Clarifying the Protestant-Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone

Christianity is under attack. It has always been so but the attack has ramped up in recent years. It is more important than ever for Christians to be strong in their faith.

Christians should know general apologetics, that is, the reasons why Christianity is true. But they must also know the tenets of the tradition to which they belong. Only then can they stand firm against the world, the flesh and the Devil.

The Orthosphere is ecumenical but members are allowed to express their beliefs. I express Protestant beliefs. Others can express their beliefs.

Roosh has a post titled What is Orthodox Christianity? In it, he objects to what he calls “the Protestant notion of ‘faith alone.’ “

He does not seem to understand the actual doctrine, which is justification by faith alone. And he’s not the only one. Clarification is needed.

I call it a Protestant-Biblical doctrine because it was not invented. It is expressed clearly in Scripture as I show below, although other Christian traditions find reasons to disagree.

I do not expect non-Protestants to know our doctrines. But many Protestants also do not know this crucial teaching. Perhaps this post will help them understand.

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Mainstream Protestantism is often criticized for encouraging a trivial view of Christianity in which an individual is regarded as “saved” if he expressed faith in Jesus Christ at any point in the past, no matter how superficial the faith and no matter his behavior subsequent to expressing his faith. There are indeed Protestants who hold something like this (false) belief, but other church bodies also harbor superficial pseudo-Christians. A person can participate in any religion superficially.

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Being a Christian is multi-faceted, and justification is one specific part of the Christian life: the part where God decides to regard the Christian as righteous enough to merit His favor instead of His wrath. Christianity is a system, and justification must be understood in the wider context of individuals being saved from the punishment which their sins merit.

[There will be many biblical citations. If you lack a Bible, go to https://www.biblegateway.com/]

Salvation of individuals began in eternity past when God chose all those who would later become Christians. This is stated clearly in several biblical passages, e.g. Ephesians 1:3—5.

[This, of course, is predestination, the contemplation of which often causes wailing and gnashing of teeth. For the present essay I will not argue for its validity, but simply point out that this verse seems pretty clear about it. I note also that the Bible says man generally has free will, without using that exact phrase.]

Salvation becomes necessary when the individual, following the pattern of all mankind, is morally corrupted and sinful by nature. See, e.g., Romans 3:9—18.

The penalty for sin is eternal death in hell.  See e.g., Romans 6:23 (“Wages” are earned; sin earns death) and Revelation 21:8.

The process of salvation in the life of the Christian begins when God justifies him, that is, declares him to be righteous. See, e.g., Romans 5:9:

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

This verse says that justification has already occurred for the Christian. Salvation from the wrath of God, at the last judgment, will occur later.

After justification, which occurs at a moment in time when the believer in Jesus is declared to be righteous, salvation continues when God sanctifies the believer through a lifelong process. Sanctification, the process of becoming holy, is in one sense instantaneous, when the newly-justified Christian is declared by God to be holy because of the merits of Christ. See, e.g., Hebrews 10:14. Sanctification is in another sense a lifelong process of “working out our salvation” under the guidance of God. See, e.g., Philippians 2:12,13:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

And salvation is completed when the believer dies and is glorified in Heaven. See, e.g., Romans 8:17.

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What then of justification by faith alone?

Traditionalist, conservative, Bible-based Protestants believe Scripture teaches that mankind is justified (declared righteous) only by faith in Jesus Christ. To understand what this means we must know the meanings of “justification” and “faith.”

No knowledgeable Protestant believes that people are saved from their sins by nothing more than momentary intellectual assent to certain facts about Jesus. That is not saving faith. The faith that saves is primarily trusting that Jesus saves you, a trust that is based on knowing what Scripture teaches about Jesus and on believing that it is true.

I think the other Christian traditions would generally agree with this characterization of faith, with perhaps some disagreement over the wording or some added factors. The real disagreement concerns justification.

In the Bible, to say that a person is justified by God is to say that God declares that person to be, not just “not guilty,” but actually righteous. This is the primary First Century meaning of the Greek word that is normally translated as “justification.” Justification is God declaring that the former sinner is righteous and therefore fit for Heaven. According to the New Testament, mankind is justified as a result of faith in Jesus, and not at all by the presence of good deeds or the absence of bad deeds. I will supply biblical text which support this point shortly.

The basis for God’s declaration that the sinner is now righteous is the work of Jesus Christ. God does not arbitrarily excuse the sins of the sinner, nor does He arbitrarily elevate the now-forgiven sinner to a righteous status just because He wants to. The death of Jesus atones for the sins of the sinner, and His resurrection imputes (credits) righteousness to the sinner.  Because of Jesus, the sinner is now holy. And these benefits are not given to all of mankind, but only to those who trust in Jesus to save them.

Here are some biblical passages which support and flesh out the understanding of salvation outlined above:

1 Peter 2:24 reads:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Jesus took our sins on himself.

Matthew 26:28:

..for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

The death of Jesus takes away our sins.

2 Corinthians 5:21:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The righteous of Jesus is credited to us.

Romans 4:23—25:

But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

“…raised for our justification:” The Resurrection of Jesus secures our justification.

Phillipians 3:8,9 reads:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…

Note: “A righteousness which comes through faith in Christ.”

Romans 4:1—5:

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, …

Like Abraham, our faith credits (imputes) righteousness to us. We do not work for it, that is, we do not earn it from good deeds and the absence of bad deeds.

Ephesians 2:8,9:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Galatians 2:16:

…nevertheless, knowing that a person is not justified by works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law; since by works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

These passages emphasize that our good works play no role in causing salvation.

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So what is the role of our good works? They are the necessary result of justification, but not its cause. Those who disagree always bring up James chapter 2.  Consider James 2:21—26:

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Notice several things:

1) James affirms, along with Paul and Moses, that Abraham was counted righteous (justified) by believing God, i.e., by his faith, and that nothing more was needed for this justification. That is the meaning of “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

2) The word “justification” has a secondary meaning: confirmation. Good works are a confirmation of justification. Genesis record that Abraham believe God and was consequently counted righteous many years before he offered Isaac on the altar. The offering of Isaac was justification in the sense of confirmation, not of being declared (or made) righteous.

3) If you understand James to be saying that Christians are not justified by faith alone, then the Bible contradicts itself. Numerous other verses say that justification in the sense of being declared righteous is only by faith.  But if the Bible is God-breathed, that is, if it contains only the words that God wants, it does not contradict itself. If James is speaking of works as proof of our having been declared righteous, then he no longer contradicts the rest of Scripture.

4) When the New Testament describes the mechanism of salvation, showing exactly how it is that God pardons sinners and accounts them fit for Heaven, it does not say that our works are necessary. God the Son does the work of saving us by being incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth, by living a sinless life under the Mosaic Law, by dying on the Cross, and by His resurrection. God also does the work of salvation by giving us the ability freely to choose to believe in Jesus. In this scenario where God does all the heavy lifting it does not make sense for our good works to count as salvific in God’s eyes. Instead, good works, in tandem with our faith, verify our salvation.

Justification is, as it were, the primary cause of mankind’s salvation. All those justified by God, and only those justified by God, are saved and go to Heaven when they die.

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Non-Protestants (including non-Christians) tend to have two basic objections to the doctrine of justification by faith alone. One, they believe that good works are a necessary cause of salvation because how could a bad person go to Heaven? And two, they disagree with the apparent implication that those who are justified at a specific point in time by faith alone are guaranteed to go to Heaven regardless of future behavior.

With respect to objection one, good deeds are a necessary consequence of justification so that indeed, the absence of good deeds is proof of the absence of salvation. But they are not the cause of justification. When the Bible speaks clearly about the fundamental cause of our justification it states that the cause is our faith in Jesus and nothing more.

Good works are correlated with salvation, but the Christian also sins. We cannot look to our good deeds for assurance of salvation because we are always tainted with sin. We can only look to Jesus and believe Scripture when it says we are justified by faith, not by our unreliable good works.

With respect to objection two, that justification by faith alone appears to give the sinner a “get-out-of-hell-free” card, the Bible describes salvation as a lifelong process. We are justified at a specific point in time, but our sanctification only ends when we die. The Christian must constantly battle against his propensity to sin. He must constantly repent of his sins and be forgiven.

Other Christian traditions might describe this process as the person, in some sense, losing his salvation and then regaining it. Protestantism understands the Bible to teach that this is not a process of losing and gaining salvation, but a process of ever-increasing holiness sometimes marred by setbacks which impede the holiness but do not damn the believer.

At this point, the part of Protestantism commonly called Calvinism notices that according to the Bible, God in eternity past predestined all those who would be saved, and God acts to ensure that those whom he chose (the elect) will remain in the faith. This is not fatalism (the notion that the final outcome is set regardless of what the individual does) because Calvinism affirms what the Bible says: that all who freely choose to believe in Jesus are saved. Instead, this is Providence: God acting so as to ensure that His elect do whatever is necessary to remain in the faith.

The Bible also notes that not all who appear to have faith in Jesus really have it. Some people reject the faith. But this does not mean that they were justified at one time and then later “de-justified.” 1 John 2:19 reads:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

In contrast to those who apostatize, those predestined for salvation will be held firmly by God:

John 10:27,28, Jesus speaking:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 6:38, 39, Jesus speaking:

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

This does not mean they will be granted a get-out-of-hell-free card. It means they will freely choose to repent and be forgiven. By the Providence of God, they will freely choose to do what is needed to remain in the faith.

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About comments: Disagreement is OK, but if you come across as an enemy your comment will be terminated.

33 thoughts on “Clarifying the Protestant-Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone

  1. Ultimately all Paul is doing is reinventing the wheel on why we don’t have to get circumcised, keep kosher, offer animal sacrifices, and do all the weirdo rituals of the Torah. Somehow “Jesus said we don’t” wasn’t good enough for him (nor was “the real apostles said so in Acts 15 and wrote a letter to Gentile churches advirtising their decision” good enough for him, nor was “I Paul am an apostle and I say so”) because he felt everything needs to be shoehorned into the story of Abraham (which is silly). And the result is a mess.

      • The mess is in the way Paul seeks to prove it which ends in the unintended consequence of training the reader how to effectively twist the OT (and by extension scripture in general) to day whatever they want it to. Genese 15:5 is saying Abraham engaged in theodicy that even though God had not yet kept his promise to multiply his offspring He would do so eventually and therefore was indeed righteous to his promise. Paul twists that into Abraham being justified by faith alone to get rid of circumcision, rather than using the Great Commission to show that Jesus didn’t require circumcision. This method of getting the right answer but by the wrong method creates a mess. And that mess is people trying to use this to throw out baptism and all sorts of other stupid things like that. “Abraham was justified by faith alone so we don’t need baptism” results from Pail’s mistake, whereas had he arrived at the same conlusion against circumsision by “Jesus said teach all nations baptizing them, not circumcising them” that mistake would not have taken place! Paul is a cautionary tale i learning to come to the right conclusion by the right method!

      • The basic problem is that you do not acknowledge the Bible as what it is: the Words of God. Paul does not “twist the OT,” he expresses exactly the truths that God wants him to.

        If the Bible is not the Words of God then you can safely ignore it. If it is the Words of God, you cannot just say that it contains mistakes. The mistake is in your interpretation.

      • The idea that Paul is the words of God is late. The early church viewed him as a witness of the resurrection and a theologian, not a dictational secretary. Justin Martyr never quotes the guy and in fact teaches a different (and more successful) theory on why we don’t have to be circumcised or keep the sabbath or kosher, namely that the ceremonial law was abrogated by Jesus and we only have to keep the moral law. That makes way more sense than trying to prove by the story of Abraham that founded circumcision for the Jews that circumcision was never actually necessary. That Jesus got rid of circumcision makes more sense than twisting the story of Abraham to say it was only an illusion all along! Paul set a bad example on how to interpret scripture and this is why Christianity is in the trouble its in. But nobody took his mistakes seriously until Augustine so that’s when the trouble really began! Nobody but the Gnostics, for instance, bouhht Paul’s predestination theory which also was based on twisting the OT in Romans 9. Until Augustine. And then there were plenty of fights until it was supressed, watered down. And then Luther and Calvin rwcolted against that supression and brought it back! What a mistake. Paul’s bad theories should never have been embraced, as no orthodox person before Augustine embraced them. He shoild have continued to be viewed as a witness to the resurrection and a very flawed theologian not a sort of second Son of God. Also the emphasis on Adam’s sin which Jesus never placed there which Paul did was ignored largely until Augustine and has done irreperable damage to Christianity and the world. The teaching that the world is fallen rather than good that comes from Paul’s dumb emphasis on Adam is the basis of SJWism.

      • All those who refuse to acknowledge the Bible as God speaking (through human authors) wind up troubled and confused. Or they just reject the Faith.

        If the Bible is not the Word of God then there is no referee, and every man’s opinion is as good as another’s.

      • If man’s condition has changed, so that he needs a different revelation today, then it is up to God to supply that new revelation. But there is no indication in the Bible that it has an expiration date, nor is there any new revelation.

      • There are very stringent requirements for verifying revelation. It must not contradict existing Revelation, it must be delivered by a person with a 100% record of correct revelations, among others.

        Also, the Old Testament was full of revelations about Messiah to come, and the New Testament shows the revelation fulfilled, so that God’s plan of salvation has been completed.

        As I’m sure you know, there are many deceivers and persons sincerely deceived who are delivering false revelation. Caveat emptor.

      • The Bible, which is the Word of God, and therefore entirely true. What is your source of knowledge?

      • There’s lots of sources of knowledge I use. The Bible is certainly one. I’m just not familiar with the stringent requirements for revelation you say are in the Bible.

      • If I give you scriptural citations, will you say “OK, I agree,” or will you find other reasons to doubt?

      • For starters:

        Deuteronomy 13:1–5:

        If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of ]slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.

        Deuteronomy 18:20–22:

        But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

        1 John 4:1–4:

        Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

  2. Though I am not a Christian (though fascinated by Catholic and Protestant ideation alike), I assume that Christianity requires its nemesis in ascendancy for its full flowering. Am I mistaken?

  3. I don’t feel like refighting the Reformation. This has been done ad nauseam and has changed nobody’s mine. And my comment will probably end up in spam (I don’t know why)

    In practice, your position is not that far away from non-Protestant churches (Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental). However, not all Protestant churches have your opinion. In 30, 000 Protestant churches, there is a lot of diversity of doctrine. You try to avoid this topic when you say that only superficial Protestants or non-sane Protestants disagree with you. Besides the No True Scotman fallacy, the difference does not lie in individuals but in the doctrine of different churches.

    • Well, I’m not re-fighting the Reformation. I’m explaining what justification by faith alone really means, and showing it in Scripture.

  4. imnobody, I’m breaking silence to comment on your “30,000 churches” thing. After you read my brief comment below, I hope you will drop that canard.

    This commonplace of Orthodox and Roman Catholic polemics seems to confuse “confessions” with “denominations.” I’ll take your word for now, for the 30,000 denominations (while noting that that number might have about as much validity as the baloney about the number of witches burnt at the stake in Wiccan polemics).

    But even if there are 30,000 denominations, there are not anything like that number of confessions of faith. For example, Wesleyans, Nazarenes, and Free Methodists count as three denominations but might have full fellowship with each other, and someone going from one to the other of these might find virtually no differences of doctrine, prayer, hymnody, etc.

    Why are there three denominations not one? You’d have to look into it, case by case. I doubt you’d find anything very sensational!

    • Many of these denominations are just names, as the word denomination implies. Many of them appeared in the United States in the nineteenth-century, when the religion market was wide open and there was very stiff competition for congregants. I don’t mean to be crass, but many of these denominations differ from one another in the same degree that McDonalds differs from Wendy’s, Burger King, Sonic, etc. To push this analogy onto the point you make, burger joints is equivalent to a confession, with other confessions being pizza joints, chicken joints, taco joints, etc. Denominations are just the brand names within these classifications.

      Of course each brand name had its “secret sauce” because it was in competition with other brands. Sometimes these were points of doctrine that seem to be extreme hair-splitting to a twenty-first century reader, sometimes they were tiny niceties of liturgy (for instance whether instruments could be used to accompany singing).

      I don’t mean to imply that the protestants who founded these denominations were just angling for market share, just that this is how things have to work when there is a free market for religion. The monopolistic churches have their own distinctive problems, so I don’t think they are clearly better than fractious sectarianism. There is, for instance, a second way of understanding the phrase “cafeteria Catholic.” In this case the “cafeteria” is not one with choices, but one like my old high school cafeteria where there was one item on the menu and it wasn’t very appetizing.

    • Whether there are 30,000, 3,000 or 30 denominations is kind of beside the point. Sectarian division is condemned very heartily by St. Paul. There is either one Church under the leadership of the Apostolic succession, or we can all just sit in our homes with the King James Bible on Sunday morning and decide for ourselves what the Faith is.

      • That’s an old complaint. It was answered long ago.

        Executive summary: Even if the RCC had the authority she says she does (and there is no hint of it in Scripture and the early church), the Magisterium fails to control schism. Catholics have at least as much diversity of beliefs and practices (many of them heretical) as Protestants. Claiming a theoretical oneness under the umbrella of the RCC does not change that fact. For every Protestant who sits in his home with his King James Bible deciding for himself what his faith is, there is at least one Catholic deciding for himself what his Faith is.

        Since (as another commenter said) there is no point in rehashing the disputes of the Reformation, and since every argument of yours has a rebuttal by me, and since the Orthosphere is supposed to be ecumenical, I declare an end to this exchange, namely the exchange concerning the legitimacy of our traditions.

        Final score: theantignostic 1, Roebuck 1.

        Now, if you want to discuss the proper interpretation of what Scripture says about the justification of sinners, go ahead.

      • Well said, Alan. The schism within the RCC is as virulent these days as the schism between her and her erstwhile Protestant adversaries. Perhaps moreso, indeed. The union of the RCC these days is legal and nostalgic, and nothing more (it is not even liturgical). Legality is important, to be sure; it is a binding force, and bound therefore eventually (given the Catholic legal tradition) to be suasive, and what is more to lead the whole body of the Church back to orthodoxy in faith and morals. Ditto for nostalgia: remember when we all agreed about the tenets of orthodoxy, and how lovely that was?

        Reading your post, my main impression was that it *reinforced* traditional Catholic doctrine about salvation. I have not dug into the interstitial detail, but the broad strokes are massively agreeable in both traditions: cleansing from Original Sin, whether at baptism by water and the Holy Spirit, or by Baptism of Desire and the Holy Spirit at confession of faith in Christ Jesus; then and forever after until death, a difficult project of increasing sanctity of life, persevering to the end.

        Who after a confession of faith then rejects that project of sanctification, or purposely defects from it, is of course totally screwed. But in both Protestant and Catholic terms, any such defection is Providentially destined (without any vitiation of free will (this is one of the curious beauties of the doctrine of Omniscience: He knows all things from all eternity without determining them)). The confessor in question could not have been true in his confession, or he would not thereafter have defected from it.

        Anyway, good stuff. Most serious Protestants are more Catholic than lots of Catholics. Nuff said, by me at any rate; all shall be reckoned immaculately by the Great I AM in his Book of Life. Of that, we may all be sure – and tremble thereat.

  5. The Biblical exegesis here is consistently wrong, based as it is on false assumptions about what is being discussed. For instance, in Ephesians 2, it is not man boasting before God that Paul is discussing, but rather Jews boasting before Gentiles, and it is not “good works” that Paul is saying don’t justify, but rather “works of the Torah” meaning ritual acts of piety. The problem here is an Augustinian theological framework being superimposed on the words of Paul. If Augustine had actually understood what Paul was talking about, that might have been okay. But he didn’t, as the New Perspective guys have definitively proven. But I would hasten to add that this set of false assumptions is not a problem exclusive to Protestantism.

    • For full context, Ephesians 2:1-10 reads as follows:

      And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

      The beginning of the passage emphasizes moral sin (“lusts of our flesh”) rather than ritual impurity. Also, Paul is on record, in Galatians, condemning those who say that ritual acts of piety make one morally righteous. He calls it “another Gospel.” If your theory is correct then Paul spectacularly contradicts himself.

      This is not about ritual purity, which has no ability to make one counted righteous and which would have no appeal to Gentiles. This is about forgiveness of moral transgressions, which appeals to all mankind.

      And consider Luke 18:9-14, in which Jesus contrasts a ritually pure Pharisee with a penitent tax collector. The Lord’s judgment is “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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