Today's Article deals with Justification, which is a particular hot button Reformation issue.
XI. Of the justification of Adam
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
For the Homily on Justification, click here and them go to page 24 and 25. It is the 3rd Sermon in the First Book of Homilies, properly as "A Sermon of the Salvation of Mankind by Only Christ Our Saviour From Sin and Death Everlasting." I will only commend that to your reading, but emphasize that bed time reading it ain't.
Justification is a major topic that I could not possibly to justice to in so short a blog entry. Justification can be briefly described as God's act of declaring or making a sinner righteous through Christ's atoning sacrifice. That, in itself, seems simple enough. However, to what scope, extent, and means, that makes justification significant are much debated.
In extremely simplistic overviews, the Catholic Church distinguishes between initial justification, which in this view occurs at baptism, and final justification, accomplished after a lifetime of striving to do God's will, ultimately culminating in the Final Judgment. This has led to much moral theology in the Catholic church concerning things like mortal and venial sins and to what extent an individual's "works" plays into Justification.
Protestants, as usual, gum up the issues, believing that justification is a singular act in which God declares an unrighteous individual to be righteous because of any number of doctrines of the cross or atonement. Justification to Protestants is granted to all who have faith, hence Luther's cry of "Justification by Faith Alone." But even then, that is viewed as a gift from God by many Lutherans and some Calvinists. Most Protestants believe that simply having Faith justifies the Christian, which in my mind begs the question of why do we need baptism if we are justified by faith alone and not baptism (which is a work)? But, that's neither here nor there. The point is that Justification was one, if not the primary, divisive issue the spawned the Reformation.
For purposes of this article, it is worthy of note that Justification of the sinner is the same thing as accounting of the sinner as righteous. The instrumental cause of Justification is faith not works. This article seems to also think highly of this notion of Justification by Faith Alone and that such a doctrine is "very full of comfort."
There is a time in my life I would have agreed with that assertion, however, I am not longer convinced of that. I say that because the act of "having faith" is in itself "a work." I will grant you that the revelation of faith in Christ is a Gift, but even to those who have been given such a gift of faith, "having faith" required work. When someone young dies in a horrible accident or some other bad situation arises, it takes work to not lose your faith in some of those situations. Likewise, it takes work to grow your faith. "Having Faith," while being a gift, is a labor of love, as they say, which requires cultivation and cooperating with God.
So, to my own understanding of late, I have trouble believing that one can completely divorce faith from works, when faith in itself is at least a partial work. So, to me, this Protestant notion of Justification by Faith Alone has really begun to unravel as I begin pulling strings in the fabric of it. This is not to say that I think I am justified by my works. What I am saying is that our works and faith cannot be divorced in Justification; they are two sides of the same coin. Faith without works is dead, as James says. I just can't believe that I could believe every single essential doctrine and teaching of Jesus and never give a dime to the poor guy on the street my whole life and somehow expect Jesus to have good things to say to me when I stand before him at the Judgment.
That's just where I am at.