“The righteous shall live by faith.”
This was the slogan, so to speak, of the Protestant Reformation. The great discovery of Martin Luther, while he was a Catholic monk trying with all his might to work for salvation and realizing he always fell short, was that the Scripture teaches salvation is not contingent upon works. This Biblical truth was hidden by the Catholic Church and replaced with a doctrine of works, which is why Luther despaired. Consider the apostate church’s own words, which from the days of Luther till now have not significantly changed on the matter:
No one can be absolutely certain of his or her salvation unless – as to Magdalen, to the man with the palsy, or to the penitent thief – a special revelation be given (Trent, Sess. VI, can. xvi). Nor can a theological certainty, any more than an absolute certainty of belief, be claimed regarding the matter of salvation, for the spirit of the Gospel is strongly opposed to anything like an unwarranted certainty of salvation.1
Faith and no works may be described as the Lutheran view. “Esto peccator, pecca fortiter sed fortius fide” was the heresiarch’s axiom, and the Diet of Worms, in 1527, condemned the doctrine that good works are not necessary for salvation.2
They say that no one can be assured of their salvation while living. They say that good works are necessary for salvation (ever hear of Catholic guilt?). They say that Luther is a “heresiarch”, meaning he is the originator of the heresy of salvation by faith alone. But what do the Scriptures say?
The Apostle Paul writes clearly on the matter, ironically in his letter to the Romans. If only Roman Catholic theologians would pick up that book and study it! Consider the important third chapter:
Before that, in the first chapter, Paul talks about the nature of the gospel:
When Paul writes “but the righteous man shall live by faith”, he is not writing his own words, but is recalling the words of God given to the prophet Habakkuk.
Righteousness by faith is not Luther’s concept. It is not even a New Testament concept – it is God’s concept. God has always saved by faith and never by the Law, for consider that Adam and Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph were alive before the Law was given to Israel. If they existed prior to the Law, then how did the Law save them? Rather, they were all saved by their faith in God. This God concept, recorded by Habakkuk and quoted by Paul in Romans, is also found in other New Testament passages:
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. Galatians 2: 21
Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “the righteous man shall live by faith.” Galatians 3: 11
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2: 8 – 9
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Hebrews 10: 35 – 39
So if Martin Luther is a heretic according to the Catholic Church, what do they think about Moses and Habakkuk and Paul? For did not all three write about righteousness by faith?
Rather, it is the Roman Catholic Church that promotes heresy. And they themselves would do well to heed the words of God’s prophet:
Regarding the proud one, whose soul is not right within him – who is prouder than the man who desires to stand before God and declare that he and his works have added something to the work of Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified upon a cross unto death and then resurrected on the third day, and whose death and resurrection served as the perfect sacrifice for sins?
Is there a doctrine bitterer to the soul than salvation by works? And consequently, is there anything sweeter than righteousness by faith, in which our works are not even considered and only the perfect work of Jesus Christ is considered when God grants salvation to the sinners who believe in the Son?
Thanks be to God for preserving His gospel in the Scriptures throughout the generations. And in dark days, when the light of the gospel in the Bible is put under a shade, thanks be to God for raising up men who remove the shade and once again shine the light of the Word to the world!
In doing so, the Holy Spirit is using them to fulfill the promise of Christ to His church: