Monday, February 22, 2021

Early Church Evidence For Sola Fide

"Victorinus separates them [justification and sanctification] when he writes, "A man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith and the faith of Jesus Christ...It is faith alone that gives justification and sanctification."

Nathan Busenitz, Long Before Luther, p. 82

Early Church Evidence For Sola Fide

"In his treatise entitled "Concerning Those Who Think to Be Justified through Works," Marcus Eremita (fifth century, also known as Marcus the Ascetic) explains that "the kingdom of heaven is not a reward for works, but a gift of grace prepared by the Master for his faithful servants."

Nathan Busenitz, Long Before Luther, p. 135

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Fruitless Efforts By Roman Catholic Apologists To Explain Away Romans 3:28

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to interact with a number of Roman Catholic claims regarding Romans 3:28 and justification by faith alone. Following are a few excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "Romans 3:28 is a key verse in the differences between traditional Protestants and Catholics. You will notice that Paul says a man is justified by faith (pistei in Greek). When Martin Luther translated the letter to the Romans into German in the sixteenth century, he added the word alone —but alone is not in the original Greek text. The phrase “faith alone” does occur in the New Testament: one time, in James 2:24. There the inspired apostle denies that justification is from faith alone. Let me quote it: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

          Romans 3:28 is part of a context contrasting faith and works. The latter is excluded by the Apostle Paul as being an available avenue of justification before God. This verse is rendered in J.B. Phillips New Testament as follows:

          "We see now that a man is justified before God by the fact of his faith in God’s appointed Saviour and not by what he has managed to achieve under the Law."

          The Good News Translation, which is approved by the Roman Catholic Church for adherents to use in study, renders Romans 3:28 this way:

          "For we conclude that a person is put right with God only through faith, and not by doing what the Law commands."

          James 2:24 is part of a context about the demonstration of a saving faith. That text addresses justification from an evidential perspective.

          "Paul categorically excludes works from our salvation. But what kind of works is Paul talking about? If we believe the entire Bible, we need to see how Paul’s words fit together with James’s words, because James clearly says that “a man is justified by works.” If Paul and James mean the same thing by works, then they contradict one another. Since you and I both believe that the Bible cannot contradict itself, we must agree that Paul and James mean two different things by the word works."

          Notice how a distinction between works in James and works in Paul has to be invented in order to circumvent the implications that Romans 3:28 has on Roman Catholic theology concerning salvation. The Apostle Paul undoubtedly had the Mosaic Law in mind when he wrote Romans. However, there is much more to it than customs such as circumcision. The Mosaic Law also had commandments to love God and love neighbor. Paul brings up the prohibition against coveting, which is a part of the Ten Commandments (Romans 7:7). James would indeed have these kinds of works in view. Moreover, Roman Catholicism regards these aspects of the Law as being necessary for justification while rejecting other aspects such as circumcision and Sabbath observance. 

          "A careful reading of Galatians will show that Paul is using works of the law to refer especially to the law of circumcision. He is so strong about this that he says in Galatians 5:2, “Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” Paul’s opponents in Galatia wanted to bring the Gentile Christians back into the Old Testament law. These are the works of the law that Paul is fighting against, and they have no place in our justification. Paul is saying in essence that Gentile Christians do not have to be circumcised and live like Jewish Christians in order to be saved."

          No reason has been given as to why we should limit Paul's focus to ceremonial and dietary laws when he speaks of "works of the law." His only point of emphasis when discussing the instance of justification before God in Romans and Galatians is faith. Hence, we see the reason for such passages being appealed to as evidence of justification by faith alone. Assume for the sake of argument that the Apostle Paul had the narrow focus of the Mosaic Law (not including good works in general) in mind when he mentions "works of the law." The Roman Catholic Church would still stand condemned according to his teaching.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Dissection Of 1 Corinthians 3:15 As A Catholic Prooftext

  • Discussion:
          -Karlo Broussard wrote an article for Catholic Answers titled Purgatory's Purifying Fire, which contains responses to various Protestant arguments against the citation of 1 Corinthians 3:15 as a proof-text for that dogma. This article aims to refute Roman Catholic claims of the text being a reference to a person receiving purification in purgatory after death. Following are a few excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "The idea of purification connotes the separation of good from bad...The good building materials (gold, precious stones, and silver) are separated from the bad building materials (wood, hay, and straw)."

          While it is true that a contrast in the kinds of materials used as metaphors describe the quality of various deeds performed in our lives, the problem with this argument is that the concept of Purgatory has been read into this passage. The context has nothing to do with a person making amends for his or her sins. It is not about believers undergoing punishment after death for venial sins. The text is about the reception of heavenly rewards (1 Corinthians 3:8; 14). God will evaluate the quality of each believer's work so as to bestow praise appropriately (1 Corinthians 4:5).

          "Furthermore, the imagery of fire conjures up the motif of purification. Peter uses it in 1 Peter 1:7 with reference to testing gold, and says that our sufferings test the genuineness of our faith."

          Just as men use fire for the purpose of refining precious metals such as gold and silver, God can use trials in testing faith and building up character (Job 23:10; Romans 5:3-5). That factor distinguishes trust in God from the type of faith even demons possess. The imagery of fire has nothing whatsoever to do with purgatory.

          "A third piece of evidence for the purification motif is the idea of judgment. Recall that the prophet Malachi describes God’s judgment as a “refiner’s fire,” and notes that God will “sit as a refiner” purifying the sons of Levi and refining them like gold and silver (Mal. 3:2-3)."

          Here is an excerpt from the Life-Application Study Bible on Malachi 3:2-3:

          "In the process of refining metals, the raw material is heated with fire until it melts. The impurities separate from it and rise to the surface. They are skimmed off, leaving the pure metal. Without this heating and melting, there could be no purifying. As the impurities are skimmed off the top, the reflection of the worker appears in the smooth, pure surface. As we are purified by God, his reflection in our lives will become more and more clear to those around us. God says that leaders (here the Levites) should be especially open to his purification process in their lives. Launderer's soap was alkali used to whiten cloth. It is also used here as a symbol of the purifying process."

         The Lord Jesus Christ is our propitiation before God. He satisfied the wrath of God and ensured the forgiveness of our sins. When He forgives our trespasses, He no longer "remembers" or counts them against us (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12-13). God does not count sin against those whom He has reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:19). Jesus Christ has already made perfect atonement for our sins (Hebrews 10:18; 1 John 2:1-2).

          Consider the following Roman Catholic excerpts on Purgatory being an unbiblical concept:

         "In the final analysis, the Catholic doctrine on purgatory is based on tradition, not Sacred Scripture." (Vol. XI, pg. 1034, Copyright 1967, Catholic University of America)

         The Roman Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition has this footnote on the text of 1 Corinthians 3:15:

         “The text of v. 15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of purgatory, though it does not envisage this.”

         The New Oxford Annotated Bible has this footnote on 1 Corinthians 3:15:

         "The expression as through fire is a common Greek idiom describing a narrow escape from danger: as the fire ignites, the workers escape from the legal penalty to be imposed upon their shoddy construction by running through the walls of the burning building."

         The context of 1 Corinthians 3:15 is about stewardship, not how one gets right with God. The fire reveals the quality of each person's works on the Day of Judgement. The phrase "he shall suffer loss" in verse fifteen refers to the loss of heavenly rewards. The Good News Translation renders 1 Corinthians 3:15 as follows:

         "But if your work is burnt up, then you will lose it; but you yourself will be saved, as if you had escaped through the fire." (1 Corinthians 3:15)