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Common Ground: CCC 2006-2011

by PastorWilliams on January 3rd, 2018





If we are justified by faith through grace, what is the deal with the Pope’s “treasury of merits”? If salvation is a free gift from God, why do we need other people’s good works to help us gain our salvation?

“The term ‘merit’ refers in general to the recompense owed by a community or society for the action of one of its members, experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of equality which governs it” (paragraph 2006). Merit is something owed to a person basically for being part of the society. However, “with regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. … The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace” (paragraphs 2007-2008). Man has no right to receive merit before God, but God has graciously initiated our association with His work. This association has been molded by Roman Catholic doctrine to bring us into the work of justification and sanctification.

The Pope’s “treasury of merits” are these good works of supererogation done by saints above and beyond what they needed in order to gain everlasting life. The Roman Catholic Church bases the idea of this treasury available to all on 1 John 2:2: “[Christ] is the expiation of our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” The Catholic Encyclopedia continues by saying (

Since the satisfaction of Christ is infinite, it constitutes an inexhaustible fund which is more than sufficient to cover the indebtedness contracted by sin, Besides, there are the satisfactory works of the Blessed Virgin Mary undiminished by any penalty due to sin, and the virtues, penances, and sufferings of the saints vastly exceeding any temporal punishment which these servants of God might have incurred.

The problem with this “treasury” is that it gives equal glory to the saints as to Christ. As if the works of any of the saints, including the Blessed Virgin Mary, is as satisfactory as Jesus’ crucifixion. St. Paul challenges this idea, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). Anyone who tries to say that someone else’s good works are equivalent to Christ’s atoning sacrifice have been drug into the pits of idolatry.

From → Common Ground

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