Justification according to Rome and the Reformation

James S. Gidley

Justification according to Rome

D = Decree of the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent
C = Canons of the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent

Justification according to the Reformation

WCF = Westminster Confession of Faith
LC = Larger Catechism
SC = Shorter Catechism

1. Justification is not by the law, but by grace. D 1–3; C 1–3

1. Justification is not by the law, but by grace. WCF 11.3; LC 70–71; SC 33

2. Justification cannot be received without baptism or the desire thereof. D 4

2. Justification is received by those who believe. WCF 11.2; LC 70, 72; SC 33, 86

3. God’s grace and the sinner’s free will cooperate in conversion and justification. D 5; C 4, 9

3. By grace God changes the sinner’s heart and will. WCF 10.1–2; LC 58–59, 67; SC 29–31

4. The sinner’s will is free to reject the illumination of the Holy Spirit, but requires grace to move to justice. D 5; C 4–7

4. The sinner’s will is bound to sin. WCF 9.3; LC 25, 27

5. Adults prepare to receive justification in various ways, including beginning to love God. D 6

5. Sinners are altogether passive until enabled by the Spirit to respond to God’s call. WCF 10.2; LC 58–59, 67; SC 29–31

6. The means by which a person receives justification is the sacrament of baptism accompanied by faith. D 7; C 12

6. The means by which a person receives justification is faith alone. WCF 11.2; LC 70–73; SC 33, 86

7. Justification is not only remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man. D 7

7. Justification is not for anything wrought in the sinner or done by him. WCF 11.1; LC 70, 73; SC 33, 86

8. Justification is based on infused righteousness (righteousness poured into the sinner). D 7; C 10–11

8. Justification is based on imputed righteousness (righteousness reckoned to the sinner’s account). WCF 11.1; LC 70; SC 33

9. Justification is based on inherent righteousness (righteousness in and done by the justified person). D 7; C 10–11

9. Justification is based on an alien righteousness (righteousness in and done by Christ and imputed to the sinner). WCF 11.1; LC 70–73; SC 33, 86

10. Faith is the beginning of salvation and the root of justification. D 8

10. Faith receives Christ’s perfect and complete righteousness. WCF 11.3; LC 70–73; SC 33, 86

11. No one can be certain that he has received the grace of God or is justified. D 9; C 13–15

11. Believers can be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace. WCF 18.1; LC 80–81; SC 36

12. Justification is progressive and is increased. D 10; C 24

12. Justification is completed at once when a person believes. WCF 11.4–5; LC 77

13. Justification is increased by good works such as observing the commands of God and the church. D 10; C 12, 24

13. Justification is by faith alone, but good works always follow justifying faith. WCF 11.2; LC 70, 75; SC 33, 35

14. The justified are able to observe God’s commandments and to do good works that are not tainted by sin. D 11; C 18, 25

14. The best works of the justified are defiled and mixed with sin, and are accepted only by grace in Christ. WCF 16.5–6; LC 78, 95, 149; SC 82

15. No one can know that he is elect except by special revelation. D 12; C 15

15. Believers can know that they are elect by knowing that they have been effectually called. WCF 3.8

16. No one can be certain that he will persevere to the end. D 13; C 16

16. All the elect persevere to the end, and they can know it. WCF 17.1–2, 18.1–2; LC 79–81; SC 36

17. Justification can be lost by sin after baptism. D 14; C 23

17. The justified can never lose justification. WCF 11.5; LC 79; SC 36

18. Justification is restored by the sacrament of penance. D 14; C 29

18. Penance is not a sacrament. WCF 27.4; LC 164; SC 93

19. Penance includes cessation from sins, detesting of them, sacramental confession (at least in desire), priestly absolution, and satisfaction of temporal punishments by fasts, alms, prayers, and other pious exercises. D 14

19. Repentance is the turning of the sinner from sin to God. WCF 15.2; LC 76; SC 87

20. Justification is lost by any mortal sin, even though faith is not lost. D 15; C 27–28

20. Justification cannot be lost; faith is weakened by sins, but not lost. WCF 11.5, 14.3; LC 79, 81; SC 36

21. The justified are accounted to have fully satisfied God’s law and to have truly merited eternal life by their good works, by the virtue of Jesus Christ continually infused into them. D 16; C 26, 32

21. The best works of believers cannot endure God’s judgment nor merit eternal life; Jesus Christ himself has satisfied God’s justice and purchased eternal life for us. WCF 16.5, 8.5; LC 78, 149; SC 25

22. Not only the elect receive justification. C 17

22. Only the elect are effectually called and justified. WCF 10.1, 11.1, 4; LC 68

23. Even though they are justified, penitent sinners must still suffer temporal punishments in this life and in purgatory. C 30

23. Justified persons can fall under God’s fatherly displeasure in this life; purgatory is not revealed in Scripture, but only heaven and hell. WCF 11.5, 32.1; LC 86–90; SC 37–38

24. The justified may perform good works with a view to an eternal recompense. C 31

24. Believers are to perform good works to show their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brothers, adorn the gospel, silence adversaries, and glorify God; blessings for obedience are not due to them by the law as a covenant of works. WCF 16.2, 19.6; LC 97

The author is a ruling elder at Grace OPC in Sewickley, Pa., and the president of the Committee on Christian Education. Reprinted from New Horizons, February 2005. See also explanatory article. For a printable version of this table in Adobe Acrobat PDF, click here. To download a free copy of Acrobat Reader, click here. See also the 71st General Assembly Statement on Justification.