Fallen away Catholic:
It was most refreshing [talking with you]--I didn't do a complete look at faith versus works (according to what we discussed); however, I would like for you to consider Ephesians Chapter 2 starting at verses 4 through 10 with special emphasis on verse 8. I am sending this not in the spirit of argument but for your consideration.
Again it was enjoyable talking to you. Best regard
I so appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with a fellow brother in Christ. I really enjoyed talking with you as well and anticipate some good exchanges in these emails.
I have a pretty thick skin. I will take whatever is said here on your part as someone who loves Christ and wants to share what he has found to me. And so, don't worry about hurting my feelings or fear of insulting me or something. Ok?
You recommended that I read Ephesians 2, verses 4 through 10 with an emphasis on verse 8. Well, let's have a quick look at those verses shall we. Here are those exact verses from the NIV (its a little easier to read then the KJV) I hope you don't mind.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
And so we see that we are saved through faith, not by works. Now, if you look closely Paul couldn't be talking about the uselessness of good works, ie works of God since he goes on in the very next verse on the idea the God Wills that we do certain works (verse 10). Paul then, is referencing the works of the law (sacrificial law, circumcision and so on...) when he says that one is saved through faith and not by works of the law.
Look at verse 10, it says: "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do."
Now, God has prepared in advance some good works that we are to do. It is His Will that we do them. What happens if we do not do the Will of God? Answer: "‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Mat 7:21)
Faith alone isn't enough, we must also do the will of God and if we knowingly refuse to do God's Will means that we will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The verse that I believe best explains the role of faith and works is in Gal 5:6
"the only thing that counts is faith working through love."