Brian Schwertley on Scripture and the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification

Brian Schwertley

The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification contradicts the Scriptures in several areas. First, the biblical terms used to speak of justification, dikaioo, always means to declare righteous and never means to make righteous (see Lk. 7:29; 10:29; 16:15; Mt. 11:19; Rom. 3:4). Justification is a judicial, forensic term and is often contrasted in Scripture with judicial condemnation (see. Dt. 25:1; Pr. 17:15; Isa. 5:23; Job 34:17). Second, when speaking of justification the Bible speaks of the imputation of righteousness and not the infusion of righteousness (see Rom. 4:12, 22-24). Third, the Bible describes justification as something achieved in an instant of time. It is never described as a long process (see Jn. 5:24; Lk. 18:14; 23:43; Rom. 5:1). Fourth, the Scriptures repeatedly declare that all that a person needs to be saved is to believe in Jesus Christ. “Everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Ac. 13:39; cf. Ac. 16:31; Jn. 3:15-16; 5:24; 11:25-26; Rom. 10:9; 1 Th. 4:14). Fifth, the apostle Paul says that God “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). This proves that God does not justify people because they are personally righteous but because of the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness. Sixth, God’s word makes a clear distinction between justification and sanctification. “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Justification deals with the guilt of sin and the merits needed for eternal life, while sanctification deals with the pollution of sin. Sanctification proves that a person has already been justified but does not contribute one iota to a person’s salvation. Seventh, the Bible teaches that the good works of believers are tainted with sin and are non-meritorious (Is. 64:6; Lk. 17:10; Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:15 ff.; Phil. 3:8-9). This side of heaven not one believer is without sin (1 Jn. 1:8). Eighth, the Scriptures say that faith alone is the instrument which appropriates Jesus Christ and His saving work (Rom. 3:22, 25-31; 4:5-25; 5:1, 18; 9:30-32; Gal. 2:16; 3:11-13, 24; 5:1-4). After one is justified, the sacraments and other means of grace are used in order to help the believer grow spiritually (i.e., for sanctification not for justification). Ninth, God’s word teaches that Jesus Christ actually accomplished a perfect redemption for His people, the elect (Mt. 1:21; Jn. 10:11-29; Ac. 20:28; Eph. 5:25-27). Romanism erroneously teaches that Christ merely made salvation a possibility if people cooperate with grace. But, as noted, such a view must presuppose that either Christ’s death was insufficient to save or that God is unjust by punishing the same sins twice. Both options are thoroughly unscriptural. The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification is diametrically opposed to the biblical method of justifying sinners. It contradicts the experience of Abraham and the teachings of Jesus Christ and all the apostles. Therefore, the Protestant reformers opposed the papal doctrine with every fiber of their being. Also, the Reformed churches rightfully opposed the Romish heresy in all their confessions. Now that modern Evangelicalism has degenerated so far in so many critical areas (e.g., soteriology, worship, eschatology, etc.). Protestants need to be even more diligent in defending justification against all attacks from antichrist and his lieutenants.

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