that the Law will not help the Galatians against the works of the flesh.  “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) makes clear that Paul does not consider circumcision as something evil but rather something that has no power to bring about justification.

4.2.2. THE LETTER TO ROMANS (4:1-25)

In this chapter Paul interprets Gen 15:6 to show that justification is by faith alone without works of the Law (Gal 3:6-18). In 4:9-12 speaking of the when of justification Paul says that Abraham was justified before his circumcision, therefore independently of it. In these verses, Paul insists that Abraham was reckoned as righteous in the situation described by Ps 32, that of sinners who cannot glory in their works.[68] For being still uncircumcised and thus still a Gentile the patriarch belongs to that category. Paul is following the sequence of events in Genesis. In Gen 15, Abraham is said to be justified but only in Gen 17 he is circumcised. This again proves that justification comes through faith alone, without the works of the Law. If the patriarch was reckoned as just when he was still in the ranks of sinners that means that circumcision is not a condition of justification, that it is a posterior sign of a justice gratuitously received in a state of uncircumcision (v. 11).[69]

In 4:13-25, Paul argues that the promises are realised through faith. Now having said that Abraham was justified through faith and not through works or through his being circumcised Paul considers the question of the promise. Paul wants to show the context of the promise and its relation to faith. He says that Abraham’s act of believing, which brings him justice, and the promise are essentially connected since what Abraham was asked to believe in was his universal paternity.

We saw that Paul had done away with Gen 17- the chapter of circumcision. Abraham was declared righteous when uncircumcised. And the promise was there. However, the situation had changed in Gen 17, through which all the descendants of Abraham were circumcised. But as the promise had come previous to the circumcision, then the promise cannot be said to be related to circumcision, but to faith. What Paul wants to demonstrate here is simply that the promise is still valid today, not on the basis of Gen 17 but because of the uncircumcised Abraham: circumcision and the Law had not changed the relationship between promise, faith and gratuitous righteousness. Verses 13-18 stress this historical dimension. And Paul insists that the paternity of Abraham is spiritual rather than physical, i.e., based on his act of faith. Thus in relation to us all that Abraham is “Father of us all” in faith.


Here  Paul says that God’s love and the gift of the Spirit are a pledge of salvation to the Christians who are justified by faith in Jesus Christ.[70] There is a transition from justification to salvation, from to faith to hope. Having been justified by faith, the Christian experiences “peace” (v.1), which means reconciliation, and “confident hope” (v.2). The hope that results from faith is the confidence of receiving the eschatological gifts such as the resurrection of the body and eternal life. Paul tells that this “hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us” (v.5). The hope of God’s glory is not illusory, i.e., the Judge at the end, the crucial moment, cannot turn hostile and obstruct the way to salvation, because it is founded on God’s love for human beings, made overt in the experience of the Spirit. Paul is speaking on the basis of the OT texts as Ezek 36:27-28; 37:12-14 and Joel 2:28-29. For the early Christians, the presence of the Spirit was the sure sign that whatever be the outward circumstances, as far as relations with God were concerned, the community was living a life of the new age of salvation.

To ground further this theme, Paul in vv. 6-10 sets up an argument. He desires that the readers should reflect upon the death of Christ and the excessiveness of it. The argument is that if, when we were God’s enemies God loved us to the extent of giving his Son to die for us, how much more, it is certain that, now we are “friends” (having been justified), God will see us through to final salvation. The expression in  v. 10, “We will be saved by his life” implies that the risen Lord has an active role in the progress of the believers to salvation.

In V.l1 Paul brings the section to a triumphant conclusion, reverting to the idea of boasting: “we even boast in God”. We, the believers, not only have hope for the future-the prospect of salvation- but right now we can boast in God, as those who have received reconciliation in Christ. Boasting is not the feeling of pride, but speaking it out loud before others which becomes a proclamation of the truth,


In the above section, we saw the doctrine of justification through faith and how does the justification paves the way for salvation.  The following section deals exclusively with the very term ‘salvation’ according to St. Paul and how does the faith-response become an indispensible condition for attaining salvation.


The term σωzω, can be variously defined as ‘to save, to preserve, to keep from harm, to rescue, to heal, to liberate, etc. but the predominant sense of σωzω, is ‘to save’.  The NT uses σωzω,  106 times, and its compound dιασωzω 9 times.[71] In the NT, salvation has sense of ‘bodily health’, ‘preservation’, ‘safety’, ‘deliverance’,” etc. (Mk 5:23; 28:34; 6:56; Acts 27: 34). In the religious sense (which was known in Greek thought), which dominates the LXX (34 times in Psalms, 18 in Isaiah) and NT usage, the physical imagery of ‘salvation’ is retained in the sense of the deliverance from peril and restoration to wholeness. It denotes not only salvation from natural dangers and afflictions, from disease, from death, but also a saving from eternal death. “To save” can also be read in the sense of messianic salvation, a salvation from God.

The term salvation is a fairly common way for Paul to express an effect of the Christ-event. Paul uses the term σωzω,  29 times, σωτηρια 18 times, σωτηρ 12 times and σωτηριον once.[72] He speaks in Rom 5:9-10 that since we have been justified by the blood of Christ and reconciled to God through the death of his Son, we will be saved through him. In 1 Cor 1:18 he would say that the message about the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved. 1 Cor 5:5 speaks about salvation of an individual in the day of the Lord. In Phil 3:20, Paul calls Jesus ‘soter’ and he is as one still awaited, for although Paul realizes that this effect of the Christ-event is already achieved, its end result is still something of the future-an eschatological aspect  (1 Thes 2:16; Rom 5:9-10).


In Rom 10:8-17 which is based and focused upon the salvation of humankind, we can say that Paul brings the requirements for attaining salvation, especially as could be noted in his rhetorical questions in Rom 10:14-15a. To achieve salvation one has to hear, believe, invoke, confess and get baptized into the word of God. Paul categorically asserts that salvation can no more be based on the works of the law. The basis of salvation is the faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is the result of a life in a dynamic process of faith-response.[73] The faith in Jesus as the Lord is proclaimed in open confession through a communitarian act of baptism and an on-going faith life. This faith-response leads to salvation

There is a double aspect in the nature of Paul’s concept salvation and hence also in Pauline eschatology. Scholars like  C.H. Dodd and R. Bultmann would label the predominant aspect as “realized eschatology”, while scholars like J.A. Fitzmyer would term it as an “inaugurated eschatology” or even as a “self-realizing eschatology”.[74] E.F. Scott, would argue for the present state of salvation:

Paul does not conceive of salvation in terms of a future state of blessedness, as it is described in the Book of Revelation. But Paul thinks of it as given essentially in the present. The future will only bring more full light to what is attainable in this life, although in the earthly body it cannot be fully realized. It is here and now that we must rise from the dead, for sin and death are inseparable.  For Paul then salvation is the release from all that weight of sin and a bestowal of life giving Spirit.[75]

J. Elizabeth  presents her view for the exclusively future reality of salvation:

Salvation is exclusively a future reality for Paul (Rom 5:9-10; 13:11; Phil 3:20), grounded in the death and resurrection of Jesus, but to be accomplished only at his parousia. That Paul considers the phenomena of the Gentile faith and Israel’s hardening and ultimate salvation to be marks of the end time is attested by the use of zωη εκ υεκρων (life from the dead) at Rom 11:15. Israel’s temporary reception has meant the reconciliation of the world, but Israel’s full reception will mean nothing less than life from the dead. This life is what Paul commonly calls zωη αιωυίον (eternal life) (Rom 2:7; 5:21; 6:22; Gal 6:8).[76]

Paul uses the verb σωzω, in the future tense especially in Rom 10:9 and 13, J. Dunn, referring to Romans 10:9 (“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is the Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”), says, “The future is a genuine future-salvation as an eschatological good, the end product of the process”.[77] Note the three tenses involved here present belief and confession, of the epochal past of Christ’s resurrection, resulting in future salvation. Hence the connotation here is that the result of the Christian life in a dynamic-faith response process is a futuristic salvation, an eschatological one.

For Paul, full enactment of salvation is primarily eschatological, a hope for the future, the inheriting of eternal life (cf. Rom 5:9 ff). A life in the faith-response process results in righteousness in the present and salvation in the future (Rom 10:10). The present status of Christian life is a covenantal status that anticipates final salvation.[78] Righteousness is a present status, but salvation is an event promised to those who are in the righteousness status. But in effect both concepts righteousness and salvation refer to eschatological salvation. Righteousness or the justified status is in view of the future salvific event. Hence even justice in Pauline thought has a forward look. Hence salvation is the effect or result or climax of a dynamic faith-response process of the life of the justified.

Another noteworthy point in the Pauline concept of salvation is that salvation is open to all, and the appeal to be saved is universal. Everyone, without any distinction, will find salvation in “the Lord of all”. “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13). Christ is the Lord of all and there is no partiality or distinction on his part in the economy of salvation.[79] Each and everyone, whether Jew or Gentile, who calls upon his name, will be saved (Rom 10:11-13). Therefore, salvation is not restricted to a chosen people; it is universal, but each one will have to follow a constant faith-response process of life for his personal salvation.

For Paul, this universal and eschatological nature of salvation is fundamental in his theology of the salvation of Jews and Gentiles. R. P. Martin puts it as: “Israel’s Messiah (Rom 9:5) came to bless all the nations (Gal 3:6-9 referring to Gen 12:1-3).[80] The apostolic kerygma, as Paul proclaimed it, was directed to all who would believe (Jews and Gentiles).” Everyone who confesses him as the Lord of all and grows in a faith-response life will be saved.


In the whole salvation economy Paul’s concept of salvation in the present age has to be understood conceptually as two stages or phases: the beginning and the ongoing. Borrowing the idea of  Dunn, J.G. Panjikaran would call them the event phase and process phase.[81] The aspects in the beginning phase of salvation are the result of a crucial transition from one epoch to another. Justification, participation in Christ (union with Christ), gift of the Holy Spirit, baptism in the faith-response process (or in other words “a baptismal life”), etc. are the aspects in the beginning stage. The second, which is the process phase, is an ongoing one continuing to the end (parousia), but continuing also in all the aspects of the beginning phase in a dynamic growth in the faith-response process.  The believers in this ongoing or process phase are described as “those who are (in process of) being saved” (1 Cor 1:18; 15: 2; 2 Cor 2:15), and the salvation as a process of “being transformed” (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 3: 18; 4:16; Col  3:10). When Paul writes to the Philippians that he is “sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1, 6), and when he admonishes the Galatians “Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?” (3:3) he speaks with regard to this process phase where the Christian has to be in a constant, ongoing process in the faith-response life.

We have to understand the thought pattern of Paul regarding his eschatological concept. He may have been influenced by the Hebraic concepts in this regard. In Hebraic thought, time and history were conceived as the succession of ages: present age and the age to come (Messianic age), in an onward movement, with beginning (creation) and end (final judgment). Sharing this eschatological schema Paul also had regarded salvation history as an onward linear movement with a decisive beginning and a decisive end. In his understanding, the present age was something inferior (Rom 12:2; 1 Cor 2:6; Gal 1: 4 etc.) and the age to come was Messianic with the coming of Christ as a decisive end or in other words, the climax of history as originally planned by God (“fullness of time” Gal 4: 4). But the paradox is that even after the coming of Christ, his salvific death, resurrection and ascension the climax (parousia) didn’t come. Dunn explains this anomalous situation and its result: the point is that the coming of Christ disrupted the previous schema and required it to be modified. For, Christ’s coming and resurrection were indeed perceived as the eschatological climax[82] – “the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), the beginning of the “resurrection of the dead” (Rom 1:4). But the end did not come: the dead were not raised; the judgment did not take place. The eschatological climax was thus incomplete; the completion of the divine purpose required a further climactic act. [83] Christ who had already come must come again! Then only the rest of the final events would unfold. In other words, the single division of the timeline, dividing present age from age to come, had itself been split into a two-stage division. Messiah, the end point of history, had become also Christ the midpoint of history.

Dunn continues to say that “the beginning of the age to come is pulled back into the present age, to begin with Christ’s resurrection. But the present age has not yet ended, and will persist until the parousia.”[84] Christ’s death and resurrection have become the midpoint (between the present age and the age to come). That means, for Paul, those who are in the process of faith- response life, i.e., those who are in the baptismal life, are now in between the midpoint and the parousia. The phase between this midpoint and parousia is the process or ongoing phase of salvation. After the crucial transition from the pre-Christian to the Christian epoch they are now in the process of being saved.

This “in-between” phase is the basis of the “eschatological tension” in Paul, the tension between a work “begun” but not “complete” (Gal 3:3; Phil 1:6). It is in this background the often- used phrases “already” and “not yet” are to be seen. It is a tension between the decisive “already fulfilled” salvific act in the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ and the “not yet completed” transformation of the believers into an eternal life, i.e. the believers still waiting for the parousia.[85] This unavoidable ambiguity of “already-not-yet” is implicit in all sotereological concepts in Paul: justification, redemption, freedom, inheritance, sanctification, participation in Christ, gift of the Holy Spirit, baptism and so forth (cf. Rom 3:24; 4: 2-9; 8:23; 1 Cor 6:11; Col 1:14; Eph 1: 7-14; 4:30, etc.).


We talked about the initial and ongoing phases of faith-response. Now, what then is the final phase of salvation? In one phrase it is the “process completed” with the second coming of Christ [86] (parousia, cf. 1 Cor 15:20-26; Phil 1:6; 3:20-21; 1 Thes 4:15-17; 2 Thes 1:10, etc.). Salvation is not complete within this life (cf. Rom 13:11; Phil 1:19-23; 2:12-13; 1 Thes 5:8-10; 1 Cor 1:18; 15:2; 2 Cor 2:15). In other words salvation is the climax, fullness or fulfillment of the faith-response process of Christian life. The ongoing faith-response process has to reach the final definitive and vindictive phase.

The salvation process, which has a beginning as a crucial transition from pre-faith life to a faith-response life will be complete only with final judgment (2 Cor 5:10). Those who have Christ as the foundation and those who are in the ongoing faith- response process will be saved (1 Cor 3:10-15). Therefore, salvation in its fullness is the end result of a process starting from the crucial transition from pre-faith life to faith life and of a growing in faith-response life founded on the hope of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension and his second coming. For an individual it is a lifelong process.


Here an attempt is made to understand the relationship between faith and works in salvation and how does the Book of James’ teaching on faith and works relate with that of the apostle Paul.


Many readers of the NT misinterpret both Paul and James, thus concluding that their statements about faith and works contradict each other. One of them was Martin Luther, who therefore all but rejected the Book of James and once called it “the epistle of straw.”  In fact, James does not contradict Paul, but speaks about faith from a different point of emphasis. Since Paul and James wrote to different audiences in different situations about different problems, their letters have different presuppositions and different emphasis. To combat the opinion of some people (Judaizers) that circumcision and other “works of the law” were necessary for Gentile converts to early Christianity, Paul stresses that the foundation of our salvation is the death of Jesus, not the laws of Moses. To combat the opinion of other people that professing faith in God is enough for salvation, James stresses that Christians must put their faith into concrete action.

James’s concern was to preach against empty, formal belief, which he says is really not a living or saving faith[87]. “What good is it, my brothers,” he asks, “if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?. . . Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…  Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (2:17-18).  James’ point is that for faith to be alive, it must produce works.  Using the example of Abraham, whose faith was finally proved by his willingness to offer his son, he writes in a way that seems to be even more challenging to Paul’s doctrine of faith alone:  “A person is justified,” he says, “by works and not by faith alone” (2:24).  This verse is celebrated by those who oppose or want to change Paul’s teaching on faith alone.  But James’ point is made clear by his elaboration on the matter by, for instance, verse 22, which says, “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works.”  That is something Paul would have strongly affirmed, that a living faith, which alone saves us through Jesus Christ, is only one which proves itself through good and obedient works.

To make clear this point further, let us have a glance over the actual writings of both Paul and James.

Galatians 2:16 – “Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in/of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in/of Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law” (see all of Gal  2:15-3:14).

Romans 3:28 – “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law” (see all of Rom 3:21-4:25).

James 2:24, 26 – “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone… For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead” (see all of James 2:14-26).

The common but incorrect interpretation, leading to an apparent contradiction between Paul and James:

Paul supposedly said:  Justification comes not by our good works, but by our faith in Jesus alone.

James supposedly said:  Justification comes by our good works, not by our faith in God.


            Paul is not talking about “good works” in the sense of “charitable acts”; rather, he says “works of the Law” (Gal 2:16; 3:2-12; Rom 3:28), which refers to the Jewish/Mosaic laws on circumcision, sacrifices, dietary restrictions, etc. When James says “works,” he means acts of charity = care for widows, orphans & the poor, love for neighbors, etc. (James 1:27; 2:8; 2:15-16). Paul is not opposed to “good works” or “charitable actions”; he sees them as necessary consequences (although not the foundation) of authentic Christian living (see Gal 5–6; Rom12–15). Conversely, James is not opposed to faith; he presupposes it, and then stresses that authentic faith must be put into action (James 2:14-26).

            Paul is not talking primarily about our “faith in Jesus,” but rather the “faith of Jesus” in God (i.e., Jesus’ own trusting in God; see Gal 2:16, 20; Rom 3:22, 26); based on this foundation, our faith in God/Jesus is a necessary response. In contrast, James does mean people’s faith, primarily believing in God (2:23) but also believing in Jesus (2:1). Paul does not presuppose the same definition of “faith” as James does; for Paul, “faith” means “trusting” God, or “entrusting oneself” to God’s plans (Rom 4:3-22). For James, “faith” is more of an intellectual assent to theological truths, e.g., “believing that God is one” (2:19; even demons can “believe” in God’s existence).

            Paul did not write the word “alone” in Rom 3:28; Martin Luther was the one who added the word “allein” in his German Bible translation[88]. James does not write “by works alone” but stresses “not by faith alone”; he maintains that both have to go together.

            Interestingly, to argue their points, both James and Paul appealed to the example of Abraham in Gen 15:6, but in a different way.

Genesis 15:6 – “And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

Galatians 3:6-9 – “Just as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.  And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.  For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.”

Romans 4:1-3, 10-12 – “What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness…  How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.  He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them,  and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.” (see all of Rom 4:1-25)

James 2:21-23 – “Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? (cf. Gen 22:9-18)  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works.  Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God.”

In other words, Paul argues that Abraham was justified (in Gen 15) before he was circumcised (in Gen17), while James argues that Abraham’s faith/trust in God was completed and evidenced by his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac (in Gen 22). Rather than contradicting or disagreeing with each other, it seems that James (probably written after Paul’s letters) intended to correct some misinterpretations of Paul’s teachings that seem to have arisen in some circles of early Christianity. Above mentioned is presented in the table given below.

Paul James
Definitions of Key Terms: “faith” = trusting acceptance of God’s will (cf. Rom 4:3-5)

“works of the law” = regulations of the Jewish Torah (cf. Rom 3:28-31)

“faith” = intellectual assent to theological truths (2:19)

“works” = good deeds; putting religion into action (1:22-27)

Foundation of Justification,

Reason for Salvation:

Jesus’ actions: the “faith of Jesus” in God (cf. Rom 3:22, 26)
(i.e., Jesus’ trust, that led to his death on the cross)

not our actions: not fulfilling the “works of the Law” (cf. Rom 3:28)

adoption: God gave us birth by the word of truth (1:18)

and election: God chose the poor to be heirs of the kingdom (2:5)

Consequences for People,
Results of Being Saved:
1) We need to have faith/trust in Jesus (Rom 1–11)
2) We need to live ethically, doing good not evil (Rom 12–15)
1) Our faith in Jesus, and 2) our works of charity;

both are necessary together (2:14-26)

Example of Abraham: Abraham was justified by faith (in Gen 15)
already before he was circumcised (in Gen 17)
Abraham’s trust in God (declared in Gen 15) was shown
and completed by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac (in Gen 22)


Here we were making a journey through Pauline Corpus to see the significance of faith-response as the basic principle of salvation which has two phases; the beginning and the on-going phase. Justification, participation in Christ, gift of the Holy Spirit, baptism etc. are the aspects in the beginning stage. The second, which is the process phase, is an on-going one, continuing to the end (parousia).  We saw this salvation process, will be complete only with final judgment (2 Cor 5:10). Those who have Christ as the foundation and those are in the on-going faith-response process will be saved (1 Cor 3:10-15). Therefore salvation in its fullness is the end result of a process starting from the crucial transition from pre-faith to faith-life and of growing in faith-response life founded on the hope  of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection and his second coming. The final phase of salvation is the process completed with the second coming of Christ (1 Cor 15:20-26; Phil 1:6; 3:20-21). For an individual, it is a life-long process.

Again we saw that the teachings of Paul that genuine faith is the faith manifested through the works of Charity. A Christian should manifest the faith through the deeds of love (Gal 5:6). That is why Paul continuously exhorts his people to practice all sorts of good deeds. If the Christian life did not produce good works, Paul would seriously question the genuineness of such a Christian faith. (“…and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:2).

Thus, as we make an overall view on Pauline teachings on faith, we notice that Paul could embrace the twin-dimension of faith: contemplative and active dimension. Let us re-discover the faith that we profess and celebrate and let our profession of  faith be made visible through our works of charity as Paul exhorted us.


In the by-gone year, we observed the Year of Faith between 11 October 2012 and 24 November 2013. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wanted us to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. The Holy Father wanted the Year of Faith to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own. Pope Benedict is clear that faced with the urgent need for the purification of the Church the “one thing that will be of decisive importance is retracing the history of our faith, marked as it is by the unfathomable mystery of the interweaving of holiness and sin.” (Porta Fidei, 13).

Coming to our context, many a people leave the Catholic Church and join the other Pentecostal sects. Paul has already  given us the  warning  in his second Epistle to Timothy:  “For the time is coming  when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening  to the truth and wander away to myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4). These words of Paul are becoming true in this modern age. Lots of “false prophets” rise up, claiming that they received some private revelation. These people lead astray many of our faithful from the Catholic faith. According to the survey done among 10,000 people settled both in Kerala and Gulf in the year 2009, by some seminarians from St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary, Alwye, EKM, around 62% of people gave the answer that these Pentecostal sects had come to them and tried to brainwash them.  Around 28% of people said that they had participated in their liturgical services. It shows how much the Pentecostal sects are rampant in our society. Even the educated people are being caught under their clutches.  All these things take place in our country, wherein we claim that we have a strong faith and get proud about the tradition of St. Thomas and St.Francis Xavier.  Another important thing to note is that most of the people who join these sects were once upon a time very active members of the Catholic Church.  As Pope Emeritus exhorted us it is high time for us to rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith.

[1]Quoted by D. Macpherson, “The Theology of St. Paul,” in L. Bright, Paul 1, 10, London, Sheed

and  Ward ltd,1972, 1.

                [2] F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, Bombay, St Pauls Publications, 1991, 18.

                [3] C.H. Dodd, The Meaning of Paul for Today, Glasgow, William Collins & Sons Co. Ltd, 1929, 21.

                [4] Quoted by P. Chakkalacal, Paul: A Challenge to Christians Today, Bombay, St Pauls Publications, 1991, 18.

                [5] P. Chakkalacal, Paul: A Challenge to Christians Today, 18.

                [6] D. Macpherson, “The Theology of St. Paul,” 2.

                [7] G. Kaitholil, Encounter with Paul, Mumbai, St Pauls Publications, 2009, 25.

                [8] W. Barclay, The Mind of St Paul, Glasgow, William Collins Sons Co. Ltd, 1977, 9.

                [9] W. Barclay, The Mind of St Paul, Glasgow, 9.

                [10] G.T. Montague, The Living Thought of Saint Paul, Milwuke, The Bruce Publishing Company, 1966, 2.

                [11] Quoted by G. Ricciotti, Paul The Apostle, (E. Tr. by A.I. Zizzamia), Milwuke, The Bruce Publishing Company, 1953, 53.

                [12] F. Schroeder, “Paul, Apostle, St.,” in W. Mc Donald, (ed.), NCE 11 (1981) 1-12, 9.

                [13] D. Macpherson, “The Theology of Paul,” 2.

                [14] Class notes on 10/10/12, J. Prasad, Pauline Theology.

                [15] J. A. Fitzmyer, “Paul,” in R. E. Brown, et al., NJBC, Bangalore, TPI, 1997, 1382-1416, 1384.

                [16] D. Macpherson, “The Theology of Paul,” 6.

                [17] D. Macpherson, “The Theology of Paul,” 6.

                [18] Class notes on 10/10/12, J. Prasad, Pauline Theology.

                [19] P. Chakkalacal, Paul: A Challenge to Christians Today, 31.

                [20] Class notes on 10/10/12, J. Prasad, Pauline Theology.

                [21] J. Taylor, “Acts of the Apostles” in W. Farmer, (ed.), IBC, Bangalore, TPI, 2007,1580-1619, 1596.

            [22] F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 36.

                [23] G. Macgregor, The Acts of the Apostles, The Interpreter’s Bible 9, New York, Abingdon Press, 1955, 23-359, 121.

                [24] F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 37.

                [25] J. A. Fitzmyer, “Paul,” 1386.

                [26] J. A. Fitzmyer, “Paul,” 1386.

                [27] J. A. Fitzmyer, “Paul,” 1386.

                [28] Class notes, J. Prasad, Pauline Theology.

                [29] Class notes, J. Prasad, Pauline Theology.

                [30] D. Macpherson, “The Theology of Paul,” 6.

                [31] D. Macpherson, “The Theology of Paul,” 8.

                [32] D. Macpherson, “The Theology of Paul,” 9.

                [33] Class notes on 06/08/12, L. Culas, Catholic Epistles.

                [34] Class notes on 10/10/12, J. Prasad, Pauline Theology.

                [35] F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 99.

                [36] Quoted by F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 99.

            [37]  Quoted by F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 99.

                [38] E. Goodrick and J. Kohlenberger, The NIV Complete Concordance, Michigan, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, 275-277.

                [39] F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 100.

                [40] F. Prat, The Theology of St. Paul, 2, (E. Tr. by J.L. Stoddard), The Newman Bookshop, Westminster, 1958, 237.

                [41] F. Prat, The Theology of Paul, 238.

                [42] F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 100.

                [43] F. Prat, The Theology of Paul, 234.

                [44] F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 102.

                [45] M. Vellanikal, “Faith Experience and Ecclesial life according to St. Paul,” BB 16 (1990)182-192, 182.

                [46] F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 104.

                [47] F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 104

                [48] M. Vellanikal, “Faith Experience and Ecclesial life according to St. Paul,” 182.

                [49] Quoted by F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 106.

                [50] H. Mueller, “The Ideal Man as Portrayed by the Talmud and St. Paul,” CBQ 28 (1966) 278-291, 284.

                [51] H. Mueller, “The Ideal Man as Portrayed by the Talmud and St. Paul,” 285.

                [52] Quoted by H. Mueller, “The Ideal Man as Portrayed by the Talmud and St. Paul,” 285.

                [53] E. Harrison, Romans, The Expositor’s Bible Commentory 10, Michigan, Zondervan Publishing House, 1976, 78-84, 81.

                [54] M. Vellanikal, “Faith Experience and Ecclesial life according to St. Paul,”190.

                [55] E. Goodrick and J. Kohlenberger, The NIV Complete Concordance, 767.

                [56] J. A. Fitzmyer, “Paul,” 1412.

                [57] M. Vellanikal, “Faith Experience and Ecclesial life according to St. Paul,”192.

                [58] J. A. Fitzmyer, “Paul,” 1397.

                [59] Class notes on 10/10/12, J. Prasad, Pauline Theology.

                [60] F. Amiot, How to Read Paul, (E. Tr. by M. Meilach, London, Geoffrey Chapman Ltd, 1966, 63-67, 65.

                [61] Quoted by F. Pereira, Gripped by God in Christ, 103.

                [62] S. Kizhakkeyil, The Pauline Epistles, Bombay, St Pauls Publications, 2006, 99-101,105.

[63] D. Crossan, “Justification,” in W. Mc Donald, (ed.), NCE  8 (1981) 77-81,80.

[64] A.Harvey, A Companion to the New Testament, Trumpington Street, Cambridge University  Press, 2004, 597-601, 598.

                 [65] S. Kizhakkeyil, The Pauline Epistles, 105.

[66] R. Longenecker, Galatians, WBC 41A, Colombia, Nelson Reference and Electronic, 1989,125-135,133 .

              [67] L. Swain, “The Theology of St. Paul,” in L. Bright, Paul 1, 10, London, Sheed and Ward ltd, 1972, 103.

               [68] Class notes on 10/06/12, J. Prasad, Pauline Theology.

[69] J. Dunn,  Romans 1-8, WBC 38A, Colombia, Nelson Reference and Electronic, 1989, 195-241, 232.

                [70] S. Kizhakkeyil, The Pauline Epistles, 179.

                [71] E. Goodrick and J. Kohlenberger, The NIV Complete Concordance, Michigan,                                       Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, 797-98.

            [72] E. Goodrick and J. Kohlenberger, The NIV Complete Concordance, 797-98.

                [73] J.G. Panjikaran, “The Theology of Salvation in the Epistles of Paul,” JSS 1 (2007) 63-73, 64.

                [74] J.G. Panjikaran, “The Theology of Salvation in the Epistles of Paul,” 65.

                [75] Quoted by J.G. Panjikaran, “The Theology of Salvation in the Epistles of Paul,” 63.

                [76] Quoted by J.G. Panjikaran, “The Theology of Salvation in the Epistles of Paul,” 63.

                [77] Quoted by J.G. Panjikaran, “The Theology of Salvation in the Epistles of Paul,” 65.

[78] L.Ladaria, “Eschatology”, in R. Latourelle, (ed.), Dictionary of Fundamental Theology, New

York, St Pauls Publications, (with The Crossroad Publishing Company), 1994, 273.

[79] K.Rahner, “Salvation” in K.Rahner, (ed.), Encyclopedia of Theology, Great Britian, Biddles Ltd, 1986, 1499-1530, 1501.

                [80]  Quoted by J.G. Panjikaran, “The Theology of Salvation in the Epistles of Paul,” 67.

                [81] J.G. Panjikaran, “The Theology of Salvation in the Epistles of Paul,” 67.

                [82] Quoted by J.G. Panjikaran, “The Theology of Salvation in the Epistles of Paul,” 65.

        [83] K.Rahner, “Eschatology” in K.Rahner, (ed.), Encyclopedia of Theology, Great Britian, Biddles Ltd, 1986, 434-439, 437.

                [84] Class notes, J. Prasad, Pauline Theology.

                [85] J.G. Panjikaran, “The Theology of Salvation in the Epistles of Paul,” 68.

  [86] C. Lesquivit and P. Grelot, “Salvation,” in X. Dufour, (ed.), Dictionary of Biblical Theology,

(E.Tr. by P.Cahill), London, Geoffrey Chapman, 1972, 457-461, 461.

                [87] Class notes on 06/08/12, L. Culas, Catholic Epistles.


About bodhicap

This is the journal-blog from the Capuchins at Bodhi Institute of Theology, Tillery, Kollam, India.
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