Man offering help to a homeless person

A Clarification of Good Works

A grave misunderstanding about Catholicism is the notion of good works. The term good works seems to have a negative connotation to it in certain other Christian circles.

In order to clarify the Catholic position on what good works are and the role of works in salvation I propose that for the purpose of this article we substitute the term positive actions for good works. This new term will help to clarify misconceptions especially in terms of salvation, grace, and merit.

Positive Actions and Negative Actions

In some anti-Catholic literature the author seems to be trying to get his reader to think that Catholics believe that if they perform many positive actions after being baptized (justified by God) that they will go to heaven.

Well, this statement is partially true, but standing alone it is not the whole truth of what Catholics believe. Let’s contrast two ideas.

To sin means to offend God. It means that we damage or sever our friendship with him. We do this by performing an action that goes against what God has commanded us to do in order to stay in good standing with him. Thoughts as well are considered actions because thinking is doing something just as is breathing, walking or reading. Because thoughts are often involuntary, whether a thought is sinful or not depends on how we react to it. Anger is not necessarily a sin, but feeding resentment is.

Sin is an act or action. God will, one day, judge each of us human beings and decide which ones are worthy enough to spend eternity with God in heaven.

How or by what is God going to judge us? God will judge us by how we respond to the grace he offers. This includes our acts and actions, as well as our faith in him. A full response to God’s grace involves responding in faith and responding in the way we live.

We will be judged by the things we do and what we do not do. We can see this in the parable of the sheep and the goats that Jesus tells his disciples (Matthew 25:31-36). Those who enter heaven are those who have helped Jesus through the good they have done for others.

Good and Evil and Friendship with God

According to Christian theology God is the universal standard by which good and evil (synonyms are positive and negative respectively) are measured and God is 100% good.

God wills for each and every one of us to be good.

The fewer negative actions we perform the more we remain in friendship with God.

Therefore, the more positive actions we perform the more we remain in friendship with God.

Hence the more good works we perform the more we remain in friendship with God.

The bottom line is that God will judge us in the end by our actions done throughout our entire lives. Throughout our lives we can choose to remain in God’s friendship or not. We have free will to choose whether to obey God or not and if we choose to disobey God, which is to sin, then we choose not to remain in God’s friendship.

Yes, we must have faith that our savior is Jesus Christ, but at the same time our actions must reflect that faith.

Faith and Works: Both Necessary

So, in a sense, good works are essential to get to heaven, but not alone. Nor is faith alone sufficient, although faith is also necessary. James 2:26 tells us that faith without works is dead. In Romans 3:22 we see that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Catholic theology supports these teachings of the Bible and holds them in balance.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 2008 says that “good works are done to glorify God and are done in honor of him.”

The Catechism goes on further to state in paragraph 2010, “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification at the beginning of conversion,” (emphasis my own).

Also important is this quote from the same section saying, “These graces and goods are the objects of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.”

The Catholic Church does not believe that good works alone will get anyone into heaven nor does it believe that faith alone will get anyone into heaven. However, good works in conjunction with faith do have merit.

An Analogy

Our good works are done not on our own, and they have merit because they are a response to God’s grace.

For example, imagine that a father gives money to his young child, who has no money of her own, to buy Christmas gifts for her family. The child can respond to this gift that her father has given her by spending the money on toys for herself. She might respond to the gift by hoarding the money. Or she might please her father by using the money he gave her to buy gifts, as he intended. Because she has used the gift wisely, she pleases her father, and he is likely to give her money in the future to continue buying gifts for her family. She would not have been able to buy anything if her father had not given her the money, but likewise it is her free choice to respond to that gift.

Likewise, God gives us the grace to do good things. We can choose to respond to that grace by performing positive actions through our free will. When we do so, we please God, and he will give us further grace to continue growing in friendship with him through our choices to do good things by his grace.

Catholic Practices

If you’re interested to know more about the Catholic Faith and the different Catholic Practices, check out some of our posts that discuss the Catholic Church’s view on religious items, cremation, and many more.

84 thoughts on “A Clarification of Good Works”

  1. Bad and misleading article. The Catholic Church does not require works, salvation is by faith alone. For a much better article from Catholic Answers, are this link:

  2. Good works with a correct motive…..good works to obtain salvation as motivation? or good works done to help someone in need as motivation? God knows the heart….a good work with the right motivation is not only a good work but a great one.

    1. all our deeds even great ones are as filthy rags. I believe only in the justifying blood of christ he shed for us, as did the righteous clement of Rome the first Pope. Its NOT protestantism its original Catholicism.

  3. “the fewer negative actions we perform the more in friendship with God we remain”.. I and the Bible totally disagree with this… the wages of sin is death….. I’m a little confused by the catechism…. No one can Merritt the initial Grace but what about the grace after the initial Grace? We can never do things thinking that God owes us something and he is in debt to us I’m not saying you can do whatever you want to do it’s not about how good or bad you are it’s about how forgiven you are

  4. According to Roman Catholic teaching Samson would be lost. Samson.consistently lived a selfish life right up to his death. Yet he is in the hall of faith in the book of Hebrews. You cant add one tittle to what Christ did for us on the cross.

  5. “the fewer negative actions we preform the more in friendship with God we remain” I and the Bible totally disagree with this…..wages of sin is death…I’m a little confused about catechism….no one can merit initial grace??? But what about the grace after the initial grace of conversion? We can never do things thinking go owes us and is in debt to us….I’m not saying you can do whatever you want but it’s not about how good or bad you are it’s about how forgiven you are…Luke 1:77

  6. “the fewer negative actions we preform the more we remain in friendship with God” I would have to totally disagree with this. Wages of sin is death. I’m a little confused about the catechism in article, no one can merit the initial grace but what about grace after the initial grace of conversion?…..we can never do things thinking God owes us…..goods works are the fruit not the cause, I’m not saying you can do whatever you want, but it’s not about how good or bad you are but about how forgiven you are

  7. good works + faith = salvation 🙂 man is justified by works and not by faith alone. Matthew 5:16 commands us all to do good works as a way to let our light shine before men, so as to give glory to God. In Matthew 25, at the final judgment, only the people who performed good works got into heaven (Matthew 25:31-46). The people who did not were banished into hell. In those verses, Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of our brethren, we do to HIM! Matthew 7:21 says “Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (In other words, one has to do the good works prescribed in Matthew 25:31-46!) In the book of James, God declares through Scripture that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-17). Who wants dead faith? Dead faith is no faith at all. True faith in Jesus has good works embedded in it. Paul says that scripture makes you complete by equipping you for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul also says in Colossians 1:10 that good works are the fruit of our faith; This is so important because Jesus cursed the fig tree in Matthew 21:19 because it did not bear any fruit, and in Matthew 7:19 Jesus says that every tree that does not bear good fruit is to be cut down AND THROWN INTO THE FIRE. Jesus says that we will do greater works than He did (John 14:12). The only useless kind of works are old Jewish works of the law (Galatians 3:10), like circumcision, ritual hand washing, and dietary laws. These useless works of the law are certainly not good works, which we have to do as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ, and which we were created for (Ephesians 2:10). Hebrews 10:24 says to stir up one another to “love and good works”, which indicates that love and good works GO TOGETHER. 1 Timothy 6:18 says that the rich are to also be rich in good deeds, so that they can attain heaven. Titus 3:8 says that those who believe in God must do good deeds, because they are excellent and profitable. Catholics, just like Jesus Christ and his apostles, don’t do good works in order to be saved; rather, we do good works because that is what Jesus expects us to do if we truly have faith in Him. Doing good deeds is the imitation of Christ’s life on earth, who raised the dead, healed the crippled, and made the blind see. St. Paul says that there are three things that abide; faith, hope, and love, and THE GREATEST of these is LOVE, not faith (1 Corinthians 13:13). Faith in Jesus Christ and the resultant good works go together like heat and light from a flame! Pretty hard to separate those 2!

  8. When Christ died on the cross and then rose again he opened the way to heaven for those who believe in him. Once we put our trust in him and are born again receiving the Holy Spirit we are saved. Completely and forever. Nothing can change this. All our sins are forgiven: past present and future. We are justified. In being thus saved we desire to live for Jesus, to do good works because we love him and want to please him. But these good works do not, of themselves, save us . One of the thieves on the cross repented of his son, at the last moment of his life, and was gloriously saved. He had no time to do any good works and yet he was saved. Our standing with God does not depend on our good works. We are either saved or lost. I am deeply saddened by catholic doctrine which in its confusion makes or allows people to think they are saved when they are not. Even if they do good works in their own name these count for nothing. I must pray more for them, especially those in my own family, who are thus deceived. The clear teaching of the bible is that we are saved by faith alone. Thus faith comes from God, so not even faith can be claimed as a good work. It us a gift. James is simply saying that if we have this true God- given faith then it will show in our lives – good works in all their various forms – will follow.

    1. The thief who died along with Jesus showed both faith and a good deed in the last moments of his life when he uttered pleasantries towards Jesus (And thus he was saved). Who are we as humans to judge others (or to say that others “think they are saved when they are not”)? …that shows neither faith nor good deed. If I were to judge, I would say that each reason why human people chose to split the Catholic church into several different “Christian” religions was a prideful chose of non-disciplined disciples of questionable rationalization. Yes, Catholicism is the granddaddy of your faith as well, and others in the past have chosen to leave their faith and rewrite their own bibles for their own human reasons. Think about it…

      1. The good work that the thief did on the cross by believing in Jesus by word of mouth was the work of the Holy Spirit, the thief did not recognize who Jesus was on his own understanding.
        The thief’s faith in Jesus was the work of the Holy Spirit.
        Jesus said to the thief “today you will be with me on paradise.”
        Paradise meaning heaven not purgatory. Jesus and the thief did not go to purgatory.
        The good works we do to glorify the Lord are prompted by the Holy Spirit. We cannot take credit for ourselves when we do something good, thinking that those good works will override what Jesus did and said on the cross.

        1. terrance g hawkins

          The thief was told by Christ that he would be with Christ in Paradise. It is here that Christ preached is gospel to all who had died under the old covenant. It was then that that the ‘Good Thief’ received his Sslvation.

        2. Paradise was Abraham’s Bosom. That’s where the thief (who died before Jesus) went.
          When Jesus died He went into AB and set the captives free.
          Because Christ had not yet died to pay the penalty for their sin, they were not yet able to go directly into the presence of God. After His death, however, the barrier was removed and He took them out of prison and into God’s presence in Heaven.

    2. Our salvation is Jesus Christ+ Nothing. But I do believe that those who are saved will reflect good works. Faith without works is dead. Again : THE KEY TO HEAVEN WAS HUNG ON A NAIL.

      1. Apostle James is speaking to the Jews when he tells them faith without works is dead. He is talking about justification before men. Not God. If you read a few verses before this he is telling the Jews to keep all of the commandments. If they break one they break all. This is the Law commandments that God gave the Jews. Not the world. If it was by good deeds that we could obtain our salvation God would have assigned the number of good deeds to each one of us. And Jesus Christ would have been spared from going to the cross for all of our sins.

    3. Dear Rob,
      I was researching a slightly different topic related to faith and works when I came across this article, which I found to be a reasonable articulation of Catholic teaching. Then, I read your comment, “One of the thieves on the cross repented of his son, at the last moment of his life, and was gloriously saved. He had no time to do any good works and yet he was saved.” I would like to add to the other replies here (and I have not read them all so I hope I am not duplicating) and humbly submit the following for your consideration: the thief on the cross had time for at least five good works.

      1. He rebuked a sinner. (Luke 23:40)
      2. He acknowledged his own sin. (Luke 23:41)
      3. He acknowledged Christ was sinless. (also Luke 23:41)
      4. He acknowledged that Christ was King of Heaven and Earth. (Luke 23:42)
      5. He asked forgiveness. (also Luke 23:42)

      Indeed, the thief was saved by his faith. His faith was so alive and so powerful that in the space of only a few moments he completed five good works. As a result of his faith manifested in good works, Christ took him to paradise that very day (Luke 23:43).



      1. Thank you for clarifying, your response will bring light to many Catholics, including myself ??and will hopefully give our Protestant brothers and sisters some light as well! God bless you!

    4. Rob, you are right “by Faith alone, we are saved”. But do you think that your faith is constant ? Every time in your life you have constant faith and no doubts, no failings ? Do not be naive. You can live a good faithful life, at the end to become self-sufficient and … For reference – Solomon, Saul, Judas Iscariot… Need more ? Read carefully the Bible and do not become so self confident, but ask for God’s mercy over your sins every day. Paul says ” by faith alone”, but this faith needs to be supported by good reading, repentance, giving water, food, clothes to those little ones…All those are good deeds.

  9. Good works, or “positive actions” are NOT done TO be saved, but BECAUSE we are saved. No amount of good deeds can grant us access into Heaven, which is why we needed Jesus Christ to sacrifice himself on the cross for the sins of the world. The author of this page sounds much like the priests at the time of Martin Luther and the Reformation, saying that good deeds will grant you access to Heaven. Since no number of acts can grant us access to Heaven, FAITH ALONE is what saves us. Hope this was helpful and God bless!

  10. All the verses that speak of being judged, speak of “according” to what we have done… accordance to….not because….it changes your motivation….if you insert because instead of according, your motivation for doing good is reward….good works are not the cause of salvation but the fruit of salvation…a tree is known by its fruit not vice versa…we do good works out of love, he loved us first, the greatest command in the bible is to love god with all your heart mind and soul..we can do this because he loved us even while we are sinners and sent his son to die for all our sins…and offered a gift that is available to all.

  11. Okecho Augustine

    Majority of Christians today are just hypocrites but not the true followers of Christ. If you say that faith alone will save us, yet James said that faith without good works is dead.
    Faith with good works means that you changed your physical body your heart doesnt changed by God.
    Even Witchdoctors Believes that Jesus was a true son of God, Died on the cross, buried & risen, then that means that they will go to heaven bse they believe that Jesus died & risen?
    If you find a street child & you tell that child Jesus loves you & you leave that child to die of hunger, now where is your faith? will you go to heaven as proclaim?
    If you believe that Jesus dies for your sins & saved you. One day you will be going to church while driving your vehicle & you find a woman lie along side the road in a terrible labour pain, but you just by pass her saying for late for service in church, but while you just entered the church, the woman died. Now brothers & sisters where is your faith? will you to heaven??


  13. Of course Jesus’ sacrifice is enough for salvation. The Catholic opinion is that one who claims to be a Christian and accept Christ as Lord yet does not live according to Christ’s teachings is a hypocrite. Therefore, someone who claims faith and lives a life of unrepentant sin has no true faith and cannot enter heaven unless he repents and truly accepts the Christ.

    There are several quotes from the bible saying faith alone and several saying good works. These are not contradictions, these teachings are complimentary for faith creates the want to do good just as marriage creates love. The early church fathers believes this and do too does the modern Catholic Church.

    God bless you all.

  14. The Bible never says doing “good deeds” get you to heaven, but it say that all you have to do is accept the gift of Grace and Salvation. Example: “Grace is like an elevator to heaven. The Catholics are like “if we climb all the way to heaven, we will get there!” which then they have to take a super tall staircase which only leads to a locked gate? If you accept Grace, you will have access to the elevator, in which is the Biblical way of getting to heaven.
    Im not saying that you shouldn’t be a good person because the Bible says that, but say(for example) Adolf Hitler was a Christian. He would have still gone to heaven (not that a Christian would kill thousands of innocent people).
    So accept Grace, and you will go strait up to heaven right after your final breath.
    Jesus loves you, and if He said all you have to do is do good deeds and you will go to heaven, why should He have to die for us?
    If you have any questions (can be about anything Biblical), comments, or “critiques” text me at [email protected]
    God Bless, and remember, The choice to accept God’s Gift is Yours.
    –(THE FERG)

  15. Yes we are saved by grace and not by good works! Yet the scriptures says that our works will be tested by fire. For what? On this note, i will advice all and sundry to read the “reamer” and not just the “logo” and stop contradicting yourselves. Salvation is a process and not mechanical. Now i put this question to you “Is one saved always saved?”

  16. Sad sad sad! I could NOT believe what the author of this article had written about being in right standing with God by POSITIVE ACTION!
    AFTER Jesus sacrificed for our sins, that was it! He made us ALL right standing with our Father NO MATTER WHAT WE DID/DO & no amount of POSITIVE ACTIONS, good works or sinning will do anything to change that! With that said, faith without works is not the biblical instruction for getting into heaven! Faith that Jesus took all our sin upon him and receiving that in our hearts IS FAITH IN ACTION ! No amount of POSITIVE ACTION is going to change that ! The entire catholic religion has had propaganda and alterior motives since it’s very start & I feel so sorry for all those raised not knowing any better; unless some serious bible study has been done, there will continually be ignorant people doing all the wrong things and that’s what the devil wants !
    Now I truly believe that our Father truly digs to have ritual romantic ceremonial practices but there is such a very desperate need for revelation
    Not only that, there is so many books studies and literature proving time and time again over & over thru out history the balogna the Catholic Church has successfully fed the masses – plus why do you go to a priest for Hail Marys & worship other idols when the bible specifically instructs otherwise !? What in the world do Catholics think Jesus was doing up there on the cross if we have to do the same crap as was done before he died !? Honestly !! Pull ur heads out of the popes ass and study the bible like ur life depends on it !

    1. Protestants’ justification just so they can sin. Look at King Henry, I’m pretty sure that tyrant went straight to hell

  17. Many good comments. As Christians lets work to come together regardless of our doctrine. I believe love transcends faith and works. First God’s love and then ours. His love is perfect and ours is not, until we join Him in heaven, where our love is purified and perfected. Until then keep loving Him and your neighbor as best you can.

  18. Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear “NOT BY WORKS”. It did not say GOOD or BAD, it simply says “NOT BY WORKS”. But, in 2:10 it says, “…created in Christ Jesus for GOOD WORKS…” There is not much reasoning, “good works”, but FAITH alone. Grace is sufficient in order to have eternal life.
    Since man sinful by nature he is unable to believe if faith would not come from heaven, from God. Even faith comes from God.

  19. joseph rukeijakare

    in my talk trying to distinguish catholic
    religion and afventists about dabath and their chriticism of the cstholic church i refered to isaah chspter 10 instead of chapter 9 which chapter the rabis were preventing people ftom reading am sorry for the mistake.

  20. I am a catholic. I have few clarifications.

    1. When the priest says the mass(Holy communion) – should he wear or do not wear any footwear ?

  21. Ephesians 2:8-9 says we are saved by faith alone and _not by works and its literally proven by the thief on the cross being saved by Jesus.
    If you die immediately after accepting Christ you are saved just as much as a person who once saved, does good works for years.
    Works happen only after you’ve been saved so I can’t understand the Catholic dogma that requires works as _part of salvation.
    Because Christians come to understand the love of Jesus after salvation they also _want to do good works in their grace walk in becoming more like Jesus.
    What do Catholics say to totally disabled people who are saved by grace ? ‘Well, its too bad you can’t do anything because if you _could, you’d be saved but since Catholic doctrine says you have to work for your salvation, you aren’t.’
    We Christians will take all those you Catholics won’t accept because like Christ said, salvation is for anyone who believes.
    Paul made it _abundantly clear that it was faith alone through grace in Eph 2: 8_9 that saves us and _not works so we could not boast.
    Do Catholics require works so they _can boast ?
    Sounds like false doctrine to me.

    1. Jesus won’t save you if you are still committing bad works or no good works at all! What is faith if you are still sinning or actively ignoring the needy!

    2. terrance g hawkinswoth anti-

      Wrong, you miss the whole point of the article. It sounds like you are ingrained with anti-catholic sentiment.

  22. It is scary to know that the Gospel is being shared like this, but it is.

    Galatians 1:6-9 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed! VERSE 7 STATES, WHICH IS NOT ANOTHER. WHEN YOU REFERENCE ANOTHER BOOK LIKE THE CATECHISM, ARE YOU NOT CHANGING THE GOSPEL, FOR ALL THE ANSWERS NEEDED WILL BE IN THE BIBLE, NOT ANOTHER, RIGHT?

    If you could work your way to heaven, then Jesus dying on the cross was in vain. Gal 2:21″…for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
    I’ve seen the referenced scriptures of paying the debt, but no where does it say that the person died and then his debt was forgiven. It’s being assumed, and preached as so. (Mt 5:25-26 is what I’m referencing) There are people today that serve time and don’t get released til they have aid their due. Why couldn’t it mean that?

    Another fallacy: “The less negative actions we perform the more we remain in good standing with God.” I was like WHAT??? So just a few sins is ok? C’mon…I’m adding scriptures in case there are people wanting to reference the bible. If someone gives an opinion, we should be able to go back to scripture and verify, and not by a whim, meaning well maybe it means this, so we’ll preach this. God’s word is clear.

    2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

    ACTS 13:39 NKJ
    39 “and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
    ROMANS 5:1,9 NKJ
    1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
    9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
    ROMANS 10:9-10 NKJ
    9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

    10 For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.

    Matthew 10:32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

    1 JOHN 1:9 NKJ
    9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
    ROMANS 3:20
    20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight . . .(this rules out purgatory.

  23. Joseph Rukeijakare

    Why do people cling to Sabbath and blame the catholic church that we changed the day/ Constantine has never been the Pope of the Catholics did he have power to change the day. The catholic church is different from the Jewish religion.
    The Jewish religion prays on Sabbath for us we pray Sunday.
    The church is a new Creation. on Sunday when Jesus resurrected. the church had never been there until Pentecost day. If Jesus wanted us to pray on Saturday why did He rise from the dead on Sunday. Why did the Holy Spirit come on Sunday. Why did Paul and other apostles leave the Jewish religion.
    That was God’s Plan with His new arrangement. We are not saved by commandments but by the blood of Jesus. Make a distinction between faith and the law. People must make a distinction between salvation and the Law. Mind you the Apostles were praying in their church houses on the first day of the week. Paul was chased out of the synagogue and went to hire another room. To pray in the synagogue you have to denounce Jesus and that is why the apostles were chased a way from he synagogue. Stop saying Constantine brought Sunday we were already praying even at the day of Pentecost. Did the Apostles go to pray on Sabbath before the Holy Spirit came? He [Jesus} had authorized them to remain in Jerusalem till He sends a helper. From now onwards Adventists should stop saying Constantine authorized for praying on Sunday.
    This was Gods arrangement. The Jews had Jesus killed for two reasons.J Profaning the Sabbath and calling Himself God ,this is very clear in the Bible
    John chapter 5:17 If you want to pray on your Sabath go on but this will not Save you. There are two faiths you can choose from read Romans Chapter 10.

  24. I was married in the catholic church and I am now divorced. I have remarried in a civil ceremony. If I want to recieve communion do I need to change my religon? I feel sometimes that the catholic church is telling me, that I am good enough for them to accept my monthly tithes but I’m not I’m not good enough for communion.

  25. In Ephesians it states”for by faith we are saved through faith, not by works lest any man should boast”
    I also believe that faith without works is dead. Are these two scriptures the foundation for The Catholics belief that faith and works get you to heaven?

  26. I think the catholic position is pushing the scriptures a bit far.

    I believe Sola Fide is contextual. For example, in the example of the thief on the cross, it is sola fide. It was by his faith alone that he was saved. You said before that this case is a bad example of sola scriptura, on the contrary it is the definitive example of sola fide.

    That is not to say that works are not neccesary. If you have accepted Jesus as your lord and saviour, you should live a righteous life. That is to live a life which is pleasing to God.

    The point you miss however, is that it is ultimately about faith. Why? Because you will never do enough good works. What is the threshold by which you have done enough good works? The bible surely has never sent a threshold. Do I need to help the poor 10 times? 100 times?

    Of course, you cannot claim sola fide if you say you believe then do nothing based on your faith – I agree with this. But that is not to say that works are essential. The thief on the cross shows this. It shows that ultimately that you CAN be saved without works – if it comes down to it. But surely God will never save someone who has done works but does not have faith.

    1. In St. Matthew’s gospel, there are verses which describe the final judgement of the nations at the end times where the goats are separated from the sheep. The gospel writer does not qualify whether these nations have heard the Gospel. In this account, Jesus saves those who have done good by caring for the poor and needy and not necessarily those that have called him “Lord”. Salvation by faith alone in this passage is not supported as in the case of the thief on the cross who was dying which is an exceptional circumstance. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans also writes that hope saves and furthermore, in his letter to the Corinthians says that among the virtues of faith, hope and love; love is the greatest and further writes about about “faith working out in love”. The doctrine of Sola Fide is to narrow, excludes the other truths about our faith and thereby prevents a full understanding of Christ’s saving act.

      1. I don’t understand why you think God would “make an exception” for the thief on the cross. (Unless I read it wrong) God is a just God his ways unchanging and he shows favoritism to no one.

        1. Oh, but you failed to see that God is a merciful GOD. 🙂 Not favoritism, only his undying love and mercy. You level God to a human’s attributes, except He is not.

    2. For the thief, this was his moment of conversion. It was for him, his bapism. At this point, all his sins were forgiven and his soul was wiped clean. Catholics too believe that if one dies immediately after baptism, salvation is assured. Had the thief not died, but lived and continued his sinful ways his salvation would not be assured. Choosing Christ is a life-long commitment, and we can at anytime throw everything away by turning against God and choosing what he forbids over what he loves. Our lives must be an attempt to imitate Christ’s.

      1. After truly repenting and accepting the Lord Jesus Christ there is no going back, no one who is truly saved would ever go back, God says behold I make all things new.

  27. It is amazing to me the number of folks that follow Luther’s ideas like solo scriptura, epistle of straw, etc,etc hook line and sinker. They recite it, post it, speak of it nonstop never once stopping to examine the character of the man and the fact that he took it upon himself to alter the Holy Bible. Wake up, learn about the early Church history, read some things written before Luther and Calvin. Faith without works is dead my protesting friends and yes, that’s in the scriptures, google it.

    1. Joseph Rukeijakare

      i am in support of the individual talking about Martin Luther. First the Bible is claimed to be Holy. if it is Holy and the writers were inspired why did Luther remove the other 7 books. People should not follow his reasoning for removing the Books for the Bible had been written by Jerome 1000 years before Luther was born. Why did the Jews reject those books. Two main reasons they were written in the Greek language. Some scriptures would imply Jesus who they did not want. Are you aware that they had prevented People from reading Isiah chapter 10.
      Mind you the book is called the Septuagint because 70 Jews were sent to Egypt to write those books. In any case the Jews even when not using these books will never forget Antioch-us 1V and the Maccabees who fought against him
      Some funny people say that the Jews rejected the book and so they are right also to reject them. Are you aware that they don’t have the new testament.
      Sometimes i wonder you accept Luther and don’t follow him why? follow him so that your religion is one like the catholic church. Jesus said You are Peter a
      and on this rock i will build my church. Mathew chapter 16:17 and on. He never said I will build other churches and He will never say it because He says He is married to his church. Are you aware Luther had married a nun secretly
      as he was leaving the church. How can his removal of those books be inspired?

      1. “St. Jerome distinguished between canonical books and ecclesiastical books. The latter he judged were circulated by the Church as good spiritual reading but were not recognized as authoritative Scripture. The situation remained unclear in the ensuing centuries…For example, John of Damascus, Gregory the Great, Walafrid, Nicolas of Lyra and Tostado continued to doubt the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books. According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church at the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the Old Testament Canon. That this had not been done previously is apparent from the uncertainty that persisted up to the time of Trent” (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, The Canon).

  28. While listening to a Christian talk show on the radio yesterday, I heard a caller ask a question that went something like this: Would Jesus regard a good thought in the same way that he would regard a good act?

    The talk show host’s indicated that good thoughts would not be regarded by Jesus in the same way a good act would be.

    This question brought to mind Matthew 5:28 (ESV) where Jesus says: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    Should this passage alter, in any way, the talk show host’s answer to the caller’s question? If so, how?

  29. Wrt to sola scriptura, this is really a man made doctrine created in the 15th century by martin luther. Martin Luther distorted the scripture by adding the German word for alone to satisfy its faith alone doctrine.

    Ephesians 2:8-9 is not enough just like faith alone it is lacking in substance, it is only complete when you include verse 10 which fully state
    Ephesians 2:8-10
    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

    I think the Catholic stands on Good works can be explained from verse 10 of Ephesians Chapter 2.

    1. I guess my real question is “Was Martin Luther influenced by the Holy Spirit?” if so then what he did might be considered right, if the Prophets and others can write the bible then what makes what he did any different, At the time Luther and Calvin felt the church was too corrupt, so they decided to change things, does that make them bad?

      1. Hi! I believed in Eph 2:8-9 saying that it is our faith in Christ Jesus that saved us. However according to James, that faith must be a saving faith. If somebody claims to be saved because of his faith inChrist Jesus but no verifiable fruits or acts of righteousness that can be seen in his life, then that faith is dead and hence does not save. The teaching of James 2:24 does not contradict Pauline’s doctrine on Sola Fide, it simply expounds it for us to clearly understand that at first there is an imputed righteousness as a result of our faith in Christ bec of His unmerited favor but after that, ther should be also a progressive righteousness that can be seen in our lives, the sanctification process where the fruits of the Holy Spirit and acts of righteousness are made manifest. That is a genuine faith that can save us from the judgment of God against damnation of sin.

  30. What are considered “good works” specifically? Because I read that alms giving alone isn’t considered good works. I have been enrolled in the brown scapular and have been following the prayers and things we must do while we wear it. One of the options of things to do while we wear it is to “do a good work (with permission of a priest)” A good worth with a priests permission?? What does that mean? It makes me think something within the church other than charity. Good works has been popping up a lot lately but I don’t know what it means exactly. Can you give me examples. Thank you. Oh and Patricia is just my online name. I don’t like giving out my real name online. lol God Bless.

    1. God offers forgiveness and still wants you to do his will living as Jesus taught us to live. You can repair your relationship with God through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

      1. Why most of your teachings are not found in the bible? For example is Mary’s immaculate conception, worship of idols, Mary as the queen of heaven? What about purgatory? How would you interpret Heb 9:27 where the judgement of God ensues after death? What is the purpose of praying for the dead and where is it found in the bible? You also teach that the pope is infallible, what about Rom 3:23, Eccl 7:20 or Rom 3:10? The Cathechism of RC is full of teachings that are not conforming to the scripture, man-made teachings?

      1. Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever BELIEVES in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

        Salvation is not found in good works, money or religion. Its only through faith in Jesus. The punishment of Sin is death (Rm6:23) but the gift of God is Eternal Life. A gift is something freely given and not earned. We can never earn salvation. All you have to do is give your heart to Christ.

        Good works is the result of your faith in Christ. There is a big difference here from doing good works to go to heaven. A christian who accepted Christ do good works because of his love for Christ. A catholic can do good works out of fear that he may not go to heaven.

        1. Scripture still says that good works are necessary. Faith alone is not sufficient. What do you consider good works?

          1. I think you’re incorrect there. Christ’s work on the cross was complete, once and for all. A person who believes that Christ is Lord of all and His sacrifice was for my sin, can not help but live for Him doing things to glorify Him. We could never do enough to be righteous before God in our own selves, all our works are filthy rags in His sight. You know these scriptures.
            I read all these comments online and it’s baffling, so much arrogance, so much “I’m right”.
            The criticism and arguing needs to stop bcuz it’s not glorifying God. And you would think that people who truly love Christ could find common ground and strive to be in some way united. The only way anyone will ever understand scripture correctly is through the Holy Spirit’s guidance so lighten up, examine yourself, and see if maybe 2000 years of human beings hasn’t had just a little bit of an effect on our understanding of Christianity, the Bible, and God’s plan for salvation.After all, Satan is the great deceiver and he’s working very hard at confusing us. If we’re all really seeking the truth, God’s word says we’ll find it, so we should end up in the same place. The one true church is the body of Christ, which includes all believers.

          2. About Catholics

            If one “cannot help but live for Him doing things to glorify Him” does this mean God has taken away his gift of free will to choose to do right and wrong? Is free will given to us up until we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior then we no longer have free will?

          3. I agree with Lynda’s post below. Salvation is not Jesus + something. If it were, Christ’s death would be meaningless. Jesus’ died on the cross in my place, and my “old man” died with him. I am a new creature in Christ, and as such, I want to do good works to please my Savior, but they aren’t necessary for me to enter heaven. Jesus defeated death and the devil on the cross and opened the gates of heaven to all who believe in him as their Lord and Savior. Good people don’t go to heaven; forgiven people go to heaven. Thank you, Jesus, for dying in my place and securing me a spot in heaven.

          4. About Catholics

            If your faith bore no fruit, your salvation would not occur. Jesus paid a price to redeem you and you must accept that through faith, but also through living your life. This is the simplest way I understand works to be necessary for salvation. Christ’s death is meaningless if you reject his free gift by not living your faith (i.e. works).

      2. Do you have the assurance of eternal life? Please you guys teach the scripture so people will be set free from lies and they will not be easily converted to other religion because of your hollow and man made teachings. It is very clear that only the finished works of Jesus in Calvary can provide us the salvation from condemnation. Please teach Acts 4:12, John 3:16, 1 John 5:11-12, John 14:6 and a lot more that Mary also believed as one in need of salvation.

  31. In the verse I belive James is saying that faith is shown by deeds. How can you say you have faith but not show it.

    His reference to Abraham and Isaac was that Abraham shows his faith by his works, not that his works saved him they were simply his faith showing through his works.

    1. Hi Andrew. I wrote a follow up article to this one just a few days ago.

      I think we mostly agree, but I want to add this to clarify that salvation is not through faith alone. Read the scripture. It clearly says Abraham’s works saved him. It’s not works alone, but his faith and works. His works only save him because of his faith, but his faith without his works is dead. The Scriptures actually say, “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24)

  32. Hi Jon, Please don’t take this message as bold or negative but only truthful. When someone reads, interprets and lives the Bible it should be done so in correct context. You stated in the website that, “Nowhere in the Bible does it say salvation is by faith alone.” I am not sure which version of God’s Word you are reading but Ephesians 2:8-9 reads, “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” I feel that is very clear to anyone who reads the verses in context. You may want to also consult the CARM website at which has great resources all from the Holy Bible. Thank you for reading, Paul

    1. Thank you, Paul. I do not take offense. The works Paul references in Ephesians and Romans are the works of the Law, the Torah. Paul is making the point that faith in Jesus Christ, not the deeds prescribed in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, are what saves someone. It is not an admonishment of all “works” (i.e. deeds or actions that one can commit). This is a very common misinterpretation of this passage. However, if you take your position, how do you reconcile it with James that faith without works is dead? James 2:17: “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Read the whole passage of James 2:14-26 ( and some footnotes that accompany that passage ( The Bible makes it very clear that “works” have salvific merit. James even uses concrete examples from the Old Testament to prove his point. It’s as if James 2:14-26 was written in anticipation of this debate. Thanks for visiting the site!

      1. If good works do not follow, it is clear that there is no true and proper faith; none that justifies and saves. If faith produces no fruit of good living, that fact proves that it is dead, that it has no power, and that it is of no value. This shows that James was not arguing against real and genuine faith, nor against its importance in justification, but against the supposition that mere faith was all that was necessary to save a man, whether it was accompanied by good works or not. He maintains that if there is genuine faith it will always be accompanied by good works, and that it is only that faith which can justify and save.

        James and Paul both agree in the necessity of true faith in order to salvation; they both agree that the tendency of true faith is to produce a holy life; they both agree that where there is not a holy life there is no true religion, and that a man cannot be saved. We may learn, then, from the whole doctrine of the New Testament on the subject, that unless we believe in the Lord Jesus we cannot be justified before God; and that unless our faith is of that kind which will produce holy living, it has no more of the characteristics of true religion than a dead body has of a living man.
        Extract Taken from

        This explanation gave me peace. God Bless

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