The Relationship between faith & good works

Are we saved by faith alone, by works or both? It’s an old and rancorous debate that has no end in site. It’s often a confusing debate as people on both sides of the argument often start off wrong about what people on the other side of the fence truly believe. There are even versus in the Bible which appear to contradict each other. James 2:26 tells us faith without works is dead, but Romans 10:9, tells us that if we confess our belief in Jesus Christ and believe in our hearts, we are saved.

Christians believe in both of those verses but the apparent contradiction remains a source of argument between different types of Christians. Those who claim we are saved by faith alone are stuck with James’s Biblical truth that faith is dead unless it’s accompanied with works, which begets an uncomfortable question. Are they saved with a dead faith?

Those who stress works are stuck with Paul’s Biblical truth, that we are saved by mere confession of, and belief in Jesus Christ. Why, if good works are necessary, would Paul not mention them in a verse that specifically addresses the needs of salvation? Possibly because of an understanding that a genuine belief in Christ would naturally lead to the good works that Christ himself taught us to do in all of the gospels.

Catholics will normally stress good works but agree that faith is necessary for salvation. The whole idea of doing good works in the name of God shows a preexisting faith in God anyway. We’ve been told by Jesus Christ to help the poor. We do so because we have faith in Christ and so we follow his way to the best of our faulty ability. Faith in God comes first, good works came second, specifically because of faith. Faith begets good works.

Other believers would make a greater point of stressing faith but I’ve never met a non Catholic Christian who told me that faith wouldn’t or shouldn’t beget good works. Non Catholics who take up this argument will normally argue that works are not technically necessary to be saved but after salvation has occurred, good works should be forthcoming.

Both sides essentially agree that faith and works go hand in hand then, so the difference is actually smaller than the argument we make out of it. The debate might be harmless when kept in it’s proper perspective. In the process of trying to win arguments however, both sides can miss other theological questions that can might resolve the original question of faith versus works.

What are the real dynamics that go on between good works and faith for example, and how can one help strengthen the other? Experience teaches that faith can produce good works, even if those works are small to begin with. It’s also reasonable that good works, once we start doing them can increase a our faith and once faith is increased, it will go on to spawn more good works, which will again increase faith, then more works, more faith, etc. Faith and works end up pushing each other to the next level, creating a cycle of ever increasing divine energy on our fallen earth.

The common sense results of giving just $5.00 a week to a homeless person makes for a good example of how the process can work. We know it helps the homeless person but what does it do for us? It starts with faith in God’s call to help the poor. When we perform the good work our faith is actually exercised in a physical way that transforms our fallen realm, albeit in a small way. We give muscle to our faith by exercising it with good works.

Life on earth is made easier for the homeless man but additionally, the giver of that $5.00 has made a tiny step into the Kingdom of Heaven by casting aside a tiny, $5.00 portion of his personal Kingdom on Earth. He has begun to overcome greed. He has rejected a small portion of the fallen world, made himself less carnal and more spiritual by serving God over mammon.

Carnal greed may actually return for a time with selfish serving thoughts of what we could have done for ourselves with that $5.00. For someone on a tight budget, it could have been the last $5.00 needed to to take a girlfriend to the movies or dinner. But in the long term, a greater sense of satisfaction will overpower our short term selfishness. We will realize that helping others with basic needs is more important than a few hours of entertainment for ourselves. We will feel a little better about ourselves for a longer period of time than the movie would have lasted anyway and this process of spiritual learning will make it easier to part with another $5.00 next time.

From the execution of that one little work, we will gain faith in the fact that we don’t need as much money as we thought we did, and that it’s not so bad to part with bits and pieces of our little worldly kingdoms. We will learn that it’s actually much easier than what our selfish, carnal side wanted us to believe. It’s a case of faith initially causing a good work and then the good work causing greater faith.

Now, armed with a greater faith, it is only natural that we would move on to greater good works. We have the beginning of a divine cycle. Good works were initially spawned by a pre-existing faith, which motivated a good work, which in turn spawned greater faith.

Paul is satisfied because without faith, the good works in the name of God would have never occurred. James is also satisfied because without good works, the faith would have remained inactive and dead.

In the course of trying to win theological arguments and quoting verses that support either faith or works, it’s easy to overlook a few truths known to all Christians. Both testaments of the Bible have plenty of verses that support both faith and works and zero verses that forbid either one. The lesson is clear. We’re supposed to practice both and we all know it. We also know, but sometimes seem to forget that spending too much time trying to win arguments for faith or works leaves us a lot less time to actually put either one into practice.

I think you’ve made alot of good points. When both faith and works are recognized as unseperable, we have begun to understand our salvation. :thumbsup:

Children are given the grace of salvation through Baptism, yet need the instruction of the gospel in order for them to believe in the grace given to them personally. Adults who hear the gospel must believe and receive Baptism. It is Sacrament and belief in the message of that Sacrament. The first work of salvation is conversion.

The grace which brought and accomplished our redemption in Jesus is the free gift of God sharing His life with us. It is not because anything we’ve done or could do to earn what God freely chooses to do. Our consent of our free will is neccessary for God to give us new life. This new life must commit to the will of our true creator. Those who are aware of the gospel are accountable to acknowledge the truth of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Believing in the Gospel compels cooporation with the Spirit who brought us the Gospel through the flesh of Christ. There are no particular “works” which give us salvation, other than submitting our will to our creator who gives grace to all who seek Him. This leads to various works done in love which The Father desires. Repentance and obedience to God’s commands are good works. Without these, we are unable to please God the Father.

Once we have accepted the free gift of salvation, we are tested. Our saved soul continues to live conected to our physical body and world. There are many temptations in the world which pull us away from God’s grace and salvation. Faith must grow in order to remain in the grace which saved us. This requires walking in the good works of Jesus Christ. Even though we may fail and need recourse to Him again, His High Priestly sacrifice of His Passion can provide us forgiveness when we turn from our wickedness to obedience in the Spirit.

Each of us has a duty to know our saviour personally. This requires prayer and devotion to His Body. This means examination of consceince and continual conversion to His life.

P.S. Welcome to the forum. Do you plan to stick around and fellowship?

I think it all depends in what context you read those verses in, especially for what it says in Romans. If you think about, we can’t just go around professing Jesus is Lord while ignoring the starving person on the side of the street. From what I have read before, faith is the fuel, and good works is the gas pedal, we on earth are on a journey back to home in heaven (if we do God’s will of course), and we are in car(Us, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit), the car won’t move no matter how much we step on the gas pedal (good works) if don’t have the fuel(faith) to go anywhere, and if we aren’t stepping on the gas pedal(good works), then what is the point of having all this fuel(faith) if we are not going to use it for good?

Thanks and yes, I’ll be around. I like writing stuff like that and hopefully getting feedback before submitting it.

On faith and works…I sometimes wonder if it’s even possible to have one without the other

Right. I think James implies someone can have ‘a faith’ which does not lead to salvation because it lacks works.

Jesus acknowledges many who will say to Him that they have done certain things in His name (prophecied, cast out demon, etc) yet He did not know them! They must believe in His gospel to some extent, yet somehow do not truly convert and follow.

There is not really a cut and dry definition for salvation. We know that faith is how we access the gift and works are how we actually participate in His life. But each person must open their heart to God in order to find the profitable goodness of the Lord.

he words “Faith alone” are only mentioned once in the Bible together in James 2:24 “For you are made righteous by your good deeds and NOT by faith alone”

What do you make of Eph. 2:8-9?

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— NOT by works, so that no one can boast.”

While works, especially those required in the old testament, won’t save you, faith without works is dead.

Basically, works will flow from faith. If there are no works, there is no faith.

The works that cooporate with our salvation are possible because of the grace of God.

What do you make of this verse? Does Catholic doctrine of faith and works necessary for our salvation contradict this writing from Paul???

“A tree is known by its fruit.”
What produces fruit? Faith alone? Or faith that works out of love?

Salvation IS by faith. But faith becomes dead without works. Faith needs to be active and exercised.

Both faith and works work together. Not only for our own salvation but for the salvation of other and for the coming of the Kingdom. Thru works, we exude the Kingdom outward, onto the fallen realm

Lutherans say to this, Amen. :thumbsup:

:thumbsup: Sweet. Who knew y’all were Lutheran deep down? :smiley:

We don’t subscribe to what Bonhoeffer coined “cheap grace.” If James’ words weren’t clear enough, Christ’s ought to be: every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire. And this reconciles perfectly with Paul, who simply explains that no number of works we do can merit salvation - it is a gift from God.

Luther put it quite well, I think. “It is just as impossible to separate faith and works as heat and light from a flame.”

Or, how about:
“There is no justification without sanctification, no forgiveness without renewal of life, no real faith from which the fruits of new obedience do not grow.” -Luther


Who knew y’all were Catholic deep down? :D:D
Definitely sweet; hello brother/sister in Christ.

That’s a great quote!!:thumbsup:

Ephesians 2 does not teach “sola fide.” Paul is saying that works do not merit the initial grace of justification. He does not say that works have no bearing on salvation or that we will not be judged according to our works. To the contrary, Paul teaches that works do merit salvation subsequently.

What is granted in accordance with a fair judgment, would seem a condign reward. But life everlasting is granted by God, in accordance with the judgment of justice, according to 2 Timothy 4:8: “As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day.” Therefore man merits everlasting life condignly.

And Paul speaks of the judgment in Romans.

But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God. Who will render to every man according to his works. To them indeed, who according to patience in good work, seek glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life: But to them that are contentious, and who obey not the truth, but give credit to iniquity, wrath and indignation. Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek. But glory, and honour, and peace to every one that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For there is no respect of persons with God. (Romans 2:5-11)

And Paul says that those who commit mortal sins will be damned.

I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, Mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences. (Galatians 5:16-24)

Furthermore, saying that salvation is by faith, not works is nonsensical because properly speaking faith is a work. Christ says to the Jews, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent (John 6:29).

It is not true that bad works means there was no faith to begin with. It is possible to have faith and be damned because we do not follow through on it, for which reason Paul says, If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:2).

So it is baffling that Dr. Luther could say in opposition to Scripture that “although sin in the flesh has not yet been altogether removed or become dead, yet He will not punish or remember it” (Smalcald Articles iii.13) when it is evident that God will judge and punish or reward everyone on the basis of their works.

I think the protestant fairly presses the question “Are you saved by the good works you do? That is do you attempt to do good works in order to receive heaven.” I can only answer no, because I see my sin. But I also see in scripture the imperative not live the same old ordinary life one has left before, we are told to do good and good we must do (does any protestant deny that we must do good?). I think the protestant when pressed will ultimately have to say in order to have a legitimate faith it will necessarily be accompanied by good works or else it is the wrong sort of faith, mere profession.

In this regard I don’t see a difference, that is a practical and real difference between the various traditions that shows any marked difference in reality, only a difference in how it is explained, that is how God accomplishes his task. I cannot defend Roman catholicism’s view nor can I speak for all orthodox but when I look in the liturgy, the daily prayers we are supposed to say, there is an emphasis there on the sin we have committed. The morning prayer includes psalm 50 (51) in which our sins are bitterly remembered. But we do not also merely remember our sins and repent of them but also the hope and promise of God “Having risen from sleep, I hasten to thee, O master, Lover of mankind, and by thy loving kindness, I strive to do thy work, and I pray to thee: Help me at all times, in everything, and deliver me from every worldly, evil thing and every impulse of the devil, and save me, and lead me into thine eternal kingdom. For thou art my creator . and giver and provider of everything good, and in thee is all my hope, unto thee i do send up my glory, now and ever and to the ages of ages amen.”

There is that emphasis again in Jesus being the author of our salvation that we do not work for salvation: “For if thou should save me by my works, this would not be grace, or a gift, but rather a duty, yea, thou who art compassion and ineffable in mercy.”

In Orthodoxy there is synergy as opposed to monergism. God is the one who starts the process and we are to the best of our abilities conform to God and God will finish it and help us in our failure. I do not know of a protestant who would not say they strive to conform to God, but they would say that it is not them but God working in them. Modern protestants of all kinds seem opposed to the mere suggestion of doing good, that any attempt to do so is an attempt to buy salvation. Almost like doing good should come naturally without effort and I do not think this position is biblical. What I do think is biblical is to strive to do good, not buy our salvation but rather for the sake of God. I think that might be one of the reasons protestants rejected monasticism because they could not conceive of dedicating oneself to purity for the love of God. We ultimately do good because we love God and for no other reason, that should be the goal. Of course all know how bad each and everyone one of us is and we are to confess daily.

I also think good works are essential, in order to demonstrate our love for Christ. But I do not then deny the salvation of one who repents and had no chance to do good. Jesus says he receives the last first and the first last. I do not think there can be any one ideology of judging salvation, because only God can decide perfectly who is saved, who had genuine faith, who lived out that genuine faith.

In everything I have read of the fathers and of the church I see different emphases leading to the same destination. Same as in scripture. “He who loves me, will keep my commandments.” “Oh wretched man I am, who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our lord!” " If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.” “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

I think in trying to formulate neat theological answers we miss the point sometimes. I don’t think, from what I’ll readily admit is my limited reading and knowledge roman Catholics or Protestants have obtained the perfect answer as to the relationship between good works and faith.

Because we are saved by the Grace of God and by Christ o the cross. And if we did not have grace from God we could not even have faith or works.

So by the grace of God we are given faith to do good works. But we can also reject the grace and faith given to us by God and refuse to do good works.

Having faith and not using it is fruitless, it produces nothing.

But when we do good, even though we need grace to do good, we still have free will to do it. We do it not on our own but by the grace of God. We use the Grace.

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