Monday, November 26, 2012

Analysis of St. Paul's Teachings on Justification and Faith

Romans 3:28
26 Through the forbearance of God, for the shewing of his justice in this time; that he himself may be just, and the justifier of him, who is of the faith of Jesus Christ. 27 Where is then thy boasting? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law.
Thats how the Douay says it. Here's how the quintessential Protestant Bible says it:
Romans 3:26-28 (King James Version) 26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
I see no big difference. The two versions are virtually identical as far as the meaning goes.
When speaking to Protestants about this verse, they generally quote it as Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith. Some will say, Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from works. But they generally leave out “of the law.” And these words are very important to the idea that St. Paul is expressing.
Why? Because of the example which St. Paul is using. Abraham.
Continue reading until you get to Chapter 4 verse 2:
For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Now we know that St. Paul is speaking of works of the law because that is what he was speaking of in the last chapter. He didn't suddenly change subjects. However, he has omitted the words of the law at this point.
Lets keep reading:

4Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 

Here, St. Paul says that to the person who works, the reward is a wage or a debt, not a free gift of grace.
5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. But to the person who does not work, but only believes in God who justifies the sinner, that person's faith is counted as righteousness.

6Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Now, here it gets a little confusing. If you go back to Psalm 32, you will find that David is speaking of a repentant sinner who has asked forgiveness. As we said before, he is speaking of himself and the sin committed with Bathsheba. And then he confessed his sin to Nathan the High Priest and God forgave him. Catholics will recognize this ritual. It is very similar to the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation. But the Jews did not have Sacraments. They had a Covenant. This Covenant imparted grace from God, but not Sacramental or Sanctifying grace. God imparted His grace, then as now, only to those who believed. Only to those who had faith. This is the first type of Justification of the sinner by God.
Ok, lets keep reading because St. Paul mixes both types of justification into this discourse. 9Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
Did you get that? This is very important. At the time that God reckoned Abraham was righteous, ABRAHAM WAS NOT YET CIRCUMCISED. This is the idea that St. Paul was expressing by saying, “apart from works of the Law”.
Circumcision is a requirement of the Old Testament Law. Therefore circumcision is a “work of the Law”. And Abraham was reckoned just or righteous, APART FROM WORKS OF THE LAW.
Now, for brevity's sake, we're going to skip around a bit. But you can read the entire text yourself. The point I want to make here, is that Protestants always point to Romans 3:28 and say that St. Paul was teaching “faith alone”. At this point however, I want to direct you to Romans 4:17-24. Lets continue reading from there:
17(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. 

St. Paul reminds us that God made Abram the father of all nations. That is what Abraham means.
18Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
And Abraham believed IN HOPE. St. Paul describes hope as being a step higher than faith:

2 Corinthians 10:15 Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, 

You see, we hope when our faith is increased. So Abraham didn't just have faith in God. He hoped in God.
19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:
Ok, now we're getting to the part I wanted you to read. St. Paul says that Abraham was not weak in faith. BUT THAT'S NOT ALL. Abraham was one hundred years old, because he is not weak in faith he does not consider his own body dead. What does that have to do with anything? God has just promised that Abraham will be the father of nations. In modern lingo, that means that Abraham has to get busy. Abraham and Sarah have to get busy. But St. Paul says even more. Abraham and Sarah have been married close to 70 years and Sarah has never conceived. But Abraham has so much faith and hope in God that he doesn't even consider that little detail. In one short verse, St. Paul tells us that Abraham puts his faith to work. Lets continue.
20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And he did not doubt in God's promises. Thus giving glory to God. 21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
And because he was completely convinced that God could bring to accomplishment what He had promised...
22And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Therefore, God credited to him as righteousness.
You see? Abraham's faith was strong and vibrant. It wasn't dead. How do we know? Because St. Paul says that Abraham acted upon the promises of God, thus giving glory to God. How did he act upon those promises? By uniting himself with his wife in the conjugal act. Even though he was a hundred years old, even though her womb had never borne a child before. He believed God and put his faith to work. As St. James would have said:
James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
It can't be any plainer to me. St. Paul and St. James agree completely. THEREFORE, because St. Paul believed, he did not consider his body dead or Sarah's womb closed, and he performed the duty, the work, which every husband must perform who wants to have a child by his wife. THEREFORE it was counted to him as righteousness. He was credited as just. Not because of faith alone, but because of faith and works. Not works of the law, but works of obedience.
Alrightee then! Its time to skip again. This time, to

Romans 5:9 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
Notice that he doesn't mention our works at all at this point, but only the Blood of Christ. Catholics are very familiar with this Sacrament. It is the Eucharistic Chalice which makes present the Blood He shed on the Cross. Again, this is a reference to Sacramental Justification.
Moving on to

Romans 9: 31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
This is another idea which St. Paul frequently expresses, the ineffect of works without faith. What we would call, “works alone”. Frequently, Protestants unfairly accuse the Catholic Church of teaching works alone. But the Catholic Church teaches that the Sacraments are works of God and that justification is by faith AND works. Not by works alone and not by faith alone.
There's another idea which is addressed by St. Paul which is not addressed by any other Scripture writer. It is the idea of grace vs. works. Romans 11:6 (King James Version)
6And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
At first glance, this statement is about “justification by grace”. And it is, but primarily it is about “election by grace”. What is “election”? Election is the idea that, because God is all knowing, He PRE selected or predestined those who would be justified and then saved. This is a very difficult topic which we will only touch upon right now. But you can look it up under the heading of “predestination”. Catholic and Protestant ideas of “predestination” are very close but not identical. Especially distinguished because of the Protestant idea of “irresistible grace” which is not taught by the Catholic Church. Anyway, that is what Romans 11:6 is about. It is about why God chose the Jews to be saved in the first place and explains that they did not lose their election although many of them lost their salvation. Lets look at the context:
Romans 11 1I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. In Romans,
I have been taught that St. Paul is speaking to a Gentile Church. That is to say, a Church composed mostly of former Gentiles. At this point in the Epistle, he is explaining why the Jews were cut off and the Gentiles grafted on the tree which is the body of Christ.
2God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying,
And he explains that God has not cast away the Jews. They will still be saved.
3Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. 4But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
He uses as an example an episode from the Old Testament with Elijah wherein God had set aside 7000 men, prophets, who did not bow down to Baal.

5Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
And he explains that God did not choose them or those present because of their works, but because of His Mercy and Grace.
6And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
Therefore, he says, we were elected by grace. It is not something which we could earned. Perhaps I need to explain this a bit further. There are many things which God has done for our salvation with which we had nothing to do except that God loves us. For instance:
1.The Incarnation. God did not become man because of our faith or because of anything else we may have done. He became man in order to give us another opportunity to be united to Him because of His Love and Mercy.
2.The Crucifixion. God did not die on the Cross because of our faith or because of anything we have done. In fact, it is more because of our lack of faith that God died on the Cross thereby giving us an example of self sacrifice that we could follow.
3.The Resurrection. God did not come back from the dead because of our faith or lack there of, but because He wanted to inspire in us hope for our salvation by providing for us evidence of what would happen to everyone who was faithful and obedient unto death.
7What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. 9And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: 10Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. 11I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. In this long section,
St. Paul says that the Jews were not thrown away, but were permitted to stumble that the Gentiles would be saved and the Jews provoked to jealousy.
12Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? 13For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: 14If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. 15For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
And just as Jesus Christ came back from the dead, God may bring the Jews back from the dead.

Anyway, I hope that is enough to prove that this idea is not about justification of the individual, but about election, first of the Jewish nation and then of the Gentiles.
Galatians 2:16 (King James Version) 16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 

Here's another instance of the terminology, “works of the law”.
But if you read the entire chapter and the next, you will find that the idea expressed is about the Sacraments, Baptism in particular.
26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
In essence, it boils down to the idea that those who are baptized are children of God. And if we are children of God then we belong to the Body of Christ, who alone was given the promise through Abraham. In other words, if we have faith in Jesus Christ, we will be baptized, justified by God and inherit the promise given to the Son, whom we have become, having become Abraham's seed.
Ephesians 2:8 (King James Version) 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
This is a beautiful verse, which is frequently mistaken for a teaching on faith alone, but which really needs to be broken down into its separate parts to be understood correctly.

 8For by grace are ye saved
The main idea being addressed here is that we are saved by God by His Grace. through faith; And that faith itself is a form of grace. This is why it says “by grace, through faith”.

and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

And that idea is confirmed here. Faith doesn't come from us, it is a gift of God. Therefore, we owe everything to God.
If we continue reading, he also addresses “works”:

9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

If we combine verse 8 and 9, we see that we are not saved either because of our faith or our works. Our salvation is the Gift of God. Jesus Christ died on the Cross because He loves us. Not because of anything we did.
10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

This verse is has a subtle double meaning which we need to explore.
1st. We are His Workmanship-All mankind was created by God. If we read Genesis, we see that God rested after He created us on the sixth day.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
2nd. Created in Christ Jesus unto good works.
All mankind was created in and through Christ Jesus. He is the first and the last. We were created in Him and without Him nothing was made.
Col 1:15-16 15Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
3rd. But we are also recreated in Christ in Baptism. We become new Creations putting on Christ Jesus. Wherein we are born again in Christ Jesus. And created to perform good works which God fore ordained that we should obey Him.
4th. And in neither circumstance were our works necessary. God did not create us because we did anything. We didn't exist. He created us because He wanted someone to give His love. And God didn't become incarnate, die on the Cross and come back from the dead because of anything we did that was good. But because of His great love and mercy which impelled Him to save us.
5th.Why does He love us? Because He created us in Christ Jesus, His Son. That covers most of the verses which many interpret and say that St. Paul is teaching faith alone. At this point, I'd like to introduce one verse which I believe shows that St. Paul does not ever teach faith alone:
Hebrews 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Generally, Protestants believe that salvation and justification occur at the same time. Some even say they are the same thing. So, if Jesus saved only those who obey, then it is by faith and works that one is saved, because obedience implies works.
St. Paul vs. St. James - justification


That's it folks. I'm not sure how clear this explanation of the doctrine of justification or should I say, the doctrines of justification were for all of you. I know that my own wife and daughters did not understand what I was trying to say. But I don't know how to simplify it any further. I will try below however. St. Paul and St. James agreed with each other on “the justification of repentance or conversion”. A very good example of this shown in the following two verses:

Romans 2:13 For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

However, St. Paul wasn't only speaking about that type of justification. In many of his teachings, he dug deeper and explained the justification which only God can perform for us in the Sacraments. And not only that but he also touched upon the fact that no amount of faith and works on our part brought Jesus into the Virgin's womb nor persuaded Jesus to die on the Cross and claim back His life in the resurrection. NOTHING we did could have brought about those graces. Only God's great love and mercy could do so.
May God bless you.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for contributing.