I just wanted to take a few minutes to clarify the word “merit.”
But before I go into that, I want to touch on something related. In the Catholic world, the question of “Are you saved?” just doesn’t come up, yet Catholics don’t ascribe to “eternal security,” we don’t believe in the teaching called Once Saved, Always Saved. So it might be tempting to think that we are filled with fear, as if we Catholics are afraid that we’re going to hell unless we do enough good works. I can’t speak for other Catholics, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Quite the opposite in fact and I will go into that in more detail about that on Oct. 31.
If anybody tries to earn salvation, as if God could be obliged to provide it, they misunderstand the teaching. God owes us nothing and under no circumstances will He ever become indebted to us. It simply is not possible for God to become indebted to us because no amount of our good works oblige God to do anything for us. Salvation is a free gift, by grace alone. It is not earned in the contractual sense. But it is merited in the sense of a reward based on a love relationship, like an inheritance from a loving father. Please do not misunderstand what merit means; it does not mean that we can force God to owe us salvation if we behave well. The word merit comes to us from Latin and it means reward. There is a well known Catholic apologist named Jimmy Akin and he briefly discusses what the word merit means in this three minute video: