So what good is it if one has faith but has no works? Now, we can all agree that faith is an indispensable ingredient to attain salvation, to be saved, but is faith alone for salvation the teaching of Scripture and the Church?
Today’s second reading gives us a strong clue of the answer to that question. James says that “faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Seems pretty clear but then you’ll have those who tell you that one can have a dead faith or a living faith and because they have at least one type of faith then they are ‘saved’.
Can a dead faith save you? Some say yes because they have believe that one is saved through faith alone. And yet we find Scripture teaching very different things. In the same chapter of James, just a few lines following today's passage we see that James also emphatically states that “..as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” We see here that James has made the ‘body’ analogous to ‘faith’ and ‘the spirit’ analogous to ‘works’. Now how useful or life inducing is it if the body is without the spirit? In the same way, faith, if it has no works is useless, that is, lifeless.
Lifeless… Kinda points to not saved right? But let’s see what Jesus has to say on ones works and how it relates to salvation. Jesus teaches throughout the Gospels that one is judged by ones works. In the story about Judgement Day in Matthew 25, we see Jesus separates the sheep from the goats on the simple criteria of whether one has ‘clothed the naked’, ‘fed the hungry’ and gave drank ‘the to the thirsty’, and so forth. Something that one DOES. If one does NOT do those things that the Father Wills us to do then we are sent to eternal punishment (Mat 25:46).
The Catholic website (www.catholic.com) puts it succinctly when it states that:
The Church teaches that it's God's grace from beginning to end which justifies, sanctifies, and saves us. As Paul explains in Philippians 2:13, "God is the one, who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work."
Notice that Paul's words presuppose that the faithful Christian is not just desiring to be righteous, but is actively working toward it. This is the second half of the justification equation, and Protestants either miss or ignore it. (http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/why-does-the-church-teach-that-works-can-obtain-salvation)
And finally, if one tries to convince you that one is saved by faith alone just point out James 2:24 which states directly that “…a man is justified [ie saved] by works and not by faith alone.”