What is the relationship between faith & works?

by Matt Slick

The relationship between faith and works is that works are the result of faith.  In the Bible, faith and works are very often contrasted.  They are not the same thing, and the combination of faith and works does not bring salvation.  Salvation is by faith alone.

  • Rom. 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
  • Rom. 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.”
  • Gal. 2:16, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus…”

False religious systems always teach that faith plus a person's works result in salvation.  This is false, because our good works are filthy rags before God (Isa. 64:6).  Therefore, we can’t do anything to please God by our good works.  Gal. 2:21 says that if righteousness comes by the law (works), then Christ died needlessly.

Faith without works is dead

James 2:26 says that faith without works is dead, but what James is talking about is that dead faith produces no works.  The context of the chapter begins in verse 14 where James says, “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?”  Notice that James asks, “can that faith save him?"  The faith he is talking about is false faith, which he further clarifies when he mentions how the devil also believes in God (v. 19).  The Devil has dead faith.  He only acknowledges God’s existence.

So, with a real Christian, good works are the result of saving faith, not a contributing factor to salvation.  Nor do our good works keep us saved.  If that were the case, then salvation would be by works.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.