"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:  it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" -Ephesians 2:8-9
Many anti-Catholics mistakenly believe that the Church teaches "works salvation".  So they quote these two verses to Catholics to "disprove" what they think is a Catholic teaching.  But the truth is, the Church condemns "works salvation" as a heresy!  Here is an actual quote from the Catholic Council of Trent:
"If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." -Council of Trent, Sixth Session, Canon I
But we do believe, as the Bible teaches, that good works play a role in the Christian life, as I will explain below.

For some reason, Evangelicals who quote Ephesians 2:8-9 never seem to go on to verse 10, which says:

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" -Ephesians 2:10.
Here is the proper understanding of the role of works in our salvation.  Works of the Law or good deeds done apart from Christ cannot save us.  We cannot "buy our way into heaven" by doing good works.  But when Christ saves us by His grace through Baptism (1 Peter 3:21), He makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and performs good deeds through and with us:
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" -Philippians 2:12-13.
These works (Catholics call them "salutary acts") are the "fruit" we bear because we are connected to Christ the Vine (John 15:1-8). They are different from the good deeds done apart from Christ by those trying to buy their way into heaven (we call those "natural good works"). For these are the works of God Himself, Who dwells in us!

So we cannot save ourselves by our works apart from Christ, but when we are saved God's works in and through us are the fruit and proof of our salvation (see James 2:14-26). This is the Church's teaching on the place of works in salvation, it is also the teaching of the Bible.

(The article "Grace and the Catholic View of Salvation" on this site gives the actual Catholic teaching on this matter.)


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