"if it is of works, it is no longer grace" in Rom 11:6


From a reader:
Could you have a look at the verse below, and add a comment? It makes it clear that in election works have no part at all, or grace is not grace. Your exegetical remarks would be appreciated.

Rom. 11:5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace.

The literal meaning of this Scripture passage refers to the election of Israel and the mystery of its national apostasy. The passage begins: I ask, then, has God rejected his people? (Rom 11:1)

That being said, I think it is entirely appropriate to use this passage to analyze the gratuitous property of grace as it pertains to personal salvation. In other words, we not should limit this passage to how it relates to God’s people of the Old Law.

In Romans (and Galatians) St. Paul is concerned with the prevailing Christian heresy of his day – that one can only be righteous before God by belief in Christ AND by observance of the Torah.

St. Paul uses a powerful argument based on Abraham’s faith to show that the gratuitous property of grace excludes not only Jewish works but, a fortiori, all works.

Yet Paul knows that grace has allowed him to accomplish great salvific acts – primarily his ministry to the Gentiles/nations (Rom 15:16). Thus grace allows Christians to perform human acts in such a way that these good works are not contrary to the grace of God but actually subsumed under the current of grace flowing through the believer. Therefore, post-regenerative works are not opposed to grace, but fall under grace.

St. James further explains that works “perfect faith”. These works are NOT produced by the raw human will, unaided by grace. Rather faith and works are the result of grace present in the human will. For the Catholic Church, both faith and works (and charity and hope) are the result of grace operating in the human will. Grace insulates everything so that “none may boast”.

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