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Papal Confusion on Justification

The Pope, in his address to the general audience in St. Peter’s Square this week, hit the nail on the head when he said "The Letter to the Philippians gives us a moving testimony of Paul's turning from a justice based on the law and achieved by observance of the prescribed works, to a justice based on faith in Christ...." Unfortunately, he missed the nail entirely as he continued his address, defining faith and justification in terms of what we do, rather than in terms of what Christ has done.

Justification is a legal term in which God declares us innocent and thus saved, even though we are guilty. He does this by ignoring our own sin which rightly damns us, and imputing to us Christ’s righteousness. The Bishop of Rome and the Catholic Church, on the other hand, have always required our own works be added to the salvific formula. While they say that salvation begins with grace, it isn’t completed by grace.

The Council of Trent, which ended in 1563, codified Roman Catholic Church doctrine, and it remains the basis for their beliefs. The sixth session of the Council of Trent, discussing justification, states:
CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.
CANON XX.-If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema.

CANON XXI.-If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey; let him be anathema.

CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.
Trent insists that the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross is not enough to earn your salvation, thus rejecting His completed work. Your own good works merit "the attainment of that eternal life." This doctrine robs Christ of His victory and robs sinners of their assurance.

Trent’s statements on justification remain their official doctrine, which their current Catechism verifies in paragraph 2010,
...Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. (emphasis in original)
The pope in his address claims "To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ." He continues
Luther's expression "sola fide" is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life.
When if is inserted into the sentence, sola might as well be removed, because your salvation now rests on your actions as well, not Christ’s actions alone. Faith trusts in the unconditional promises of Christ rather than your own merit, promises that declare your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. That’s what it is to be justified. He closes his message by saying
And thus, transformed by his love, by love of God and neighbor, we can really be just in the eyes of God.
The pope therefore puts us back under the works of the Law. He would have us believe that we are not "just" until we have been sufficiently transformed by our acts of love. He demands from us the work that has already been finished on the cross, when God was crucified for the sins of all. When Jesus announced "It is finished," He released us from all work, and freed us to rejoice in His Sabbath rest.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!   Romans 5:8-10

Let us all rejoice in Christ’s completed work. Through His work our burden is made light as we serve our fellow man and proclaim what He has done.

Written by Scott Diekmann

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