Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Is Justification Before God Ongoing Or A One Time Act?

  • Discussion:
          -Tim Staples of Catholic Answers wrote an article on how Roman Catholics should respond when objectors cite Romans 5:1 as proof for justification by faith alone. Following are his remarks along with a critique:

          "First, as baptized Catholics, we can agree that we have been justified and we have been saved. Thus, in one sense, our justification and salvation is in the past as a completed action. The initial grace of justification and salvation we receive in baptism is a done deal. And Catholics do not believe we were partially justified or partially saved at baptism."

          Romans 5:1 says plainly that we are justified before a holy God by faith. Romans 5:2 elaborates on that thought and states that we have been reconciled to Him. In other words, we can now approach God with confidence because of what Christ has done on our behalf at Calvary. Nowhere does Romans 5:1 speak of getting justified and saved "in a sense" at infant baptism. Such an analysis utterly misses the point of Romans 5:1 in its context. Faith is our point of access to God. In fact, the gospel presented by the Roman Catholic Church is so complicated that it would be virtually impossible to even accurately describe what it is on a witnessing tract!

          "This text indicates that after having received the grace of justification we now have access to God’s grace by which we stand in Christ and we can then rejoice in the hope of sharing God’s glory. That word “hope” indicates that what we are hoping for we do not yet possess (see Romans 8:24)."

           The term "hope" does not denote a state of doubt or uncertainty as it indicates a confident expectation that things will be done as God wills them.

          "The major part of the puzzle here that our Protestant friends are missing is that there are many biblical texts revealing both justification and salvation to have a future and contingent sense as well as these we have mentioned that show a past sense. In other words, justification and salvation also have a sense in which they are not complete in the lives of believers. Perhaps this is most plainly seen in Galatians 5:1-5."

           Justification is the first aspect of salvation. It is fully completed at the moment of our conversion. Sanctification will be completed at the end of our redemption. The idea of justification being "in a sense" incomplete should be rejected, unless we are referring to the evidential type spoken of in texts such as James 2:14-26.

         "The Greek word used in verse 6 [actually referring to Galatians 5:5] and here translated as “righteousness” is dikaiosunes, which can be translated either as “righteouness” or as “justification.” In fact, Romans 4:3, which we quoted above, uses a verb form of this same term for justification. Now the fact that St. Paul tells us we “wait for the hope of [justification]” is very significant."

          In Romans 4:3, the term "righteousness" is not a verb but a noun.

           "The truth is: this example of justification being in the future is not an isolated case. There are numerous biblical texts that indicate both justification and salvation to be future and contingent realities, in one sense, as well as past completed realities in another sense [Matthew 10:22; Romans 2:13-16; 6:16; 13:11; 1 Corinthians 5:5]."

           In what sense is the term "justification" being used in the above texts? If it is used in the sense of proved or vindication (evidence of a changed heart), then they do fit into a forensic justification framework.

           "While the Catholic Church agrees that Abraham was justified by faith in Genesis 15:6 as St. Paul said, we also note that Abraham was justified at other times in his life as well indicating justification to have an on-going aspect to it. Again, there is a sense in which justification is a past action in the life of believers, but there is another sense in which justification is revealed to be a process."

           This is nothing but circular reasoning. Even granting that Abraham was justified multiple times throughout his life, that does not prove he was justified in the sense of having been declared righteous in the sight of God. He could have been justified in an evidential sense, which we would expect to be ongoing. 

            "For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has taken all of Sacred Scripture into the core of her theology harmonizing all of the biblical texts. Thus, we can agree with our Protestant friends and say as Christians we have been (past tense) justified and saved through our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. But we also agree with our Lord that there is another sense in which we are being saved and justified by cooperation with God’s grace in our lives, and we hope to finally be saved and justified by our Lord on the last day (Matthew 12:36-37)."

            It seems that Tim Staples has only made feeble excuses to dance around Romans 5:1. Dr. Cornelis P. Venema gives this commentary regarding judgement on the last day:

            "Paul regards justification as a thoroughly eschatological blessing...The notion of a final justification on the basis of works inevitably weakens the assertion that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). A final justification on the basis of works also undermines Paul’s bold declaration that no charge can be brought, now or in the future, against those who are Christ’s (Rom. 8:33–34). Rather than treating the final judgment as another chapter in the justification of believers, we should view Paul’s emphasis upon the role of works in this judgment in terms of his understanding of all that salvation through union with Christ entails. Because believers are being renewed by Christ’s Spirit, their acquittal in the final judgment will be a public confirmation of the genuineness of their faith and not a justifying verdict on the basis of works....these good works are the fruits of faith, not the basis for a future justification. For this reason, Paul speaks of a judgment “according to,” not “on the basis of” works."

1 comment:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Good work, Jesse.

The initial grace of justification and salvation we receive in baptism is a done deal.
I'd like for him to tell me from Scripture where baptism does this, especially when they baptize infant who have no clue about what is happening!