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Common Ground: CCC 1987-1995

by PastorWilliams on November 29th, 2017





“Upon this article [of justification] everything that we teach and practice depends, in opposition to the pope, the devil, and the whole world. Therefore, we must be certain and not doubt this doctrine. Otherwise, all is lost, and the pope, the devil, and all adversaries win the victory and the right over us” (SA II I 5).

The doctrine of justification is the doctrine upon which the Church stands or falls. However, when we come to the Roman Catechism and its definition of justification, we have a few problems. Although 1999 saw the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity sign the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, both sides still work with different definitions for the key terms. Below is a bullet-point list of how the Catechism defines justification and the Lutheran interaction with it.

* “The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'” (paragraph 1989). On face value, we can agree with the words of this statement. The first thing grace does is convert us from unbelieving sinners to believing saints. Grace justifies the soul by faith. However, the Catechism goes too far when it lumps sanctification under justification. This is a typical flaw in many people’s beliefs. Justification doesn’t contain sanctification. Sanctification grows out of justification, but it is a separate process. Justification is what happens at Baptism. Sanctification is living in your Baptism.

* “Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin” (paragraph 1990). The Catechism teaches that Baptism “erases” original sin (paragraph 405). But, if a baptized Christian no longer has original sin, why do they still sin after Baptism? If a Christian is detached from sin, as the Catechism states here, why do we need continued Confession and Absolution? Justification removes the guilt of original sin, but it does not remove its substance from our beings. That will only happen when Jesus returns and we are given our glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 51-52). Only when we have been changed completely will man be free from sin forever.

* “Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ” (paragraph 1991). If this doesn’t sound like decision theology, I’m not sure what is. But this comes from Rome?! Man must accept God’s righteousness for himself? That’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that man receives God’s righteousness as a gift (Romans 3:24; 5:15-17; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8), but it never talks about accepting it (1 Corinthians 2:14).

* “Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith” (paragraph 1992). For the most part, Catholics and Lutherans can pretty much agree on this part. Jesus did merit our justification on the cross as He died. His blood atones as the ultimate sin offering.

* “Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent” (paragraph 1993). Again with the decision theology! Again with Pelagian heresy! Man does not cooperate with God in his justification. Man’s supposed “assent of faith” is nothing that comes from inside himself. It comes from the Holy Spirit as He has come to dwell among His people through Baptism. The language of cooperation stems from man’s sinful desire to be free from all authority and accountability. The emphasis on cooperation in justification seeks to answer the age-old question, “Why are some saved and not others?” It’s a crutch to help people feel better about themselves and their own feeble attempts to justify themselves.

* “Justification is the most excellent work of God’s love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit” (paragraph 1994). Justification is God’s “most excellent work.” Stemming from His steadfast love, He has saved His people of every time and place through the death of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. Of everything that the Catechism says about justification, we can agree on this statement.

* “By giving birth to the ‘inner man,’ justification entails the sanctification of his whole being” (paragraph 1995). “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Sin wastes away our outer man, but our inner man is being renewed through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. Through this indwelling, Paul exhorts us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2).

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