Before justification the sinner enters into a state of preparation whereby he, by his own free-will and in co-operation with the Holy Spirit, is prepared for future justification. During this preparation the sinner comes to accept a general knowledge of God and his word. After this preparation is completed, God justifies the sinner in a two-staged process. In the first part of justification, God pardons sin and infuses the inward righteousness of hope and charity into the sinner’s heart so that faith is now formed by virtue. In the second part of justification the sinner is now made more holy and just by his own merit having been infused with the quality of inward righteousness.3
It is important to understand the place that Rome gave to the inward qualities of hope and charity. The kind of faith that justifies includes infused sanctification. Based on an interpretation of Galatians 5:6 which speaks of faith working through love, Rome built into the nature of justifying faith the cooperation and obedience of the sinner in the act of justification. Trent declared that faith, “unless hope and charity be added thereto, neither unites man perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of His body.”4
It was upon this premise that Trent decreed a separate canon anathematizing any formulation of justifying faith that did not include obedience. Canon XII states, “If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.”5 For Rome in the act of justification, faith consists not merely of trusting in Jesus Christ to save, but the faith that justifies includes the inward habit of righteousness of hope, charity, and other virtues.
For Rome, there is no distinction between justification and sanctification. The sinner is justified insofar as he is sanctified, through the infusion of virtue, and in cooperation with grace, with the result that, ordinarily, no one is finally justified in this life. Read More»
Chris Gordon | “Understanding the Difference Between Roman Catholics and Protestants on Justification by Faith” | October 14, 2022
3. The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Sixth Session, (Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 2:89-118).
4. Ibid., Session 6: Ch. 7 (2:96). For Rome, faith is not simply “a certain knowledge and a hearty trust” or resting in Christ’s finished work. Rather it is a virtue, it is a power, it is obedience, it is sanctity. Rome teaches that faith is “formed by love,” i.e. it becomes a reality as we cooperate with grace.
5. Ibid., Session 6: Canon XII (2:113).
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