Do good works justify? Scripture seems to say "Yes."

Recently I participated in a thread that stated “we shouldn’t fight grace alone through faith alone.” Although we haven’t done anything to deserve salvation, we still have to do good works. So good works do justify,

Scripture seems to give an affirmative answer to this.

James 2:19-24
You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.
Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God.” See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Matthew 12:33-37
"Either declare the tree good and its fruit is good, or declare the tree rotten and its fruit is rotten, for a tree is known by its fruit.You brood of vipers, how can you say good things when you are evil? For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. A good person brings forth good out of a store of goodness, but an evil person brings forth evil out of a store of evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Luke 10:25-28
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” **Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

Romans 2:12-14
All who sin outside the law will also perish without reference to it, and all who sin under the law will be judged in accordance with it. For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified.For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law.

Lost count of the times I have had reactions when trading at markets to send cash overseas to loved ones rescuing babies…


And… " You are just doing that to curry favour with Jesus…"

Or even" You will go straight to heaven…"

I work as i do from sheer love and the utter need of others who I can help and save from physical death.

As I told the young evangelists who made the first comment. “Thankfully, young man that is not up to you or me…” I know the Bible better than they do so quoted and dealt with them !

And to anther trio, I quoted Matthew re feeding the hungry and clothing the naked… they did not like that as their whole life revolved around taking good Catholics aside and totally confusing them. Clever folk they were too.
When I said that the words were from the Bible, they blinked then said that that was only part of the bible. So is what you are preaching, I reminded them.

Using skills and gifts to help others is surely a simple way of living the gospel or serving Jesus … No ulterior motive. No theology! Just love and lovingkindness

Initial grace refers to our prior balance of works.

Once having Jesus indwelling, we have power to perform subsequent works like a fruitful tree and like talents that can be traded among our fellows (by helping them gain a crown, we shall gain one).

I know plenty of non-religious people, some vehemently against the catholic faith, but they are not necessarily evil people, actually majority of them do much more good than others when it comes to helping other people, groups, good causes, etc.

So would these people get any ‘brownie points’ for the good works they have, seems like it they truly did good and the results were positive, that should favor them in some way or another.

Hi, James!

…look at what is being conveyed: ‘not Faith alone.’

St. James is not stating that works justify… he is conveying that works demonstrate that the Faith is according to God’s Will (consider St. Matthew 7:21-23); it is not works alone nor Faith alone–we are Justified by God and we demonstrate that our Faith is not empty through the works (Love) that we engage in the Body and for the Body.

In St. Matthew 7:21-23 we find a confused group of people who purported to having Faith in Christ because they “performed” works–these works were not based on Faith but on self: ‘we did, we preached, we cast out evil spirits, we, we, we…’

Maran atha!


Hi, Rosebud!

…not only that (operating without an ulterior motive) but it is Christ’s Command:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]9 ‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity.

(St. Luke 16:9)

19 ‘Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. 20 But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworms destroy them and thieves cannot break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (St. Matthew 6:19-21)

18 I warn you, buy from me the gold that has been tested in the fire to make you really rich, and white robes to clothe you and cover your shameful nakedness, and eye ointment to put on your eyes so that you are able to see. (Apocalypse [Revelation] 3:18)
The problem with non-Catholic understanding is that they need to demean the Church so they can only understand “works” as means to purchase our own Salvation.

Maran atha!



Hi, Mike!

…this of course is God’s Domain–only He Can Judge the Heart/Spirit/Soul/Mind of man; however, the term “good” or “good works” is often confused… since a person can do “good” but still be unrighteous:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]46 For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? 47 And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? 48 Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.

(St. Matthew 5:46-48)
“Good” or “good works” do not compensate for evil or unrighteousness.

Maran atha!



Technically, no.

The subject matter has to do with the idea of merit and gift. Protestants have trouble understanding those concepts.

If you look up merit, you’ll find lots of technical jargon that boils down to the idea that nothing that we do equals the value of justification.

I think we can all agree that this is true. Protestant and Catholic can agree that our works are nothing compared to the dignity of being loved by God.

So, this is why “technically”, our works do not merit justification.

**Which brings us to the subject of “gift”. ** This is a subject upon which Protestant and Catholic do not agree. Mainly, because Protestants insist that gifts MUST NOT HAVE ANY CONDITIONS.

But, Catholics do recognize that there is a category of gift carries preconditions. These gifts must be merited by those who meet the preconditions. Let me give you a few examples.

A donor gives a scholarship to anyone who gets a certain grade at a certain school.
A father gives his son a bike if he passes his finals.
A stranger gives someone a thousand dollars if they can answer a riddle.

Protestants can’t understand the difference between earn and merit. They would classify all of these as quid pro quo. Value for value. But that isn’t so. Let me explain each one.

Millions of people probably get the same high grade in schools throughout the country. But only the one’s but the donor only gives to those students from his beloved school.

The boy could not take his tests to any store and demand that they give him a bike because he passed them. The father pays for the bike and gives it to his son because the son merits the bike in his eyes. The store owner could care less how many tests the boy passes.

Thousands of people probably know the answer to the riddle, but they couldn’t take that answer anywhere but to that one stranger in order to get the $1000, because no one else cares. Only in the eyes of this one stranger is the answer to the riddle worth anything at all.

So, in summary, Protestants deny the idea of meriting a gift. Whereas Catholics accept it. We realize that, although our works are not strictly equal to the value of justification, they are in God’s eyes. And He is the one giving us the gift. Scripture puts it this way:

Matt 20:5 [Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’

God is generous with His grace. He gives us much more for our works than they are worth. Protestants refuse to accept that.

And one more thing, Sacraments.

Protestants, starting with Luther, are confused by the way that St. Paul explained justification by faith. But, all of St. Paul’s explanations of justification can be understood in the context of the Sacraments.

Titus 3:5 is the best verse I can use to explain what St. Paul was talking about. Let me break it down:

Titus 3:5 not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy,
he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit,

5 not because of any righteous deeds we had done

Read it carefully. It doesn’t say, “You don’t need to do any works”. Nor, “not because of works at all”. Nor, “don’t do any works.”

It says, “not because of any righteous deeds which WE HAVE DONE”. What does that tell you?

It tells me that the set of people who are being saved is clearly, those who have done good works.

This is perfectly consonant with Matt 25:31-46. Remember the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats? Who were the Sheep? They were the people who did good deeds. Who were the Goats? They were the people who did not do good works. Which group was saved? The Sheep, because they did good works.

Ok, so I don’t want to beat that to death. We continue:

but because of his mercy,

Have you ever read Exodus 20:6

Exodus 20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

I’m using the KJV here because it uses the word mercy instead of love. So, God pours out his mercy on those who keep His Commandments.

What does this tell you? It tells me that the Commandments are the good deeds with which God is concerned.

Now, we get to the nitty gritty:

he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit,

What is this? Let me give you a hint:

1 Peter 3:21 *This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. *…

So, those who keep the Commandments and thus do the works which God prepared for us from the beginning, are those upon whom God pours His mercy and grace, in the Sacraments.

I hope that helps.


Nice post

The Catechism quotes St John of the Cross regarding Judgment Day:
**“At the evening of life we shall be judged on our love.” **

Not on our possessions or wealth or accomplishments, and not even on our faith, but on our love. And love acts, by its nature, producing such fruit as described in Matt 25:31-46, for example, works done by the sheep for “the least of these”. Judging based on those kind of works is the same as judging them on their love.

The main problem with these kinds of discussions is that key terms are not carefully defined upfront, so answers are given that can be easily misunderstood if you have a different definition of ‘saved’/justified/etc in your head.

Generally speaking, Justification refers to the moment of conversion, where you get your sins forgiven and become an adopted child of God. There are no ‘works’ involved here, nor are you assured of Heaven. Most Protestants think that the promise of heaven comes along with Justificiation, but this is a grave error, and their fundamental error. Since they think Eternal Life is one of the gifts that comes with Justification, they mess up the whole salvation process.

On the other hand, Judgment/Eternal Life comes at the end of your life and is based upon how you lived. This is according to your works. This is why Paul always speaks of “Eternal Life” in contexts about works and why Paul does NOT speak of “eternal life” in contexts speaking of Justification/Conversion. This is because Justification and Eternal Life are two different events. Paul does not confuse the two. Protestants confuse the two and turn them into one.


Excellent post!

Maran atha!


Hey Catholic Dude,

I agree with you partially. Catholic Christians believe that Justification is a Gift according to the writing by the Apostle Paul. Good works can never seal the deal. Why? Because the deal is already sealed. There is no judgment over sin! Why not? because that judgment has passed. See. John 5:24. You said that some people believe the Promise of heaven comes along with Justification. Then you refuted it. Justification is the legal verbiage used by Paul to speak of the Gift of eternal life. When Jesus spoke of how one can have eternal life, He never spoke of it as something in your future, always in the present. This was contrary to the teachings of the Pharisees who criticized him. But if you open the gospel of John you will be amazed at the freeness of salvation. Why so free? Because God’s love is beyond words.

What of James 2?

A gift which is given to those who obey Christ.

Hebrews 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Good works can never seal the deal. Why? Because the deal is already sealed.

The deal is sealed by good works. Ask yourself, whom does God save, those who do good or those who refuse to do good?

The answer is simple. Those who do good. Read Matt 25:31-46.

Romans 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

There is no judgment over sin! Why not? because that judgment has passed.

On the contrary, the day shall reveal it. And that day is on the day of Judgment.

Romans 2:5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

See. John 5:24.

This verse does not contradict the many others which speak of perseverance in good works:

Romans 2:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

You said that some people believe the Promise of heaven comes along with Justification. Then you refuted it. Justification is the legal verbiage used by Paul to speak of the Gift of eternal life. When Jesus spoke of how one can have eternal life, He never spoke of it as something in your future, always in the present.

On the contrary, He always spoke of it as something which we could begin to experience in the present and continue in forever. But He always made it conditional upon keeping the Commandments:

Matthew 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

This was contrary to the teachings of the Pharisees who criticized him. But if you open the gospel of John you will be amazed at the freeness of salvation. Why so free? Because God’s love is beyond words.

Why do you not want to work for eternal life? Do you not believe it worthwhile? The fact is that the Gospel of John, like the other Gospels, points out that God saves only those who do God’s will:

John 14:20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

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I understand what you’re saying, but it isn’t correct. Again, Justification does not include any guarantee of Heaven…because entering heaven isn’t based upon justification itself.

You pointed out a very good question though, which is that places like John mention “eternal life” as an immediate result of accepting Jesus. Most people don’t know this, because they haven’t studied the issue, but John and Paul actually use the term “eternal life” in two different ways, and we must take care not to confuse the usage.

For John, “eternal life” means entering into a relationship with the Trinity. That is the essence of salvation for Catholics, and it is (ironically) denied by Protestants (since they hold that salvation is a legal status, not a relationship). This is why Catholics believe salvation can be lost, since how you act in a relationship either harms or builds up the relationship.

For Paul, “eternal life” comes at the end of your life, and is based upon your lifestyle. This is the basis on which we enter heaven. It is crucial to recognize that Paul does not speak of “eternal life” when speaking of "justification.

THIS SHORT LINK points out the clear Biblical passages where John and Paul clearly have two different definitions of “eternal life” in mind. Protestants, unintentionally, get both definitions wrong.


…I think that the point being made was that non-Catholics Christians believe that they own Salvation (as you’ve expressed: ‘done deal’ or ‘in the present’) while the Catholic Church Teaches that Salvation, though a Free and irrevocable Gift from God, is dependent upon our relationship/Abiding in Christ (St. John 15:1-10). As the Apostles, we Hope for our Inheritance; we don’t write out checks and go to the bank for advances:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]21 Because the creature also itself shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now. 23 And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body. 24 For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen, is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? 25 But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience.

(Romans 8:21-25)
Note the Teaching of the Apostles; they do not Teach that they have already Secured their Salvation and hold it in their pockets… their Teaching is that it is Christ Jesus Who holds our Security and Salvation:

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 3:12-14)
Maran atha!



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