Justification, obtained by works or by the work of Christ?

Is there a difference between “obtain[ing] the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ” and “being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus?”

The differences between these two statements should be obvious to anyone.  The first talks about “obtaining the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for good works.”  The second talks about the joy of heaven having been obtained for the believer through the redemptive work of Christ.

The first of these statements is taken from the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church # 1821, “We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.” She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:”

The second is from Romans 3:24, “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

The blessing of justification is granted to the believer without any reason in him for the declaration and without any cost to him.  He does not “obtain” the joy of heaven by persevering to the end.  He is justified “freely” by God’s grace, i.e., his unmerited favor granted to those who have merited his wrath and curse.  The word translated “freely” is the same word translated “without a cause” in John 15:25.  There is absolutely no cause in the sinner for God to declare him righteous.  In fact, there is every reason for God to condemn him.  The believing sinner is not declared righteous in God’s sight because he has accomplished good works, even if those good works are “accomplished with the grace of Christ.”

It is at this point, among others,  that Evangelical Christians must part company with the Roman system.  The Bible teaches that the believer stands justified in God’s presence because he is united to Christ, who is the justified one.  Jesus was born under the law and obeyed it perfectly, forging a human  righteousness the law could not condemn.  Through his human obedience, he stands declared righteous before the law.  Paul wrote, “. . .for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified” (Romans2:13).  Jesus is the only man who ever lived who could be justified by keeping the law.   He, then, died under the penalty of that broken law and satisfied its rigorous and righteous penal demands.  Because the believer is united to Christ through faith, God accounts the righteousness of Christ, the representative of all in him, to be his righteousness.

The Roman system teaches that believers could never achieve justification before God apart from his grace that is imparted to them as a result of Christ’s death.  Here is the phrase again.  “. . .to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. . . .” [italics mine].  It is for this reason that the Canons of Trent state, “If any one says, that by Faith Alone the sinner is Justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema” (Canon 9).  “If any one says that justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through Good Works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema” (Canon 24).

The Papacy has never rescinded these statements.  In fact, in January of 1996, Pope John Paul II stated, the declarations of the Council of Trent “maintain all their value.”

Both these teachings cannot be true.  There is no way any clear minded person can synthesize these two teachings.  They are absolutely contradictory.  One is gospel truth; the other is damning heresy.

There are only two religions in the world.  One is a religion of works, emphasizing what sinners must do for God.  The other is a religion of grace, emphasizing what God has done for sinners.  Any mixture of grace and works means that grace is no longer grace and works are no longer works (See Romans 11:6).  The New Testament Scriptures leave no doubt about which method God uses to save sinners.  The apostle Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  “. . .not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, . . .” (Titus 3:5).

He does not say we are not saved by works that are not enabled by the grace of Christ infused into us.  He simply say, “You have been saved by grace and not by works.”  The contrast could not be more clear.


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