Monday, March 10, 2008

...justification by faith made plain

“Justification by Faith Alone is the doctrine on which the Church or individual stands or falls.”

“Justification by Faith Alone is the hinge of the Reformation.”

“It has been common since Melanchthon to speak of justification by faith as the material principle of the Reformation, corresponding to biblical authority as its formal principle. That is right. Of all the Reformers’ many biblical elucidations, the rediscovery of justification as a present reality, and of the nature of the faith which secures it, was undoubtedly the most formative and fundamental. For the doctrine of justification by faith is like Atlas. It bears a whole world on its shoulders, the entire evangelical knowledge of God the Saviour. The doctrines of election, of effectual calling, regeneration, and repentance, of adoption, of prayer, of the Church, the ministry, and the sacraments, are all to be interpreted and understood in the light of justification by faith, for this is how the Bible views them.

The gospel never begins with man and his needs, but with God and his glory. The issue of the gospel is not how do we get sinful men to a holy God? But the issue of the gospel is how does a holy God come to sinful men without violating His holiness and justice? The answer is the cross!

On the cross of Jesus Christ, all our sins have been punished; the penalty of sin atoned for; the guilt of sin expiated; God’s wrath propitiated; His holiness reverenced; His justice satisfied; His law fulfilled; His grace exalted; and sinners reconciled. It is not through ourselves in any way, neither by our own merit nor our own efforts. It is all of grace; it is all through Jesus Christ our Lord that we are justified!

  • Justified by His blood – Romans 5:9
  • Justified by faith through our Lord Jesus Christ – Romans 5:1
  • Justified freely by His grace – Romans 3:24
  • Is not by works – Romans 8:3
  • It is by God – Romans 8:33
  • And is obtained by the resurrection of Jesus – Romans 4:25
Romans 3:23-25a, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness…”

"Those whom, God effectually calls he also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God" – WCF Ch 11

“Justification is a judicial act of God, in which He declares, on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that all the claims of the law are satisfied with respect to the sinner” (L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 513).

"The phrase in ipso (in him) I have preferred to retain, rather than render it per ipsum (by him,) because it has in my opinion more expressiveness and force. For we are enriched in Christ, inasmuch as we are members of his body, and are engrafted into him: nay more, being made one with him, he makes us share with him in every thing that he has received from the Father." (John Calvin Commentary on 1 Cor 1:5)

"This calling is an act of the grace of God in Christ by which he calls men dead in sin and lost in Adam through the preaching of the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, to union with Christ and to salvation obtained in him." - Francis Turretin

"Justification and imputation could be spoken of in this way: just as though we've never sinned; just as though we've always obeyed." -Jerry Bridges

Justification Made Plain
by C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Being justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus—Romans 3:24

"When the thief died on the cross, he had but just believed, and had never done a single good work. But where did he go? He ought to have gone to purgatory by rights if ever anybody did. But instead of that the Saviour said to him, "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). Why? Because the ground of the man's admission into Paradise was perfect."
C.H. SPURGEON — MTP Vol 12 pg. 56

What is the Meaning of Justification?
Divines will puzzle you, if you ask them. I must try the best I can to make justification plain and simple, even to the comprehension of a child. There is not such a thing as justification to be had on earth for mortal men, except in one way. Justification, you know, is a forensic term: it is employed always in a legal sense. A prisoner is brought to the bar of justice to be tried. There is only one way whereby that prisoner can be justified, that is, he must be found not guilty. And if he is found not guilty, then he is justified, that is, he is proved to be a just man. If you find that man guilty, you cannot justify him. The Queen may pardon him, but she cannot justify him. The deed is not a justifiable one, if he were guilty concerning it, and he cannot be justified on account of it. He may be pardoned, but not royalty itself can ever wash that man's character. He is as much a real criminal when he is pardoned as before. There is no means among men of justifying a man of an accusation which is laid against him, except by his being proved not guilty. Now, the wonder of wonders is, that we are proved guilty, and yet we are justified: the verdict has been brought in against us—guilty—and yet notwithstanding, we are justified. Can any earthly tribunal[2] do that? No, it remained for the ransom of Christ to effect that which is an impossibility to any tribunal upon earth. We are all guilty. Read the 23rd verse, immediately preceding the text: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." There the verdict of guilty is brought in, and yet we are immediately afterwards said to be justified freely by his grace.

The God Who Justifies
Now, allow me to explain the way whereby God justifies a sinner. I am about to suppose an impossible case. A prisoner has been tried and condemned to death. He is a guilty man; he cannot be justified because he is guilty. But now, suppose for a moment that such a thing as this could happen—that some second party could be introduced, who could take all that man's guilt upon himself, who could change places with that man, and by some mysterious process, which of course is impossible with men, become that man or take that man's character upon himself. He, the righteous man, putting the rebel in his place and making the rebel a righteous man—we cannot do that in our courts! If I were to go before a judge, and he should agree that I should be committed for a year's imprisonment, instead of some wretch who was condemned yesterday to a year's imprisonment, I could not take his guilt. I might take his punishment, but not his guilt. Now, what flesh and blood cannot do, that Jesus Christ by his redemption did. Here I stand, the sinner. I mention myself as the representative of you all I am condemned to die God says, "I will condemn that man, I must, I will — I will punish him." Christ comes in, puts me aside, and stands himself in my stead. When the plea is demanded, Christ says, "Guilty;" takes my guilt to be his own guilt. When the punishment is to be executed, forth comes Christ. "Punish me," he says; "I have put my righteousness on that man, and I have taken that man's sins on me. Father, punish me, and consider that man to have been me. Let him reign in heaven; let me suffer misery. Let me endure his curse, and let him receive my blessing." This marvelous doctrine of the changing of places of Christ with poor sinners is a doctrine of revelation, for it never could have been conceived by nature. Let me, lest I should have made a mistake, explain myself again. The way whereby God saves a sinner is not, as some say, by passing over the penalty. No; the penalty has been all paid. It is the putting of another person in the rebel's place. The rebel must die. God says he must. Christ says, "I will be substitute for the rebel. The rebel shall take my place; I will take his." God consents to it. No earthly monarch could have power to consent to such a change. But the God of heaven had a right to do as he pleased. In his infinite mercy he consented to the arrangement. "Son of my love," said he, "you must stand in the sinner's place; you must suffer what he ought to have suffered, you must be accounted guilty, just as he was accounted guilty, and then I will look upon the sinner in another light. I will look at him as if he were Christ; I will accept him as if he were my only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth. I will give him a crown in heaven, and I will take him to my heart for ever and ever." This is the way we are saved. "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus."

The Characteristics of Justification
And now, let me further go on to explain some of the characteristics of this justification. As soon as a repenting sinner is justified, remember, he is justified for all his sins. Here stands a man all guilty. The moment he believes in Christ, his pardon at once he receives; and his sins are no longer his. They are cast into the depths of the sea. They were laid upon the shoulders of Christ, and they are gone. The man stands a guiltless man in the sight of God, accepted in the beloved. "What!" say you, "do you mean that literally?" Yes, I do. That is the doctrine of justification by faith. Man ceases to be regarded by divine justice as a guilty being; the moment he believes on Christ, his guilt is all taken away. But I am going a step further. The moment the man believes in Christ, he ceases to be guilty in God's esteem; but what is more, he becomes righteous, he becomes meritorious, for in the moment when Christ takes his sins, he takes Christ's righteousness; so that when God looks upon the sinner who but an hour ago was dead in sins, he looks upon him with as much love and affection as he ever looked upon his Son. He himself has said it: "As the Father loved me, so have I loved you." He loves us as much as his Father loved him. Can you believe such a doctrine as that? Does it not pass all thought? Well, it is a doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine whereby we must hope to be saved. Can I to any unenlightened person illustrate this thought better? I will give him the parable we have given to us in the prophets—the parable of Joshua the high-priest. Joshua comes in, clothed in filthy garments; those filthy garments representing his sins. Take away the filthy garments; that is pardon. Put a miter on his head; clothe him in royal raiment; make him rich and fair; that is justification. But where do these garments come from? And where do those rags go to? Why the rags that Joshua had on go to Christ, and the garments put on Joshua are the garments that Christ wore. The sinner and Christ do just what Jonathan and David did. Jonathan put his robes on David, David gave Jonathan his garments. So Christ takes our sins, we take Christ's righteousness, and it is by a glorious substitution and interchange of places that sinners go free and are justified by his grace.

"But," says one, "No one is justified like that till he dies." Believe me, he is.

The moment a sinner believes
And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives;
Salvation in full, through his blood.

If that young man over there has really believed in Christ this morning, realizing by a spiritual experience what I have attempted to describe, he is as much justified in God's sight now as he will be when he stands before the throne. Not the glorified spirits above are more acceptable to God than the poor man below who is once justified by grace. It is a perfect washing, it is perfect pardon, perfect imputation. We are fully, freely, and wholly accepted through Christ our Lord.

Justification is Irreversible
Just one more word here, and then I will leave this matter of justification. Those who are once justified are justified irreversibly. As soon as a sinner takes Christ's place, and Christ takes the sinner's place, there is no fear of a second change. If Christ has once paid the debt, the debt is paid; and it will never be asked for again. If you are pardoned, you are pardoned once for ever. God does not give man a free pardon under his own sign-manual,[3] and then afterwards retract it and punish man: that be far from God so to do. He says, "I have punished Christ; you may go free." And after that, we may "rejoice in hope of the glory of God" that "being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." And now I hear one cry, "That is an extraordinary doctrine." Well, so some may think; but let me say to you, it is a doctrine professed by all Protestant churches, though they may not preach it. It is the doctrine of the Church of England, it is the doctrine of Luther, it is the doctrine of the Presbyterian Church: it is professedly the doctrine of all Christian churches. And if it seems strange in your ears, it is because your ears are estranged, and not because the doctrine is a strange one. It is the doctrine of holy writ that none can condemn whom God justifies and that none can accuse those for whom Christ hath died; for they are totally free from sin. So that, as one of the prophets has it, God sees no sin in Jacob or iniquity in Israel. In the moment they believe their sins being imputed to Christ, they cease to be theirs, and Christ's righteousness is imputed to them and accounted theirs, so that they are accepted.

this article has been edited and updated
from its original presentation


pilgrim said...

I like reading Spurgeon. He was a powerful preacher who opened up God's word in a way that makes it real. His concern was for Christ.

This topic is so important. It is the heart of the Gospel.
If we are not justified, we are still in our sins.

Apolonio said...

St. Augustine, his present location = HELL. In fact, he's bunk-bedding in the lower depths of hell with John Paul II as we speak. Here's why.

"Christ's saints imitate Him in order to pursue JUSTICE [Justification]. Whence also the same Apostle says: 'Be imitators of me, even as I am of Christ' [1 Cor 11:1]. But besides this imitation, His GRACE also works WITHIN us our illumination and JUSTIFICATION, by that work of which His same preacher says: "Neither is he that plants anything, nor he that waters, but He that gives the increase, God" [1 Cor 3:7]. For by this GRACE baptized INFANTS too are ingrafted into His body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive, besides offering Himself as an example of RIGHTEOUSNESS for those who would imitate Him, gives also the most hidden GRACE of His Spirit to believers, GRACE which He secretly INFUSES EVEN INTO INFANTS." (St. Augustine, Forgiveness of Sins 1:9:10)

"You are the only authorities who suppose that JUSTIFICATION is conferred by the remission alone of sins. Certainly God JUSTIFIES the impious man not only by remitting the evil deeds which that man does, but ALSO by granting LOVE, so that the man may turn away from evil and may DO GOOD THROUGH the Holy Spirit." (St. Augustine, Against Julian 2:165)

"He that is by nature the only Son of God, in His mercy to us, was made Son of Man, so that we, by nature sons of man, might through Him BY GRACE BECOME SONS of God...For just as we, by the sinning of one man, have fallen into this so deplorable an evil, so too through JUSTIFICATION wrought by one Man, the same who is God, we shall come to that good so sublime." (St. Augustine, City of God 21:15)

"If anyone says that faith MERITS the grace of doing GOOD WORKS, we cannot deny it; rather we admit it most readily. THIS is the FAITH we wish they might have, the FAITH by which they might obtain that LOVE which ALONE truly DOES GOOD WORKS, those brothers of ours who glory so much in their works! LOVE, however, is so much the gift of God that it is called God [1 John 4:8].....Let no one say to himself: 'If [justification] is from faith, how is it freely given [Rom 5:1; 3:24] : If faith MERITS it, why is it not rather paid than given?' Let the faithful man not say such a thing; for, if he says: 'I have faith, therefore I merit justification,' he will be answered: 'What have you that you did not receive' [1 Cor 4:7]? If therefore, faith entreats and receives JUSTIFICATION, according as God has apportioned to each in the measure of his faith [Rom 12:3], nothing of human merit PRECEDES the grace of God, but grace itself MERITS INCREASE, and the increase MERITS PERFECTION, with the will ACCOMPANYING but not leading, following ALONG but not going in advance." (St. Augustine, Letters 186:3:7,10)

"What MERIT, then, does a man have BEFORE grace, by which he might RECEIVE grace, when our EVERY good merit is produced in us ONLY by grace, and, when God, crowning our merits, crowns nothing else but His own GIFTS to us?" (St. Augustine, Letters 194:5:19)

" 'He was handed over for our offenses, and He rose again for our JUSTIFICATION' [Rom 4:25]. What does this mean, 'for our JUSTIFICATION' ? So that He might justify us; so that He might MAKE US JUST. You will be a work of God, not only because you are a man, but also because YOU ARE JUST....He who made you without your consent does not JUSTIFY you without your consent. He made you without your knowledge, but He does not JUSTIFY you without your WILLING it." (St. Augustine, Sermons 169:13)

"What is grace? Something given -gratis-. What is given -gratis-? That which is bestowed rather than paid as owed. If it is owed, it is wages paid, not a gift graciously given. If it was truly owed, you have been good; but if, as is the case, you have been evil, but YOU DID BELIEVE IN HIM WHO JUSTIFIES THE IMPIOUS [i.e. Rom 4:5] -- and what is MEANT BY 'He justifies the impious?' That HE MAKES THE IMPIOUS PIOUS -- think what was rightly threatened you by the law, and what you have obtained by grace! But since you have gotten that grace of faith, you shall be just by faith; for the just man lives by faith [Rom 1:17; Hab 2:4]. And by LIVING FAITH you shall DESERVE WELL of God; and when you shall have deserved well of God by LIVING by faith, as REWARD you shall receive immortality and ETERNAL LIFE. AND THAT IS GRACE. Because of what MERIT, then, do you receive ETERNAL LIFE? BECAUSE OF GRACE." (St. Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 3:9)

Evangelical anglican scholar Alister McGrath says in the final section of volume 1 in his history of justification:

"However, it will be clear that the medieval period was astonishingly FAITHFUL to the teaching of Augustine on the question of the nature of justification, WHERE THE REFORMERS DEPARTED FROM IT.....A fundamental discontinuity was introduced into the western theological tradition WHERE NONE HAD EVER EXISTED, OR EVER BEEN CONTEMPLATED, BEFORE. The Reformation understanding of the NATURE of justification -- as opposed to its mode -- must therefore be regarded as a genuine theological NOVUM." (IUSTITIA DEI: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification [Cambridge Univ Press, 1986], Volume 1, Chapter 5, Section 19)

This does not sound good for the history of Christianity from St. Augustine to Martin Luther. THANK GOD Martin Luther finally discovered the true gospel in Romans and Galatians....right?

SJ Camp said...

Dear PhilVaz:

Good to see your still on board and involved in this discussion. You are welcome here anytime.

"Follow me as I follow Christ" - the Apostle Paul said. The meaning is clear: we only follow Paul as he is following Christ; we only follow Augustine as he is following Christ; we only follow Spurgeon as he is following Christ; etc.... When they depart from sound doctrine, we depart from them. Loyalty to no man save Christ Himself and His infallible, inerrant Word!

You've got to come to the table with a whole lot more than Augustine and McGrath - you've got to come to the table with the Word of God!

JPII is in perdition not because he's Roman Catholic; or because he was the Pope; but because he rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord--the great gospel of justification, imputation, by grace through faith on Christ alone and trusted in a gospel of works and idolatry (The Fifth Marian Dogma).

A friend of mine visited Mother Teresa before she died and spoke with her about the gospel. She denied, face to face while speaking to him, that Christ was the only way, truth and life. She was a Universalist—all faiths of all people are equal and will get them to heaven. IOW: Christ was not the only way; just a way. She even had a little Hindu deity hanging in her hut that she offered prayers to. She denied Christ and His gospel. Doesn’t that concern you? I know that she was a great humanitarian as was John Paul II. But good works cannot save you (cp, Eph. 2:8-9; Isaiah 64:6; Roms. 4:1-5) they are the fruit of our salvation (Eph. 2:10); not the root of our salvation.

In all seriousness, if they could speak from the grave as the rich man did to Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) they would try to warn others of the wrath to come. I do not say this in sarcasm or by casual word; but by a deep burden for those blinded by the works based righteousness of Romanism.

Complete freedom from sin, lacking nothing, is in Christ (Col. 2:6-10); not in the Basilica.

Yours for the Master's use,
2 Tim. 3:16-17

SJ Camp said...

This is the great doctrine that no Romanist can refute nor rebut. It is the very heart of the gospel for the salvation of our souls.

If anyone, including Rome and its Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, and Nuns rejects this basic truth, all other truths come toppling down. I do understand that Romanists may represent accurately the doctrine of the Trinity; affirm the Virgin Birth; Christ's sinless life; His death, burial and bodily resurrection from the grave; but if they deny the gospel of justification by faith alone (sola fide)--it is all dung (Gal. 1:6-9; Phil. 3:6-9).

James 2

Ephraim said...


This is a great summation:

"But good works cannot save you (cp, Eph. 2:8-9; Isaiah 64:6; Roms. 4:1-5) they are the fruit of our salvation (Eph. 2:10); not the root of our salvation."

Couldn't say it any better.
Good stuff!


Unchained Slave said...

I just do not 'get it'!
What an unimaginable joy it is [for me] to know I have been judged 'Not Guilty' by God at the time of my salvation. And now to know that 'every good work' I do is accounted a 'treasure in Heaven'.
As 1 Corinthians 10:31 admonishes, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

What I do not get, is why [you] or anyone would not WANT that kind of peace and joy - and that kind of relationship with Our Holy Father - God...

In the Name of MY Savior, Jesus Christ,

pilgrim said...

I had a reply to apolonia, but ste.. er, sledgehammer's was better.

Now it is possible that apolonia has met self professed Christians who will say Augustine is in Hell, because he was Catholic.

But that's too simplistic.

Tim said...


Good response. I am amazed that so many in the reformed camps idolize men. While there are many in church history that I admire and have learned from, including those of today, I must always distinguish the message from the messenger. When the message agrees with the Scriptures, I must yield to the message, when the message does not, then I must reject it.

By the way, I used the same illustration of Mother Teresa somewhere else, as of late. You wouldn't be talking about.......and I'll just mention his initials.......John MacArthur?:-)

One final note. I have heard in the previous threads that we Protestants don't believe that grace should continue in our lives after our conversion. All I have to say is look at the posts from the "Law/Gospel" articles and anyone will see that is patently false. We love Him becaue He first loved us. That love is not momentarily, but because there is the incorruptible seed of saving faith planted in us, true love for Christ and the good deeds that follow it will never ultimately die in the believer's life.

Apolonio said...

Tim: "Now it is possible that apolonia has met self professed Christians who will say Augustine is in Hell, because he was Catholic. But that's too simplistic."

Well duh, and the fact that I've seen Steve Camp on this very blog suggest John Paul II and Mother Teresa are in hell simply because they did not interpret the Bible the way Martin Luther did or Steve Camp does. And that' too simplistic also.

Let's be consistent, St. Augustine DENIED the gospel, St. Thomas Aquinas DENIED the gospel, all the Fathers and Doctors of the Catholic Church DENIED the gospel. Therefore the entire history of Christianity was DAMNED before Luther according to Steve Camp. Don't be wishy washy about this. I want that to sink in, since that is the only conclusion you can come to based on what Steve Camp believes about the gospel. No one believed the true gospel between the apostles and Martin Luther.

Steve Camp: "This is the great doctrine that no Romanist can refute nor rebut. It is the very heart of the gospel for the salvation of our souls."

I suggest the 700 page book by Robert Sungenis titled Not By Faith Alone: The Biblical Evidence for the Catholic Doctrine of Justification does the job. Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, its all in there. For a shorter book, see Akin's The Salvation Controversy.

We differ in our INTERPRETATIONS of Scripture, but I want to make this clear: I don't damn or condemn anyone because of that, and neither does the Catholic Church (Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism). You guys are damning the entire history of Christianity before Luther, along with all orthodox faithful believing Roman Catholics and Orthodox today. As you can see, I just don't like that kind of "biblical" bigotry, and I don't know how much longer I can stand being here. :-)

SJ Camp said...

Dear PhilVaz:

I am not damning anyone to hell--it is believing in a false gospel, which is no gospel at all, that does that (Gal. 1:6-9). As I have demonstrated on previous posts, I don't believe all of the church fathers you have represented teach or support a current Roman view in regards to sola fide.

Col. 1:9-14

Breuss Wane said...

Sungenis? Now there's an authority if there was one. James White ( has done an excellent job of dispensing with Sungenis' false teaching.

SJ Camp said...

Sorry to all for the long post, but it was necessary for me to do so in light of PhilVaz's comments above--thank you for that indulgence (no pun intended).

Dear PhilVaz:
Pleases explain "your Church's view that there is no salvation outside of her" in light of your comments above. Especially interesting, quoted below out of the catechism, is where Romanism affirms that even Muslims will inherit eternal life apart from Christ because they worship the same "Creator." Say what? Again, please explain yourself sir.

Disclaimer: what is listed below is part one. Part two will be coming tomorrow (if you can believe it folks, part two will reveal the other side of this Roman coin where the current church also affirms there is salvation completely outside her -a complete flip/flop- and that it requires no gospel at all whatsoever. Atheists have finally found a non-church church offering them a non-gospel gospel :-). Stay tuned.

Having more fun than a Reformed Baptist should be allowed to...

"It is a sin to believe that there is salvatin outside the Catholic Church." - Venerable Pope Pius IX

"There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. Anyone who resists this truth perishes." - St. Louis Maria de Montfort

"We must believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church; hence they who are out of our Church or they who are separated from it, cannot be saved." - St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

"There is only one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved." (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215)

"We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Pope Boniface VIII, in the bull, Unam Sanctam, 1302)

"The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and teaches, that none of those who are not within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but Jews, heretics and schismatics, can ever be partakers of eternal life, but are to go into the eternal fire 'prepared for the devil, and his angels' (Mt. 25:41)... (Mansi, Concilia, xxxi, 1739; Pope Eugene IV, in the bull, Cantate Domino, 1441).


841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.

848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."

Since the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 defined that "The universal Church of the faithful is one, outside of which no one is saved,"

[The Council] relies on sacred Scripture and Tradition in teaching that this pilgrim Church is necessary for salvation. Christ alone is the mediator of salvation and the way of salvation. He presents himself to us in his Body, which is the Church. When he insisted expressly on the necessity for faith and baptism, he asserted at the same time the necessity for the Church which men would enter by the gateway of baptism. This means that it would be impossible for men to be saved if they refused to enter or to remain in the Catholic Church, unless they were unaware that her foundation by God through Jesus Christ made it a necessity.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, following historic Christian theology since the time of the early Church Fathers, refers to the Catholic Church as "the universal sacrament of salvation" (CCC 774–776), and states: "The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men" (CCC 780).

As Catholics, we know nothing of the fiction of an invisible church, for which heretics in our day contend, and which is composed of the elect of all communions, the subterfuge to which they were driven, when pressed to tell where their church was before Luther and Calvin. The Church which Catholics believe is a visible kingdom, as much so as the kingdom of France or Great Britain, and when faith assures us that out of the Church there is no salvation, the plain, obvious, natural sense of the dogma is, that those living and dying out of that visible kingdom cannot be saved. This is the article of faith itself, what we are bound to believe under pain of mortal sin; it is what the fathers taught. Habere non potest Deum patrem, says St. Cyprian, qui ecclesiam non habet matrem (He cannot have God for his Father who does not have the Church for his Mother); and where this is concealed or explained away, as in the grand duchy of Baden, for instance, faith becomes weak, charity languishing, and Catholicity hardly distinguishable from one of the sects." (EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS)

Apolonio said...

Good I get to explain the "no salvation outside the Church" issue. It just so happens that I answered this for Eric Svendsen 6 years ago in his $100,000 challenge, and I am still waiting for him to send me the check. You've quoted some of the relevant sections from Vatican Council II, and they answer the question. My response to Svendsen:

Svendsen: Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus ("no salvation outside the church"). Is it the view of Vatican II, or the view of every Roman document before Vatican II? Should Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox be embraced as "brothers" (as Vatican II teaches), or should they be eternally condemned as heretics (as all pre-Vatican II documents teach)?

My answer: I won't answer this question in too much depth since the suggestion is that there are "contradictions" between Vatican Council II and the previous teaching of the Church. Other Catholic apologists would be more competent than myself to answer this. Leaving aside the missing evidence for such "contradictions" which Eric Svendsen failed to produce, I will simply assert that there is no real conflict between Vatican II and previous teaching, and state the position of the Church as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which cites the documents of Vatican II:

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"

846. How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? [St. Cyprian, Ep 73:21; PL 3:1169; De Unit PL 4:509-536]. Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

"Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it." [Vatican II LG 14; Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5]

847. This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

"Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience -- those too may achieve eternal salvation." [Vatican II LG 16; Denz 3866-3872]

The key here is to notice the distinction made of those who "knowing" of the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation and yet refuse, those are the ones who cannot be saved; and those who "through no fault of their own" do not know Christ's Gospel or His Church "may" have salvation, but even that salvation is mediated by Christ in His Church. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox are indeed embraced as "brothers" in Vatican II (Decree on Ecumenism 3), but they are "separated brethren," Christian brothers who are not in communion with the Holy Father and are therefore separated from the one and only Church of Christ necessary for salvation. That position has not changed. Whether or not someone is ultimately saved or is "eternally condemned" is left up to God, who is the final judge of individual souls. Catholics do not put a limit on God's justice, mercy or grace in salvation, but they do point the way to salvation: through Christ in His Church.

That there was one visible Church, outside of which there is no salvation, was also understood by Calvin and Luther. Reformed author Keith Mathison in his The Shape of Sola Scriptura writes on the nature of visible Church:

Mathison says: The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth, established by Christ, given by Him the authority to "bind and loose" that is not given to every member of the Church as individuals. The Church is Christ's body and bride, "the instrument through which God makes the truth of His Word known" (Eph 3:10). And outside the Church there is no salvation (extra ecclesiam nulla salus) refers to the VISIBLE Church according to Mathison (see The Shape of Sola Scriptura, page 268). The Church is "our mother," "the pillar and ground, the interpreter, teacher, and proclaimer of God's Word...the Christian who rejects the authority of the Church rejects the authority of the One who sent her" (Luke 10:16).

And "it is to the Church as a visible body that we must turn to find the true interpretation and preaching of the good news of Christ. It is therefore to the Church that we must turn for the true interpretation of the Scripture, for it is in the Scripture that the gospel is found" (pages 268-270). There are leaders in the Church "to whom we owe obedience and submission (Heb 13:17)" (pages 272).

Mathison is one of the leading Reformer writers today, and he represents what Luther and Calvin believed on the subject. Mathison recognizes there is no salvation outside the visible Church, since it is there that Jesus Christ and His true teaching and gospel is found.

Another good quote I like to produce from Anglican scholar JND Kelly, and Lutheran/Orthodox scholar Jaroslav Pelikan on the Church of the early Fathers.

"What these early Fathers were envisaging was almost always the empirical, visible society; they had little or no inkling of the distinction which was later to become important [in the 16th century] between a visible and an invisible Church." (Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, page 191)

"According to him [St. Augustine], the Church is the realm of Christ, His mystical body and His bride, the mother of Christians [Ep 34:3; Serm 22:9]. There is no salvation apart from it; schismatics can have the faith and sacraments....but cannot put them to a profitable use since the Holy Spirit is only bestowed in the Church [De bapt 4:24; 7:87; Serm ad Caes 6]....It goes without saying that Augustine identifies the Church with the universal Catholic Church of his day, with its hierarchy and sacraments, and with its centre at Rome...." (Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, page 412ff)

Lutheran/Orthodox historian Jaroslav Pelikan on the Church of the early Fathers:

"To identify orthodox doctrine, one had to identify its locus, which was the catholic church, neither Eastern nor Western, neither Greek nor Latin, but universal throughout the civilized world (oikoumene). This church was the repository of truth, the dispenser of grace, the guarantee of salvation, the matrix of acceptable worship. Only here did God accept sacrifices, only here was there confident intercession for those who were in error, only here were good works fruitful, only here did the powerful bond of love hold men together and 'only from the catholic church does truth shine forth.' " (Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, volume 1, page 334-335)

That is my position, and I stand on that in line with the Fathers, the Doctors, the Saints, Bishops, and All Christians of the Catholic Church before Luther. Does that answer your question? I hope so, since I'm almost done here.

Tim said...


Please make sure you quote the proper person. You quoted Pilgrim. Please use his name, not mine. Thanks:)

Tim said...


I think its been made clear through the different posts on the last few issues, that Rome is a chameleon. She has an answer for everything. Unfortunately, she is not consistent. She can be anything she wants at different times and therefore she doesn't have to confess her errors, but simply says that certain things are for different times among different saints and heretics. We are often told that we only have gospel that is 500 years old since Luther and Calvin only gave it to us then. Hogwash! The gospel was clearly communicated from the beginning and I don't mean the early church.

Genesis 3:15 was the summation of the gospel. It was that a deliverer would come and save his people and destroy the serpent and his offspring. Abraham had the gospel preached to him as well. Faith was in the one God, Jehovah from the beginning, who John said that Isaiah saw, which was Jesus Christ. if anyone is late it is Rome. She is thousands of years late. The gospel I hold to was the gospel given in the garden to Adam and Eve, affirmed to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the prophets, John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, the apostles and saints down through the ages. Rome is way behind. She does not have the true gospel.

pilgrim said...

I'd say Pelikan's comment works agianst RCism--it doesn't support RCism.
It speaks of those who do teach the truth, and true CHristians, no matter what label follow in that-RCism changed from that through history. At Trent they formalized it.

And again Pelikan doesn't have the saame authority of the Bible.

DOGpreacher said...

In Aolonio's comment, he proceded to say(my interpretation) that Romans 10:9-13 is only '1 way', because he says that one "through no fault of his own" (which would make Romans 1:19-21 untrue), may not know of Jesus and yet be saved by Him (wouldn't THAT be irresistable grace?), of course only as mediated by 'The Church'. Go ahead...fix His gospel He can understand it, in the light of the Church. I guess John 6:37 is supposed to read, "All that the Father gives me through the 'Church' shall come to me, except for the ones who, through no fault of their own never heard of me, or knew of His Church, who will be mediated by the 'Church'(...oh...disregard 1 John 2:1).

Oh the tangled web we weave.....

Douglas said...
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Douglas said...

R. C. Sproul is brilliant.

Ecclesiastes 11:3
If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

donsands said...

Awesome post! This is Truth, and to stand by it, and for it, will be the good fight of faith.
Thanks Steve.

In Christ Alone! May I never equate the Holy Son of God with the other false gods. If I do let me be accursed.

4given said...

Another excellent post.
Sproul is quite dear to my heart in that the Lord used his message on the Holiness of God in Isaiah 6 to draw me to Himself.

4given said...

Traditional Roman Catholics also strongly hold to "extra ecclesiam nulla salus"... No salvation outside of the ROman Catholic Church.

Applejack said...

On a side note, let's assume in good faith that the quotes from Augustine in this thread--ones that appear to counter the Reformed understanding of justification--are true. I haven't looked all these up myself, but will trust that they are recorded here faithfully. I have seen other quotes, from the Vatican website itself, which show Augustine's Catholic view of Mary. This should be no surprise. Augustine was Catholic--not just b/c it was the only option, but b/c he was in line with many of its core doctrines.
You recently condemned a prominent Baptist seminary for bringing in a Catholic speaker to talk on Tolkien's use of Scripture. You surmised that a Catholic could have nothing to teach students about Scripture. My question for you is this: will you now condemn John Calvin with equal fervor? Calvin used Augustine repeatedly to reinforce biblically-based theological arguments. By your logic, Augustine should be completely corrupted by his views of justification and of no use to Calvin. Why should Calvin get a free pass? And we won't even mention the other Catholics (in doctrine) Calvin approvingly quoted on particular issues.
My own view is that Calvin's understanding of tradition and especially his view of culture would allow him to take certain things he agreed with on while not necessarily embracing the totality of Augustine's thought. Which is why I see no problem in the Tolkien talk either. It's consistent with a Reformed view of culture.

~Mark said...

We air "Renewing Your Mind" daily and I make sure to have time to slow down and listen.

Adjutorium said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hayden said...

I once heard it said

"Jesus plus anything ruins everything!"

This is the crux. If we 'add' anything to the work of Jesus we ruin His perfect sacrifice by saying that it 'needed a pinch' of something else.

I praise God that He brought me out of the RCC and saved me through the faithful preaching of His Gospel.

I look forward to meeting you in a couple of weeks Steve.

gigantor1231 said...


It is so disheartening at times to know that there are those that are brothers and sisters in Christ, or they at least claim to be, and they are so willing to accept what is impure in order to achieve their perceived end. I say perceived end because it is God who determines the end of a thing and His ways are higher than ours.
The scriptures are very clear on the issue of purity, especially with regards to the tongue but so many are willing to jettison that command of God, to be holy in our speech, for the attainment of a soul, which they do not know if it will ever be saved, or for so called "unity." My head aches sometimes with the knowledge of the word of God, knowing what is right, true and acceptable, and then there is the pressure of others to compromise, its OK, its lawful they say, and if you don't join in you are considered legalistic! The thing is I do not want to partake in what is impure because I love Jesus, I love God and I want to be pleasing to Him, I do not want to even risk grieving the spirit. I have enough problems and vices of my own to contend with let alone the issue of a fowl tongue.... Please forgive me for getting off topic here Steve, but I wanted to say this not because I think others should avoid those things which are impure because they are mandated to, I want them to know that they should do it because they Love Jesus. He is so good, wonderful, marvelous, pure and yet while we are all what is filth and vile, those who declare war on Him in the face of His mercy, He dies that we might be reconciled....I LOVE HIM AND WANT TO PLEASE HIM, I wish everyone really would!!!

4theluv said...


Found your blog by a link concerning Larry Norman. It is great to see a fellow reformed believer.

The essence of the Gospel is summed up in our total inability to relate to God, and the unconditional love of Christ for His people that draws them to Himself for all eternity. The very faith we exercise is itself a gift of God.

The theological problems of Roman Catholics is tantamount to the identical problem of many protestants - a trust in self righteousness - a sort of Legalism for Dummies, contriving rules we to which we can adhere in a tip of the hat to the ones we can't.

To quote song writer Derek Webb, "What's the use in trading a law you can never keep, for one you can that cannot get you anything?"

The sad truth is, the Roman Catholic Church has no unique claim to apostasy. Such is born out of man's bent to grasp a god created so that he can reach him. Grace is not natural and is really difficult to accept.

Keep up the good work, my brother.

Brian said...

Not even the gates of hell will prevail against the church. Gates are a defense structure, not an attacking piece of equipment. Hell's on the defensive.

The Gospel of justification will never cease and God's church will be victorious.

Kirby said...

I don't think I've ever had cause to read Spurgeon and say to myself, "Uhm... wait a sec. Something's not right here..."

Where he says:
[Christ comes in, puts me aside, and stands himself in my stead. .. Christ ... takes my guilt to be his own guilt. "Punish me," he says; "I have put my righteousness on that man, and I have taken that man's sins on me. Father, punish me, and consider that man to have been me.]

I'm reminded of Robert Traill (1642-1716), author of "Justification Vindicated", says concerning a presumed heretic, that he had made such a muddle of things that "He speaks as if God considered the sinner as doing and suffering the things that Christ did and suffered, and Christ as having committed thier sins and actually being guilty of them"

I'm not sure I go with atonement and justification being little more than "Hey, I know! Let's trade places."

I understand penal substitution quite well, but not in this way.

God's absolute righteousness means that he must punish sin. But as His goodness will allow it, He is willing to exact that punishment on any man able to fulfill the obligations and requirements of a redeemer. That was the whole O.T. law concerning redemption - the person had to be a blood relative of the person he was redeeming. That's why Christ had to be born in the flesh, so that he could be an actual, literal, blood relative and fulfil the requirements of the redeemer.

Having done that, God is willing to punish anyone who is legally representative of all men who are declared to be in the guilty party.

He does not have to be actually guilty Himself! And He is not! He is chosen to be the redeemer because he is qualified, because he is the ONLY one who is qualified, AND beause God can satisfy the demand for justice to be done by pouring out his wrath on the redeemer, AND Christ The Redeemer is able to bear it, and by doing so, as our substitutionary representative (not replacement), he overcomes and we by purely fringe benefit receive the blessing of forgiveness.

We can never be a replacement for Christ; so I don't see it working the other way either. Christ is not swapping places with us. He is taking his assigned place (our place) in line. He is standing in our place, not becoming us in our stead.

We'll put a wig on you, some hair dye, He'll never know the difference. Trust me, it'll work. That ain't no way to live!

It just seems to me by the casual reading of that Spurgeon quote, that he skirts perilously close to Penal Replacement, instead of Penal Substitution.

But from what I know of the guy, "perilously close" was kind of his trademark! ;-)

Kirby L. Wallace
Tulsa, Oklahoma