Q. 1. Does works play a role in salvation? If so, what role does it play? Can one be saved without works?
A. 1. In the Holy Bible we read:
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?" [Jas. 2:14] "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." [Jas. 2:17] "You see that faith was active along with His (Abraham) works, and faith was brought to completion by the works." [Jas. 2:17] "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." [Jas. 2:24] "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without work is also dead." [Jas. 2:26]
Now I will take a moment to explain the above passages so you can understand the role of works in salvation. Genuine faith is always accompanied by good works because such works are spiritual fruits that flourish from genuine faith. If good works are not present, then one's faith in Jesus is not a genuine faith.
Catholics also believe that good works preserve and increase their personal righteousness for their final justification.
The Catholic Church teaches that sinners cannot rely by faith alone on the mercy of God. Nor can sinners believe that sins are forgiven for Christís sake only. Something else is required. One must keep himself justified by his own good works. He must merit grace and eternal life by his works.
It is insufficient to go to Church on Sunday, to receive the Sacraments, to pray or to go on pilgrimages. Such spiritual devotions reflect basic faith. Faith without works is dead. Salvation requires both, genuine faith and Christ driven works.
How are Christ driven works achieved? When a believer has genuine faith in Christ, he commits himself to the service of the Lord. Such a commitment is one's fiat ('let it be done") to God. Through his fiat, he gives the Holy Spirit access to his person as an instrument of God's grace. Consequently the Lord uses the individual as an instrument of grace. Christ driven works then flows from the Christian. The works "do not" originate from the natural ability or desire of the person. Such works are performed by Jesus Christ through the believer.
Christ driven works flourish from the supernatural characteristic that Jesus has blessed upon the Christian. A supernatural characteristic is a spiritual mark that has been etched by God upon the soul. That soul now belongs to God.
Now to use an example. Let us say that you are walking on the street and you see an old lady slip and fall. You rush to her, help her up, ask her if she is alright and if you can be of further assistance to her. Once you know that she can continue on her own, you depart. Through this action was displayed an example of Christ driven works.
Now let us look back at what happened. When you saw the old lady slip and fall, you did not stop to ask yourself if you should run to her assistance. Through you, having access to your person, the Spirit of Jesus reached out to the lady and helped her up. While you were aware of what was happening around you, it was not you who was acting, it was the Lord Jesus who was acting through you.
Such is an example of Christ driven works that flows from genuine faith in Jesus. So when you see a "dedicated" Catholic believer performing Christ driven works as Mother Teresa did, what you are witnessing is the fruits (works) of genuine faith that leads to salvation.
At times, the discerning of works that orginate from the individual's natural ability versus works that are Christ driven as a supernatural characteristic can be difficult. Christ driven works go beyond what one would call being addicted to serving Christ. For addiction flows from the free will of the individual. Christ driven works go beyond feeling compelled to serve, such also being within the control of the individual. Christ driven works do not result from an habitual behaviour. If one cannot answer why he is performing good works that demand much of his time and sacrifices that set him apart from his peers, then it is most likely that such good works are Christ driven work through an individual who has received a supernatural characteristic as a gift from God.