The most critical question. Protestants believe in sola fide, Catholics don’t. To support sola fide, Protestants throw at you Ephesians 2:8 (and many others similar to it) which say, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith; and this is not of yourselves–it is the gift of God.” Then to support the Catholic view, Catholics present James 2:24 which says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
Ok, what to do? Here we have two seemingly contradictory statements. Which is right?
Well the answer is, both! But you must understand that the two verses are referring to different things: Paul’s statements about faith and not works are talking about initial justification; James’s, to what we will call “sequential” justification.
Initial justification is that movement of the soul whereby it is converted toward God. This is entirely by God’s grace. Catholics will agree there. Were it not for the Father’s free grace, we could not be made pleasing to Him.
Sequential justification is that continual process which occurs after God has given you His grace, and this is by works. You can’t believe and do no more. Thus, St. Paul says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
The problem is that people tend to isolate a verse as referring to both kinds of justification, which truly makes for a difficult interpretation of God’s Word.
God bless you!