The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is an agreement that was created by and agreed to by the Catholics and Lutherans after the ecumenical dialogue. The main aim of this Joint Declaration is to show that on the dialogue basis both the Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church are capable to form a general understanding of the justification by God’s grace with the help of the faith in Christ. Needless to say that this doctrine is not expected to cover everything that that the church tells us regarding justification; but the doctrine is expected to feature a consensus on general truths of the doctrine of justification and besides, it is likely to show that all differences that remain in its explication are not the subject of doctrinal condemnations any more.
Furthermore, this Joint Declaration is based on the idea that by solving the questions that used to be controversial and doctrinal condemnations, the churches are not likely to take the condemnations lightly or to disavow from their own past. Contrariwise, the Declaration is shaped by the idea that in their respective histories all the churches have reached the new insights. Thus, there have been developments leading to churches examining the divisive issues and seeing them in a completely new way.
It should be also mentioned that the doctrine of justification is regarded as more than simply a part of Christian doctrine because it features a vital connection to every truth of faith to be seen as internally connected with each other. Hence, it is a vital criterion that always tends to orient both teaching and practicing of the churches to Christ. So, Lutherans won’t deny the connection and importance of all truths of faith in case they do emphasize on this criterion’s unique significance. In addition, Catholics are not likely to deny the specific function of justification’s massage if they regard themselves as bound by a number of criteria. Finally, it is obvious that Lutherans and Catholics share one mutual aim- to confess Christ, who must be trusted above all things.
It is important to mention that there are general ideas upheld in the Doctrine that aren’t stated in the Official Document. However, some of them completely negate the Biblical justification, such as the belief that justification is through the sacrament of baptism. This tradition is accepted by two parties to the agreement, stating: The Justified as Sinner, by confessing that in Baptism the Holy Spirit connects one with Christ, justifies, and completely renews the individual. This is in teaching of the Council of Trent.
But the justified is to look through his or her whole life to God’s unconditional justifying grace.
In addition, it is confessed that justifying by faith in the Gospel people are not relying on works that were given by the Law. It is well-known that Christ has performed the Law and what’s more, He has overcome it by his death and resurrection as a way to salvation. Also, it is confessed that God’s commandments have validity for justifying; besides by teaching and showing an example Christ has expressed the will of God, standard for featuring of the justified as well.
It is confessed that the faithful are likely to have God’s mercy and promises. Despite the fact that they have weakness and a number of threats to their faith due to Christ’s death and resurrection they have the possibility to build on the promise of God’s grace in Word and Sacrament, believing in this grace.
Finally, it is confessed that good doings—to live in faith, hope, and love – follow justification and what’s more these are its fruits. So, if a justified person not only lives in Christ but also acts in the grace to be received, he or she is likely to bring forth. It shouldn’t be omitted that as the Christians fight with sin throughout their life, the consequence of justification should be regarded as an obligatory thing to fulfill. Hence, Jesus along with apostolic Scriptures tutors all the Christians to bring forth the love works.
Anyway, the idea of this doctrine shows that between Lutherans and Catholics there is an agreement regarding main truths of the doctrine of justification. However, the possible differences, for example in language or in theological elaboration as well as the emphasis on the general idea of justification are acceptable. The Lutheran and the Catholic justification explications, therefore, are in their difference available to each other and are not likely to destroy the consensus concerning the general truths.
To sum up, the 16th century doctrinal condemnations hardly appear in a new light: Besides, we have to admit that the Lutheran churches’ teaching that is presented in this Declaration is not likely to fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. What’s more, the condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions are not referred to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, which is presented in the present Declaration. Thereby, nothing is taken away from the seriousness of the condemnations regarding the doctrine of justification and several of them proved to be pointless. Hence, for us they are “salutary warnings” to be attended in further teaching and practice. And one more thing, our consensus regarding the Doctrine’s basic truths should influence our churches’ life and teachings to be proved itself. Meanwhile, there are still essential issues for further clarification.