Are Catholics Saved? And Can We Lose Our Salvation?
"Have you been saved?" Those who ask that likely differ significantly from Catholics about what it means to be "saved." To Catholics, "being saved" means that Jesus Christ suffered, died, and rose again in atonement for our sins.
What must I do to be saved and is "faith alone" enough to be saved?
Many Protestants stress that to be saved, you must come to faith in Jesus by "accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior." We are saved by faith alone-Sola Fide. Sola Fide stems from an isolation of St. Paul's reflection on the necessity of faith, mostly in Romans and Galatians such as Romans 10:10, "For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved."
Paul's writings must not be isolated from the rest of Holy Scripture. In Matthew 19, Jesus is asked by the rich young man, ""Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?" and He replies, "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." And when the young man presses Jesus for more, Jesus responds, ""If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." So, it is evident that keeping the commandments and loving our neighbor is also essential parts of obtaining eternal life.
In John 3, the Pharisee, Nicodemus, is told, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." We know this is a reference to Baptism because, "After this, Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing." [John 3:22] The importance of baptism, is also taught by Peter: "This prefigured baptism, which saves you now." [1 Peter 3:21] So we see clearly that Baptism, as well, is necessary for salvation.
The only time the words "Faith Alone" are used in the Bible is when St. James asserts, "See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." [James 2:2]
Catholics accept the Scriptures as a whole. Baptism is required for salvation. A fuller explanation of this can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Para. 1257-1261. The explanation may surprise you! Keeping the Commandments is also a necessity. A further explanation of this can be found in the Catechism, starting at paragraph 2052. Faith in Jesus is also required, but not faith alone.
If I am "saved," can I lose my salvation?
Many Protestants believe in the "assurance of salvation." Martin Luther emphasized this point when he wrote, "Sin cannot tear you away from him [Christ] even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders." (Martin Luther, letter to Melanchton, Aug. 1, 1521) Often cited as the justification for this belief is John 10:28: "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand."
Yet, if we can never lose our salvation, what does Paul mean when He writes the Philippians? "So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling." They are clearly believers. If their salvation is assured, why the need for "fear and trembling." An even stronger example is in Roman 11:22: "See, then, the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who fell, but God's kindness to you, provided you remain in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off."
It is clear that you retain your free will to accept or reject God's unmerited gift of salvation. Let us pray that all will remember the words of Jesus "But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved." [Mark 13:13].