We are Accounted Righteous before God

This was certainly the doctrine of my church. See Article XIII: “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doc- trine, and very full of comfort . . . “ Scriptural support for this doctrine may be found in Mark 16:16; John 3:16–18, 5:24, 14:6–7; Acts 4.12; Romans 3:9–26, 5:12–21; Ephesians 2.12; I John 2.22–23; 4.3; II John 9. It should, however, be acknowledged that this doctrine seems to be much more common in the works of Paul, and in the fourth gospel, than it is in the synoptic gospels, which tend to suggest that obedience to the commandments, supplemented only by selling all you have and giving it to the poor, is sufficient for salvation. See the story told (with some vari- ations) in Matthew 19:16–22, Mark 10:17–22, Luke 18:18–23. The gospel of John is generally dated late enough that its account of Jesus’s teaching might have been influenced by the letters of Paul. (On the dating of Paul’s letters and John’s gospel, see Raymond Brown’s Introduction to the New Testament, Yale University Press, 1997. ) We should concede also that the exceptional passage from Mark comes from the ‘longer ending of Mark,’ which is not found in the earliest manuscripts. (See The New Oxford Annotated Bible, ed. by Bruce Metzger and Roland Murphy, Oxford University Press, 1991.) I would not, of course, be thought to suggest that any member of the early Christian Church might have tampered with the text of Mark, to bring it into line with Pauline theology. To do that would be to embrace the kind of radical skepticism for which Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus (HarperOne, 2007) has been so widely and justly censured. Still, these textual data are puzzling. A Christian who took his scriptures seriously might think they require some explanation.

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