Works without faith

James told us in the scriptures that faith without works is dead. This is very easy to understand in correlation with what Paul spoke of as being saved exclusively by grace through faith. What about works without faith? Would you consider them to be useless and non-spiritual?

Absolutely not. “what you have done for the least of my brethern, you have done for me”. There is no requirement here that you do it with any awareness of God or faith. Assent (or lack thereof) to a certain belief set does not demean or increase the merit of a specific act.

If you are talking in terms of our salvation I would have to say works without faith are useless.

When James says faith without works is dead, he is simply saying that if you have a true living faith, there will be outward evidence in how you lead your life. There are works that are a result of the faith. It would be like saying a tree without leaves is dead. You can know that a tree is living because it sprouts leaves. A person who doesn’t have faith in God, might do good works of his own accord, but a person with faith will do those works because the Holy Spirit has guided him/her to perform those.

Also, James isn’t talking about us judging the faith of others, he is teaching us how to measure our own faith. Do we grumble about having to go to church? Do we just walk past the homeless person who is asking for a couple of quarters? Do we ignore someone who we see committing a sinful act? If we do these things, is our faith true and alive?
We cannot judge the heart of God, but let’s ask hypothecially;
If an atheist gives to the poor, goes to Mass, and even goes so far as to do everything and lives the live of a perfect catholic, but he does not have faith in Christ, will he get to heaven? He’s done all the works, but is that enough to gain entrance? Church teaches that is is Christ who is the way unto the Father which means it cannot possibly be through our own actions and merits.

We are saved through Faith AND Works, neither alone is enough for us to gain entrance into heaven.

not so sure about that though. James said that faith without works is dead but at the same time Paul said that we are saved by grace through faith. Even Jesus made statements such as, it is your faith that has saved you. I would have to believe that it is by faith only and the works prove the faith.

Why would you have to believe it’s faith only? Nowhere in the Bible does it say such a thing does it? :shrug:

Pace e Bene

well, it doesn’t point to works as a part of salvation either does it? James does say that faith without works is dead but I don’t see that as part of salvation especially since Jesus told the sinful woman that it was her faith that saved her. I have to think of the man beside Jesus dying on the cross too when Jesus saved him. He couldn’t do anything nailed to a cross but he professed his faith that Jesus was the Christ and that he repented. We all need Jesus because we could never do enough on our own to be saved. Doesn’t scripture say that we ALL have fallen short and that we all need God’s grace?

The man next to Our Lord on the Cross, just may well have done a work. It took every fiber of his being to make that profession.

Catholics don’t believe that through our own merits we can attain salvation. And yes, of course in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he states that, yet where does it say that Faith Alone is sufficient?

Pace e Bene

I see what you are saying, I just never thought of this as a work. I think in theory, we probably agree on where salvation comes from. Good discussion!

“See that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone?” James 2:24

Whenever I have read works by Protestants for Protestants, justification=salvation.

ok, Paul states that a man is justified by faith so that he may not boast of all of his good works. I think James was speaking to people who were much more in need of a wake up call to Christ than those that Paul was preaching to, this could very well be why James seemed to be so adherent to works as action.

Yes. Keep in mind that paul was speaking of the works of the Law. In the old covenant, it was the mosaic law from whence one had his identity as a people and was justified before God. Whereas we are justified before God by Faith in Christ, which must necessarily be confirmed with works.

I can surely agree with confirmed with works as you stated. I don’t have any heartburn with that just as long as we are talking about the saving mechanism being faith. That is, faith being shown to be valid by the works accompanying it.

Please consider the following connections:

In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul says,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God–not because of works, lest any man should boast.”

Clearly, this gives rise to the belief that works have nothing to do with salvation. The problem is that verse 10 needs to be included. Ignoring verse 10 wreaks havoc with Paul’s intented message.

Verse 10 says,
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Please notice that at the point of our initial justification we are God’s workmanship. None of our works brought about our justification. Likewise, we become a new creation in Christ Jesus for good works by way of God’s workmanship. Moreover, these good works were prepared by God prior to our initial justification and that we are to walk in them. This is the perfect bridge to the teaching of James concerning the necessity of works in salvation.

The works that are necessary for salvation are by way of God’s grace and they were prepared by God. The works we do after our initial justification are nothing less than the work of the Father’s hands in our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. All of the glory goes to God. The important thing to remember is that these works are necessary for our salvation. That is why James makes an extraordinary analogy comparing the relationship of faith and works in justification to the relationship of the body and spirit in the living person.

James 2:26 says,
“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.”

This analogy makes it clear that no one is justified by faith alone. Faith without works is dead just as the body without the spirit is dead.

I hope this helps.

Luther and the other reformationists are fond of St. Paul, and not so much of St. James.

But today is the feast of St. Joseph Cupertino. (Sept. 18). And the Epistle is one of my favorites from St. Paul, 1 Cor 13, 18, and should shut up the mouths of all the ‘faith alone’ people.

“Brethren: If I should speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but not have love, I am a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. And if I were a prophet and knew all mysteries and had all knowledge, and if I should have faith so great that I could move mountains, but not have love, I am nothing…”

St. Paul goes on to list all the great works of charity.

What do you make of that, Fr. Martin?


It does and I can get a cleaner focus on what the real meat of this is. I can agree with this for the vast majority of it. What would remain would be any idea that these works that God prepared for us would directly merit our salvation apart from our faith in Christ. My only issue here would be that many verses in Scripture assure us that we could never be clean before God without Christ’s initial atone for our sins. That being said, it would absolutely have to be of much more importance that beyond everything imagineable, we must root our faith deeply in Christ and what he did for each and every one of us. But of course, we must live in the manner in which he taught us. This is a great conversation!

You are right. We can do nothing without grace and we are nothing without Christ.

God’s purpose for the elect is beautifully stated in Romans 8:29. This verse tells us that the Father’s purpose is that we are to “be conformed to the image of his Son.”

Paul also says that “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”[Romans 14:23]

What should be proceeding from faith is life in the Spirit. We are to be lead by the Spirit and we are to be dead to sin. God’s grace is not inert. God’s grace gives us power and strength.

Isaiah 55:10-11 expresses this very well in saying,
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

There are also numerous verses in the NT that speak of the power associated with grace and how it accomplishes God’s purpose within us. A great example of this is found in Phillipians 2:12-13 which says:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Galatians 6:15 says, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”

It’s all about being filled with the Spirit, putting on Christ, being conformed to Christ, and being a new creation in Christ Jesus. Salvation is an awesome and glorious work of God.

a very honorable and heart felt way to express this! Thank you

problem is when justification is said to be by ‘faith ONLY’. That ‘only’ is the problem.

when ever i talk about justification and faith, I open the canons of trent, session 6 to make sure I am on firm ground. I watched a show on TBN the other night. Discussion between a priest and a protestant minister. Question about justification and faith, and the priest went off talking about salvation by faith only - what he said was heresy.

He took back part of it later on, but I assure you the protestant minister was delighted, and his mouth was open, and his eyes were ajar.

As I mentioned elsewhere, my favorite passage from Paul is 1 Cor 13, 1-8. No question to Paul that faith is meaningless without the works of charity.

We don’t talk about "works without faith’. On face, they have no meaning. Do we even have to think about it?


Then it would come under the idea that nothing is good of itself.

You can’t call ‘feeding the poor’ good in an absolute sense, because it depends on your motivations… for instance a dictator might curry favour with the mob purely out of self-interest, and ‘help’ the poor.

Thus even Satan might appear as a column of light and mixes truths in with his words to deceive

Sounds like something from a Kafka novel. Yes, 'feeding the poor; is good in the absolute sense. You may not get great credit for it from God, but the hungry person sure does enjoy it.
Actually, good works are done for the benefit of the object, rather than the doer, right?

Thank God I’m a Christian. I don’t have to get involved in your strange morality.


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