Faith vs Works

June 19, 2008

This topic has been the cause of HUGE separation among Christians. Whereas there are some differences in understanding, I strongly believe that the Protestant and Catholic beliefs are a lot closer than we often allow ourselves to think. And here is why…..


First things first…. The Catholic Church DOES NOT teach that you can EARN salvation by the deeds you do. Faith and Works come completely and entirely from Christ and the Grace He gives us to face daily struggles and temptations. It is this Grace that strengthens our Faith and trust in Him.


The Catholic Church teaches that at Baptism we receive Grace. Since the Church teaches that Baptism is a Sacrament, (“an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace”), it is understood that the child of God is opened up to an outpouring of God’s Grace.  This Grace gives us the strength and wisdom to accept Jesus as our Savior, as the Lord who died to take away our sins, and as the Lord who promises us eternal life and therefore saves us from our sin.


In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, statement 1989, (Council of Trent in 1547) it was resolved that “Justification is not only the remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.” This shows that the Catholic Church defines Justification and Sanctification as codependent events. Both acts are acknowledged as distinct and equally important in the lives of Christians. Since Justification separates man from sin, it in turn gives way to Christian behavior (i.e. good works).  Therefore, Catholics don’t believe that they are saved by good works, but that the result of Faith in Christ Jesus and commitment to trying to follow Him, is Christian and virtuous behavior.


Baptism unites us in purpose to the righteousness of God because of the Grace we receive. This grace gives us the strength and will to believe and be saved. In Romans 3:24-25, Paul says that,


“They are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption which is Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as expiation by his blood, to be received by faith”


This means that it is by Grace we believe, and by belief that we learn the love of sacrifice and the joy of Christian life. It is through this process that we pass through the events of Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. The Catholic Church teaches that sanctification happens co-dependently with justification.  The sanctifying grace we receive at baptism is a habitual gift, given by Christ, to perfect our souls.  It is through this habitual gift of Grace that we are led to justification through Faith as well as sanctification through charity. And from here we take our final steps of Christian living towards glorification, everlasting life with Christ in heaven. Without justification we lose the willingness to love and the desire to live the Christian life.


Grace, the greatest gift of the spirit, both justifies us and sanctifies us. Grace cannot be known without Faith, and Faith is not easily found without Grace. Therefore, we cannot rely on good works, but only on Faith in Jesus Christ. Good works are a result and a vital component of our Christian faith.


These thoughts are supported in Scripture.  Saint James was particularly interested and wrote extensively on the topic of Faith and Works.


James 2:20 says, “Do you need proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?”


James 2:24 says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone


James 2:26 says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead


2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For all of us must appear before Christ, to be judged by him. We will each receive what we deserve, according to everything we have done, good or bad, while in the body”.


Matthew 16:24 says, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”


Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them“.


Revelation 22:12 says, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”


Ecclesiastes 12:14 says, “For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.”


These are just a few….


To sum things up…. Salvation is found in Grace, through which we have faith and works.

And in closing…. This is just an excerpt from one of my favorite apologists.

“Faith alone is not the Christian life unless by ‘Faith alone’ we mean a Faith in God the Father, given through Jesus the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit that issues in Faith expressing itself in deeds of love.”


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