How to Argue with "Works are Necessary for Salvation"?

Hi Everyone,

I converted to Catholicism last March, so am relatively new to this. In discussing my conversion with a Missouri Lutheran pastor, he said that Catholics believe works are necessary for salvation. He even showed me a diagram:

Debt of Sin:

For Catholics:

Received from Christ = x
Received from you = y

joint payment = x + y

For Lutherans:

Received from Christ = full
Received from you = 0

Paid in full.

My understanding is that Christ pays all. Works come in because God transforms us (as opposed to Luther’s description of snow-covered dung); our works are a joint effort, in a sense, but also all from God who gives us this ability. But I’m fuzzy on all of this. I will be talking with the pastor again and would love a coherent answer for him. Can anyone help? Thanks.

Even though I am Missouri Synod, I wouldn’t go to my pastor to learn about what Catholics teach. There’s this really good Catholic priest in town I know. I would ask him about the Catholic faith. I wouldn’t ask him about Lutheranism, however.

As for what Luther said:

**Thus faith is a divine work in **us, that changes us and regenerates us of God, and puts to death the old Adam, makes us entirely different men in heart, spirit, mind, and all powers, and brings with it [confers] the Holy Ghost. Oh, it is a living, busy, active, powerful thing that we have in faith, so that it is impossible for it not to do good without ceasing. 11] Nor does it ask whether good works are to be done; but before the question is asked, it has wrought them, and is always engaged in doing them. But he who does not do such works is void of faith, and gropes and looks about after faith and good works, and knows neither what faith nor what good works are, yet babbles and prates with many words concerning faith and good works. 12] [Justifying] faith is a living, bold [firm] trust in God’s grace, so certain that a man would die a thousand times for it [rather than suffer this trust to be wrested from him]. And this trust and knowledge of divine grace renders joyful, fearless, and cheerful towards God and all creatures, which [joy and cheerfulness] the Holy Ghost works through faith; and on account of this, man becomes ready and cheerful, without coercion, to do good to every one, to serve every one, and to suffer everything for love and praise to God, who has conferred this grace on him, so that it is impossible to separate works from faith, yea, just as impossible as it is for heat and light to be separated from fire.


Here’s how I normally describe it in inter-faith discussions:

Catholics also believe (more or less) that we’re saved by faith. It’s just that the Catholic definition of saving faith necessarily includes works.

I always thought everyone believes we are saved by Grace through faith; and works prove our faith.

And this is the approach I would take - - using the famous reference to James 2:17 - Faith without works is dead.


Yup. We have it in all of our Bibles.

Unless the LCMS Pastor believes James in an “epistle of straw” as is often attributed to Luther.

I know - which makes me wonder why there continues to be this argument by some people over the necessity of works…:shrug:


Here’s the process of salvation/justification, as Catholics believe:

  1. We begin to have faith, and are initially justified.

  2. Through the Sacraments and our faith, grace is given to us, and we are infused with righteousness, which compels us to do good works which can benefit our salvation (note: these works are done SOLELY and ENTIRELY by God’s grace, not our own will).

  3. If we persevere in allowing God to infuse grace into us through faith and the Sacraments, that is, continue to do so until our death, we will almost definitely be saved.

It’s due to a misrepresentation of either side. We’re all just saying the same thing differently.

It’s attributed to Luther because Luther said it in his preface to his 1522 translation.

Yes - this is true.

One of the most frustrating misrepresentations I have heard was that the “Catholics teach a works based salvation”. Of course this is not true…but it can take quite a while, and a lot of patience, to really show this to the person.
And some people you can just never convince. :shrug:



The accusations are what cause problems.

We can, from scripture, defend the necessity of works for salvation…certainly not outside of His grace…and only in a cooperative participation with Christ. Catholicism, as I know it, never Teaches works or faith earn salvation. Thats misunderstanding the nature of saving faith and works.

Most of us here realize it comes down to definitions of faith and works,…salvation producing both, inseperably. Perhaps we can say, works of faith gain us the promise of the author of that faith, while works of faithlessness gain us the lie of the author of that faithlessness…?


Sounds fair to me, but may I ask, what happens to those that have faith, and partake of the Sacraments, yet do no good works, or in fact carry out heinous crimes?

What is the fate of those souls?

Also, on the other hand, what is the fate of those souls that remove themselves from teh Catholic Church, partake of no sacraments and even reject Jesus as God yet somehow carry out wondrous works?

Are these souls not saved too?
If it is through the grace received from faith that gives us the volition to carry out righteous works, then what is the source of righteous works from non-Catholics (is there no grace showered upon them)?


You don’t go Bah-bah to become a sheep.
You goes Bah-bah because you’re a sheep.

Anybody can do good works, don’t make them saved.
Christians do good works because it is in their nature.

Don’t go to a homeless shelter and server soup to the poor because you want to be saved.

Do good to others BECAUSE you are saved. LET, don’t “make,” but LET it be integrated into your nature.

As with the Parable of the Talents, if we refuse to invest the gifts (grace) we’re given, we lose. What we do counts in God’s scheme of things, because He wants it that way; He wants our wills involved, and not only in the act of faith but also, and more importantly, leading to acts of love, because love always acts and love is what man’s justice really consists of-and love doesn’t happen unless it’s willed/chosen.

We can’t be saved without grace, without God, and yet He doesn’t save us without us. Matt 25:31-46 gives a good account of some of the kinds of acts we’ll be judged on. **“The only thing that counts is faith working through love” **Gal 5:6



Anybody can do good works, don’t make them saved.
Christians do good works because it is in their nature.

Yes, I understand this, but what is it that makes a Christian do “bad” works?

Do good to others BECAUSE you are saved.

This implies that you are saved BEFORE you do any good works, is this correct?


Pardon my bad grammar, I was flipping back and forth on how I wanted to phrase that.

Once you accept Jesus (The Real Jesus), you become promoted to high priority on the Devil’s hit list, he don’t want you
with Christ. Christians will sin, become discouraged, and so forth, and yes sadly some may fall away. He, however, who
integrates Jesus into his life will be driven by God to will and to do His good pleasures.

I may or may not have phrased that accurately. If you are a Christian, act
like a Christian, do what God wants you to do, not for your personal salva-
tion, but for the pleasure of God. If you are saved, or in a state of peace in
Christ maybe is a better way to put it, in a state of grace, you might not be
able to resist doing good works, for it would be God working in you, again,
to will and to do his good pleasures.

  1. True faith and the Sacraments will lead to good works, due to God’s infused grace.

  2. Souls with true faith and no works don’t exist.

  3. Their salvation is extremely hindered, though they may still attain salvation.

  4. They can be saved. Only God knows the person’s mind. If the person is unaware of the fullness of truth that is found in the Church, yet still has the best of intentions and tries to be as virtuous as possible, God will understand.

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