I have a question about faith and works

Hey everyone. I have a question about faith and works. I know that grace and faith are unmerited but the Church teaches that we must have both faith and works in order to obtain salvation. We must also, of course, die in a state of friendship with God, also known as a state of grace.

So anyway, I was reading this article:


Part of the article confused me. I will quote it here:’

Paul’s emphasis is not just on good works, but works done in and through the power of Christ. Thus, in Romans 8:1-14,Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that we must be in Christ in order to do works that please God.

This part appears right before a passage from the Bible which is in a quote section in the article.

Anyway, does this mean that our good works only count if done while in a state of grace? If not, what does it mean?

Thanks in advance for your help!

The Catholic Church absolutely teaches nothing of the kind! (Edited)

The Catholic Church says we are saved by GRACE, not faith OR works (much less both).

We obtain saving Grace through Christian Baptism. If we avoid mortal sin before we die, we go to heaven.

By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God. [CCC 1263, emphasis mine]

If we do fall into mortal sin, Sacramental Confession will restore us to our Baptismal State of Grace:

Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance **offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. **[CCC 1446, emphasis mine]

That’s the sum total of the Catholic economy of salvation. It’s not faith + works, it’s Baptism + Confession (and we might not even need the latter). Faith and works are not a part of that economy. No Catholic is ever required, as a condition of his salvation, to perform any good work.

(Some object that Baptism and Confession are “works,” but it’s not what most people (and St. Paul) were talking about - they refer to charitable acts.)

Failure to perform an act of charity which would be reasonably expected (such as helping a child in distress when you are able to do so) could constitute mortal sin, which would cause the loss of our Sanctifying Grace. But performing the act would not help us attain salvation. Works (of either commission or omission) can cause the loss of our salvation, but they can never ensure it. Helping the child will not place us in a State of Grace, nor add “extra” Grace if we are already in a State of Grace.

It is therefore absolutely false to claim that Catholics are saved by faith and works, or that works play any role in the Catholic view of the economy of Salvation. We are saved by Grace. Being in a State of Grace assures salvation. Good works cannot place us in a state of Grace or keep us there - only Baptism and Confession can do that.

Note that I am not saying that faith and works are worthless - certainly not. And, of course, the Church promotes both, as She should. I’m just saying that neither are required for salvation.

Initial justification cannot be merited by us.

Holly3278. You asked (Re: Tim Staples article here)

Anyway, does this mean that our good works only count if done while in a state of grace? If not, what does it mean?

I think this will help answer your question.

COUNCIL OF TRENT (Session Six Chapter 16) . . . . For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,-and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God . . .

Jimmy Akin has said the above this way (I am paraphrasing him): “Apart from Christ we can do nothing . . . . BUT with Him, we can do some stuff.”

That is the end of the short answer.

I hope this helps.

God bless.


In case you or any other readers that may happen by here wants more info., I’ll try to give more details below. (Continued if interested) . . .

As Session 6 of the Council of Trent states:

Council of Trent (Session 6)

It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, . . . without any merits on their part, they are called; . . .

. . . none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification.

After we are justified things change though (we have channels of grace that we did not have before we were justified).

Our natural faith, hope, and charity now in a sense become supercharged by grace (see CCC 1813).

But this all begins (but does not end) with Baptism.

We are justified by several causes. The instrumental cause is of course Baptism. It is through Baptism that we get our natural faith (or the faith of our parents speaking on our behalf for us if we are being Baptized as an infant) in a sense “supernaturalized” which we do need (we need the supernatural life that Baptism renders including supernatural faith, hope, and charity).

Baptism removes us from a state of separation from God, removes Adam’s sin (or Original Sin), removes personal sin, and removes the consequences of sin. But you can only have Baptism once.

Let’s briefly review the causes of our justification before going on.

*]Final Cause = Glory of God and Jesus Christ and Life Everlasting
*]Efficient Cause is God (giving us) the Holy Spirit
*]Meritorious cause is our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . by His most holy Passion on the wood of the cross, and made satisfaction for us unto God the Father
*]Instrumental Cause the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no man was ever justified.
*]Formal cause is the justice of God . . . .

For further details see Chapter 7 of the Sixth Session of Trent here.

When we are Baptized we receive supernatural faith, hope, and charity (or “love”).

COUNCIL OF TRENT (Chapter Six, Session 7) This faith, conformably to Apostolic tradition, catechumens ask of the Church before the sacrament of baptism, when they ask for the faith that gives eternal life, which without hope and charity faith cannot give.

See also CCC 1266 and 1813.

This grace of a supernatural faith is WHY Baptism is sometimes called “The Sacrament of Faith”. During the Baptismal liturgy when the Priest asks (an adult) what they want of the Church the catechumen responds: “Baptism”. But an appropriate alternative response in the Western Liturgical Rite by the catechumen is “faith” (see here or see CCC 168).

Now that we are justified through Christ (via Baptism), we are expected to GROW in justification according to our state in life (obviously an adult will be expected to carry out works an infant will not).


Having, therefore, been thus justified and made the friends and domestics of God,[49] advancing from virtue to virtue,[50] they are renewed, as the Apostle says, day by day,[51] that is, mortifying the members[52] of their flesh, and presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification,[53] they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith cooperating with good works, increase in that justice received through the grace of Christ and are further justified, as it is written:

[INDENT]He that is just, let him be justified still;[54] and, Be not afraid to be justified even to death;[55] and again, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?[/INDENT]

OK. So once we have the initial grace of justification are we expected to GROW in justification via grace? Fortunately the Council of Trent answers this too.

COUNCIL OF TRENT (Chapter XI) But no one, however much justified, should consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments;

This is all takes place by cooperating with God’s grace. I have heard Steve Wood refer to these “works” as “Grace works”.

So a natural faith, etc. is not good enough for justification. Nothing we can merit on our own is good enough.

But once we are in grace, we are expected to grow in justification through grace, including the graces of a supernatural faith, abounding in hope, and working through charity. We MUST have faith working in charity (assuming we are capable - i.e. an adult) to persevere in our salvation in fact.

This is WHY St. Paul can say:

GALATIANS 5:6 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.

Hello Holly.

One mortal sin wipes away everything, our state of grace and the merits we have gained in the past. They are is if they never were. It kills the life of grace in the soul. It is as if a death took place, and spiritually it has - Jesus’.

Look at it this way: if it were possible to “save up” good works to pay our own debts, we would begin to think like this: I’ll pray 15 decades of the Rosary for a month *to make up *for the taxes I’m planning on cheating on next April. That way if I confess it, I’ll also be able to tell the Priest I’ve already made up for it! Blinded by sins, we rarely see how sickened we actually get by them. And one mortal sin usually is accompanied by others, whether or not the sinner is aware of that. It happens.


David Filmer,

I think Cathoholics post was spot on. Just to clarify, when Holly mentioned that the Catholic Church teaches that we must have both faith and works in order to obtain salvation I think she was simply stating that Faith without Works (In Christ) are useless. In other words that faith without works is dead and salvation lost. That is Church teaching because the entirety of scriptures supports that apostolic teaching.

St Paul would refer to you as ignoramus if you don’t agree that faith without works is useless and you will lose your salvation. Again, I think Cathoholic worked that proof out very clearly above.

Hopefully I misinterpreted your post that it is heresy to teach that works must accompany faith to obtain salvation. Of course, we are talking in the normative sense.

God Bless

To add an idea: the Apostle Thomas had faith. Then Jesus was crucified and Thomas lost his faith. Then Jesus came to them and Thomas got faith once again.

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