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Faith Without Works is Dead

Faith is necessary for eternal salvation.

Faith is like the root of the tree, without which it cannot exist; it is the first step on the road to heaven; it is the key which opens the treasure-house of all the virtues. How happy is the wanderer when he lights on the road which will carry him to his journey’s end; how far happier is he who has been wandering in the search after truth when he attains to a belief in the Catholic Church; he has found the road to eternal life.

The saints always set the greatest store on the possession of the faith. “I thank God unceasingly,” said the good King Alphonsus of Castile, “not that I am a king, but that I am a Catholic.” Without faith there is no salvation. Our Lord says, “He that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). St. Paul says that “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6).

Faith is like a boat; as without a boat you cannot cross the sea, so without faith you cannot arrive at the port of eternal salvation. It is like the pillar of the cloud which led the Israelites across the desert, or like the star that guided the Wise Men to Christ. Without faith we can do no good works pleasing to God, or which will merit for us a reward in heaven. Acts of kindness, etc., done from a natural motive earn a reward in this life, but not in the next. They are like a building which has no foundation. Just as from the root placed in the ground arises the beautiful plant, with its leaves and flowers, so from the root of faith arises good works.

Faith in God gives rise to a love of Him, and confidence in Him, and this enables us to labor and suffer for Him. Faith in our eternal reward encourages us in our toilsome journey through life. It gave Job his patience, Tobias his generosity to the poor, and the martyrs their constancy. Faith provides us with the means of resisting temptation; it is the lighthouse which enables the mariner to avoid the hidden rocks and quicksands. It is the shield that enables us to extinguish all the fiery darts of the wicked one (Eph. 6:16). On the amount of our faith depends the amount that we possess of the other virtues, and the amount of grace that we receive from God.

Faith alone is not sufficient for salvation.

It must be a living faith; that is, we must add to it good works and must be ready to confess it openly.

A living faith is one which produces works pleasing to God. Our Lord says, “Not every one who saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of My Father Who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). He who has done no works of mercy will be condemned at the judgment (Matt. 25:41). Such a one is like the devils, who believe and disobey (Jas. 2:19).

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (Jas. 2:26). Faith without works is like a tree without fruit, or like a lamp without oil. The foolish virgins had faith, but no works. Good works, such as are necessary for salvation, can only be performed by one who is in possession of sanctifying grace, and loves God in his heart. Hence St. Paul says, “If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains and have not charity, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).

We must also be ready to confess our faith. “With the heart we believe unto justice; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10). Man consists of body and soul, and therefore must honor God, not only inwardly, but also outwardly. Christ promises the kingdom of heaven only to those who confess Him before men (Matt. 10:32).

This article is taken from a chapter in The Catechism Explained by Rev. Francis Spirago, which is available from TAN Books.

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