Faith vs Works

Mary Ann Collins
(A Former Catholic Nun)

November 2002
Revised June 2004


The Bible makes it clear that we are only saved by faith. No amount of good works is able to save us. Scripture says:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis added)

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)

“…according to the power of God, Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began…” (2 Timothy 1:8-9, emphasis added)

Once we have become born-again Christians, our faith should result in a changed heart, which will express itself in good works. Genuine faith will influence our entire life: our thoughts, our desires, and our actions. It should result in love and gratitude towards God, love for our fellow Christians, having a desire to serve and obey the Lord, and wanting nonbelievers to know Jesus Christ. The Apostle James said:

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18)

Talk is cheap. It is easy to say a prayer or to say that we have faith. If faith does not result in obeying God, then it may not be genuine faith. Jesus said:

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)

Salvation comes through faith. Genuine faith expresses itself in love, obeying God, and doing good works.

Good words do not save us. However, they can be evidence of a faith that saves us. Good works are the fruit of salvation—not the cause of it.


In the Epistle to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul addressed the problem of the “Judaizers.” These were Christians who believed that, in addition to faith in Jesus Christ, Christians needed to be circumcised and follow the laws of Moses. Paul said:

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-7)

Paul said that if people rely on good works for their salvation, then the death of Jesus Christ does not benefit them. If we could be saved by following the law, then it would not have been necessary for Christ to die for us. Paul said:

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

The problem with trying to fulfill the law is that it is impossible. Nobody can fulfill all of it all of the time. The Apostle Paul wrote:

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree…” (Galatians 3:10-13, emphasis added)

According to the Bible, our righteousness can only come from Jesus Christ—not from our own efforts to make ourselves righteous. If we try to earn our salvation by means of our own good works, then we wind up rejecting the salvation that God wants to freely give us. The righteousness of Christians comes through Jesus Christ. We are not capable of establishing our own righteousness by fulfilling the law, or by doing good works. Paul said:

“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Romans 4:3-8, emphasis added)

“For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:2-4, emphasis added)

The Apostle Paul discussed the problem of “Judaizers.” These men said that circumcision was necessary for salvation, and that Christians should follow the Jewish law. Paul called that slavery. He said that the end result is that people fall from grace, and Christ’s death on the cross does not benefit them. Paul exhorted the Christians in Galatia, saying:

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:1-4, emphasis added)

The Catholic Church has some things in common with the Judaizers. It says that, in order for people to be saved, in addition to having faith in Jesus, they must also obey laws (official declarations of popes and church councils) and participate in religious rituals (the sacraments).


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