I used to listened to a local Christian radio station near Ft. Campbell KY from time to time to check out what they would teach. On one occasion, the topic of faith and good works was the focus. I called up the radio station to see if I could enter the conversation. Unfortunately, it was only a tape recording and so there was no discussion that was live. Since it was a tape played in the studio, the only person available was the clerk answering the phone. To me that was enough!
I began my challenge with Matthew 25:31-46. If faith would get you to heaven and you do not need "good works", why would Jesus warn us if we do not perform the Corporal Works of Mercy, you would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Jesus spoke that we must feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, shelter the homeless, comfort the imprisoned, and visit the sick!
Jesus clearly states, "out of my sight, you condemned, into that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels... As often as you neglected to do it to one of these least ones, you neglected to do it to me. These will go off to eternal punishment and the just to eternal life".
As important as faith is, Jesus doesn't speak to that issue, He is speaking of works that He fully expects His people to conduct. The Lord hears the cry of the poor, we become His hands when we seek to do His will! The lady at the studio was a bit taken back! She was not expecting a rebuttal like this, especially from a Catholic! To me, this was the opening argument! If someone claims to believe in God, but does nothing to help their fellow man, I simply was taking the Lord's word on the issue.
This debate goes back to the original Protestant, Martin Luther! He taught "Faith Alone" and "Sola Scriptura", which attacked the very core and foundation of the Church. This attack would shake the Church to her foundations! The sacraments could not be "life saving" or "necessary" because they would be the products of "works"!
Luther's issue was far more than the selling of indulgences or disputes about the souls of Purgatory! This would undo 2,000 years of Christian teaching. Baptism, for example, is seen more as a public act, not a matter of necessity.
I encourage the reading of James chapter two. This speaks loudly about "faith alone" which it clearly says there is no faith alone! Philippians 2:16 states, "As I look to the day of Christ, you give me cause to boast that I did not run the race in vain or work to no purpose. Even if my life is to be poured out as a libation, over the sacrificial service of your faith. I am glad of it and rejoice with you".
St. Paul also says (Philippians 2:12), "So then, my dearly beloved, obedient as always to my urgings, work with anxious concern to achieve your salvation..." If you are studying for a test and the teacher during review stomps his foot or pounds his hands on the desk to insure you get the point, what should you do? You should take note of the essential information! Well, what does God tell us about Judgement? Our finals, the test we should all want to pass!
Jesus states, "But he who ACTS in the truth comes into the light, to make clear that his DEEDS are done in God (John 3:21)". Romans 2:5 states, "In spite of this, your hard and impenitent heart is storing up retribution for that day of wrath when the just judgement of God will be revealed, when He will repay every man for what he has DONE..."
1 Peter 1:17 says, "In prayer you call upon the Father who judges each one justly on the basis of his ACTIONS. Since this is so, conduct yourselves, reverently during this sojourn in a strange land". Hebrews 13:21 states, "Furnish you with all that is good, THAT YOU MAY DO HIS WILL. Though Jesus Christ may carry out in you all that is pleasing to Him. To Christ be the glory forever! Amen."
Revelation 22:12 states, "Remember, I am coming soon! I bring with me the reward that will be given to each man as his CONDUCT DESERVES." John 3:36 says, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever DISOBEYS the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him (Romans 5:9)".
Scripture after scripture tells us we will be held accoutable to our deeds. We must do the will of the Father! If you KEEP His Commandments, you SHOW you love Him! The Catholic Church recognize that we must be obedient in faith. The skull has what we call "infused joints" that keeps our brain protected and intact. We need each part for it to function properly. Likewise, faith and good works are infused, both are essential.
Jesus tells us to "store up heavenly treasure that no one can steal". Our faith must produce fruit! Don't take your faith and bury it in the backyard (Matthew 25:24-28). As I talked with the lady who answered the phone, I realized that the issue will not be won or lost based on this discussion. If I did nothing else, I hope that Jesus would chalk this up to one of the spiritual works of mercy, to instruct the uninformed, to be patient with those in error.
I think the Catholic Church has made some in-roads through the Protestant world! I have heard many of them tell me that "people of faith" will have good works as a result of the fruits of the spirit! That makes the argument more obsolete! Oh, Can you imagine that? Martin Luther would be rolling over in his grave if he heard that!
Faith is a gift! Good works are the product of our response to that gift. Salvation is not earned so that we can punch our own ticket, but good works that pleases God and are God ordained makes that ticket complete. The harvest is plenty but the workers are few!