The Doctrine of Justification became the stand point for Lutheral Reformation in the sixteenth century. Actually, it gave the roots for Western Church division and later doctrinal condemnations. To reconcile two confessions, Joint Declaration was assigned as a result of detailed biblical studies and deep dogmatic researches. By signing The Joint Declaration Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church obtained some kind of consensus on appropriate issue. Being the “ruler and judge over all other Christian doctrines”,justification is perceived today by both confessions as “God’s grace through faith in Christ”.It’s important to understand that Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification does not cover all differences in Churches’ studies on appropriate doctrine.
It just provide a consensus on “basic truths” and shows that there are no more grounds for doctrinal condemnations. In this regard, the main controversy that was rooted to 16th century is not relevant anymore. The consensus was found in good news prescribed by Holly Bible. In fact, the meaning of reached agreementis manifested in paragraph 18 of The Joint Doctrine: “Justification is an indispensable criterion, which constantly serves to orient all the teaching and practice of our churches to Christ. When Lutherans emphasize the unique significance of this criterion, they do not deny the interrelation and significance of all truths of faith. When Catholics see themselves as bound by several criteria, they do not deny the special function of the message of justification. Lutherans and Catholics share the goal of confessing Christ, who is to be trusted above all things as the one Mediatorthrough whom God in the Holy Spirit gives himself and pours out his renewing gifts”. Previous quote is the most helpful to get the nature found consensus.
Giving the explication of justification in the aspect of assigned Declaration, confessions noticed next points:
- Human Powerlessness and Sin in Relation to Justification – both churches confess that all individuals are entirely dependent on the saving grace of God for their salvation. Freedom that people have dealing with each other and with things of this world is not freedom in relation to salvation. Justification takes place only with the grace of God.
- Justification as Forgiveness of Sins and Making Righteous–two churches confess that God forgives sins through the grace and at the same time frees human beings from enslavingpower of sin, serving with the gift of new life in Christ. When people are given to Christ by faith, God no longer imputes to them their sins and the Holy Spirit creates in them an active love. These two aspects of God’s grace effects cannot be separated.
- Justification by Faith and through Grace – sinners are justified by faith in rescuing action of God in Christ. They are guaranteedwith the gift of salvation, which lays the foundation for all Christian life. The free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it.
- The Justified as Sinner – in baptism the Holy Spirit brings people to Christ, justifies and truly renews person. At the same time justified must to look for God’s unconditional justifying grace; struggle against the contradiction to God within the selfish desires of the old Adam; ask God daily for forgiveness as in the Lord’s Prayer.
- Law and Gospel – people are justified by faith in the gospel “without works prescribed by law.” God’s commandments remain relevant to the justified and Christ with His teachings and example expressed by God’s will, which is a pattern (normal) to .behavior of justified.
- Assurance of Salvation – faithful can rely on the mercy and promises of God. Despite the inherent weakness and numerous threats to their faith, with the power of death and resurrection of Christ, they can be confident in the promises of God’s grace in Word and Sacraments.
- The Good Works of the Justified – good works (the Christian life lived in faith, hope and love) follow justification and is its fruit. When justified live in Christ and act in the grace, they receive, or, in biblical language, produce good fruit.
After main concepts of The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, its writers emphasize the significance and scope of agreement they reached. In other words, this part also can be treated as authors’ thoughts on the matter. By making conclusions, writers mention that reached analysis shows that there is the consensus in Churches’ truths about the Declaration of Justification exists. As the final idea, it is stated: “The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration”. It’s important that with significant progress in relations achieving, both Churches promised to continue further work in part of the “common understanding of justification”. To sum up, The Joint Declaration of Justification became the revolutionary agreement in the field of doctrinal explication. Thus, the first and the main step to reconcile of both confessions was made. However, we cannot leave aside the fact that this documents was strongly criticized by representatives of both communions, even calling it heretical. Whatever the interpretation of plot is, the intention to end 4 centuries lasted conflict is worth to be rewarded.
“Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” approved by the ILWF on 1998-JUN-16.http://www.cin.org/users/james/files/jddj.htm