Category: Justification

Romans 4 and the Sacraments

 Romans 4 is frequently used to support the doctrine of justification by faith alone. But it is actually a dissertation on justification by the Sacraments.  Let’s go through it.

King James Version (KJV)
1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?Abraham is our father, according to the flesh. The Apostle asks, “what has he found”?

2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

Now, he asks, “did Abraham justify himself?” If he did, then more power to him, but it is not of God.

3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Now, he quotes Gen 15:6Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

and he begins to explain what that means.

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

This is a reference to the Jew. The Jews had made an agreement with God. They would do what He commanded and He would save them:

Ex 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him.

8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.

5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

But Abraham was born way before God made that covenant with the Israelites. Therefore, Abraham did not work for debt. But for faith. As the Scripture says:

Genesis 26:5
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

And this ties the Catholic back to Abraham. We also work because of our faith in God.

6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

David is one of the circumcised. But this is a reference, not to the covenant of works. But to the covenant of reconciliation. It is to one specific incidence that this refers:

2 Sam 12:13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.
David confessed his sin to God’s human representative and God forgave him. It is the first confession on record. David confessed through a priest, the same as we confess in the New Testament Church.

2 Corinthians 5:18
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

No one can deny that David did many works. But here, in his confession, all he did was believe in God’s mercy. That is what Catholics do when we attend the Sacraments.

9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

Is this reconciliation only offered to the Israelites. By no means. Abraham was not an Israelite. He was not even circumcised yet, when God saw his faith at work.

10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

This is a prophecy which showed that even the gentiles would be justified by faith.

12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

That pretty much repeats what I just said. We, like Abraham, believe and are imputed righteousness, in the Sacraments of Jesus Christ.

13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

The promise of God, then, was restricted to the Israelites but to the whole world, including the Israelites who believed God’s promises:
Hebrews 9:15
King James Version (KJV)
15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:

Here, St. Paul is contrasting the Old Testament with the New Testament.

The Old Testament is the Law.
The New Testament is the Faith.

Those who followed the Old Testament were not members of the body of Christ. They were not born again, nor could they be, because the Spirit was not yet given. Therefore Scripture says:
Heb 11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

So, even though they did everything by faith which they were supposed to do, they did not inherit the promise UNTIL Jesus died upon the Cross and established the Sacraments with His Blood.

15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

There was no ministry of reconciliation in the Old Testament. David’s reconciliation was the exception and it was to show the blessedness to come. It was a foreshadowing of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

Again, this explains why Catholics are children of Abraham. Because we believe and it is counted to us righteousness in the Sacraments.

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.

18 Who 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.

That is the promise which God made to Abraham.

19 And being not weak in faith,

and Abraham, believed God.

he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:

20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

And believing God, even though there were many obstacles, he worked. Believing God, he performed.

22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.  

And it was imputed to him righteousness. Just as it is imputed to the Catholic, who believing the promises of God, approaches the font of grace and submits to the Sacraments, calling on His name.

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

And that was not written for Abraham alone, but for us, who would receive the promise of the Holy Spirit of the Sacraments of Jesus Christ.

Acts 2:37-39
King James Version (KJV)
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Hebrews 12:18-24
King James Version (KJV)
18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,

19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:

20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:

21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

What do you think?

Do we reap what we sow?

Galatians 6:6-8

6Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

If this is true, how does it fit in with the faith alone theology?

In Catholic Teaching, it fits perfectly. To sow is to work. If we sow with our good works, we will reap eternal life. That is how it fits in the Catholic Teaching.

Let us read further:

Gal 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, 

Being caught in a TRANSGRESSION means being caught in a sin against the Law:

1 John 3:4

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is thetransgression of the law.

Therefore, this verse confirms that the law is still in effect.

you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.

This support given to the brethren is part of the Commandment to love one’s neighbor.

Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

This avoidance of temptation refers to the temptation to transgress the law, i.e. sin.

Gal 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 

The law of Christ is the law of love fulfills the law of the Commandments:

1 Corinthians 9:21

To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

Gal 6:3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 

This is actually a reproval of those who claim to be saved without awaiting God’s judgement. In other words, a rejection of so called, once saved always saved. As the Apostle states elsewhere:

1 Corinthians 10:12

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

But if we continue reading the entire Chapter, we see how plainly St. Paul teaches faith and works:

4But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

5For every man shall bear his own burden…..

9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

10As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Now, I don’t believe there are any COINCIDENCES in Scripture. Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. So lets look at verse 15:

15For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

And compare it to:

Galatians 5:6

For in Jesus Christ neicircumcision availeth any thing, noruncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

And to:

1 Corinthians 7:19

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

Is that merely a coincidence?  If not, can anyone deny that St. Paul teaches faith and works?

I can’t.


De Maria

What comes first? Faith, repentance or forgiveness?

What comes first?

Faith, repentance or forgiveness?   I am of the opinion that God first gives us the grace of faith. Then, we begin to seek God. Study His Word and obey His Commandments.  Then, realizing that we have sinned, we repent and ask for Him to forgive us.Then God, in His Mercy, washes us of our sins.Therefore the Scripture says:
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Acts 26:20
But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.Romans 2:13
(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.


Luther’s misunderstanding

I have a theory about Luther’s misunderstanding of justification, see if it makes any sense to you.

1st: Before the advent of Martin Luther, the Father of the Protestant Revolution, some very prominent and influential Catholics also said that justification was by faith alone.

Basil of Caesarea (329-379) “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, that Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, redemption. This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is (or has been) justified solely by faith in Christ.”

Ambrose (c. 339-97) “Therefore let no one boast of his works, because no one can be justified by his works; but he who is just receives it as a gift, because he is justified by the washing of regeneration. It is faith, therefore, which delivers us by the blood of Christ, because blessed is he whose sins are forgiven, and to whom pardon is granted.”

Jerome (347-420) on Romans 10:3 “God justifies by faith alone.” (Deus ex sola fide justificat).

So, in my opinion, if these Church Fathers used the term “faith alone”, I conclude that there is a legitimate understanding of this term for Catholics.

2nd: How can it be by faith alone?

To put it bluntly, “Not the Protestant way.” Protestants deny that works before justification avail anything towards justification. But it is clear to me, from Scripture, that unless someone keeps the Commandments and does the Will of God, he will not be justified.

Scripture says:

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

This verse, very clearly tells me, that only those who do the Commandments will be just before God. Therefore, good works avail everything towards justification because without them, we won’t be justified.

3rd: So what did the Church Fathers mean when they said, “justification by faith alone”?

They were talking about that justification which occurs in the Sacraments. The Church teaches that the Sacraments are the works of God.

740 These “mighty works of God,” offered to believers in the sacraments of the Church, bear their fruit in the new life in Christ, according to the Spirit. (This will be the topic of Part Three.)

We approach the Sacraments with a disposition of faith. But it is apart from works. We repented, we turned to God, we sought His Face, we studied to show ourselves approved, now we believe that He will keep His promise. He will wash our souls with the washing of regeneration and renewal which is Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit. But we don’t do anything at that moment. We only believe. And God sees our faith and credits it to us as righteousness and that is why we are called the children of Abraham (Gen 15:6).

So, the justification which occurs in the Sacraments is what I believe the Catholic Church Fathers were talking about when they used the term “justification by faith alone”.

4th: So, what about Luther? In his German Bible, Luther swapped the words, “apart from works” for the word, “alone”. My theory is that he simply did not see the Sacramental Teaching which St. Paul was making when he wrote these words. I believe that when St. Paul said, “we are justified by faith apart from works”, he was describing that justification which occurs in Baptism. But Luther was led astray. And the prophecy of 2 Peter 3:16-17 was fulfilled in him:

2 Peter 3:16-17 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

16 speaking of this as he (i.e. St. Paul) does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.

Does that make sense?

Why would God do something He finds abominable?

On Greenbaggins blog, he said:

Why Imputation Is Not a Legal Fiction
August 18, 2014 at 11:23 am (Justification)
A very common objection from Roman Catholics against the Protestant doctrine of imputation is that God declares someone to be innocent who is not, in fact, innocent. This is legal nonsense, to them. They believe that God would never declare a person to be righteous who is not, in fact, righteous. So, the Protestant idea that an alien righteousness, that of Christ, is reckoned to the sinner, is nonsense to them. It would be God declaring something to be true which is actually false.

I answer:

Yes. Scripture says:

Proverbs 17:15 English Standard Version
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

So, why would God do something He considers abominable?


Is the justification of Abraham equal to the justification we receive in the New Testament?

It was while reading the Creed Cult Code blog about “The Mediocrity of the New Covenant?” when I thought about this,
Is the justification of Abraham equal to the justification we receive in the New Testament?
Because, if it is, then the New Testament is not superior to the Old.  But Scrpture says:
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
I think this verse from Scripture makes the point clear that the New Testament is superior and that the justification of the sinner in the New Testament is superior to that of the Old.
Matthew 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
At the time when Jesus made this statement, the OT Patriarchs had not been Baptized of the Holy Spirit. They were only born of woman. They had not been renewed and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
And Jesus said that John the Baptist was the greatest of these. John the Baptist had also not received the Baptism of Jesus Christ.  But we, who are baptized, are citizens of the Kingdom of heaven.
Hebrews 12:22  King James Version (KJV)
22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
Therefore, justification in the NT is greater than justification in the OT.
Therefore, when Scripture says in
Gen 15:6 “He believed and it was credited to him as righteousness”,
Abraham did not receive at that moment, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit nor a new life in Christ. He was not born again.
Certainly, after many centuries, he received what we receive the moment we are justified. And of course, the Catholic Church teaches that this happens in the Sacrament of Baptism.  But that brings us back to “imputation”. And I think I can ask this in a different manner.
“Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.”
Protestants frequently say it this way, “The righteousness of Christ was imputed unto Abraham”.
Does that Protestant terminology mean the same thing as “being born again in the image of Christ”?  and does it result in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?
Because I don’t see that in Scripture.
Scripture says that we are promised the Holy Spirit in Baptism:
Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
And Scripture says that Abraham did not receive that promise:
Hebrews 11:39New International Version (NIV)
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,
Nor could he, since the Holy Spirit was not yet given:
John 7:39  New International Version
By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Does that make sense?

Merit before Baptism?

Merit before Baptism is not the same thing as merit before justification.

I’ve been having an interesting conversation in Greenbaggins blog, where the folks I’m talking to equate justification and Baptism. They keep saying to me, interchangeably:

Vincent said, #1245 November 9, 2014 at 9:12 am

Faith is a free gift in Catholicism not a meritorous work. The grace of baptism is not merited. That is official catholic teaching.


Eric W said, #1261 November 9, 2014 at 1:04 pm

De Maria (re: 1255),

RC theology teaches…:

2. Grace of justification (grace of baptism)….

Although it is true, that it is Catholic Teaching that we are perfectly justified in Baptism. What these folks seem to have forgotten, is that the Catholic Church teaches that justification is a PROCESS that begins well before Baptism and does not end until we die. Well, at that point its put on hold until the final judgement where we will stand before the King of Kings for our final justification.

So, when the Church says that the grace of justification is not merited, She means that grace which we receive to begin the process of justification at the beginning of conversion is not merited.  Lets go over some of the Catechism regarding this subject:

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace.

That’s the unmerited grace of the Call to Conversion.

The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

After that Call, if we turn to God in faith and seek His Face, we begin to merit. This is before Baptism.

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification,

at the beginning of conversion (see 2008).

Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity,

we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.

Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

So, I think that is what is missing. The understanding that justification begins before Baptism and doesn’t ever end.