On October 31, 1999, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation issued a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.
The fruit of decades of dialogue and prayer, the declaration clarified each community’s teaching in a way that showed how much they had in common. Both churches proclaimed “a common understanding of our justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ” (5). Since then, two other churches have signed the declaration: the World Methodist Council in 2006 and the World Communion of Reformed Churches in 2017.
Here are some key excerpts from the declaration:
“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” (15).
“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”(16).
“We confess together that good works—a Christian life lived in faith, hope and love—follow justification and are its fruits. . . . Since Christians struggle against sin their entire lives, this consequence of justification is also for them an obligation they must fulfill” (37).
Let’s rejoice at God’s work of restoring unity and pray that even more divisions will fall over time, until all Christians are able to gather as one family around the one table of the Lord.