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Reflections and Statements (Various Topics)

Section 3.
THE COMMON UNDERSTANDING OF JUSTIFICATION

14. The Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church have together
listened to the good news proclaimed in Holy Scripture. This common
listening, together with the theological conversations of recent years, has
led to a shared understanding of justification. This encompasses a
consensus in the basic truths; the differing explications in particular
statements are compatible with it.


15. In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work
of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners.
The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation,
death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ
himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in
accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in  faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we
are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts
while equipping and calling us to good works.(11)


16. All people are called by God to salvation in Christ. Through Christ
alone are we justified, when we receive this salvation in faith. Faith is
itself God's gift through the Holy Spirit who works through word and
sacrament in the community of believers and who, at the same time, leads
believers into that renewal of life which God will bring to completion in
eternal life.


17. We also share the conviction that the message of justification directs
us in a special way towards the heart of the New Testament witness to God's
saving action in Christ: it tells us that as sinners our new life is solely
due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts as a gift and we
receive in faith, and never can merit in any way.


18. Therefore the doctrine of justification, which takes up this message
and explicates it, is more than just one part of Christian doctrine. It
stands in an essential relation to all truths of faith, which are to be
seen as internally related to each other. It 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
in all things, who alone is to be trusted above all things as the one
Mediator (1 Tim 2:5f) through whom God in the Holy Spirit gives himself and
pours out his renewing gifts. [cf. Sources for section 3].

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