Round Three - Mizzi

Round 3

John I accept your apology. Your misunderstanding of sola fide gives me great hope. You are not opposing the biblical gospel but the antinomian pseudo-gospel. In this fight, I am on your side. Moreover, I am hopeful that one day you will understand and receive the evangelical message for your salvation.

Your rebuttal deviates from our subject, Justification, to the field of epistemology. Important as that is, we must keep to our topic. I will not attempt to give a full answer; suffice it to say that the historic Protestant doctrine is recorded in the historical confessions (Thirty-nine Articles; Belgic, Augsburg, 1689 Baptist, Westminster, etc). Protestants do not agree on everything (do you?), but it is gloriously true that God granted us perfect agreement on the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as the Protestant confessions testify.

Back to our subject. I must emphasize that sola fide is not:

Faith = Justification minus Works

That’s antinomianism, making works unnecessary or optional in the Christian experience. Heretical!

Sola fide includes works as a necessary aspect of God’s salvivic purpose. Sola fide is:

Faith = Justification plus Works

We believe that a person is justified by faith alone, apart from the merits of personal works, on account of the righteousness and blood of Jesus. We come to God empty-handed, without merits, and appeal for mercy and grace, asking God to give us what we do not deserve. By faith we rely on Jesus Christ alone for our justification, being convinced that his sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to cleanse us from all sin.

Now God’s purpose is not only our liberation from guilt and condemnation; he also determined that his people should be zealous for good works. The same faith that justifies, uniting us to Christ, also results in a godly and holy life. Good works follow justification – as one historic Protestant confession states: good works ‘do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.’

Yet we do not dream on relying on those works for our justification. For justification we believe in Christ – in Christ alone!

How does this compare with the Catholic doctrine? Catholicism also has works as a necessary factor in the formula, but there is a fundamental difference. Catholicism teaches:

Faith plus Works = Justification

Faith is important; Catholicism does not teach justification by works alone. Yet faith is insufficient to secure a right standing before God according to Catholic teaching. The merits of personal works performed throughout the Catholic’s life, must be added so that at the end he will be accounted to have fully satisfied the divine law and merited eternal life. I hope you can appreciate the difference between the Catholic and evangelical message.

Good works, like a kiss, could be the sign of opposite things. Good works are the Christian’s kiss of love and gratitude to the Saviour. But good works could also be a Judas kiss betraying the grace of Christ. For pretending to believe in Jesus, many religious people will not completely trust in him for justification, but work and toil to merit what God gives freely for Christ’s sake alone.

John I appeal to you, and to the readers of this debate, to examine your deepest motives. Do I trust completely in Jesus Christ alone for my justification? Is there concrete evidence in my life, good works, that my faith is real? And finally, am I doing works out of love for Christ, or for the purpose of meriting justification?

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