By Pastor Manny of DCF
I will discuss one of the dividing lines between Protestants and Catholics which became one of the reasons why they reject the biblical reality of Purgatory. This is the same reason why Luther said:
“Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [or sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”
Protestants argue that Purgatory is not necessary given that once a person is justified; sins will never be imputed to that person. In our theology, we believe that sins and guilt are attached to a person’s soul while they rejected that view. They believe that they are only declared as righteous, but they are not transformed by that righteousness internally.
7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin.”
However, I don’t think that Romans 4:7-8 support their theory. I will present the common grounds that we have with Protestants.
1. The sins before a person is justified were imputed to him.
2. The sins of a person when he was justified were no longer imputed to him.
Now, what I am going to prove from the passage that they have cited is the fact that even after a person is justified, his or her sins are still imputed to him. And, I will use Abraham as a test case given that he was described in verses 9-10 of the same passage.
9 Is this blessing pronounced only upon the circumcised, or also upon the uncircumcised? We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.
Many Protestants believed that Abraham was first justified when he was considered as righteous at this moment, given that their theology demands them to preach that justification is just a one-time event and not a process. Obviously, verses 9 up to 10 refer to Genesis 15:6.
6 And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.
However, what some Protestants miss is the fact that Genesis 15:6 isn’t the first time when he was justified. In Hebrews 11:8, it says that he already had faith when he was called by to Lord to go out a place, and this is a reference to Genesis 12:1-5.
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
12 [a]Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.”[b] 4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sar′ai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions which they had gathered, and the persons that they had gotten in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan,
At this point, we have to recognize that we have just debunked the concept that justification is just a one-time event. In Protestant’s theology, a person is justified just once, and as compared to biblical theology, Abraham was justified both in Genesis 12 and in Genesis 15. However, the fun doesn’t stop here because we have to know what took place before the events in Genesis 12:1-5 and Genesis 15:6.
10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sar′ai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful to behold; 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.”
So, what we are seeing in verses 10-13 is the imperfection that was displayed by Abraham. It’s true that Sar’ai was his sister according to Genesis 20:12, but it’s also true that he did not tell the whole truth to the Egyptians. In some sense, he deceived the Egyptians from the truth that Sar’ai was his wife at the same time. Why is this important? It’s really important because this destroys Protestant’s concept of soteriology.
The sin that was committed in the passage above took place before he was justified in Genesis 15, and yet, it took place after he was justified in Genesis 12. So, the only conclusion that we can have here is that the sins that a justified person commit are still attached to his or her soul, and he has to be justified again by God in order for him to be no longer guilty of that sin. So, the fact is that a Christian, a genuine believer in Christ, is still guilty of a sin if he or she committed it. Now, we should ask ourselves, what kind of sins can a Christian be guilty of?
1 John 5:16-17
16 If anyone sees his brother [a]committing a sin not leadingto death, he shall ask and [b]God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.
What we can see is a clear classification of the categories of sin. There is a sin that is leading to death (mortal sin), and there is a sin that is not leading to death (venial sin). Obviously, if a Christian commits a sin that is not leading to death, he did not fall away from grace because of his or her capability to receive life from God. However, when it comes to the sin leading to death, this is a sin that sends someone to hell because if you read verses after the passage above, the Christians were differentiated from the people who are under the evil, and the Christians were promised to have eternal life. But, we also know that in heaven, there will be neither a sin nor attachment to sin because of Revelation 21:27.
27 But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
With all of these biblical facts, it seems that an intermediate state where a person is cleansed and purified is the necessary conclusion. I will present a logical argument, which has been defended by different Catholic Apologists, and since this is a deductive argument, a non-Catholic has to prove one of the premises as wrong, or else, the conclusion follows necessarily.
Premise 1: There will be neither sin nor attachment to sin in Heaven (Rev 21:27).
Premise 2: We (at least most of us) are still sinning and are attached to sin at the end of this life (1 John 1:8).
Conclusion: Therefore there must be a period between death and heavenly glory in which the saved are cleansed of sin and their attachment to sin.