Complete justification occurs the moment we are saved by God’s grace. (Rom. 1:17, 3:24, 3:28; Acts 13:39)
I understand that we are justified by grace alone, but we must respond to this grace through faith and good works. I don’t understand ‘complete justification’. Is this claim on the position of ‘Once saved always saved’?
'Once saved always saved" is not a scriptural quote, but it is the belief held by various Protestants.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1949 Called to beatitude but wounded by sin, man stands in need of salvation from God. Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the grace that sustains him:
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.1
Faith and good works
Take the case, my brothers of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of llife, then what good is that?: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.
This is the way to talk to people of that kind:'You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds–now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.
You believe in one God–that is creditable enough, but the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear. Do realise, you senseless man, that faith without works is useless. You surely know that Abraham our Father was justified by his deed, because he offered Isaac on the altar? There you see it; faith and good deeds were working together; his faith became perfect by what he did This is what scripture really means when it says: Abraham put his faith in God, and this was counted as making him justified; and that is why he was called the friend of God
You see now that it is by doing something good, and not only by believing, that a man is justified." [James 2: 14-24]
GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION From the Catechism
We are saved by grace but must work out our salvation in good works. When Jesus described the Last Judgement in Matthw 25 verses 31-46, He made plain the importance of good works. Those who have lived in practical kindness to others, which He takes aslo as kindness/love to Him, have merited/chosen heaven. Those who have not lived lives of practical kindness/love to other in their needs have chosen/merited hell.
“Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I say?
Everyone who comes to me an listens to my words and acts on them–I will show you what he is like. He si like a man who when he builds his house dug deeply, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. But the one who listens but does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations; as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became.” Luke 6:46-49]
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” [Philippians 2:12-13]
“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” [Galatians 6:7-9]
And if they don’t want to listen to the Catechism, you might want to show them what Martin Luther said about the passage in Galatians 5:6:
Martin Luther, in his Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, page 389:
Galatians 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith, working through love.”
Martin Luther: “Faith must of course be sincere. It must be a faith that performs good works through love. If faith lacks love it is not true faith. Thus the Apostle bars the way of hypocrites to the kingdom of Christ on all sides. He declares on the one hand, “In Christ Jesus circumsion availeth nothing” i.e., works avail nothing, but faith alone, and that without any merit whatever, avails before God. On the other hand, the Apostle declares that without fruits faith serves no purpose. To think, “If faith justifies without works, let us work nothing”, is to despise the grace of God. Idle faith is not justifying faith”. ~ Martin Luther
A link to the Council of Trent document on Justification.
It is a long and detailed document so you may like to read it at the website
And another link, "Justification in Catholic Teaching" by James Akin
The key document giving the Church's teaching on this subject is known as the Decree On Justification from the Council of Trent (1545-1564). This document contains a set of sixteen short, paragraph-long "chapters..."
A fairly long article follows.
To me the simplest answer to this is that we are indeed “completely Justified” at the moment of conversion. I have no problem with this since, if the convert were to die immediately upon conversion he would have no “works” yet would still be saved - having not sinned either.
The problem comes in with the idea that, in the normal course of life, that this “complete justification” is not effected by our response to the supposed conversion…
It’s like a person who wants to join the military - they make certain promises and are aware that there are specific requirements etc associated with joining.
Once they sign the papers, they are in the military - completely. But now they must respond to that commitment. They must go through the training, adapt their lifestyle, their thinking, their training, and their desires to that of the military.
They can’t simply go into the military, get a uniform and then refuse to conform their life to the military life.
If they fail - they are mustered out with a less than “honorable” discharge…
It’s one thing to say that you are entirely justified upon conversion, it’s another thing entirely to say this Justification is unassailable or that it cannot be lost.