In what way are we reconciled to God? How are we made righteous before Him and rescued from His wrath? Do we need to earn it, work diligently for it, offer something to God that will tip the scales in our favor? Do we need to be mostly ‘good’ people, as opposed to ‘bad’ people? How is one to compare? Is there some standard by which we can judge whether we’re ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ and therefore meet God’s approval? Perhaps it’s the good works we do; helping the poor, being kind to all, giving of our time and money to charity, sacrificing ourselves and our time to the benefit of others. This should definitely tip the scales in our favor before God, shouldn’t it? Perhaps it’s that moral lifestyle we live, being that upstanding citizen throughout our lives, so that at the end we can say, ‘I’m not a bad person, I’m a good person and have been all my life’. This would definitely put us in the ‘plus’ column; or to use a Santa Claus metaphor, put us on the ‘nice’ and not ‘naughty’ list, wouldn’t it?
Ah, but it would be worthwhile to see what the Word of God has to say about all this:
For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment (literally, a menstrual cloth); And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away (Is. 64:6).
The heart is more deceitful than all else, And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9)
THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE (Rom. 3:10-12).
Protestants and Catholics both take these verses as written, both camps know we have a ‘big’ problem, a big ‘sin’ problem, and both believe that ‘God’s grace’ is a key factor, but it is in the subtle differences in how this sin problem is solved and in what way ‘grace’ plays a major or minor role that is the difference.
As Protestants, we believe we are rescued from God’s wrath, reconciled and made righteous before Him, by grace alone. Sola gratia is the teaching that salvation comes by divine grace or ‘unmerited favor’ only, not as something merited by us as sinners. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our slavery (bondage) to sin (John 8:34, Rom. 6:6) and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life (Rom. 8: 10-11). Sola gratia denies that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this change.
This means that salvation is an unearned ‘gift’ from God. The difference in doctrine between Protestants and Catholics lies mainly in two facts: 1) that of God as sole actor in grace (in other words, that grace is always efficacious without any cooperation by man), and 2) that man cannot by any action of his own, acting under the influence of grace, cooperate with grace to “merit” greater graces for himself (the latter would be the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church). Sola gratia asserts divine monergism in salvation: God acts alone to save the sinner. The responsibility for salvation does not rest on the sinner to any degree.
At this point, we must talk about the Catholic doctrine of ‘penance’, and ‘purgatory’, ‘mortal’ and ‘venial’ sins, the priest’s role in the confession box in forgiving sins, and whether the Catholic system is a system of works or not, but we’ll save that for a later post.
As always, with love,
Dear ol’ Dad
Vaya con Dios mis hijas