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"Whether man can merit everlasting life without grace?"--Annotated Thomist

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Collect: O God, through whose grace we inherit eternal life, pour into hearts the love of the Spirit, that we may be united to Thee, through Jesus Christ Our Lord.


In the Sed Contra, St. Thomas gives a proof text from Romans. It is important to recognize that, in St. Thomas' works, we often have to check his biblical commentaries to understand the text presented as Dogmatic. In the passage at hand, St. Paul is speaking of the freedom from sin that has been granted to us through Our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Thomas, in explaining the passage at hand explains it thus, "since he had said that just men have eternal life, which it is certain cannot be had except through grace, then the very fact that we do what is good and that our works are worthy of eternal life is the result of God’s grace...Thus, therefore, if our works are considered in themselves and as coming from our free will they do not merit eternal life condignly, but only as coming from the grace of the Holy Spirit." Strikingly, this text of his commentary on Romans (written a decade before the respective part of the Summa) answers this exact question St. Thomas raised. Much of the confusion surrounding the relationship between Scholastic theology and Biblical exegesis would be solved by reading his biblical commentaries alongside his scholastic works.

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