Monday, October 28, 2013

The Reformation's Debate continues... Justification By... What?

Another bit from an ongoing discussion on a Roman Catholic blog:

My Roman Catholic interlocutor quotes me and then adds his comment:
“Baptism if not accompanied by faith ultimately avails nothing as regards the salvation of the soul.” – [Jack]
God always accomplishes what He promises. So baptism always results in justification. Man can be a covenant breaker – but God never can. – [DH]
My response:
Two things -
1. Of course we disagree with RCs that baptism is the instrument of justification. One might be able through a verse to infer that it is, but Scripture (OT and NT) in many places positively states that God justifies the ungodly through faith, even calling it the “faith of righteousness”… not the baptism of righteousness.

2. God always accomplishes what he, in the counsel of his will, purposes. In order for His promise to be effectual according to the Roman Catholic one must be baptized and not commit mortal sin, and [add in other things here]. And if he does commit mortal sin then he seeks restoration via penance to return to a justified state. If he doesn’t do that then God’s promised justification in baptism passes him by. Works and justification are very much linked here.

We maintain that Scripture teaches (for those of age) God’s promise of salvation is made effectual by grace alone through faith alone in – the One who fulfilled that promise for sinners – Jesus Chris alone, who died for their sins and fulfilled the demands of the Law for their justification. If man refuses to believe, then the promise of salvation is refused.
John 3: 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
… Jesus says that whoever believes (faith) is “not condemned”… to be “not condemned” under the law is to be justified under the law. So whoever has faith in him is justified and whoever has not faith in him is not justified, i.e. condemned.

What is at issue is the instrument of justification. Is it baptism or faith? And Paul makes it clear to all who are willing to hear and consider and believe the good news he teaches:

Romans 3:21-23 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
Romans 4: 4-5 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness
Romans 11: 5-6 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
Eph. 2: 8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Eph. 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Phil. 2:12b-13 work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
When it comes to justification Paul rules out works, even grace-assisted works. “Righteousness through faith”, not righteousness by baptism. Of course you reject this, as RCs see baptism and sanctification (grace-assisted works) as means to justification. We agree with Paul that sinners are justified through faith in Christ apart from any kind of works and that that one who is justified by grace will and does bring forth good deeds (sanctification built upon justification) through the gracious work of God’s Spirit (Eph. 2:10; Phil 2:12b-13).

I’m content to agree to disagree with you. I’m not content to disagree with the apostle Paul. And by the way, this is not my personal interpretation, but the teaching of those churches which hold to the reformed confessions and catechisms.


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