Justified now, forgiven now, saved now, saved with a certainty (The Bible’s condemnation of the Roman Catholic view of Justification)
Posted by Gary on May 17, 2012
John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
1 John 5:13 “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
John 10:28 “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
I spent some time today reading the sixth section of The Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation. The sixth section outlines Rome’s position on “Justification” or what the layman might call, “forgiveness”. I was formerly a Catholic and have many family and friends who are. I love them and believe that some of them have a genuine faith in the Lord Jesus. But if they are saved it must be said that it is in spite of what Rome has taught them, not because of it.
The Bible teaches us that at the moment a person receives Christ as their Savior with genuine repentance and faith, their sins are forgiven and they have eternal life never to perish. Jesus has said it above in John 5:24, please notice the tense… “has eternal life” and “has passed out of death into life”. Not, “might have eternal life” or “can hope he has eternal life”. Notice also, not, “will have eternal life” or, “will pass out of death into life”. But, “has”, now!
On what does Jesus make these wonderful assurances contingent? Believing. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me”…But Rome says something different:
Section 6: Canon 12.
If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.
Section 6: Canon 14.
If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema.
From the verses at the head of this post, the Bible would have us be certain of our salvation. God promises the believer that we will not perish and that we can “know” that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). But Rome says something different:
Section 6: Canon 16.
If anyone says that he will for certain, with an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance even to the end, unless he shall have learned this by a special revelation, let him be anathema. (Note: We have received this certainty by special revelation, the Word of God in such verses as we are considering now)
In His last moments on the cross Jesus cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). As Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom opening the way into the Holy of Holies (Matthew 27:51). But, Rome says something different:
Section 6: Canon 30.
If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.
Apparently it is not finished. According to Rome, there is still a debt to pay by sinners, the gates of heaven cannot be opened to us yet until time in purgatory has been spent. Jesus declares that we have already passed from death to life but Rome says something different. By the way, where does the Bible ever tell us about a place called, “Purgatory”?
Dear reader, I know the thoughts of some of you. You think that what I am doing here is very mean, I am calling the sincere beliefs of more than a billion people wrong. First, let me say that I am not sure that most of those who are Roman Catholic even know the doctrines of their church at this level. Their lack of knowledge is sad and dangerous.
Imagine that you are wealthy, worth billions. Would you entrust your billions to someone without examining diligently what they are proposing concerning your wealth? Yet, how many people entrust their priceless souls (Mark 8:36) to churches, priests, pastors and teachers without ever examining what they are taught? Pointing at false teachers on the Judgment Day is not going to save us from the judgment of God. He has given us His Word and we are responsible for the knowledge we have or don’t have and whether we stand in truth or error.
But in addition, let me point out to you that at the end of each of the 33 canons in the sixth section of the Declaration of Trent and after every canon in the Declaration, is an anathema. An anathema is a judgment, essentially an eternal curse so that Rome is saying that if you contradict them in regard to any of these matters may you be condemned eternally.
Can we stop playing games? Can we please stop the “You’re being mean” business? The stakes cannot be higher. We are talking about the truth concerning God and how we as His creatures can be reconciled to Him and receive eternal life. Nice is not the issue, truth is. You may think me mean but Rome has called curses down on me so can we drop the nice issue?
What do you believe about the salvation of God? Is the Bible the final authority or is it as Rome claims, that the Church via tradition can declare truth with equal authority to the Word of God?
Let me say simply, Rome’s gospel is not good news. It is probation at best, not the free gift that Christ died and rose again to purchase. Let me close by sharing what I believe is a most beautiful description of the Biblical view of Justification, the forgiveness of sins based on what Christ has done for us. These thoughts are from Charles Spurgeon. If you doubt or oppose what you are about to read, I can tell you why. You doubt it because you believe ultimately that your salvation to one degree or another rests with you and what you do, not on what has been done for you.
How can Jesus say the believer “has” eternal life and “has passed” from death to life when he is speaking of people who are alive? How can the Word of God tell us that we can “know” that we have eternal life? Because salvation is the work of God entirely. It is certain because it is His doing. If you and I have something we must contribute or do well then, let us doubt and even more give up hope. Now Spurgeon:
Acts 13:39 “All that believe are justified.”
The believer in Christ receives a present justification. Faith does not produce this fruit by-and-by, but now. So far as justification is the result of faith, it is given to the soul in the moment when it believes on Christ, and accepts him as its all in all.
Are they who stand before the throne of God justified now?—so are we, as truly and as clearly justified as they who walk in white and sing melodious praises to celestial harps. The thief upon the cross was justified the moment that he turned the eye of faith to Jesus; and Paul, the aged, after years of service, was not more justified than was the thief with no service at all. We are today accepted in the Beloved, today absolved from sin, today acquitted at the bar of God. Oh! soul-transporting thought!
…We are now—even now pardoned; even now are our sins put away; even now we stand in the sight of God accepted, as though we had never been guilty. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” There is not a sin in the Book of God, even now, against one of his people. Who dare to lay anything to their charge? There is neither speck, nor spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing remaining upon any one believer in the matter of justification in the sight of the Judge of all the earth. Let present privilege awaken us to present duty, and now, while life lasts, let us spend and be spent for our sweet Lord Jesus. (from Morning and Evening: May 15)
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