The crying call of the Reformation is "Grace alone, by faith alone, in Scripture alone, all for the glory of God alone."
The break through for Martin Luther came when he realized that salvation is by grace alone - that there is nothing we could possibly do to merit or earn salvation. Salvation is purely the work of God. Salvation is something only God can do for us.
This is an absolute truth.
I have been studying the gospel according to John with the elders of our church. And one of the surprises has been Jesus' emphasis on works.
Jesus says, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath" (John 3:36).
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life...that makes perfect sense. That goes with everything we've ever been taught about salvation.
It's the next phrase that I find surprising. You would think that Jesus would say, "whoever does not believe in the Son will not see life but must endure God's wrath." But that's not what Jesus says.
He says, "whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath."
Jesus juxtaposes belief with disobedience.
And what awaits those who disobey is God's wrath. Jesus ties our obedience to salvation!
While it is absolutely true that salvation is by accepting the grace that God offers us in Jesus Christ, it is also absolutely true that there is no such thing as believing in Jesus that is not then accompanied by obedience. That's why you find Jesus repeatedly saying to those whom He heals, "Sin no more."
To think that belief in Jesus is only a mental agreement without accompanying it with our actions and deeds is simply false.
For Jesus, right behavior and our obedience naturally follows our believing Jesus. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, if we believe that He will come to judge the quick and the dead, if we believe that Jesus is King and Lord, then it only follows that we would obey.
Salvation is 100% the work of God.
And believing and accepting God's plan for salvation therefore leads to our on-going obedience. So, yes, it is faith and works.