Faith and Works

Here is what I was taught about faith and works:
In English the terms righteousness and justice are different words, but in both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament there is only one word group behind these two English terms…. James is using the word justified in a different sense from the way Paul uses it
God says a person is justified (demonstrated or shown to be righteous to other men) by works and not by faith alone."
God says a person “a person is justified (declared to be righteous by God) by faith alone and not by work.”

How do Catholics respond to this?

I’m not a Catholic, but I would ask you where you got the phrase “faith alone” in scripture, with regards to someone being justified?

What I’m saying is–it is one thing to say someone is justified “by faith,” and another to say one is justified by “faith alone.”

Another question would be: “What is faith?” or even better “What is 'justifiable” faith?"

“Arguing whether ‘faith’ or ‘works’ is more important, is like arguing which blade in a pair of scissors is more important.” - Attributed to C.S. Lewis

When you have faith, God calls you to put it in action. Faith isn’t something one just has, it’s something one does, shares, acts upon, thus we gets works. Very simple!

I took Survey of the NT in undergrad. I remember my professor lecturing along these lines-- Paul vs James, Faith vs Works, etc. The point I remember is that she spoke about who the respective audiences were. So for the people who were sitting around, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for Jesus to return-- because they were expecting it to be imminent-- James encouraged them to live their faith through action. And for the Romans, there was a big controversy about pagan vs Jewish converts, with the Jewish converts wanting the pagans to undergo circumcision and adopt other Jewish customs, before they could become Christians. Hence the emphasis on faith, rather than works.

Also, don’t forget Galatians:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Yeah, faith and works.

Yes, and in Romans, Paul has a lot to say about works. “Faith alone” comes from a very selective reading of Romans, choosing a verse here and there, and ignoring all the rest.

Regarding Faith and Works in St. Paul

From Pope Benedict XVI

(Two audiences from the Year of St. Paul) (begins a bit down)

You correctly quoted James: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (Jas. 2:24), but I cannot find your Pauline quote anywhere in the Bible. In fact, unless I am mistaken, the phrase “faith alone” only appears in James. It is possible that you are using a Lutheran Bible, or one based on his translation. It is well known and fully documented that Luther inserted the word “alone” into Rom 3:28 to give credence to his doctrine of sola fide. Fortunately for the faithful, Luther was unable to unilaterally alter Sacred Scripture sufficiently to support this false teaching.

“‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’” (Matt. 7:21).

“‘Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you?’” (Luke 6:46).

“For he will render every man according to his works . . .” (Rom. 2:6-8).

“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Rom. 2:13).

"For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgments . . . (Heb. 10:26-27).

“What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?” (Jas. 2:14).

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Jas. 2:17).

"But some one will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. . . .Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? (Jas. 2:18-20).

It is very true that we are not saved by works alone, but neither are we saved by faith alone. Scripure is very clear, it takes both.

Galations 2:16

"But knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified."


Yes, adherence to the Jewish Laws (e.g. diet restrictions and circumcision) is no longer necessary for salvation, just faith and good works. “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Jas. 2:17). :thumbsup:

Welcome to CAF Matthew and Bob!

Hope you stay a while, always good to have new folks!

With regard to the subject - 

If one believes in God and that Jesus is God made man, from whom Christianity is sourced, they shouldn't have a problem knowing that Jesus taught how to live. 

If we have the freedom to reject God by rejecting those teachings of how to live, then how we act must have consequences.

Another way of looking at it - 

Evil knows truth, Satan knows God as much as the next Christian. 

'Belief' as we know it today, quite shallow in meaning, is not what it was meant in the ancient text (inclusive of the assumption of action).

Paraphrase Example: Do you love me? - Of course I love you - Then feed My sheep.

If you read the bible as if 'belief' incorporates participation in that which strengthens love for God (faith), it's like looking through a newly cleaned window. You see a few things you missed before, simply because the light didn't hit them right.

Great discussion!! My question is what about the faith the size of a mustard seed? And can we have faith without the Holy Spirit? Aren’t works part of the faith that the Holy Spirit plants in a person? I’m thinking of the Scripture:

Matthew 25:34-39

…34 "Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation 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 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to 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 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39’ When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’…’…

Yes, we have to be consciously doing works as Christians but, because of our Faith and the Holy Spirit, don’t we just naturally do “good works” as well?

God bless


ffg…thank you for the welcome! :slight_smile:

I can probably identify a good work in society; however, who am I to say this work is good in God’s eyes. I trust that by my salvation is by grace through faith in Christ.

I can probably identify a good work in society; however, who am I to say this work is good in God’s eyes. I trust that my salvation is by grace through faith in Christ.

Do you mean to say that because you can’t be sure if a particular work is “good” or not that your salvation is still assured if you do nothing?

A little bit of faith goes a long way!

Yes we can (as the disciples did between Christ’s ascension and Pentecost) but the Holy Spirit does make adhering to faith much easier. :yup:

This is something of a mystery. Those with faith should do works, but clearly there are many who believe that they do not have to in order to have eternal salvation, hence the frequent admonitions in the epistles (e.g. Jas. 2:14).

Be sure to read Pope Benedict on this

I’d like to analyze these questions. I was thinking about the faith -mustard seed last evening.

Even more so, does it seem that faith from the standpoint of a simplistic form, need more (thus why I think faith when referenced in the Bible means more than a simple belief).

If I say - ‘I accept and have faith that Jesus is God’

Then consider that I can’t move mountains, it would seem that something is missing to get to that ‘mustard seed size faith’ point.

So who are the potential folks that would provide that ‘something’?

God and / or me.

But God says, that it is my faith, so God is out.

So for faith to grow, even to the size of a mustard seed, there is something I must ‘do’.

If I don’t water and give sunlight to my tiny fraction of a mustard seed faith, it’s not going to grow.

The second two questions are kind of the same, so consider this an analysis of...

If I say - 'I accept and have faith that Jesus is God, therefore I do good...or do I?'

Wouldn't it be nice to know that what we did was meaningless to us or other humans, but meaningful to God just because 'I accept and have faith that Jesus is God'.?

Unfortunately, if I was to assume that my efforts were good because I believed in the Christian God, I think I might be in for a rude awakening when standing at the doorstep of the Kingdom and hear God say, I don't know you.

I think what is natural in our humanity is sinfulness.

If good works came naturally, the 'Way' may not be so narrow a path to squeeze through.

Take care,


There is a lot packed into that Book of James. One of my favorites is what he says about Abraham - and this is VERY Catholic : his faith was made complete by works. Or restated: without works, his faith was incomplete. That’s why he says in verse 17: “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

21 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.

We are saved by Grace (and this is not a new concept, no matter what some protestants believe), Through Faith, Working in Love.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit