Salvation by faith IS salvation by works


If salvation is by faith, that is, something we must do (believe) in order to be saved, and which, if we do it, salvation is guaranteed, then that is clearly a case of salvation by our own work, a case of earning salvation through our action.

Please discuss. :slight_smile:


That would seem to render the phrase “Faith and Works” to be somewhat nonsensical.

Kinda like saying add water and H2o


VociMike, from the Protestant point of view, your argument touches on one of the key disputes between Reformed Christians and non-Calvinists. I think many Calvinistically-inclined Protestants would more or less agree with this point, and indeed often advance it against “Arminians.” This is why they see a saving faith as essentially a consequence of regeneration rather than its cause. Non-Calvinists, on the other hand, would be more likely to dispute your point, and to point out that in biblical discussions of faith, faith is distinguished from works, so even if faith could be considered a “work” in the abstract, it’s plainly a type of action that is not a meritorious one. On this view, a saving faith is indeed a condition of salvation and one that requires the free choice of the individual, but the act of having such faith does not merit anything (and hence gives no cause for boasting). So it certainly doesn’t “earn” salvation, from the non-Calvinist point of view.

Best regards,



Canons from the Council of Orange (529 AD)

CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism – if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

My Goodness, notice all the reference to Scripture as the authority and not tradition. :wink:


kaycee, nobody is questioning that both faith and works are a result of God’s grace. But the fact that works are a result of God’s grace doesn’t stop Protestants from claiming that those works are nonetheless an attempt to earn salvation.

So if you are saying that having faith through grace is not earning salvation, but that having works through grace is earning salvation, then such a position seems quite inconsistent.


It seems to me that the problem is that faith is held to a different standard than works. Why is faith considered not meritorious, but works are considered meritorious? They both ultimately flow from God’s grace, through the free will of the individual. But they are treated as differently as night and day by (non-Calvinist) Protestants.

BTW, I agree that Calvinists would tend to see them both as much more similar. While I greatly disagree with Calvinism, I think it is the most coherent and consistent branch of Protestantism.


Do you disagree that, just as a matter of common sense, there is a big difference between obtaining faith by taking some action that is in some way benevolent on the one hand and obtaining faith by saying, essentially, “There’s no way on Earth I can do anything to warrant salvation, so I’m depending solely on God to supply my salvation as a free giflt”? You seem to be saying that making the statement in quotes in my last sentence is really just another work, but you have to admit it’s quite different from a common sense point of view. The distinction to me is between doing stuff to receive salvation and accepting stuff from God to receive salvation. That’s why it seems natural to me that Paul chose to distinguish between faith and works. On your argument, isn’t that distinction nonsensical?




Clearly the Roman view makes works a basis of salvation. If a Christian does a half hearted job at works, what is the result of his salvation? If a Christian rarely performs good works what is the result of his salvation?

So if you are saying that having faith through grace is not earning salvation, but that having works through grace is earning salvation, then such a position seems quite inconsistent.

It is untenable and is not my position.

Christ Saves monergistically, The person IS a new creation, a child of God who will perform good works to varying degrees. Works dont make a person a Christian. If I somehow am weaker in works than someone else, am I no longer a son to my Father?


Great, point!

If I recieve a present for my birthday, can that be called a payment or merit? I can recieve a gift without it being a work.


One could ask similar questions of faith. What if a person has a half-hearted faith? What if a person loses faith at certain points of his life? You try to make the situations seem different, but they are really very much the same.

Christ Saves monergistically, The person IS a new creation, a child of God who will perform good works to varying degrees. Works dont make a person a Christian. If I somehow am weaker in works than someone else, am I no longer a son to my Father?

And a child of God who will have faith to varying degrees. No difference.


It is black and white. There is a Saving Faith and a faith that does not save. God only gives Saving Faith.


Are you saying that one receives faith without also taking some action? That it does not involve a human choice to believe?

When Paul spoke of faith and works, he was pointing out that our salvation begins with God, not with us. Nobody here disagrees with that. Sure, we don’t boast of our works, but neither do we boast of our faith. But if our faith begins with God, and our works begin with God, then why is it OK to say faith is necessary for salvation, but works are an attempt to earn salvation? Why is one response to God’s grace held in such high esteem, while another response to that same grace is reviled? Why is there such an artificial distinction between faith and works in so much of Protestantism? That artificial distinction does not exist in Catholicism, and it may not exist in Calvinism - don’t know enough to say for sure on that.


And the act of accepting that saving faith requires an effort, an exertion, a response, a work on our part. Unless you’re a Calvinist, in which case God just jams it into you.


I think from the perspective I’m advocating (which is non-Calvinist) it certainly involves “a human choice.” But that choice recognizes that anything we do to try to do to merit salvation is just filthy rags in the sight of God. So it’s a choice not to rely on works. Whether or not you agree with that, and I know you have a different perspective, isn’t it at least a coherent and reasonable view?


Why do you view the grace which results in faith as a gift, but you don’t view the grace which results in works as a gift?

Again, a double standard is being applied.


Why is it OK to rely on faith which is a response to God’s grace, but not OK to rely on works which are also a response to God’s grace?


For me, VociMike, the answer to why we rely on faith-from-grace but not works-from-grace is simply because that is the way we read the instructions from Paul. We read Paul as saying that it comes from faith and not works. So we would say that even if works do come from grace – and they do, in my opinion – only faith is efficacious for salvation. Why? Beats me. That’s just what I read the Bible as telling us. (I personally am glad that Paul indicated a faith-based program for salvation apart from works so that I can engage in works for the right reasons, out of respect for God and the love of fellow humans, rather than out of obligation to avoid damnation. But that’s just my own reaction to the Gospel.)



What you say here is that faith is synonymous to a work.

The Holy Spirit, over and over again, delineated between faith and works. Here is just one of many examples:

Eph 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Your theaory would have that read:

“For by grace you have been saved through work. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”


Even James would become nonsensical. He wrote:

“faith without works is dead”

Your theory would have that read:

work without works is dead”

Besides being totally unworkable, your theory also does not differentiate between faith and works like the Holy Spirit does again, and again, and again.

Why do you equate what the Spirit contrasts?


“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
** It is a divine gift** (Rom. 12:3)3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

** and comes by hearing the Word of God** (Rom. 10:17)17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

According to scripture it sure doesn’t sound like a work MIKE!**


I think the whole soteriology debate is usually a miscommunication.
Catholics have different definitions of "faith’ and “works” than most protestants. The disagreements arise when we use the same words to talk about different concepts.

“Faith” for catholics is a type of mental assent. The bible says that even the demons have this and tremble. It is simply knowing the truth. Obviously this isn’t enough for salvation if the demons still “know…and tremble”

A “Work” is any act of the will that is aligned with God’s will.

The reasoning goes like this:

If God’s grace is freely offered to all, then why isn’t everyone saved?

Some are unsaved because they reject that freely offered grace.

Those who are saved have accepted the grace.

This accepting, this act of the will, is a Catholic “work.” It’s God letting us participate in his plan. It doesn’t earn the initial grace, or even the subsequent salvation, because the very possibility of choice is part of that Grace.

Based on the definitions given above, one can’t claim we have a free will that is active in accepting God’s grace and not agree that salvation come through both faith and works.

The only real debate is the one mentioned by CThomas between Predestination vs. Free Will.

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