Faith and Good Works

Matthew 25:31-46
Lv 19:1-2.11-18 / Ps 19

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.’
(Matthew 25:40)

Take care that you are not deceived:
It’s not enough that we believe...
The measure that we will receive
From God depends on what we give.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put 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; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Reflection

One of my sisters who has become a “born again” Christian loves to debate on whether good works are necessary for one’s salvation. According to her, by faith alone, we are already saved. She cites St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, ch. 3, v.26: “…God justifies everyone who believes in Jesus.” And in Rom.4:6: “…God credits his righteousness apart from good works.” So, you don’t have to struggle because you are already saved by faith alone. Just put your complete trust in the Lord, because He has already completed the work for your salvation. But if this is the case, why did St. Paul say in the same letter,“…now you must present yourselves as slaves of righteousness for your sanctification”? (Rom.6:19) He also wrote to the Corinthians, “…each one of us will get what he deserves for the things he did, both good or evil.” (2Cor.5:10). In fact, if this apostle to the gentiles really believed that faith in God was sufficient for our passage to heaven, why did he have to sacrifice so much to the point of torture and near-death several times, to “please his Saviour”? St. James was quite explicit when he wrote that faith without good works is useless. (James 2:20). “A body dies when it is separated from the spirit, and in the same way faith is dead if it is separated from good works.” (James 2:26)

The kind of faith that “born-again” Christians are espousing is one that borders on presumption. Satan has deceived them into believing that God will erase all our sins because His Son had already paid for them on the cross. The evil one lulls them into complacency and unrepentance, (“no need for confession”). Our Lord never said faith in Him alone guarantees our salvation. He warned us that in the final judgment, “the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father… and will reward everyone according to His conduct.” (Mt. 16:27). And then He will separate men from one another, as the shepherd separates sheep from goats, and those who are thrown into eternal fire will ask: “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to Your help?” Then our Lord will answer, “I tell you solemnly , insofar as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to Me.” And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life (Mt. 25:44-46).

May all Your commands and decrees live in my heart to guide me and keep me from sin, to spread goodwill to all men, to help me become Your worthy steward. Amen.

3 Responses to “Faith and Good Works”

  1. conmathews  on March 4th, 2012

    Simply because one Christian is confused or ignorant of Doctrine does not allow one to generalize the understandings of that one said Christian. “Born again” believers do not believe that works are unnecessary. On the contrary, as you have pointed out, there is plenty of Biblical evidence to suggest that the case is otherwise. We simply do not believe works save us. In verse 18 of James, he states “show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works. Works are an evidence of salvation, not a requirement for salvation. Matthew 7:21-23 states that there will be those that say:”Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name? and then I will declare to them, I never knew you. depart from Me you who practice lawlessness. Works then do not save. What then? it is the faith of the worker, not the work itself. Sometimes “born again christians” become so adamant on the point of faith, that they neglect to mention works;p this I will admit of my fellow Christians. but to say we do not believe in works at all is not true, and a misrepresentation of the whole by a few.

  2. momong  on March 8th, 2012

    Thanks, but I still stand by my belief that we all need to work to earn our salvation. Jesus said it, and the Father said it. Like in today’s (March 8) first reading, the prophet Jeremiah warned: “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jer 17:10)

  3. geeme68  on March 21st, 2012

    Philippians 2:12-13, “workout your salvation with fear & trembling”

    Could it be that our basic differences are in the “semantics”?

    Nevertheless, the trouble might have originated from Luther having made no effort to see what St. Paul meant by faith. If one reads all of Paul, he basically says: 1) If God speaks a truth, believe in it; 2) If He make a promise, be confident in it; 3) If He tells you to do something, do it– “the obedience of faith”: Romans 1:5.

    Luther did not see that faith includes obedience to God, and even wrote: “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly… . No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day.” Luther further wrote:”If this article [justification by faith] stands, the church stands;’ if it falls, the church falls.”

    Since he did not know what St. Paul meant by faith, his church never did stand. — and further, he had no means of knowing which books are part of Scripture. He tried to say that if a book preaches justification by faith strongly, it is inspired. He did not notice that most books of Scripture do not even mention the subject.

    (source: Fr. William Most)