Now there were among the Hebrews three outstanding offices of dignity, which made the nation famous, firstly the kingship, secondly that of prophet, and lastly the high priesthood. The prophecies said that the abolition and complete destruction of all these three together would be the sign of the presence of the Christ. And that the proofs that the times had come, would lie in the ceasing of the Mosaic worship, the desolation of Jerusalem and its Temple, and the subjection of the whole Jewish race to its enemies…The holy oracles foretold that all these changes, which had not been made in the days of the prophets of old, would take place at the coming of the Christ, which I will presently shew to have been fulfilled as never before in accordance with the predictions.” (Eusebius, Demonstratio Evangelica VIII)
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read and comment on your blog post, “Do Catholics Believe in Justification by Faith Alone?” Your post is thoughtful and engaging as is usual from you. At the risk of being overly succint, I offer a response in the form of the following points:
1. You mix sanctification and justification. It is vital that they be understood distictly, otherwise no ground is left for assurance of salvation, for “in much we offend all”, even as regenerate Christians. A justification in part based on our own righteous works, (albeit works the Holy Spirit is producing in us) is but a house built upon sand, because we are still sinners.
2. Our good works cannot be the forensic and juridicial basis for our right standing before God, and our full acquittal for having broken his holy law, because they are still quite tainted by sin. By that standard, we would perish, even by the works that the grace of God produces in us. It is not enough to obey somewhat in sin-tainted works. The law requires perfect obedience, not partial obedience.
3. Even if Christian perfection were something that could be attained in this life, as Wesley and some others have (erroneously) taught, this would be entirely insufficient as a basis for a standing of righteousness before God’s law-court. Once one has offended, one doesn’t make up for it by doing good works–even sinless good works. One offense is sufficient to bring condemnation. Furthermore the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity imputes sin and its guilt to them, and this is alone sufficient to prevent anyone from being justified by the most sinless, perfect good works (if it were possible for us to do such works.)
4. God promises in Scripture to reward the good works of the saints, not because of some instrinsic worth in them inducing him to be pleased with them, for in every good work we yet have the taint of sin, which is naturally a stink to his nostrils. He has promised to reward them not of merit, but of grace, through the Mediatorial intercession of Jesus Christ, forgiving even the iniquity of our good works and accepting them for the sake of Christ’s own righteousness.
5. It may still be possible for a loyal Roman Catholic to hold to a monergistic soteriology as did the Jansenists, Augustinians and Dominican friars, but this is questionable since the Council of Trent, which adopted a Jesuitical semi-pelagian view that seemed to the then pope to contrast better with the Protestant Reformers. But this is not justification.
6. In answer to your question, as you demonstrate in your post, the Roman Catholic view is justification, not by faith alone, but by faith, hope, and love.
7. An imputed alien righteousness is no more a “legal” fiction than citizenship status conferred to an adopted child, recognized by courts of law. What is external is made internal in time, by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Justification is a declaratory and forensic declaration of righteousness by imputation.
8. While it’s true that “without holiness shall no man see the Lord”, this is not a part and parcel of justification, but its fruit. It’s not that the justified sinner lacks any legal or forensic right to be accepted in God’s presence–it’s just a matter of practical fitness, since God is holy, and there can be no sin in his presence. Furthermore, it is the goal of his grace to make us holy, so that we will on that day be fit to dwell in his presence. Eph 1:4
9. I recommend that you and others studying justification read carefully the OPC Report on Justification, which makes important distinctions in these topics we’re discussing in response to some new and romanizing teachings on justification in Reformed circles, namely the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwi43_DVltPPAhUBVGMKHXerCwAQFggeMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.opc.org%2FGA%2Fjustification.pdf&usg=AFQjCNFkx_ZgNbV-Lm0-J2cj5hffaxULjQ
169 Let my cry come before You, O LORD;
Give me understanding according to Your word.
170 Let my supplication come before You;
Deliver me according to Your word.
171 My lips shall utter praise,
For You teach me Your statutes.
172 My tongue shall speak of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness.
173 Let Your hand become my help,
For I have chosen Your precepts.
174 I long for Your salvation, O LORD,
And Your law is my delight.
175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise You;
And let Your judgments help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
Seek Your servant,
For I do not forget Your commandments. Psalm 119 nkj
The psalmist cries to the LORD for help, but in what? He asks God to teach him His statutes. There is a teaching through the ear. When we hear the word of God, like when it is preached, we are being taught. Likewise also when we read it. But there is an inner teaching of the Holy Spirit as well, that all those who are born again (from above) enjoy. We notice 5 things mentioned by the Psalmist:
- He has sinned against God terribly and possibly often. (v176a)
- He remembers God’s commandments. (v176b)
- Despite his sin, he desires to follow the law of God and delight in it. (v174, This is a characteristic of those who are born again of the Holy Spirit.)
- He prays a fervent prayer for the inner teaching of the Holy Spirit to make him to understand and keep the law of God–to go and do good instead of sin, obedience instead of rebellion. (v169, 170)
- He praises God for the answer to prayer, when he is enabled to keep His commandments.(v175)
Let us follow the example of the psalmist. We are sinners. If you can relate to the confession, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep,” you’re like every other Christian. If we hear, read, and delight in God’s law, as all those who are born from above will do, then let us pray fervently to ask God to give us understanding to keep it: His statutes and commandments, and to give us victory over sin in our life. And praise Him for the gift of repentance that He gives in answer to prayer.
This brings us to the end of Psalm 119. If you’ve been blessed by these posts, send me a message and let me know, as I consider whether to continue with other Psalms. You might also consider subscribing to this blog by entering your email address in the widget on the right side of this page to receive new posts directly.
161 Princes persecute me without a cause,
But my heart stands in awe of Your word.
162 I rejoice at Your word
As one who finds great treasure.
163 I hate and abhor lying,
But I love Your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise You,
Because of Your righteous judgments.
165 Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble.
166 Lord, I hope for Your salvation,
And I do Your commandments.
167 My soul keeps Your testimonies,
And I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies,
For all my ways are before You. Psalm 119 nkj
The word of the Lord is such a blessed thing for Christians, that we have “great peace” because of its commandments and promises, no matter what else life brings, even if the rich and powerful come after us for no reason. The word of God is worthy of perfect praise. Seven is the number of perfection in Scripture. Those who have it have found a great treasure or “spoil” (KJV). Far more than the loot or booty that the world may offer those who seek after it, the word of the Lord brings security and satisfaction to those who trust in Him as He has spoken in it. We are blessed as Christians in America to have a glut of Bibles printed–and not only do we have Bibles, there are still faithful churches to be found, much more than in most other parts of the world, where the Bible is faithfully preached for our learning and understanding. Meditate on God’s word, thank God for it, treasure it, and be at peace today and everyday.
153 Consider my affliction and deliver me,
For I do not forget Your law.
154 Plead my cause and redeem me;
Revive me according to Your word.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
For they do not seek Your statutes.
156 Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord;
Revive me according to Your judgments.
157 Many are my persecutors and my enemies,
Yet I do not turn from Your testimonies.
158 I see the treacherous, and am disgusted,
Because they do not keep Your word.
159 Consider how I love Your precepts;
Revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness.
160 The entirety of Your word is truth,
And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. Psalm 119 nkj
Every word of God is truth. Though the world does not believe this, it is a truth that one day every tongue will acknowledge. The world hates believers because it hates God, and in fact it has a hard time getting along with anyone in general, even unbelievers. The wicked heart of man creates strife and conflict in this world. In the meantime, Christian, in the midst of this unbelieving world, where treacherous enemies and persecutors are many, stick to the word of God. Read it. Hear it. Meditate on it. Read it together with others. This word is your source of strength in a topsy-turvy world. Those who trust in it, because of the Lord who gave it, will have inner life and peace no matter what the world brings. It is a characteristic of those who are on the way of life, on their way to heaven, that they love the word of God. The Holy Bible in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments is our only sure guide that God has given for us to know him and serve him in this life. Know it, believe it, obey it, and rejoice in it. He will deliver all of those who trust in His word.
Good thoughts on putting Islamic violence in perspective…
This is a good article on putting Islamic violence in perspective. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/does-islam-inevitably-lead-to-violence
Also, for information on how to pray for Muslims who are hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, let me recommend signing up for the monthly MERF (Middle East Reformed Fellowship) newsletter at http://www.merf.org MERF.org.
The city of Twin Falls perches beside the Snake River Canyon in southern Idaho. North of the city, the Perrine Bridge spans the expanse, nearly 500 feet above the river. The bridge is popular with BASE jumpers and may be the only manmade structure in the US where such jumping is legal year-round without a permit.
What is BASE jumping? Parachuting from a Building, Antenna, Span, or Earth (cliff or mountain).
In a way this type of jumping, leaping from a life-threatening height and trusting completely in one’s parachute, demonstrates the total trust in God exercised by members of New Covenant United Reformed Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. New Covenant is one of the smaller and more isolated congregations within URCNA. It is also unusually diverse.
“The church is very different from the churches I grew up in, which were basically Dutch Reformed,” Rev. Christopher Folkerts…
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