Faith Alone, or Faith with Works?
There is no theological question between Orthodox, Protestants, and Roman Catholics that Faith - which is granted us by God's Grace - is required for salvation. Because this is not a point of disagreement, this page will focus on whether or not works are required in addition to faith, and if so, what the nature of those works are. Especially important are the concepts of Works Righteousness vs. Good Works born of Faith.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works"
"By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples."
"The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people."
"For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do."
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."
2 Tim. 3:16-17
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." ... "By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
John 15:1-5, 8-11
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil."
2 Cor. 5:10
"They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work."
"Let all that you do be done in love."
1 Cor 16:14
"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."
"So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."
"And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done."
"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you."
Hopefully from the many Scriptural passages above, one must absolutely admit that Christ and the Apostles took works very seriously. One must flatly reject Scripture if one is to contend that Good Works are not a part of saving faith. If you accept Scripture as truth, you must accept the Scriptures that say good works flow out of that faith like light and heat radiate from a fire.
Orthodoxy maintains that works done in a vain and misguided attempt to earn one's salvation by one's own merits are a complete waste of energy, that salvation is indeed through faith. However, a saving faith necessarily produces good works, or it is not true faith but a sham that has no power to save. Indeed, Scripture shows us that faith without works is as worthless as works of the Law performed in an attempt to earn salvation. Furthermore, it is clear that we were created by God to produce good works - this is an expectation of God for our lives - to bear fruit. If we are given life more abundantly, it is so we might produce abundant fruit in our lives thus glorifying God our salvation.
Orthodoxy rejects both false teachings, first that works of the law performed with the intent of earning merit is in any way sufficient for salvation, and second that faith alone, by itself - a dead and lifeless faith which produces no fruit of good works - leads to salvation. It is not an either-or, but a both-and. Salvific faith is one that is vibrant and alive, flowering and fruiting with good works which are a living expression of the will of the Father. They are not motivated by a desire to earn merit, nor even an attempt to please God, but rather in being united to the Father's will our good works are as natural and unconscious as our breath or heartbeat.
The fire of our faith must cast the heat and light of good works if we are to have a living, saving faith.