Explain like I am a catechumen: Justification

Dear friends on r/Catholicism:

I am a Taiwanese living in Taiwan. I begun seriously exploring Christian faith and the Catholic Church only in this year.

In recent days I found that I need to understand the concept of justification more thoroughly. Could someone please explain like I am a catechumen?

  1. Do you have or does the Catholic Church has a conclusion on how a human being can be justified?

  2. Do you or does the Catholic Church think that some myths or fallacies on justification should be refuted explicitly?

  3. This is the Wikipedia page on justification: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justification_%28theology%29. In the section “Comparison of traditions”, there is a form presenting a comparison. Do you think this form is totally correct and reliable? Or at least your (Catholic) standpoint is not contradicted in this form?

(If I should study something first before asking these questions, please correct and direct me, thank you!)

A quick answer,

James 2:24
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Works = Good works NOT works of law.

Therefore we see in James statement, we need faith AND good works. We need both.
Not good works alone nor faith alone, but faith and good works

So do you imply that justification is a process?
But a Taiwanese friend who is a Catholic for over 10 years said that penitent thief has no good work before death (he was already on the cross when he met Jesus), so is it certain for the Catholic Church that good work is a must? (Or actually the penitent thief was not justified before death?)

As long as we are alive, Yes

Your friend is missing a huge part of the picture staring at him .

The “penitent” thief

[LIST=1]
*]acknowledged Jesus is God
*]acknowledged he was a criminal , but not Jesus
*]while in agony on a cross himself, he rebukes the other thief and defends Jesus to the other thief.
*]then he asked Jesus for mercy
[/LIST]
Acknowledgement of ones sins, acknowledgment Jesus is God, defends God to an adversary, (a good work) while under huge duress and pain, then asks God for mercy.

There is an entire theological course that can be taught on that alone.

As an aside, James who I quoted, also said, faith without good works is a dead faith. And a dead faith won’t save

The Wikipedia article is not entirely correct, and should not be used as a reference.

The Main Concept of Justification with Protestants (generally speaking) is that we are “justified” by Faith alone. They do not deny the necessity of good works, but they deny they have any benefit toward justification.

With Catholics, justification requires, first of all Baptismal regeneration. Some Protestants believe this also, but many do not. Secondly, Catholics believe that we must remain in a state of Sanctifying grace, by means of the Sacraments and good works. This Sanctifying grace purifies and transfigures the soul (first at Baptism) and then through maintaining that Sanctifying grace (indwelling of the Holy Spirit) throughout life. BUT it can be lost through mortal sin. That is why the Catholic Sacrament of Reconiciliation is necessary to restore that Sanctifying grace (justification) to the sinner. The rest of the Sacraments are also necessary in our sojourn on Earth, in order to strengthen us to follow our Messiah and King Jesus Christ into the Promised Land of the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Protestants, especially Evangelicals, make a HUGE point of Justification by Faith alone, and its PERMANENCE. (Once Saved Aways Saved.) This is a heresy and a lie.

Has anyone mentioned grace at all or Jesus’ death on the Cross? Without these no one could be justified. Explaining a fuller understanding of Justification to a catecumen should not merely be explaining the fine points between the argument between Protestants and Catholics. It should also be about the history of salvation from original sin to our redemption in Christ - God’s original intention for mankind, the fall of man, God’s plan to redeem man, the life death and Resurrection of the Messiah our Saviour, God’s gift of grace, and God’s plan for our lives, and his ultimate plan for Eternity.

A good place to start would be reading the Catholic Catechism. There is also a joint declaration on Justification between Lutherans and Catholics online that is worth reading. You also might want to look at the Council of Trent on Justification. All of these can be found for free online

Hi!
…here’s the explanation from a Catholic site:

A biblio-ecclesiastical term; which denotes the transforming of the sinner from the state of unrighteousness to the state of holiness and sonship of God. Considered as an act (actus justificationis), justification is the work of God alone, presupposing, however, on the part of the adult the process of justification and the cooperation of his free will with God’s preventing and helping grace (gratia praeveniens et cooperans). Considered as a state or habit (habitus justificationis), it denotes the continued possession of a quality inherent in the soul, which theologians aptly term sanctifying grace. Since the sixteenth century great differences have existed between Protestants and Catholics regarding the true nature of justification. As the dogmatic side of the controversy has been fully explained in the article on GRACE, we shall here consider it more from an historical point of view. (newadvent.org/cathen/08573a.htm)

On the next post I will include the full explanation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (you should check out the part on Grace, following Justification).

Maran atha!

Angel

Hi!
…here’s the full explanation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (you should check out the part on Grace, following Justification).

I. JUSTIFICATION

1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism:34

But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.35
1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:36

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.37
1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."38 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.39

1990 Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God’s merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals.

1991 Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or “justice”) here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.

1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:40

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from 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 fall 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.41
1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight.42
1994 Justification is the most excellent work of God’s love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St. Augustine that “the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of heaven and earth,” because "heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect . . . will not pass away."43 He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy.

1995 The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth to the "inner man,"44 justification entails the sanctification of his whole being:

Just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. . . . But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.45 (vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a2.htm)

…basically the breakdown is this: God Justifies us in Christ Jesus; we must cooperate with Him; every Grace is received/Given through the Holy Spirit (there’s no osas).

Maran atha!

Angel

Well I might stick my big foot into my mouth, but I thought the article was quite good. I read a lot of it and scanned some of it so I cannot say for sure that it is 100% ok. What the other cafers before me mentioned of their concerns seemed to me to be met by the article.

It was not a complete explaination but I thought good.
If you want the Catholic version, I would recommend the CCC.

One thing they did not explain was a reason why some Protestants did not think works should have importance, or what is behind it all. It seems that from their POV the soul is completely unholy or described as filthy dirty from it’s very beginning of existence from original sin.

But the Protestant justification says that God throws a clean white blanket over this dirt without cleansing the soul of the dirt. As a result, God only sees this clean blanket and not the dirt underneath. So justification only happens on the exterior of the soul and not to the soul itself. This means that the dirty soul could never do any work that would be worth while since everything coming from it would be dirty too. As a consequence, any further sin just makes the soul dirtier which God does not see because the soul is covered anyway with rightousness which makes the dirt hidden. And so just adding more dirt to the soul’s inside doesn’t matter. This is originally where faith only counts for rightousness, but no works comming from this filthy soul will ever count.

Now the Catholic version of this is that the soul itself is cleansed by sacrament of baptism, a good work, of all sin and filth(rightousness). And therefore the works of living a Christ like life comming from a righteous clean soul are pleasing too. But a person can relapse into sin (bad work) and the soul is now in need of another cleansing from it’s dirt(sin) which may be removed by the sacrament of penance, a good work.

The Catholic version gives meaning to the words of St. Paul, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit …”,1 Cor.6:19-. Because the clean soul is now in a good state to make it the home of the Holy Spirit. If the soul is dirty, then the Holy Spirit must vacate the unholy soul until such time as a cleansing takes place again.

The seed of glory sown in man Will flower when we see your face. (Hymn)

Paul said work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Phillipians 2:12. Each person is a unique case. In regards to the good thief, he had perfect contrition and baptism of desire so no good works required. But generally speaking, we better have good works under our belt when we die.

Read the parable of the talents. God is going to hold us accountable for how we used our time here. And every idle word will be accounted for.

Protestants make redemption and salvation synonymous, Catholics do not. We get cleaned up here or in purgatory. But we will get cleaned up before entering heaven. Most of us are not that holy and will be in purgatory for a while.

Hi!
…I would suggest that there was good works involved since he not only repented and asked for Mercy but he actually gave a very succinct apologetics: He is Just; we deserve this sentencing!

Maran atha!

Angel

Yeah difficult for him to accomplish much good works nailed to a cross, but the good thief did as much as humanely possible there. Perfect contrition.

…and since God was looking into his heart He Saved him and welcomed him at that very moment! God’s Mercy is Bountiful!

Maran atha!

Angel

Blessings Jcrichton,

Do you mean a child of God/His elect, have been justified (initial justification) can lose salvation and end up in hell?

Blessings

LatinRight
[/quote]

**Blessings Longnprosper,

To understand our justification, we have to understand our baptism and to understand our

baptism, first we have to understand our fallen spiritual position.

BAPTISM

OUR FALLEN SPIRITUAL POSITION

a. We are under God’s CONDEMNATION. – Rom.5:18a; John 3:18b.

b. We are in BONDAGE OF CORRUPTION. – Rom.8:19-21.

c. We are residents of the KINGDOM OF SATAN. – Luke 4:5-7.

d. We are SPIRITUALLY DEAD in sins. – Eph.2:1b; Col.2:13a.

e. We “do NOT accept anything from the Spirit of God: we see it all as nonsense; it is

BEYOND our UNDERSTANDING because it CAN ONLY be understood by the Spirit of God.” – 1 Cor.2:14.

To be able to receive things from the Spirit of God, FIRST we need new spiritual life.

This is sometimes called “Born Again.”

Col.2:13; Explains:

“And you, BEING DEAD in your trespasses … He has made you alive, … having forgiven

you all trespasses.” – This resurrection/born again and forgiveness of sins/justification, takes place at baptism.

IN OUR BAPTISM, THERE IS GOD’S PART TO DO AND OUR PART TO DO

God’s part to do in our baptism ALWAYS PRECEDES our water baptism.

This is the point, sometimes confusion comes in to understand baptism.

GOD’S WORK IN OUR BAPTISM IN FINE DETAILS

The SEQUENCE of events in our baptism.

  1. GOD SANCTIFIED us. – At our sanctification God has completely washed us clean,

made us holy (our spirit + soul). – 1 Cor.6:11; 1 Pet.2:9; etc.

We may call it our first purgatory as God has completely washed us clean. – It was an INSTANT event.

  1. God delivered us from the power of darkness and taken us (our spirit + soul) up to heaven, – Col. 1:13; Eph.2:6.

  2. In heaven God baptized us into the body of Christ, – 1 Cor.12:13, 27.

  3. In the Body of Christ God RE-CREATED us (from spiritual death, in Christ God made

us spiritually alive, – 1 Cor.15:22; Eph.2:1). – At our re-creation God MADE us SONS of

God and NEW CREATIONS/BORN AGAIN by given us a new heart, a new spirit and God

put His Spirit into us – Ez.36:26-27; 2 Cor.5:17; 1 Cor.3:16; 1 Cor.6:19.

  1. God JUSTIFIED us. – At our justification God has DECLARED us JUST and

DECLARED us to be sons of God. – Rom.3:24; Rom.8:15.

  1. God made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, –Eph.2:6.

Quote:
“AUGUSTINE’S CONTRIBUTION TO OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT IT MEANS TO

BE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST.

We are inserted into the Body of Christ by our baptism and become members united to

the Head, so that while our feet may be on earth we are already in heaven.” End quote.

The above quote taken from a letter of Paul Maloney OSA Written September 19th 2012

Because it is a mystery we may not yet fully understand the way it is possible that at the

same time our (spirit + soul) is in heaven and on the earth as well.

All of the above works of God is an instant event, we don’t even realize it and in this work

for three reasons we cannot even co-operated with the grace of God.

FIRST REASON: We are spiritually dead and we accept nothing from the Spirit of God.

  • This is our spiritual resurrection from spiritual death.

SECOND REASON: Our initial justification and born again in our baptism is an instant event.

THIRD REASON: The above work of God taken us to the state of grace.

Until we are in the state of grace we cannot make supernatural decisions or do

supernatural work/merit.

Meaning man DOES NOTHING and COULD DO NOTHING, to enter the state of (initial)

justification. – Because spiritually dead at the beginning and the end initially justified, born

again and in the state of grace, the whole process is an instant event.

In the SEQUENCE of the events, first God does His part in our Baptism, as the results; we

are spiritually alive/born again, initially justified, and we are in the state of grace.

This is the point when God gives us His gift of faith and we are able to positively respond

to it. – Because we are spiritually alive, initially justified and we are in the state of grace.

As we see above the necessity of God’s works in our baptism is absolute.

Apart from God first does His part in our baptism we are spiritually dead and we “do NOT

accept anything from the Spirit of God.” – 1 Cor.2:14.

It is SOLELY God’s work and always PRECEDES our water baptism.

This is the point, sometimes confusion comes in, because at this point we are born again,

initially justified, we are in the state of grace and we are not yet water baptized.

Sometimes it is a great distance between God does his part in our baptism and we do our part in our water baptism.

If some reason we are not able to do our part of the baptism that doesn’t stop God to do

His part of our baptism which gives us initial justification, spiritual resurrection/born again

and puts us into the state of grace and if we die enable us to go to heaven. – And of

course God’s part to do in our baptism, always PRECEDES our water baptism.

If we die the next minute after our baptism we go INSTANTLY back home to heaven.

Continue**

**OUR JUSTIFICATION / SALVATION IS GOD’S FREE GIFT

HOW TO READ THE NEW TESTAMENT By Etienne Charpentier

Nihil obstate: Father Anton Cowan

Imprimatur: Monsignor John Crowley, VG Westminster, 28 May 1985

Quote: “There is ONE CENTRAL QUESTION here: how can we become RIGHTEOUS and be SAVED?

We NOT justified by what we do (works, observing law) but by FAITH IN CHRIST.

Salvation is NOT a matter of achieving but RECEIVING IT FREELY from God hands, in faith.” End quote. Emphasize mine.

JOINT DECLARATION ON THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION

by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church

3/17 Justification is SOLELY due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts

as a gift and we RECEIVE IN FAITH, and NEVER CAN MERIT IT ANY WAY.

4/25 We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in

Christ. WHATEVER in the JUSTIFIED PRECEDES or FOLLOWS the free gift of faith is

NEITHER THE BASIS of justification NOR MERITS it.

4/27.The Catholic understanding also sees faith as fundamental in justification. For

without faith, no justification can take place. Thus justifying grace never becomes a

human possession. While Catholic teaching emphasizes the renewal of life by justifying

grace, this RENEVAL in FAITH, HOPE, LOVE is always dependent on God’s

unfathomable grace and contributes NOTHING to JUSTIFICATION.

4/37 We confess together that good works - a Christian life lived in faith, hope and love -

FOLLOW JUSTIFICATION and ARE ITS FRUITS. Emphasize mine.

Blessings

LatinRight**

LatinRight,

I can agree with you up to the point of your citation of the “Joint Declaration”. But that declaration is contradicted by canon 32 of Trent regarding justification.

JOINT DECLARATION ON THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION
by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church
3/17 Justification is SOLELY due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts as a gift and we RECEIVE IN FAITH, and NEVER CAN MERIT IT ANY WAY.

4/25 We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. WHATEVER in the JUSTIFIED PRECEDES or FOLLOWS the free gift of faith is NEITHER THE BASIS of justification NOR MERITS it.

4/27.The Catholic understanding also sees faith as fundamental in justification. For without faith, no justification can take place. Thus justifying grace never becomes a human possession. While Catholic teaching emphasizes the renewal of life by justifying grace, this RENEVAL in FAITH, HOPE, LOVE is always dependent on God’s unfathomable grace and contributes NOTHING to JUSTIFICATION.

Canon 32.
If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified, by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself and also an increase of glory, let him be anathema.

Putting together the bolded words, we have:

If anyone say that the one justified, by the good works that he performs by the grace of God does not truly merit the attainment of eternal life let him be anathema

So we do indeed gain merit, real merit, by works done while justified. In fact we merit eternal life.

To deny this knowingly is to place oneself outside the Catholic Church.

The Declaration you cite has itself no doctrinal magisterial authority.

peace,
steve

To clarify, the Canon says “by the good works he performs by the grace of God” We are participating in His grace to do the work (cf CCC 1997). Some meaningful Scriptures: "for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."Ph 2:13 And "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."Eph 2:10

That being said, I believe that in the Canon you cited they are talking about ongoing sanctification (since it refers to the person already being justified) whereas in the Joint Declaration they are addressing initial justification. Catholic teaching is very clear that initial justification is a free gift of God, unmerited by man. But after initial justification we must be sanctified in an ongoing process. As our faith works in love (cooperating with grace) and we “merit” more grace to grow in holiness.

This article from Catholic answers may be of some interest.

Some references from the CCC

1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

Hi, LatinRight!
Correct. God will not force us to choose Him above ourselves. Jesus explains that the has Given His Sheep to the Father and that none can take them from the Father’s Hand… that’s our Justification and Salvation; however, as Scriptures maintain, we must adhere to Christ (St. John 15:1-10) otherwise we are lost!

This passage is so interesting because it clearly demonstrates that Salvation is Freely Granted, that we are Justified by Christ, and that we are able to produce good fruits in Christ; yet, if we act/remove ourselves from the Vine we will be cutoff and burnt.

His Disciples are “cleaned” by Him but they (as we) must remain in Him so that He may remain in them–otherwise they (as we) are nothing!

Maran atha!

Angel

Prayer warrior,

I agree with how you state it. Here:

However, I just wanted LatinRight not to assume that the process of ongoing justification cannot produce a merit for us of that ongoing justification.

By our perseverance in that justification, we merit eternal life. Justification is sharing in God’s Life, is it not? Or it seems to me to be very closely connected.

Maintaining a state of being in sanctifying grace results in remaining in a state of justification.

But, says the declaration…
“While Catholic teaching emphasizes the renewal of life by justifying grace, this RENEVAL in FAITH, HOPE, LOVE is always dependent on God’s unfathomable grace and contributes NOTHING to JUSTIFICATION”

This cannot be true. It contributes to the maintenance of the state of justification. And Canon 32 says God imparts merit to us for this maintenance.

Am I missing something?

peace,
steve

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