Sola fide

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"Justification by faith" redirects here. For other uses, see Justification (theology).

Sola fide (Latin: by faith alone), also historically known as the doctrine of justification by faith alone, is a Christian theological doctrine that distinguishes most Protestant denominations from Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, and some in the Restoration Movement.

The doctrine of sola fide or "by faith alone" asserts God's pardon for guilty sinners is granted to and received through faith, conceived as excluding all "works," alone. All mankind, it is asserted, is fallen and sinful, under the curse of God, and incapable of saving itself from God's wrath and curse. But God, on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ alone (solus Christus), grants sinners judicial pardon, or justification, which is received solely through faith. Faith is seen as passive, merely receiving Christ and all his benefits, among which benefits are the active and passive righteousness of Jesus Christ. Christ's righteousness, according to the followers of "sola fide," is imputed (or attributed) by God to the believing sinner (as opposed to infused or imparted), so that the divine verdict and pardon of the believing sinner is based not upon anything in the sinner, nor even faith itself, but upon Jesus Christ and his righteousness alone, which are received through faith alone. Justification is by faith alone and is distinguished from the other graces of salvation. See the Protestant ordo salutis for more detail on the doctrine of salvation considered more broadly than justification by faith alone.

Historic Protestantism (both Lutheran and Reformed) has held to sola-fide justification in opposition to Roman Catholicism especially, but also in opposition to significant aspects of Eastern Orthodoxy. Protestants exclude all human works (except the works of Jesus Christ, which form the basis of justification) from the legal verdict / pardon of justification. In the General Council of Trent the Catholic Church stated in canon XIV on justification that "If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema (excommunicated)." Thus, "faith alone" is foundational to Protestantism, and distinguishes it from other Christian denominations. According to Martin Luther, justification by faith alone is the article on which the church stands or falls.

Christian theologies answer questions about the nature, function, and meaning of justification quite differently. These issues include: Is justification an event occurring instantaneously or is it as an ongoing process? Is justification effected by divine action alone (monergism), by divine and human action together (synergism), or by human action? Is justification permanent or can it be lost? What is the relationship of justification to sanctification, the process whereby sinners become righteous and are enabled by the Holy Spirit to live lives pleasing to God?

Justification in Lutheranism[edit]

From 1510 to 1520, Luther lectured on the Psalms, the books of Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians. As he studied these portions of the Bible, he came to view the use of terms such as penance and righteousness by the Roman Catholic Church in new ways. (See Romans 4:1-5, Galatians 3:1-7, and Genesis 15:6.) He became convinced that the church was corrupt in its ways and had lost sight of what he saw as several of the central truths of Christianity, the most important of which, for Luther, was the doctrine of justification—God's act of declaring a sinner righteous—by faith alone through God's grace. He began to teach that salvation or redemption is a gift of God's grace, attainable only through faith in Jesus.[1]

"This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification," insisted Martin Luther, "is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness."[2] He also called this doctrine the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae ("article of the standing and falling of the church"): "…if this article stands, the Church stands; if it falls, the Church falls."[3] Lutherans follow Luther in this when they call this doctrine "the material principle" of theology in relation to the Bible, which is "the formal principle."[4] They believe justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ's righteousness alone is the gospel, the core of the Christian faith around which all other Christian doctrines are centered and based.

Luther came to understand justification as entirely the work of God. When God's righteousness is mentioned in the gospel, it is God's action of declaring righteous the unrighteous sinner who has faith in Jesus Christ.[5] The righteousness by which the person is justified (declared righteous) is not his own (theologically, proper righteousness) but that of another, Christ (alien righteousness). "That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law," said Luther. "Faith is that which brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ."[6] Thus faith, for Luther, is a gift from God, and "...a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it."[6] This faith grasps Christ's righteousness and appropriates it for the believer. He explained his concept of "justification" in the Smalcald Articles:

The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Romans 3:24-25). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Romans 3:23-25). This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us ... Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls (Mark 13:31).[7]

Traditionally, Lutherans have taught forensic (or legal) justification, a divine verdict of acquittal pronounced on the believing sinner. God declares the sinner to be "not guilty" because Christ has taken his place, living a perfect life according to God's law and suffering for his sins. For Lutherans justification is in no way dependent upon the thoughts, words, and deeds of those justified through faith alone in Christ. The new obedience that the justified sinner renders to God through sanctification follows justification as a consequence, but is not part of justification.[8]

Lutherans believe that individuals receive this gift of salvation through faith alone.[9] Saving faith is the knowledge of,[10] acceptance of,[11] and trust[12] in the promise of the Gospel.[13] Even faith itself is seen as a gift of God, created in the hearts of Christians[14] by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word[15] and Baptism.[16] Faith is seen as an instrument that receives the gift of salvation, not something that causes salvation.[17] Thus, Lutherans reject the "decision theology" which is common among modern evangelicals.

For Lutherans, justification provides the power by which Christians can grow in holiness. Such improvement comes about in the believer only after he has become a new creation in Christ through Holy Baptism. This improvement is not completed in this life: Christians are always "saint and sinner at the same time" (simul iustus et peccator)[18]—saints because they are holy in God's eyes, for Christ's sake, and do works that please him; sinners because they continue to sin until death.

Origin of the term[edit]

1861 painting of Luther discovering the Sola fide doctrine at Erfurt

Martin Luther elevated sola fide to the principal cause of the Protestant Reformation, the rallying cry of the Protestant cause, and the chief distinction between Protestant Christianity and Roman Catholicism. John Calvin, also a proponent of this doctrine, taught that "every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own." According to Calvin, it is only because the sinner is able to obtain the good standing of the Son of God, through faith in him, and union with him, that sinners have any hope of pardon from, acceptance by, and peace with God.

While this precise terminology—"by faith alone"—does not appear in English Bible translations other than in James 2:24 where it has been claimed that the author seems to reject the notion that a person is justified by God solely on account of faith,[19] other Catholic authorities also used "alone" in their translation of Romans 3:28 or exegesis of salvation by faith passages,[20][21] and it is claimed to summarize the teaching of the New Testament, and especially the Pauline epistles such as Romans 4, which systematically reject the proposition that justification before God is obtained due to the merit of one's obedience to the Law of Moses (see also Biblical law in Christianity), or Abraham's circumcision and works.

Protestants base this on the fact that the New Testament contains almost two hundred statements that appear to imply that faith or belief is sufficient for salvation. For example: "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believe in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." (John 11:25, emphasis added). And especially Paul's words in Romans, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3:28) "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." (Romans 4:4-5)

The place of works[edit]

The position that justification is by faith alone has often been charged with promoting antinomianism, in which salvific faith need not be a type that will produce works of obedience to Christ, which is a view most who hold to sola fide reject, invoking many authorities from the past and present in concurrence.

Martin Luther, who opposed antinomianism, is recorded as stating, “Works are necessary for salvation but they do not cause salvation; for faith alone gives life.”[22]

In his Introduction to Romans, Luther stated that saving faith is,

a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever...Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! [23]

Scottish theologian John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, asserted,

“Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (Gal. 5:6). And Faith without works is dead (James 2:17-20).”

“It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in the virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin.”[24][25]

Contemporary evangelical theologian R. C. Sproul writes,

The relationship of faith and good works is one that may be distinguished but never separated...if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. The Reformed formula is, “We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone.”[26]

Michael Horton concurs by saying,

This debate, therefore, is not over the question of whether God renews us and initiates a process of gradual growth in holiness throughout the course of our lives. ‘We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone,’ Luther stated, and this recurring affirmation of the new birth and sanctification as necessarily linked to justification leads one to wonder how the caricatures continue to be perpetuated without foundation.[27]

Status of the doctrine[edit]

The doctrine proposes that faith in Christ is sufficient for sinners to be accepted by God, to count them among his people, and to equip them with the motive of trust, gratitude, and love toward God from which good works are to be done. Some Christian groups such as Catholics believe that faith is necessary for salvation but not sufficient; that is, they assert that sola fide is an error because, in addition to believing, God also requires obedience and acts of love and charity as a prerequisite for acceptance into his kingdom, and for the reward of eternal life. This is in line with the traditional view of faith as faithfulness [to God] in the Old Testament. See also Christian view of the Old Testament Law.

The precise relationship between faith and good works remains as an area of controversy in some Protestant traditions (see also Law and Gospel). Even at the outset of the Reformation, subtle differences of emphasis appeared. For example, because the Epistle of James emphasizes the importance of good works, Martin Luther sometimes referred to it as the "epistle of straw." Calvin on the other hand, while not intending to differ with Luther, described good works as a consequence or 'fruit' of faith. The Anabaptists tended to make a nominal distinction between faith and obedience. Recent meetings of scholars and clergy have attempted to soften the antithesis between Protestant and Catholic conceptions of the role of faith in salvation, which, if they were successful, would have far reaching implications for the relationship between most Protestants and the Catholic Church. These attempts to form a consensus are not widely accepted among either Protestants or Catholics, so sola fide continues to be a doctrinal distinctive of the Reformation churches, including Lutherans, Reformed, and many Evangelicals. Nevertheless, some statements of the doctrine are interpreted as a denial of the doctrine as understood by other groups. There is a semantic component to this debate as well, which has gained new attention in the past century. Both Latin and English have two words to describe convictions: one is more intellectual (English belief, Latin verb credo) and one carries implications of "faithfulness" (English faith, Latin fides). But Greek and German have only one (German Glaube, Greek pistis). Some historians have suggested that this semantic issue caused some of the disagreement:[citation needed] Perhaps Luther's supporters may have understood "salvation by faith alone" to mean "salvation by being faithful to Christ," while his opponents understood him to mean "salvation by intellectual belief in Christ." Since there are passages in Luther's works that could be taken to support either of these meanings, both sides were able to quote passages from Luther defending their interpretation of what he meant.

Sola fide and Scripture[edit]

Various Biblical passages have been used to support and oppose the doctrine of sola fide.

Passages used to defend sola fide[edit]

"And he who believes in (has faith in, clings to, relies on) the Son has (now possesses) eternal life. But whoever disobeys (is unbelieving toward, refuses to trust in, disregards, is not subject to) the Son will never see (experience) life, but [instead] the wrath of God abides on him. [God’s displeasure remains on him; His indignation hangs over him continually.] " (Amplified Version)

"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (New King James Version)

Passages used to argue against sola fide[edit]

Works of the Law[edit]

Many Catholics see the exclusion of "works of the law" as only referring to works done for salvation under the Mosaic law, versus works of faith which are held as meritorious for salvation.

Adherents of sola fide respond that Jesus was not instituting keeping a higher moral code as means of salvation, and tend to see the exclusion of "works of the law" (as the means of obtaining justification) as referring to any works of the Mosaic law, and by implication, any "works of righteousness which we have done" (Titus 3:5) or any system in which one earns eternal life on the basis of the merit of works.

However, most understand that the "righteousness of the law" is to be fulfilled by those who are justified by faith (Romans 8:4). The Mosaic law and the principles of the Gospel (such as the Sermon on the Mount and the Last Judgment of Matthew 25) are seen as being in correspondence, with the latter fulfilling, clarifying, and expanding on the former, centering on God's love for us, and love to others. Thus a Protestant believer can claim that "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good," (Romans 7:12) harmonizing the two principles of the same Bible.[28]

TraditionProcess
or
Event
Type
of
Action
PermanenceJustification
&
Sanctification
Roman CatholicProcessSynergismCan be lost via mortal sinPart of the same process
LutheranEventDivine monergismCan be lost via loss of faithJustification is separate from and occurs prior to sanctification
MethodistEventSynergismCan be lostDependent upon continued sanctification
OrthodoxProcessSynergismCan be lost through sinPart of the same process of theosis
ReformedEventDivine monergismCannot be lostBoth are a result of union with Christ

Sola fide and the Early Church Fathers[edit]

There are several Church Fathers whom Protestant apologists believe taught the doctrine of Sola Fide (although Catholic and Orthodox apologists quote the same fathers as supporting a justification that includes works). Here are some of them:

Clement of Rome (c. 30-100)
“And we [Christians], too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”[29]
Justin Martyr (d. 165)
in his Dialogue with Trypho: “No longer by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of a heifer . . . are sins purged, but by faith, through the blood of Christ and his death, who died on this very account.”[30]
Didymus the Blind (c. 313-398)
“…a person is saved by grace, not by works but by faith. There should be no doubt but that faith saves and then lives by doing its own works, so that the works which are added to salvation by faith are not those of the law but a different kind of thing altogether.”[31]
Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67) on Matthew 20:7
“Wages cannot be considered as a gift, because they are due to work, but God has given free grace to all men by the justification of faith.”[32]
Basil of Caesarea (329-379)
“Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, that Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, redemption. This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is (or has been) justified solely by faith in Christ.”[33]
Ambrose (c. 339-97)
“Therefore let no one boast of his works, because no one can be justified by his works; but he who is just receives it as a gift, because he is justified by the washing of regeneration. It is faith, therefore, which delivers us by the blood of Christ, because blessed is he whose sins are forgiven, and to whom pardon is granted.”[34]
Jerome (347-420) on Romans 10:3
“God justifies by faith alone.” (Deus ex sola fide justificat).[35]
Chrysostom (349-407)
For Scripture says that faith has saved us. Put better: Since God willed it, faith has saved us. Now in what case, tell me, does faith save without itself doing anything at all? Faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. What then is Paul saying? Not that God has forbidden works but that he has forbidden us to be justified by works. No one, Paul says, is justified by works, precisely in order that the grace and benevolence of God may become apparent.[36]
Augustine (354-430)
If Abraham was not justified by works, how was he justified? … Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6). Abraham, then, was justified by faith. Paul and James do not contradict each other: good works follow justification.
Augustine (354-430)
“When someone believes in him who justifies the impious, that faith is reckoned as justice to the believer, as David too declares that person blessed whom God has accepted and endowed with righteousness, independently of any righteous actions (Rom 4:5-6). What righteousness is this? The righteousness of faith, preceded by no good works, but with good works as its consequence.”[37]
Ambrosiaster (4th century), on Rom. 3:24
“They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God.”
Cyril of Alexandria (412-444)
For we are justified by faith, not by works of the law, as Scripture says (Gal. 2:16). By faith in whom, then, are we justified? Is it not in him who suffered death according to the flesh for our sake? Is it not in one Lord Jesus Christ?[38]

Catholic view[edit]

The Catholic view excludes sola fide as grounds for justification, holding instead that grace, which empowers both one's ability to believe and perform good works, is the only thing needed for salvation (Eph 2:8-10) that is, God's Grace alone that empowers both one's ability to believe and perform good works, both then becoming meritorious.(Phil 2:12-13) (Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraphs 1987 through 2029) A Christian must respond to this free gift of Grace from God given, ordinarily, in Baptism (1 Pet 3:21) by both having faith and by living in the light of Christ through love (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 1:7)(Galatians 5:6)which perfects the Christian through out their life (James 2:22). The Catholic position is best summed up in John 3:16, if one has the proper, contextual understanding of the word "believe". Believe, in context and in ancient Judaism, meant more than an intellectual assent. "To believe" also meant to obey, which is seen, in context, in Jn 3:36.

As expounded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church's teaching is that it is the grace of God, "the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call", that justifies us,[39] a grace that is a prerequisite for our free response of "collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity",[40] "With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man",[41] so that "we can have merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God."[42] "No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods."[43]

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church justification is conferred in baptism, the sacrament of faith.[44] The sacrament of reconciliation enables recovery of justification, if lost through committing a mortal sin.[45] A mortal sin makes justification lost, even if faith is still present.[46]

The Council of Trent sought to clarify the Catholic Church's teaching on justification and the manner in which it differed from that proposed by Protestants. It stated: "Faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God (Hebrews) and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification."[47] "Faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body. For which reason it is most truly said that faith without works is dead (James 2:17-20) and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity (Galatians 5:6)."[48] After being justified, "to those who work well unto the end and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits. ... Since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches (John 15:1-6), continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, provided they depart [this life] in grace".[49]

In its canons, the Council condemned the following propositions:

In response to sola fide, Robert Sungenis argues in his book Not by Faith Alone, that

A thorough study of his epistles reveals that Paul used the word faith and its cognates over two hundred times in the New Testament, but not once did he couple them with the adjectival qualifiers alone or only. Are we to believe that though he intended to teach justification by faith alone, he was never convinced that he should employ the attributes of the word alone to express explicitly what he invariably meant? What would have curtailed him from such an important qualification if indeed the solitude of faith in regard to justification was on the forefront of his mind? A second reason that leads us to pose this critical question is that Paul used the word alone more frequently than did any other New Testament writer. Many of these instances appear right alongside the very contexts that contain teachings on faith and justification. Thus it is obvious that even while Paul was teaching about the nature of justification he was keenly aware of the word alone and its qualifying properties. This would lead us to expect that if Paul, who is usually very direct and candid in his epistles, wanted to teach unambiguously and unequivocally that man was justified by faith alone, he would be compelled to use the phrase if he thought it would make his point indisputable. Moreover, since Paul's writings were inspired, we must also acknowledge that the Holy Spirit likewise knew of the inherent qualifying properties of the word alone but had specific reasons for prohibiting Paul from using it in connection with faith.

Methodist view[edit]

Methodism, unlike the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestant Christianity, emphasizes the importance of the pursuit of holiness in salvation.[50] Bishop Scott J. Jones in United Methodist Doctrine writes that in Methodist theology:

Faith is necessary to salvation unconditionally. Good works are necessary only conditionally, that is if there is time and opportunity. The thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43 is Wesley's example of this. He believed in Christ and was told "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." This would be impossible if the good works that are the fruit of genuine repentance and faith were unconditionally necessary for salvation. The man was dying and lacked time; his movements were confined and he lacked opportunity. In his case, faith alone was necessary. However, for the vast majority of human beings good works are necessary for continuance in faith because those persons have both the time and opportunity for them.[51]

The Right Reverend Jones concludes that "United Methodist doctrine thus understands true, saving faith to be the kind that, give time and opportunity, will result in good works. Any supposed faith that does not in fact lead to such behaviors is not genuine, saving faith."[51] Furthermore, while "faith is essential for a meaningful relationship with God, our relationship with God also takes shape through our care for people, the community, and creation itself."[52]

Richard P. Bucher, contrasts this position with the Lutheran one, discussing an analogy put forth by the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley:

Whereas in Lutheran theology the central doctrine and focus of all our worship and life is justification by grace through faith, for Methodists the central focus has always been holy living and the striving for perfection. Wesley gave the analogy of a house. He said repentance is the porch. Faith is the door. But holy living is the house itself. Holy living is true religion. “Salvation is like a house. To get into the house you first have to get on the porch (repentance) and then you have to go through the door (faith). But the house itself--one’s relationship with God--is holiness, holy living” (Joyner, paraphrasing Wesley, 3).[53]

Excerpts from confessions and creeds which support sola fide[edit]

Anglican/Episcopal[edit]

Article XI
Of the Justification of Man
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (1571)

However, certain Anglican and Episcopal theologians[citation needed] (especially Anglo-Catholics) argue for a faith characterized by faithfulness, where good works and the Sacraments play an important role in the life of the Christian believer. (See New Perspective on Paul)

Lutheran[edit]

Article IV Of Justification
Our churches by common consent...teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.
Augsburg Confession, 1530

More recently, the Lutheran World Federation agreed on an ecumenical statement with the Roman Catholic Church, entitled, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, to work toward a rapprochement of the two churches.

Southern Baptist[edit]

Baptist Faith and Message - 2000

Article IV, sub-article B.
Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

Reformed Baptist[edit]

XXVIII.
That those which have union with Christ, are justified from all their sins, past, present, and to come, by the blood of Christ; which justification we conceive to be a gracious and free acquittance of a guilty, sinful creature, from all sin by God, through the satisfaction that Christ hath made by his death; and this applied in the manifestation of it through faith.
'First' London Baptist Confession (1644)

Chapter XI of the London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 is the same as the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Mennonite[edit]

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (1995)copyrighted

Summary:

A typical Anabaptist confession of faith.
Salvation is variously expressed, sometimes as "justification by faith," in which case it means that the just person has accepted the offer of a covenantal relationship, and lives according to that covenant.

Reformed (Continental)[edit]

Article 23: The Justification of Sinners
We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works.
And the same apostle says that we are justified "freely" or "by grace" through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him.
That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God's approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves.
In fact, if we had to appear before God relying—no matter how little—on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up.
Therefore everyone must say with David: "Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified."
Belgic Confession 1561 (French revision, 1619)
Question 86: Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?
Answer: Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.
Question 87: Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?
Answer: By no means; for the holy scripture declares that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or any such like, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Heidelberg Catechism 1563

Reformed (Presbyterian)[edit]

I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
Chapter XI. Of Justification—Westminster Confession of Faith (1647)

United Methodist[edit]

We believe we are never accounted righteous before God through our works or merit, but that penitent sinners are justified or accounted righteous before God only by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Article IX—Justification and Regeneration (The Discipline of The Evangelical United Brethren Church 1963)
We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.
Article IX—Of the Justification of Man (The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Discipline of 1808)
We believe good works are the necessary fruits of faith and follow regeneration but they do not have the virtue to remove our sins or to avert divine judgment. We believe good works, pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, spring from a true and living faith, for through and by them faith is made evident.
Article X-Good Works (The Confession of Faith)

Non-denominational Evangelicals[edit]

The justification of the sinner solely by the grace of God through faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.
British Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith
We believe in...the Salvation of lost and sinful man through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith apart from works, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit...
World Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith

Unofficial Ecumenical statements[edit]

Evangelicals[edit]

The New Testament makes it clear that the gift of salvation is received through faith. "By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). By faith, which is also the gift of God, we repent of our sins and freely adhere to the gospel, the good news of God's saving work for us in Christ. By our response of faith to Christ, we enter into the blessings promised by the gospel. Faith is not merely intellectual assent but an act of the whole persons involving the mind, the will, and the affections, issuing in a changed life. We understand that what we here affirm is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by justification by faith alone (sola fide).
The Gift of Salvation (1997)

Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church[edit]

4.3 Justification by Faith and through Grace
25. We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God's gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works. But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it.
Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1997)

Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission[edit]

5. Regarding the way in which salvation is appropriated by the believers, Lutherans, by teaching that justification and salvation are by grace alone through faith (sola gratia, sola fide), stress the absolute priority of divine grace in salvation. When they speak about saving faith they do not think of the dead faith which even the demons have (cf. James 2:19), but the faith which Abraham showed and which was reckoned to him as righteousness (cf. Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4:3,9). The Orthodox also affirm the absolute priority of divine grace. They underline that it is God's grace which enables our human will to conform to the divine will (cf. Phil 2:13) in the steps of Jesus praying, "not as I will but as You will" (Matthew 26:39), so that we may work out our salvation in fear and trembling (cf. Phil. 2:12). This is what the Orthodox mean by "synergy" (working together) of divine grace and the human will of the believer in the appropriation of the divine life in Christ. The understanding of synergy in salvation is helped by the fact that the human will in the one person of Christ was not abolished when the human nature was united in Him with the divine nature, according to the Christological decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. While Lutherans do not use the concept of synergy, they recognize the personal responsibility of the human being in the acceptance or refusal of divine grace through faith, and in the growth of faith and obedience to God. Lutherans and Orthodox both understand good works as the fruits and manifestations of the believer's faith and not as a means of salvation.[54]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wriedt, Markus. "Luther's Theology," in The Cambridge Companion to Luther. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003, 88–94.
  2. ^ Selected passages from Martin Luther, "Commentary on Galatians (1538)" as translated in Herbert J. A. Bouman, "The Doctrine of Justification in the Lutheran Confessions," Concordia Theological Monthly 26 (November 1955) No. 11:801. ctsfw.edu
  3. ^ In XV Psalmos graduum 1532-33; WA 40/III.352.3
  4. ^ Herbert J. A. Bouman, ibid., 801-802.
  5. ^ Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann, eds., Luther's Works, 55 vols. (St. Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia Publishing House and Fortress Press, 1955-1986), 34:337
  6. ^ a b Martin Luther's Definition of Faith
  7. ^ Luther, Martin. "The Smalcald Articles," in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005, 289, Part two, Article 1.
  8. ^ Herbert J. A. Bouman, ibid., 805.
  9. ^ Augsburg Confession, Article 4, "Of Justification"
  10. ^ John 17:3, Luke 1:77,Galatians 4:9, Philippians 3:8, and 1 Timothy 2:4 refer to faith in terms of knowledge.
  11. ^ John 5:46 refers to acceptance of the truth of Christ's teaching, while John 3:36 notes the rejection of his teaching.
  12. ^ John 3:16,36, Galatians 2:16, Romans 4:20-25, 2 Timothy 1:12 speak of trust, confidence, and belief in Christ. John 3:18 notes belief in the name of Christ, and Mark 1:15 notes belief in the gospel.
  13. ^ Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. pp. 54-5, Part XIV. "Sin"
  14. ^ Ps. 51:10, Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p.57 Part XV. "Conversion", paragraph 78.
  15. ^ John 17:20, Rom. 10:17, Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p.101 Part XXV. "The Church", paragaph 141.
  16. ^ Titus 3:5, Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p.87 Part XXIII. "Baptism", paragraph 118.
  17. ^ Eph. 2:8, Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p.57 Part XV. "Conversion", paragaph 78.
  18. ^ “daily we sin, daily we are justified” from the Disputation Concerning Justification (1536) ISBN 0-8006-0334-6
  19. ^ "History of the Christian Church, book 7, chapter 4". ; Philip Schaff's The Protestant Spirit of Luther’s Version: "The most important example of dogmatic influence in Luther’s version is the famous interpolation of the word alone in Rom. 3:28 (allein durch den Glauben), by which he intended to emphasize his solifidian doctrine of justification, on the plea that the German idiom required the insertion for the sake of clearness. But he thereby brought Paul into direct verbal conflict with James, who says (James 2:24), "by works a man is justified, and not only by faith" ("nicht durch den Glauben allein"). It is well known that Luther deemed it impossible to harmonize the two apostles in this article, and characterized the Epistle of James as an "epistle of straw," because it had no evangelical character ("keine evangelische Art")."
  20. ^ Joseph A. Fitzmyer Romans, "A New Translation with introduction and Commentary," The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993) 360-361
  21. ^ "Luther Added The Word "Alone" to Romans 3:28". beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com. 
  22. ^ Ewald M. Plass, “What Luther says,” page 1509
  23. ^ "Luther, An Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans". Luther's German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546. iclnet.org.  Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith from Dr. Martin Luther's vermischte deutsche Schriften. Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63 (Erlangen: Heyder and Zimmer, 1854), pp.124-125. [EA 63:124-125] August 1994
  24. ^ “Redemption Accomplished and Applied.”
  25. ^ The monstrosity of a faith that is alone
  26. ^ Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. p. 191. 
  27. ^ "Are we justified by faith alone?". mountainretreatorg.net. 
  28. ^ http://www.justforcatholics.org/a172.htm
  29. ^ Clement Alexandria. Epistle to the Corinthians. 
  30. ^ Justin Martyr. Dialogue with Trypho. 
  31. ^ Didymus the Blind. Commentary on James, 2:26b. 
  32. ^ Finch, George. A Sketch of the Romish Controversy. p. 230. 
  33. ^ Chemnitz. Examination of the Council of Trent. 1:505. 
  34. ^ Finch. A Sketch of the Romish Controversy. p. 220. 
  35. ^ Jerome. Epistolam Ad Romanos. Caput X, v. 3, PL 30:692D. 
  36. ^ Chrysostom. Homily on Ephesians. 4.2.9. 
  37. ^ Augustine. Expositions of the Psalms 1-32. Exposition 2 of Psalm 31. 
  38. ^ Russell, Norman. Against Nestorius (Cyril of Alexandria). p. 165. 
  39. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1996
  40. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2001–2002
  41. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2007
  42. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2025
  43. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2027
  44. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1992. Vatican City-State. "Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith." 
  45. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1446. The Vatican. "Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace."" 
  46. ^ Council of Trent, Decree concerning Justification, chapter XV
  47. ^ Council of Trent, Decree concerning Justification, chapter VIII
  48. ^ Council of Trent, Decree concerning Justification, chapter VII
  49. ^ Council of Trent, Decree concerning Justification, chapter XVI
  50. ^ Joyner, F. Belton (2007). United Methodist Answers (in English). Westminster John Knox Press. p. 80. ISBN 9780664230395. "Jacob Albright, founder of the movement that led to the Evangelical Church flow in The United Methodist Church, got into trouble with some of his Lutheran, Reformed, and Mennonite neighbors because he insisted that salvation not only involved ritual but meant a change of heart, a different way of living." 
  51. ^ a b Jones, Scott J. (2002). United Methodist Doctrine (in English). Abingdon Press. p. 190. ISBN 9780687034857. 
  52. ^ Langford, Andy; Langford, Sally (2011). Living as United Methodist Christians: Our Story, Our Beliefs, Our Lives (in English). Abingdon Press. p. 45. ISBN 9781426711930. 
  53. ^ Bucher, Richard P. (2014). "Methodism" (in English). Lexington: Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. 
  54. ^ "Salvation: Grace, Justification, and Synergy". 9th Plenary of the Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission. Sigtuna: helsinki.fi. 7 August 1998. 

External links[edit]