The Gospel Unwavering By Tim Moore What inspires you? Amidst all the noise and clamor,…
How Can A Sinner Become Right With God?
By Mike Gendron
The only way a sinner, who is condemned under God’s inflexible justice, can be made right with God is through faith alone in the substitutionary death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-28). Jesus Christ satisfied divine justice so that God could be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). The sinless Savior went to the cross as a substitute for His people. He endured the wrath of God in the place of sinners who would repent and believe the Gospel. This is the heart of the Gospel and the hinge upon which the gates of heaven open and close.
Catholicism Totally Rejects Biblical Justification
Roman Catholicism directly opposes God’s Word on the doctrine of justification. At first, the papists obscured this core doctrine of the Gospel from its people, then later corrupted it with “infallible” dogmas at the 16th century Council of Trent. We must warn Catholics that if they get justification wrong, they cannot be right with God. Knowing that God’s truth shines brightest against the darkness of religious deception, let us consider the following distortions of the doctrine of justification by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):
• Justification is by faith in what God accomplished in Christ (Rom. 5:1).
• Rome says justification is by the sacrament of water baptism (CCC, 1992).
• Justification is instantaneous and changes one’s legal status before God whereby a condemned sinner has been acquitted and declared righteous (Rom. 4:3; 5:12-21).
• Rome says justification is a process and changes the inner man, not his legal status (CCC, 2019).
• Justification is permanent and is never lost by sin. The legal status of a justified man is as unchangeable as the righteousness of Christ (Heb. 10:14).
• Rome says justification is temporal; it can be lost by sin and regained through the sacrament of penance and good works (CCC, 1446, 1861).
• God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5).
• Rome teaches final justification is not for the ungodly but for those who become righteous (CCC, 2016, 2020).
• Justification is the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the repentant sinner (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 4:5).
• Rome says justification is the infusion of righteousness which renews the interior man (CCC,1989).
• Justification is by grace apart from works. Christ’s righteousness is given as a gift (Titus 3:7; Rom. 5:17, 11:6).
• Rome says justification must include good works. Re-justification must be merited by making satisfaction for sins through penance, works of mercy, etc. (CCC, 1459, 1460, 2010, 2027). “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone…let him be anathema” (Trent, Canon 24).
• God promises to glorify everyone He justifies because those justified can never be condemned (Rom. 8:1, 8:30).
• Rome says God will condemn to hell everyone who was justified by water baptism but who later dies in mortal sin (CCC, 1861).
One Verse Catholics Love to Quote
As we share the Gospel of grace with Roman Catholics, they will defend their dogma of justification by faith plus works with James 2:24 which says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” It appears that James is teaching something inconsistent with the rest of Scripture. However, when we study the context of chapter two, we see that James is not teaching “how to be justified”, he is contrasting two kinds of faith – a genuine, God-given faith which is evidenced by good works, and a spurious, dead faith which shows no evidence of conversion.
Professors of Christ Who Do Not Possess Him
James is dealing with an issue that was prevalent in the first century church and even more widespread today. We have many professors of Christ who do not possess Christ because they have never been born again. They are victims of the worst kind of deception, believing they are Christians when they are not. The most terrifying words professing Christians could ever hear would be Jesus saying, “Depart from me, I never knew you” (Mat. 7:23). That’s why James exhorts his readers to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas. 1:22)
Works Are the Evidence of an Invisible Faith
James says, “show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). Since faith is an invisible relationship between God and man, its only visible evidence are the works produced by faith. James is declaring that genuine faith will be accompanied by good works. In other words, we are justified by faith alone, but faith that justifies is never alone! Those with God-given faith have been given a new heart and a new nature that produces a changed life which bears fruit for the glory of God (John 15:4-8).
Genuine Faith vs. Dead Faith
True believers may have times of unfruitfulness in their lives, but the pattern and direction of their lives will be characterized by an increasing pattern of righteousness and a decreasing pattern of sin. This process of sanctification is not about sinless perfection, but a righteous direction. Righteous behavior is what distinguishes dead faith from genuine faith. We enter into salvation by faith apart from works (Eph. 2:8-9), but after we are saved then we do the works God has prepared for us (Eph. 2:10).
Justification and Vindication
It is also important to know that the Greek word for “justified” has two meanings. One is a legal or forensic declaration by God to those who have faith. Paul wrote: “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). The other meaning is “to vindicate” or “to show” that someone is righteous. Abraham was justified (vindicated) “when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar” (James 2:21). Abraham did not need to be justified again because God had justified him by faith alone many years before (Gen. 12:1-7, 15:6). His obedience to God vindicated his genuine faith. James is using Abraham as an example of believers who have been justified; their faith is also vindicated by their works.
Is James Contradicting Paul?
Some will ask why does James appear to contradict Paul, who wrote: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Clearly, Paul is dealing with the means of salvation, whereas James is dealing with the outcome of salvation. Paul is dealing with the nature of justification, while James is dealing with the nature of faith.
Witnessing to Catholics
May we all be ready to defend this vitally important doctrine of justification when we witness to Roman Catholics. We must boldly proclaim that the only way repenting sinners can be justified by our Holy God is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone!
You can listen to Mike’s message on Evangelizing Catholics God’s Way here.