Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Catholic Answers Gets Galatians 2:16 Completely Wrong

  • Discussion:
          -One writer at Catholic Answers wrote an article titled Galatians 2:16 and Sola Fide, where he defends the Roman Catholic view of justification by arguing that the text from Galatians is not so much supportive of faith alone as it actually pertains to salvation no longer being on the basis of the Mosaic Law system. Right from the beginning of the post, a straw man has been erected:

          "On this view, God is not concerned with whether the person obeyed God by living a holy life or whether he was baptized."

          Of course, no true Christian actually believes that God does not care about our obedience to Him. Sola Fide simply means we cannot earn our way into heaven by our good works. Nonetheless, this same misrepresentation is routinely parroted by apologists for the Church of Rome. Belief in Sola Fide is by no means an equivalent to upholding antinomianism. Another key component of the Catholic apologetics argument being critiqued is cited here as follows:

         "Paul emphatically rebuked Peter. Man reaches heaven by the universal action of faith, which is always “working through love” (Gal. 5:6). Both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith, as one family of God, which automatically dismantles any separation between them.

          Next, Paul draws out the —the Mosaic Law has been fulfilled by the New Law (Matt. 5:17). Jews and Gentiles have been united by Christ—He has torn down the wall separating them, and Paul cannot “build up again those things which I tore down” (Gal. 2:18). His identity is no longer found in the Mosaic Covenant, he has a new one: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20)."

          The Apostle Paul spells out that our justification is not by works but by faith. He differentiates between faith and works of the Law. He tells us that the Law is not the way to receive justification before God. He tells us that we are justified by faith. That truth is repeated three times in a single passage so as to stress its utmost importance. Paul nowhere states we are saved by keeping some new law. Those who place their trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ will also serve Him, but that service does not constitute the basis for justification.

          "The point of Galatians 2:16, then, is that Gentile Christians do not have to live like Jews. This is because going under the yoke of the Mosaic Law does not lead to salvation. Christians must follow Christ and His way of life (Gal. 6:2). They do what Christ commands, not what Moses commands (John 1:17). Christians need to live by faith, lovingly obeying Christ by loving others, which fulfills the whole Mosaic Law (Rom. 13:8). The Spirit empowers us to love others – and his presence particularly distinguishes the old yoke from the new (Rom. 8:1-4), which has the “circumcision of Christ,” baptism (Col. 2:11-12), and the new Passover, the Eucharist (1 Cor. 5:7, John 6:53).

          Galatians 2:16 has nothing to do with the Catholic belief that good works and receiving the sacraments are necessary, but not sufficient, for salvation. Deciding who spends eternity in heaven remains entirely the prerogative of our loving Creator, who has given ample guidance to the faithful. Our Protestant brothers and sisters have been misled about the meaning of the text, so let us gently show them their error (2 Tim. 2:25)."

          Justification does not depend on obedience to the Mosaic Law, since it is by faith. Justification does not depend on any other law for the same reason. We are justified by faith, apart from the merit of good works. To say that we are required to follow the Law of Love rather than the Law of Moses misses the entire point. The Law of Love was literally embedded into the Mosaic system. So it is not something new by any means. For example, the concept was taught in Leviticus. The Law of Love was summarized in Deuteronomy 6. To say that a person is not justified by the Law encompasses the Law of Love. This excerpt from John Gill's Exposition of the Bible Commentary is pertinent here:

          "for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified; reference seems to be had to (Psalms 143:2) and contains a reason why these believing Jews relinquished Moses in his law, in whom they formerly trusted, and looked to, and depended on for their justification, because that by obedience to the law of works no sinful mortal man can be justified in the sight of God."

          Consider also the following translation of Galatians 2:16:

          "Yet we know that a person is put right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ, never by doing what the Law requires. We, too, have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be put right with God through our faith in Christ, and not by doing what the Law requires. For no one is put right with God by doing what the Law requires." (Galatians 2:16, Good News Translation)

          Interestingly enough, the Good News Translation is approved by the Roman Catholic Church for adherents to use in study. Following is another translation of Galatians 2:16:

          "yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16, New English Translation)

          If we are justified by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, then that would seem to imply the reception of benefits to believers on basis of His imputed righteousness. Either reading of Galatians 2:16 is supportive of justification by faith alone.

4 comments:

  1. Hello Jesse,

    Really good article!

    It seems like it’s a never-ending battle with Catholics when they try to resurrect good works to “supplement” Jesus’ work on the cross.

    I like the way you handled it early on and said, “Right from the beginning of the post, a straw man has been erected:” You set the stage to deal head-on with an important issue. Well done!

    Also, I like what you said about the Law of Love being “embedded” into the Mosaic system. Again, well said!

    I have made a similar point in the past. ALL good works are encompassed in the Law, since Jesus sums it up by saying that the Law can be boiled down to two simple commands: Love God with all your heart and love your fellow man as you love yourself. This covers EVERY good work.

    Keep up the good work, my brother!

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  2. Russell,

    I appreciate you taking the time to review this post. I also would strongly encourage readers of this article to check out Russell's work, which can be found here:

    http://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2010/08/sola-fide-revisited.html

    I too have given this issue a more in depth assessment in the following article:

    https://rationalchristiandiscernment.blogspot.com/2017/06/a-refutation-of-new-perspective-on-paul.html

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  3. I do have a some theological problems with the sacraments and their necessity for salvation. They certainly do not merit salvation, that would be ridiculous and contrary to scripture and Christ's sacrifice. An action done with no feeling is also certainly worth nothing when it comes to God. So the sacraments don't save. But are they necessary steps? Well John 3 and 6 would suggest an answer based on my interpretation which I don't see how you could disprove given that I could interpret any text you give me to refute in my own manner. So perhaps they are. Certainly if God gives us an order, it is a lack of faith to disobey, and a lack of faith is what will cause the loss of salvation. So perhaps they are. But God is not also tied to rules for man. He reaps where he does not sow, he is not subject to laws of man. So baptism is not necessary per se.
    I think the way that you phrase the soteriology is most accurate. "Faith apart from the merit of works." The works themselves are not making us justified. A level of goodness is not checked off because a certain work is complete. But a true faith requires good works. I think Aristotle can help with understanding. Aristotle preaches about form and actuality. Faith has a form, but an actual real faith is brought about in action according to that faith. So works are necessary because they are part this real faith, without them the faith would be empty, but they are not necessary because they then earn us reward. And when a real faith leads to action, I think this may appropriately be called love, for we believe in God and do as he commands. "If you love me, keep my commands." Now we are subject to the new Law of Love.

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  4. Sean,

    You asked if the so-called sacraments of the Papist church were steps to salvation; the answer is unequivocally “NO.” There is one step to salvation and that is faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior who died for your sin. Nothing else is required. There is nothing in John chapters 3 and 6 to say otherwise. There are no “orders” from God to do anything else except have faith in Christ’s work on the cross.

    Of course a real faith will be reflected in good works but the good works are not necessary for salvation. Why go to Aristotle when you can go to James 2:17-26? What do Christians care about what some Greek philosopher said when we have God’s Word to consult?

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