Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Catholic Response to Sola Fide

A Catholic Response to Sola Fide
| October 2007 | Bryan J.P. Gesinger 

A central doctrine of the Protestant Reformation is justification by faith alone (sola fide). Though different Protestant denominations interpret and expound this doctrine in different senses, the general consensus among Protestants remains that man is justified -- i.e., made right with God -- by faith alone, and that, whatever role good works may occupy in man's life, they are not, even partially, the basis of his justification before God. Though sola fide is widely popular, and alluring even for many who do not espouse it, it is alien and contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture viewed in its entirety, as well as to the teaching of the Church Christ Himself founded 2,000 years ago, the Catholic Church.

Granted, there is much Scripture that, read in isolation, seems to suggest at least the possibility, if not the probability, of justification by faith alone. Protestantism has been so successful and so influential for so long that its apologists have been able to devise various seemingly cogent arguments in favor ofsola fide. However, they generally cite scriptural passages that attest to the seeming probability of sola fide exclusively; if they attempt to account for any of the vast number of passages that undermine the doctrine, a strained effort is made to subordinate such passages to the other, favored set.

It is my task here to address the misconceptions of the Catholic doctrine of Justification, particularly as it harmonizes with Holy Scripture, and to show how the scriptural passages cited in favor of sola fide are to be understood properly in the wider context of both the Old and New Testaments. While the subject's complexity prohibits treating every pertinent issue, we will endeavor to address several common difficulties pertaining to the Catholic Church's doctrine of Justification by faith. It must be stressed at the outset that while the Catholic Church does not teach justification by faith alone, she most certainly teaches justification by faith. However, following Christ, as well as St. Paul and the other New Testament writers, the Catholic Church insists that faith alone is insufficient.

Effective communication between Catholics and Protestants on the subject of justification by faith is often hindered by Catholics' failing to draw necessary distinctions and patiently to recount important nuances reflected in the scriptural texts cited. Often, such omissions reinforce the suspicion that Catholics are insufficiently familiar with Scripture, while the Catholic party contends that his case is inadequately appreciated. (Often, it is inadequately articulated.) Therefore, it is necessary to take careful note of the Catholic resolution of various Protestant difficulties drawn from several controversial scriptural passages.

Perhaps the most often-cited scriptural passage adduced in favor of sola fide and, isolated from its original context, one of the most frequently misrepresented, is St. Paul's recounting the important case study of Abraham's justification in Romans 4:1-5. Because it is always important and instructive to remember the context of a given passage, we shall examine the preceding verses that establish the background of St. Paul's discussion (Rom. 3:19-4:12).

    Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no human being will be justified in His sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
    But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by His Blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that He Himself is righteous and that He justifies him who has faith in Jesus.
    Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and He will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
    What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin." Is this blessing pronounced only upon the circumcised, or also upon the uncircumcised? We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after but before he was circumcised. He received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness which he had received by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but also follow the example of the faith which our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (emphasis added)
The standard Protestant interpretation of the preceding passage contends that because Abraham was presumably justified without good works, he is the Old Covenant's model of salvation by faith alone in the New Covenant. This contention is a prime example of a text's misinterpretation as a result of isolation from its original context. The immediate context is sufficient at least to indicate the type of "works of law" to which St. Paul refers, namely, the Mosaic Law, specifically its requirement of circumcision (cf. Gen. 17:12-14). St. Paul specifies that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised (Rom. 4:10-12). However, nowhere does the Apostle say that Abraham's faith operated alone in his justification. (In his personal translation of the New Testament into German, Martin Luther inserted the word allein ["alone"], though he knew it to be absent from the Greek text. When he was rebuked for having done so, he retorted, "If your Papist [i.e., Catholic] annoys you with the word [alone, as added to Rom. 3:28], tell him straightway: 'Dr. Martin Luther will have it so. Papist and ass are one and the same thing. Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go-by: the devil's thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge. Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor [i.e., teacher] above all the doctors in Popedom.'")

Moreover, writing to the Hebrews, St. Paul declares, "By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance, and he went out, not knowing where he was to go" (Heb. 11:8; emphasis added). Hence, it is unscriptural to deduce an example of justification by faith alone (sola fide) from St. Paul's description of Abraham's justification. St. Paul declares that Abraham's hope co-operated with his faith in his process of justification (cf. Rom. 4:18) as he "grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God" (Rom. 4:20).

St. James confirms, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son, Isaac, upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness'; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (Jas. 2:21-24). Several aspects of this passage are important: First, echoing St. Paul in Hebrews 11:8, St. James declares that Ab­raham's works of obedience were essential to his justification. Second, the only instance in which the phrase "faith alone" appears in the New Testament is in James 2:24, wherein St. James declares that man is justified by works and "not by faith alone." Third, the point at which "Abraham was called out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance" (Heb. 11:8) was in Genesis 12, long before he was declared just in Genesis 15. Moreover, St. James informs us that Abraham was "justified by works when he offered his son, Isaac, upon the altar" (cf. Gen. 22). Hence, not only was Abraham justified initially in Genesis 12, and again in Genesis 15 (cf. Rom. 4), but his justification increased again when he offered Isaac upon the altar in Genesis 22! Thus, Abraham's justification was, as we see in St. Paul's account, a process of faith working itself out in charitable obedience. Each stage of obedience increased his justification. Doubtless his obedience resulted from his faith; but it was not faith alone that effected his justification, but faith and works of obedience in tandem (cf. Gal. 5:6). In Genesis 22, long after Abraham's faith was reckoned to him as righteousness, God promises Abraham, "Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you…. because you have obeyed My Voice" (Gen. 22:16-18; emphasis added).

Our Lord confirmed this correlation of works and justification: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the Will of My Father Who is in Heaven. On that Day [of Judgment], many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And I will declare to them, 'I never knew you. Depart from Me, you evildoers'" (Mt. 7:21-23; emphasis added). "I tell you, on the Day of Judgment, men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words will you be justified, and by your words will you be condemned" (Mt. 12:36-37; emphasis added). The Greek word for "justified" here, dikaiosune, is the same term St. Paul used in Romans 3:28. We see clearly in these declarations of our Lord that justification is determined by works, including the works of speech. Christ says not, "By your faith as demonstrated by your words…," but rather, "By your words will you be justified, and by your words will you be condemned." One's salvation is determined on a constant, continual basis -- not by an isolated, irrevocable decision.

Throughout the New Testament we see that the theological virtues -- faith, hope, and love (or charity) -- co-operate for justification. Faith, of course, is necessary. However, we are assured that faith is useless without charity: "If I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2; emphasis added). Moreover, St. Paul writes in the same epistle, "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed [anathema, Greek]" (1 Cor. 16:22; emphasis added). Ironically, the Catholic Church is often accused of preaching "another gospel" and therefore of incurring the anathema St. Paul associated with apostasy (i.e., the abandonment of the True Faith [cf. Gal. 1:6-9]), because Catholics insist that charity must be united to faith for justification. Yet, as we have seen, St. Paul himself declared that he who does not love Christ is accursed. Of course, St. John reminds us, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that he who loves God should love his brother also" (1 Jn. 4:20-21). Moreover, Christ Himself declared the greatest Commandment to be love for God, followed closely by love of one's neighbor as oneself (cf. Mt. 22:34-40, 19:16-19; Rom. 13:8-10).

"So faith, hope, love abide: these three. But the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13; emphasis added). These are called theological virtues because they are gifts of God operating in the justified man by man's response to God's initiating grace. Our Lord declared, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (Jn. 6:44). The very response man makes to God's enabling grace is itself a gift of grace whereby justification is increased. St. Paul writes to the Romans, "What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin which leads to death, or of obedience which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification" (Rom. 6:15-19; emphasis added). The Apostle links obedience with righteousness after declaring to the Romans, "Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Rom. 5:1). St. Paul exhorts his disciples to make of their very bodies, their "members," "instruments of righteousness" (Rom. 6:13), that is, tools whereby righteousness is performed, by the power of God's grace.

This is incompatible with sola fide, which insists that righteousness is by faith alone and in no sense by works. Moreover, lest we conclude that justification is exclusively past while sanctification is ongoing, St. John writes, "Let the…righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy" (Rev. 22:11; emphasis added). The Greek is rendered literally, "the righteous [one] righteousness let him do still, and the holy [one] let him be hallowed still" (cf. Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English[Zondervan, 1975]; emphasis added). Writing his First Epistle, using the same terms, St. John confirms, "If ye know that He [Christ] is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him" (1 Jn. 2:29, KJV; cf. Marshall, op. cit.). This is why Christ warns His disciples, "He who endures to the end will be saved" (Mt. 10:22, 24:13; emphasis added).

The doctrine of sola fide does not admit a process of justification -- whereas Scripture describes justification as precisely that: progressive. Typically, advocates of sola fideemphasize the many verses that describe the past bestowal of justification, while they ignore or dismiss verses that indicate its present and future continuation. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18; emphasis added). Though, tragically, some translations, such as the King James Version, distort the sense of this statement of St. Paul by substituting "are saved" for "are being saved," the Greek text reads, "being saved" (cf. Marshall, op. cit.). It is significant that the Apostle includes himself as one who is being saved, not as one who considers his salvation a foregone conclusion, an irrevocable past event. Similarly, St. Paul declared to the Romans, "salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed" (Rom. 13:11; the Greek is rendered literally, "For now nearer [is] of us the salvation than when we believed" [cf. Marshall, op. cit.]). Likewise, St. Peter writes, "Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation…" (1 Pet. 2:2). Each of these passages confirms, contrary to sola fide, that justification is a process of maturity through discipline, by God's grace. As St. Paul wrote to the Hebrews, "It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Heb. 12:7-11; emphasis added). This passage, too, indicates that righteousness progresses as "the obedience of faith" progresses (cf. Rom. 1:5, 6:16). As St. Paul proclaimed, "The doer of the law will be justified" (Rom. 2:13).

Significantly, St. Paul wrote of his own prospect of salvation in terms of a present fight, which he was concerned to pursue diligently: "Do you not know that in a race, all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

If, then, as St. Paul taught, "the doer of the law will be justified" (Rom. 2:13), how are we to interpret Romans 3:28, the rally cry of the Protestant Reformation: "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law"? The crux of the matter is the significance of the phrase "works of law" (erga namau, Greek). The context of this passage is thenullity and futility of the Mosaic Law with its 613 ceremonial and dietary stipulations (of which circumcision was central) that St. Paul regarded as unnecessary and even an obstacle to justification (cf. Gal. 5:3-4). However, there is another profound implication of St. Paul's dissertations on law that must be underscored: Even in the New Covenant, with its law of love of God and man, on which our Lord and St. Paul both insisted (cf. Mt. 22:34-40; Lk. 10:25-28; Rom. 13:8-10), man cannot be justified of his own accord, by the innate power of human strength. It was because the Jews sought to justify themselves of their own accord that God promulgated the Old Law through Moses -- to demonstrate to proud Israelites (and to us: cf. Gal. 6:16) the insufficiency of their human efforts, unaided by supernatural power, for justification. "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (Prov. 3:34; cf. 1 Pet. 5:5). On this basis, St. Augustine contended that both the Mosaic Law and Christ's Law of Love observed (per impossibile) by merely human strength were encompassed by St. Paul's phrase "works of the law" (erga namau, Greek). It is by faith -- a divine gift not of ourselves, lest any man should boast (cf. Eph. 2:8-9) -- as opposed to the works of unaided human nature typified by the Mosaic Law, that we "fulfill the just requirement of the Law" (cf. Rom. 8:3-4).

This is why St. Paul introduces his Letter to the Romans with an appeal to the Roman Christians for "the obedience of faith" (hypakoe pisteos, Greek) -- i.e., the obedience which faith is (cf. Rom. 16:26). To the mind of the Apostle, faith and obedience are inseparable, as they co-operate for man's justification: "For in Christ Jesus," the Apostle declares, "neither circumcision [the centerpiece of the Mosaic Law] nor un-circumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6). As the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians, "For neither circumcision counts for anything nor un-circumcision, but keeping the Commandments of God" (1 Cor. 7:19). In one sentence St. Paul encapsulated his doctrine of justification (i.e.,Christ's doctrine: cf. 1 Cor. 11:23) -- since the redemption (Christ's death and resurrection: cf. Rom. 4:24-25), the Mosaic Law is obsolete. However, by the power of Christ, in whom we can do all things (cf. Phil. 4:13), we observe Christ's commandments by "the obedience of faith," that we may "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling: for God is at work in [us], both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13). Elaborating upon this premise, St. Paul taught, "[Christ] will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality He will give eternal life. But for those who are factious [i.e., divisive] and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek, for God shows no partiality" (Rom. 2:6-11; emphasis added).

We see, therefore, that our working out our salvation is not a matter of superfluous rewards -- mere icing on the cake, as it were -- but of the attainment of the gift of eternal life itself. For St. Paul there is no contradiction between man's "patience in well-doing" and God's bestowing "the free gift of eternal life"; both result from God's gracious will and, as such, they complement each other. Therefore, Protestantism's divorcing rewards from eternal life is a false dichotomy -- as St. Paul himself conjoins, rather than separates, the two aspects of salvation.

This premise is confirmed in our Lord's teaching on justification. Certainly He emphasizes faith. However, even His emphasis on faith is not that of simple belief, but rather of the obedience of faith. In the same chapter as the famous text of John 3:16 -- "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" -- He declared, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see Life, but the wrath of God rests upon him" (Jn. 3:36; emphasis added). St. Paul said the same of the disobedient (cf. Eph. 5:6; Rom. 2:8). When the disciples asked Jesus, "What must we do to be doing the works of God?" He replied, "This is the work of God: that you believe in Him whom He has sent" (Jn. 6:29; emphasis added). This declaration of our Lord has been cited often in favor of sola fide (faith alone), as though Christ were equating mere belief with the "work of God." However, this is an untenable conclusion. If Christ were equating the "work of God" with mere belief alone, He would have said, "To believe in the One whom God has sent is to be dispensed from work"; but, as we have seen, He said the opposite: "This is the work of God: that you believe in Him whom He has sent." Two aspects of this are instructive: first, that the faith that justifies is itself a work. We see this also in Christ's reply to the rich young man's question: "What must I do to be saved?" Our Lord replied not, "Simply believe in Me," but rather, "If you would enter Life, keep the Commandments" (cf. Mt. 19:16-22). Additionally, St. Paul refers to faith as a "sacrifice and service" (Phil. 2:16; cf. Rom. 14:16-18).

Further, this work -- i.e., faith -- is of God, as St. Paul says, it is not of man himself, not by merely human strength, "lest anyone should boast" (cf. Eph. 2:8-9).

Hence, to insist that justification is by faith alone is contrary to Holy Scripture, both as seen in the words of Christ and in SS Paul and James.

From these considerations we see the proper context in which to interpret the famous Pauline passage: "What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all; for I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one…'" (Rom. 3:10-12; emphasis added).

This passage of Paul is often cited to argue that justification is exclusively imputed (i.e., credited) righteousness, as "none is righteous, no, not one…no one does good…." Such a reading of Paul apart from the original context of the Old Testament passage he quotes demonstrates the danger of interpreting a passage in a sense foreign to its original, contextual sense. It is essential to recall that, left to ourselves, apart from God, "none is righteous, no, not one…no one does good." As the Catholic Church declared at the Second Council of Orange (A.D. 529): "as often as we do good, God operates in us and with us so that we may operate." However, proponents of sola fide contend that even the justified man is unrighteous except for Christ's legally imputed (i.e., credited) righteousness received by faith alone. Martin Luther's favored analogy was that of the "snow" of Christ's righteousness covering the "dung" of our sins -- although not managing to cleanse us of them. However, even Luther admitted, "All the justified could glory in their works, if they would attribute glory to God with respect to themselves. In this manner they would not be dung but ornaments."

Ironically, Holy Scripture describes the garments of the Bride of the Lamb, the Church (cf. Jn. 1:36; Eph. 5:22-33), as "fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19:7-8; the Greek is rendered literally, "for the fine linen the righteous deeds of the saints is" [cf. Marshall, op. cit.]). This demonstrates (1) that the wedding garment of justification (cf. Mt. 22:11-14) incorporates good works performed by the power of grace; and (2) contrary to Protestant claims, the covering (as it is often described), or cloak, of righteousness isn't merely externally, legally credited, or imputed, to the justified man but corresponds to his deeds (cf. Rev. 22:14-15; Rom. 2:6-13; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). Moreover, Holy Scripture speaks both of God's covering sins (cf. Jas. 5:19-20), and of His washing away and cleansing them: "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you…" (Ezek. 36:25-26). "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on [Christ's] Name" (Acts 22:16; emphasis added). "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11; emphasis added). This "washing of regeneration," as St. Paul described it (Ti. 3:5), is not merely a physical gesture but a supernatural, spiritual reality accomplished by physical means (cf. Mt. 9:1-8; Jn. 9:1-15).

Furthermore, the passage St. Paul quoted in Romans 3:23 is Psalm 14, in which David contrasted two distinct groups of people: the righteous who call upon the Lord, and the unrighteous evildoers who do not:

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good. The Lord looks down from Heaven upon the children of men, to see if there is any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up My people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord? There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. (Ps. 14:1-5; emphasis added)
In his famous Miserere, David acknowledges God's cleansing him of sin, writing, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy steadfast love; according to Thy abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!… Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Ps. 51 [50, Douay]:3-4,9; emphasis added). Again we see the ironic error of Luther's doctrine: Scripture itself attests that justification involves, not a merely imputed snow job, but a truly effective cleansing of sin, a participation in Christ's divine nature (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3-4; Gal. 3:27), rendering us "whiter than snow" (cf. Rev. 21:22-27).

Thus, from the very context of the passage St. Paul quotes in Romans 3:10-23, we see it is an error to conclude that all men without exception are mere sinners, never doing good nor seeking after God. The Davidic Psalm itself acknowledges the distinction between the unrighteous and the righteous. Moreover, even in the Old Testament several people were acknowledged to be righteous, David himself among them, the man after God's Heart (cf. 1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22). We see that Lot was considered righteous before God (cf. Gen. 19:29; 2 Pet. 2:7-9); as was Job (cf. Job 1:1); as were Abel and Zechariah (cf. 2 Chron. 24:21; Mt. 23:35). In general, "The prayer of the righteous man avails much" (Jas. 5:16). As St. Paul himself declared: "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one Man's obedience, many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5:19; emphasis added). Just as Adam's sin rendered all men actually mortal -- not merely legally considered such -- so, as St. Paul notes, through Christ "many will be made righteous." This righteousness is not a stagnant, merely legal credit to the soul of the justified, but a metaphysical share in the divine nature (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3-4; Gal. 3:27), which increases or decreases in proportion to the response of man (cf. Rom. 6:16; 2 Cor. 4:16; Rev. 2:5,7). This results either in man's falling away and consequent condemnation (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 9:24-27; Heb. 10:35-39; 1 Jn. 5:16-17), or in his eternal salvation (cf. Mt. 10:22, 24:13; Mk. 8:35).

(Republished with permission from Bryan J.P. Gesinger)

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