Do Catholics depend on their works?


Hello everyone! I’m a relatively new Christian but I’ve been getting interested in Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism. In the faith and works debate, I’ve often heard Protestants make the claim that Catholics don’t depend on the Cross and instead depend on their works, and in turn, will go to hell because they do not “believe on Jesus Christ”.

The part that gets me is the use of the word “depend”. What does the Church teach on works? Are Christians supposed to depend on Jesus AND their works for their salvation? I know the Church teaches that faith and works are required, but are we to trust in our works? Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

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Why do they think that we will go to hell? A person who believes that they need to do good works still has “faith” in the sense that they believe in God. Sounds like these protestants think we need to have faith in a very specific thing.

I can’t speak for all Catholics but personally I believe that doing good and avoiding bad works are necessary for salvation

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Remember also that we believe in purgatory. This allows God to get justice on individual people for bad things they’ve done without letting them go to hell forever. It also gives him a way to purify them before they enter heaven. God desires all to come to him and I believe unless a heart is completely against him he will find a way to forgive



I guess they mean that because (in their minds, I don’t know how accurate this is to real Catholics) a Catholic believes that faith as well as good works are necessary for salvation, they do not fully trust in Jesus Christ to save them, and as such, will not attain salvation. I’m not saying that’s what I believe, that’s just what I’ve heard.



“Faith alone” can mean different things to Catholics and Protestants. Jimmy Akin explains:



Based on bible scriptures. Catholics believe in both faith and good works.

"Faith increases as a result of our obedience to the will of God, and obedience is achieved by doing good works… [2 Corinthians 10,15]. “It is not those who call me ‘Lord, Lord’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my father in heaven.” [Matthew 7:21]

[James 2: 14-24]
“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] “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.” Phil 2:12-13

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."



If anyone claims that only by faith, not by faith and good works are we saved, the person they are arguing against is Jesus Himself.

In Matthew 25, verses 31 to 46
when describing the Judgment of souls, Jesus the Judge of souls Himself, made abundantly clear that those who fail to do good works, in acts of practical kindness, go to damnation.
It is those who do good works who go to heaven.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”



These “Protestants” you are “hearing” say a great many ignorant things.

  1. Neither they nor anyone else have any knowledge of who is going to Hell.

  2. Of course Catholics “believe in Jesus Christ”. We are the original Christians and believe he is God, the second person of the Trinity, died for our sins, is our Savior, and the whole 9 yards.

  3. The Protestants you are quoting do not understand that Catholics depend for their salvation on faith AND works. We do not simply depend on faith alone (Sola fide) and that puts us at odds with some “Protestants”. We believe that “faith without works is dead” as Trishie has already explained in great detail citing Scripture.

The “Protestants” of which you speak are likely repeating what they have been taught and have no actual knowledge of what Catholics believe.

If you truly wish to understand Catholicism, you will ignore the statements of such people and instead read Catholic apologists and speak to actual Catholics as you are doing here.



The faith and works debate you often seen thrown about usually misses the mark. It’s not as simple as faith and works; it’s about what we believe about man’s cooperation with God’s work.

As Catholics, we believe man is incapable of coming to God or doing any good works on his own. We believe that man is only capable of doing such things when first moved to do so by God. However, we don’t believe that God just moves us to good faith or good works as if we’re puppets. We believe that in moving us God gives us the capacity to choose to have faith and cooperate in works. So instead of only being able to say no, God gives us the capacity to say yes. And this is an invitation. God wants to give us the agency to choose whether to cooperate or not. As such, while every good work is 100% dependent upon God, we still have agency in choosing to do good works at his prompting. And any merit earned by such cooperating is only possible because it is done in and through Jesus Christ. So in that context it does make sense to speak of faith and works. It’s just that many people arguing about this don’t get down to the nitty gritty details. Many protestants often incorrectly assume that Catholics believe we can do good works on our own without God and earn God’s grace before it’s given.

At the same time, Catholics also believe that God from all eternity knows who will choose to cooperate and who will not. And God still creates knowing who will choose what.



Here’s are links to parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which gives a high level overview of Catholic beliefs. They’re meant to be read in order.

On Justification:

On Grace:

On Merit:

On Christian Holiness:



Direct those Protestants to James 2:14-22.

Faith without works is dead.

Faith is not just intellectual assent to the idea of Jesus as savior. Faith is also showing by our actions that Jesus is savior by repentance, proclamation of the Gospel and helping each other bear our burdens through spiritual and corporal acts of mercy.



Indeed, OP, I second the previous posters. A man who claims to have faith in Jesus Christ but does not do good works as a result of that faith believes with his mouth and not his heart.

A truly faithful Christian would do good works regardless of whether or not they are necessary for salvation. Can’t speak for Protestants as I’ve never met one in real life but the online ones I’ve talked to seemed to believe that good works are useless. While I’m sure that this is not a mainstream Protestant view, it remains that those who think like this are not true believers in Our Lord- making them damned under their own doctrine of faith alone, since good works are a natural consequence of good faith, and where there are no good works, there is no good faith.

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You can have all the Faith in the world but if you do not love your neighbor (works) it’s worthless. Knowing, loving and serving God is also loving and serving your neighbor.



OP. The Catholic Church is not an “either/or” church but more “both/and”. So either you are saved or not doesn’t work. We were saved on the cross almost 2000 years ago, we are being saved right now when we say “yes” to God and we will be saved at the moment we die when we say our final “yes” to God. We are a work in progress that takes a lifetime.

Believing in the Triune God without feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, teaching the ignorant, taking care of the sick etc is more egocentrism and borders to making oneself god. Parents are a perfect example of feeding, clothing, teaching and taking care of the sick especially their children and their own elderly parents.

We are saved by God´s grace.



So let’s read this passages shall we?:

2:17 Thus even faith, if it does not have works, is dead, in and of itself.
2:18 Now someone may say: “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works! But I will show you my faith by means of works.
2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. But the demons also believe, and they tremble greatly.
2:20 So then, are you willing to understand, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
2:21 Was not our father Abraham justified by means of works, by offering his son Isaac upon the altar?
2:22 Do you see that faith was cooperating with his works, and that by means of works faith was brought to fulfillment?
2:23 And so the Scripture was fulfilled which says: “Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice.” And so he was called the friend of God.
2:24 Do you see that a man is justified by means of works, and not by faith alone?
2:25 Similarly also, Rahab, the harlot, was she not justified by works, by receiving the messengers and sending them out through another way?
2:26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

So after carefully examining this passages, what do you think?
Let us know



The Bible explicitly tells Jesus asking those professing to believe in him if they had fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned.

If the replied in the negative, Jesus in turn denies them entrance into the kingdom.

Can’t get any more explicit than that.



But the faith versus works is an artifice; a red herring, a construct. There is no debate! They are inseparable.



Gods grace comes first and a person is obliged to cooperate with it for it to be fruitful in securing salvation, that is to be in a state of grace at death. That means the person must do good and avoid evil in order to be saved, not be a passive recipient. Remember the parable of the talents. Matthew 25:14-30.



Salvation is a free gift of God, but we must cooperate with God by doing His will, which includes works of charity for our fellow man. We will be judged by these works.

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." - Acts 10

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. Romans 2

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Cor 5

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth… 1 Peter 1

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
Rev. 20

And of course, the fig tree. Always remember the fig tree.



Council of Trent

Canon 1
If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law,[110] without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.

Canon 2.
If anyone says that divine grace through Christ Jesus is given for this only, that man may be able more easily to live justly and to merit eternal life, as if by free will without grace he is able to do both, though with hardship and difficulty, let him be anathema

Canon 3.
If anyone says that without the predisposing inspiration of the Holy Ghost[111] and without His help, man can believe, hope, love or be repentant as he ought,[112] so that the grace of justification may be bestowed upon him, let him be anathema.

Canon 4.
If anyone says that man’s free will moved and aroused by God, by assenting to God’s call and action, in no way cooperates toward disposing and preparing itself to obtain the grace of justification, that it cannot refuse its assent if it wishes, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive, let him be anathema.


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