Catholic doctrine says:
…we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that
precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification. (Trent VI, Chapter VIII)
Therefore, it is true, that we are saved by faith and works, but only in a manner of speaking.
Our faith does not save, we don’t save ourselves.
Our works do not save, we don’t save ourselves.
God saves those who demonstrate their faith in works of love. God grants eternal life to those who keep His Commandments.
Romans 2:13 For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
Revelation 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
Do you see the difference between being saved by works? And those who persevere in good works being saved by God?
Here’s an easy way to understand it. Let’s say that a man lives all his life doing that which he thinks are good deeds. Then he dies. Does he automatically go to heaven? No. He must first be judged by God. Claims of good deeds or of good faith, amount to nothing until God judges them meritorious and declares that this person will enter heaven.
Is that in the Bible? Yes. It is in Matthew 7 where Jesus says:
Matt 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
These people thought they had done the will of God. But they were surprised to find out that they were doing their own will and not God’s. I fear this is what is going to happen to all those Protestants who are out there declaring themselves saved and teaching others to follow their example.
So, is it wrong to say we are saved by works?
No. I don’t believe it is. That is how Scripture says we are saved. Let’s look at the Epistle of St. James, 2:24.
James 2:24Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only?
By works a man is justified. To be justified means to become a friend of God. Thus, to be saved. But St. James, an Apostle of Jesus Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit, understood that this meant that God would judge a man’s works at the Last Day. He understood that we could not simply proclaim ourselves saved based upon a personal judgement of our deeds or of our purported faith.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. And again:
James 5:9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
Folks, we have one Judge. And you are not He. Do not claim for yourself salvation, thus making yourself a god. It is the sin of presumption to declare yourself saved. Scripture says:
1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. 2 Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful. 3 But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man’s day; but neither do I judge my own self. 4 For I am not conscious to myself of any thing, yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me, is the Lord.
All that to say that, yes, we are saved by works, but only in a manner of speaking. It is more correct to say that God saves those who have done His will in this life. Because they have done good in His eyes.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all be manifested before the judgement seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil.