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

Friday, February 5, 2021

Freedom And Liberation From The Law

[Romans 7] 7:25 The Law is holy and its commandment is holy and just and good (12). But sin, that diabolic power, manifests itself in its true colors (12) by using just that good Word of God to rouse in man the dormant will of opposition to God which destroys him. Paul illustrates this working of the Law (as misused by the power of sin) from his early life (7-13). Paul also shows us the working of the Law from his own experience with the Law as a Christian (14-25). It was contact with the Law, confronting him as the commandment, that first gave sin its deadly power in his life (9-11). Paul as a Christian, when confronted by the Law, becomes a man rent by an agonizing struggle (14-24) from which only Christ can and does release him from this hard fought struggle (25).

Martin Franzmann and Walter H. Roehrs, Concordia Self-study Commentary [commentary on Romans], p. 131

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

          "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 good and bad works are being contrasted in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, the problem with this argument is that the concept of Purgatory is read into the passage. The context has nothing to do with a person making amends for his or her sins. It is not about justification. It is not about believers undergoing punishment after death for possibly remaining sins. Quite to the contrary, 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). See this article for further details:

          https://rationalchristiandiscernment.blogspot.com/2018/02/rebutting-rebuttal-by-catholic-answers.html

          "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 uses trials as a means to build up our faith and our character (Job 23:10; Romans 5:3-5). That is what distinguishes trust in God from mere intellectual assent that even demons have. 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 Dr. Thomas Constable's notes on Malachi 3:2-3:

          "When the Lord came suddenly to His temple, no one would be able to stand before Him. Elsewhere the prophets foretold that this time would be a day of judgment on the whole world marked by disaster and death (4:1; Isa. 2:12; Joel 3:11-16; Amos 5:18-21; Zech. 1:14-17). Here Malachi said no one would be able to endure His coming because He would purify the priesthood, the people who stood closest to Him. As a fire He would burn up the impurities of the priests, and as a laundryman’s soap He would wash them clean (cf. Deut. 4:29; Isa. 1:25; Jer. 6:29-30; Ezek. 22:17-22; Zech. 3:5). The Levitical priests would then be able to offer sacrifices to Yahweh in a righteous condition rather than as they were in Malachi’s day (cf. 1:6—2:9; Isa. 56:7; 66:20-23; Jer. 33:18; Ezek. 40:38-43; 43:13-27; 45:9-25; Zech. 14:16-21). The multiple figures of cleansing and the repetition of terms for cleansing stress the thoroughness of the change that the Lord’s Messenger would produce."

         The Lord Jesus Christ through His gospel shall purge our souls and conform us to His likeness. The Holy Spirit regenerates and cleanses His faithful remnant. The Savior "refines" us by faith. He protects us from the incurred eternal wrath that we deserve. When God forgives our trespasses, He no longer "remembers" them (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12-13). He 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 quotes 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)

         “There is, for all practical purposes, no biblical basis for the doctrine of purgatory.” (Richard McBrien, Catholicism: New Edition, p. 1166)

         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 Concordia Self-Study Bible New International Version has this footnote on the text of 1 Corinthians 3:15:

         "loss. Of reward (v. 14). as one escaping through the flames. Perhaps a Greek proverbial phrase, meaning "by a narrow escape," with one's work burned up by the fire of God's pure justice and judgement."

         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)