The fact cannot be stated more clearly or plainly, justification by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ is, and has always been, the number one target of the enemy’s attack. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” The doctrine of justification, proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is the very core of Christianity. It is what sets true biblical Christianity apart from other religions and without it, Christianity would crumble under its own weight and implode upon itself. Justification answers the question of how a holy, righteous, perfect, and eternally just God can declare sinners, vile and unholy creatures, as righteous. The very term “justification” is the legal declaration whereby Almighty God pardons all our guilt from sin and declares us righteous and accepts us as holy, even as He is holy. He does this on the grounds of Jesus’ perfect life and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. As a result, God transfers, imputes, or credits to us the righteousness of His One and Only Son Jesus Christ making us holy and blameless in His sight. Martin Luther’s defense of sola fide, the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, was based on the argument that the Bible, and the Bible alone, is the sole and only infallible source of divine revelation. Furthermore, it was Luther’s refusal to grant such authority to church councils, clergy, and popes that really got him into trouble. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, appealed to Scripture and the living tradition of the church, unwritten teachings passed down as oral tradition from the apostles through the bishops of the church and interpreted by the Roman Catholic magisterium (the teaching officers of the church). The doctrine of justification of the Roman Catholic Church was then and is now established upon the works of penance, the treasury of merit, and other elements established in tradition, and not the Word of God alone. Paul warned us of such false belief when he wrote: “We also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). None of us can keep God’s law perfectly. As Isaiah points out, our good works are as “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6) in the sight of Almighty God. Therefore, our works can in no way be the ground of our acceptance before God. Our only hope is in the merit of Jesus Christ. He alone can set us from our sins and justify us before God the Father. The issue of justification is often referred to as the initial cause of the Protestant Reformation, but it was the question of authority that was the foundational cause of the Reformation. Ultimately, the question of final authority had to be settled and it was settled by Luther’s doctrine of Sola Scriptura, “by the Scriptures alone.” The one and only absolute and final authority for all matters of faith (doctrine, those things that we believe) and life (the practical manner in which we live our daily lives) that has the power to bind the conscience of the Christian is the Word of God, the Holy Bible, for there is no other source of authority equal to or above Sacred Scriptures. According to the official pronouncements of the Roman Catholic Church, the unwritten traditions of the church are equal in authority to the Bible. Paragraph 44 of the current Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states, “Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” Therefore, in actual practice, the Roman Catholic Church affirms that it is the church that has final, infallible authority, and undercuts the Word of God. The Roman Catholic Church affirms that our human works cooperate with God’s grace to make us righteous and that we are justified only if we have actually become righteous through our faith and works. Jesus said, “He said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!’” (Mark 7:9). Therefore, Jesus made it abundantly clear that to violate the Word of God for the sake of the traditions of men is always wrong. Paul often calls us to hold fast to “the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness” (I Timothy 6:3). Blessings, Pastor Jim

       Pastor’s Article – July 2017

The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation:

Justification and the Word of God