Necessary and Sufficient

Friday, July 1

A lot of Protestants think that the Roman Catholic Church does not believe in salvation by grace.  Much is made over “grace vs. works.”  Actually, the RCC not only believes in salvation by grace, they also believe that both faith  and Christ’s atonement are necessary.  But don’t get the idea that RCC and Protestant doctrines are the same or that the Reformation was a lot of quibbling over irrelevant or trivial issues.  The battle was over whether it is grace alone or grace with added requirements.  The reformers were united in the truth that salvation is by grace alone, by faith alone, through Christ alone.  The key word is “alone.”  Nothing should be added.  Another way to put it is:  grace, faith, and the atoning work of Christ are necessary and sufficient.  The RCC believes them to be necessary but not sufficient.  And this is where “works” comes into the picture.  The RCC has a rather complex system of such things as penance and indulgences that are added to “pure grace” in order to gain salvation. Without going into detail on these, the essence is that man’s efforts have to be included.  That is “works.”  The reformers uniformly rejected these beliefs. This was the key issue in the Protestant Reformation.  The rallying cry was “grace alone by faith alone through Christ alone.”  Luther had a problem with the Epistle of James.  Paul says in Rom. 3:28 “For we hold that a man is justified apart from the works of the law.”  But James says in James 2:24: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”   But other places in James put a different spin on it.  James clearly taught that works is the result of salvation, not the means of it.  Luther eventually understood that.    

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