Faith and Works

Last night I had the opportunity to tweet at PRO (@mynameisPRo), one of my favorite Christian Hip Hop artists, after he commented on salvation by faith. He said:

Your works do NOT save you! Goodnight. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:15, 16 ESV)

To which I responded:

@mynameisPRo As a Catholic, we believe that salvation depends on both faith AND works. Check out James 2 for example:biblegateway.com/passage/?searc…

And then he responded:

@ItsChrisGoulet james is not a proponent of faith plus works. He is showing us that one works because he already has faith 🙂

Ok, let’s figure this thing out. PRO’s original claim is that we are only saved by faith. This us Catholics agree with wholeheartedly. Christ paid the price for our salvation and we cannot be saved without faith in Him. We also agree that our works do come from faith. The difference that I would like to point out is how Jesus did stress that our salvation depends on our works.

What James is saying in his second letter is the question, how can we have faith, if we do not express it with works? In James 2:17, St. James writes “..Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” This in essence means that without works, our faith is a lie. He goes on to explain how Abraham, our father in the faith, also had his faith completed by being willing to give up his only son, Issac, to do the will of God.

PRO, I love your music, and you even seem to agree that in order to more fully serve our Lord, we need to amend our lives and show others the love of Christ. In your song “Before I die,” which is one of my favorites, a part of the song is:

“And maybe before my last breath, You will see a man that, Finished the race and ran hard until his last step.”

You are referencing 2 Timothy 4:7 here, which is about how we must keep the faith through the entirety of our lives. So if we are only saved by faith, why is there this need to finish the race by doing good and not evil? Wouldn’t you agree that by doing evil, we reject the Lord and abandon our faith? So only in doing good works and avoiding evil can we accept the salvation which Christ offers to us in faith. If the only thing necessary for our salvation is faith, isn’t that an invitation to hypocrisy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? This way, Christians could “have faith,” and then live lives like the secular culture presents to us completely contrary to the Gospel.

Now let’s look to the example of Jesus and St. Paul. Jesus taught us many times to do good and not to do evil, like in the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5. He gave us the example of caring for the poor and needy, like his words to his disciples after washing their feet:

“If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Look at Matthew chapter 25, where he talks about the separation of the sheep and the goats:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And then the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirst and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

See, what factor is Jesus talking about that differentiates the sheep and the goats? Faith was never mentioned in this instance, instead the key to eternal life was serving the poor and needy.

Let’s also look at the example of St. Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians in his first letter,

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

St. Paul wasn’t only content to have faith in Christ. If he was only saved by faith, why would he have the need to undergo such severe hardships in spreading the gospel? St. Paul was on fire for the Lord and always sought to proclaim the gospel. His ministry was that of both faith and works, and he finished the race in faith, dying a martyr in Rome.

A tree is known by its fruits, may our fruits continue to glorify God in all that we do.

Your brother in Christ,

Chris Goulet

Want more scripture?
Ezekiel 18- If a man lives by God’s statues and ordinances, he shall surely live. God will judge each according to his ways.
Ezekiel 33:17-20- God will judge all according to their ways
Matt 5:19-26- Obey and teach the commandments to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven
Matt 16:27- Son of Man will repay everyone according to his conduct
Rom 2:5-7- God will repay everyone according to his works, eternal life…through perseverance in good works
2 Cor 5:10- each will receive recompense according to what he did in the body
1 Cor 9:27- St. Paul drives his body and trains it so as not to disqualify himself
Gal 5:6- only faith working through love
James 2:14- James doubts that a faith without works has potency to save a person
James 2:20, 22- faith without works is useless/faith incomplete without works
James 2:24- a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (this is the ONLY occassion in scripture where the phrase “faith alone” is found)

More information:
EWTN http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/faworks.htm

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4 thoughts on “Faith and Works

  1. When I read the first bible passage from Romans, it didn’t even come across to me as a sola-fide argument since we as Catholics are used to the understanding that these passages refer to the original act of Jesus’ death on the cross, which was in every way unmerited, as is the grace conferred to us at baptism (not a lot of works going on as a baby).

    Also, when the artist responded to you, he didn’t give a rebuttal for works not being necessary, even. Even if one does work because he already has faith, that doesn’t show one way or the other that works are or are not necessary for salvation.

    You bring up a good point with 2 Tim 4:7, I think. Good post, Chris.

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