My pastor Lance Quinn posted on the BCLR Blog an article title The Truth about Purgatory. In the post he quoted a section about purgatory from The Council of Trent which states:
If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened [to him]: let him be anathema.
I was struck by the statement in many ways but what stuck out the most was the final phrase: "Let him be anathema." Paul used this same phrase in the book of Galatians but what Paul said in front of this statement was different than the Council of Trent. Sadly, The Council of Trent, does hold to the Gospel Paul spoke of in the Scriptures. Anathema means damned therefore if Scripture says one thing and The Council of Trent another then we have a contradiction in damning souls for eternity. We must not say they are both correct for this is an impossibility. So...what is the issue at hand?
There is no question that justification is the issue on the line. The Council of Trent, which is a doctrinal statement for the Catholic church, teaches clearly that souls are not declared completely right in the sight of holy God. Yes, justification is present in this statement but it is in contradiction to the Bible's teaching of justification. This statement speaks of not being fully justified. We are justified but...fill in the blank of living a good life or adding our own "good works" to the equation. In Galatians it was the act of circumcision the false teachers were adding to the doctrine of justification. Paul says, "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness (or justification) were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose" (Galatians 2:21). Also in Romans Paul says:
"[Righteousness] 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 raise for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 4:24 - 5:2).
Justification is God declaring us right in his sight. This is only possible through the imputed righteousness of Christ. If Christ's righteousness is not ascribed to us we are not in a right standing with the Father. Imputed righteousness does not come through anything we do to earn a right standing with God. We must admit that our own righteous deeds are filthy garments (Is. 64:6) when compared to the holiness of our Creator and Judge. Therefore we are in desperate need of a mediator and that mediator is the God-man Jesus Christ. He is the one who paid the price for sins and was raised for our justification. Those who put their trust in him are justified because of what he did rather than what we could ever accomplish. The work is finished at the cross.
So I want to proclaim boldly and contradictory to the Council of Trent that all guilt is remitted and the debt of eternal punishment is taken away because of the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross. For I know the God of the Bible cannot lie therefore I stand upon his promises in order that I might gain Christ and his righteousness rather than my own damning righteous deeds.
Grace upon grace,