What Are the 3 Things Necessary For Salvation?
“Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire, and to know what he ought to do.” – St. Thomas Aquinas
As human beings we are a marvelously complex creature. As Christians we know that we are children of God and that we are made in the image and likeness of God. We have been given intellect, and skills of all kinds. We also possess an eternal soul. These two realities are not separate, they are united uniquely and purposefully. As David tells us in Psalm 139:13, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
Aquinas is addressing adult believers in the quote above. The matters of right faith, right desire, and right action are proper to adult behavior. These things are not easy, as we all know. God calls us to the hard work of becoming adults and, yet, we know how many temptations rise up before us, get in our way, and attempt to prevent us from the job of becoming adult believers.
What does the adult believer need in order to meet these three obligations? We need to develop the habits of moral character. Self-discipline and courage.
Because we have intellect, we ought to use it properly. As Christian believers we need to increase our knowledge of what we ought to believe, not just by rote memory, but also through our intellectual experiences, seriously considered and understood, by the hard work of difficult questions and the acceptance of their often difficult answers. This, of course, requires not just intellect, but courage.
Because we are knowing beings we are often caught in the dilemma of choice between what we’ve come to know as good and evil, right and wrong. This is why we need to know what we ought to desire. Free will binds our knowledge, our desires, and our actions together. And every decision has consequences that demand our responsibility.
When our intellects and our free wills are united in knowing and desiring the good, our actions, too, ought to correspond to this unity. In order to do this, we need to develop the habits of courage.
Our faith is not just a matter of argument, or of Nietzchean will power, though. In the end, it is a matter of love. It is a matter of our love for God, for all of God’s children, for all of His creation, and for our very selves. This is the force that gives us the courage to know, to desire, and to act as we ought to in the broken world. And the world needs our adult behavior, even if it refuses to recognize it.
When we believe as we ought to believe; when we desire what we ought to desire, and when we act as we ought to act, we are living in accord with the will of God. Adult believers know that our salvation depends on knowing God’s love, desiring God’s love, and acting out of God’s love in the world. As adults we also know that the world may reject us, just as it did Jesus, for doing so. Hence, our need for courage.
Let us then, as Christians, continue to educate ourselves in what we ought to believe. Let us continue to pray for the grace to desire, more and more regularly, what we ought to desire, and for the courage to do what we ought to do in service of our God who is all good and to whom we owe our all.
Dan Doyle is a retired professor of English and Humanities. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology. To read more of Dan’s work, click here.