"My mouth will tell of Your righteous acts,
of Your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of Your righteousness, Yours alone."
- Psalm 71:15-16
A recent poll showed that most American professing Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, believe that salvation is based partly on works. I would suggest that this is because of the insidious Pelagian influence inherent in the Arminianism that dominates American evangelicalism.
Good works certainly aren't the basis of the salvation as revealed in Scripture. In the anonymous Psalm referenced here, the writer boasts not at all in his own righteousness, but rather that of his divine Redeemer alone. The Prophet Isaiah agreed, comparing his own righteousness to a woman's menstrual rag (Is. 64:6).
The Apostle Paul, too, repudiated his own righteousness, grasping hold of Christ's righteousness alone. Look at Philippians 3:8-9, "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." And Romans 5:19, "For as by one man's [i.e., Adam's] disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's [i.e., Christ's] obedience the many will be made
not in himself. And a little later, in II 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."
Finally, heed Paul's warning, in Romans 10:3, "Being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness." It's an either-or thing. If you are looking to your own good works, your own righteousness, to earn you a pass to eternal life, then you have missed the train. That is the biblical Gospel. If you look at all to your own works to justify you, then you don't understand the righteousness of God and have not received the righteousness that comes only by faith. You are lost, unless you repent.
Aquinas Reconsidered (Richard A. Muller)
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