OUR COMMON CONFESSION OF FAITH
2.1. Our Lord Jesus Christ:
The Only Mediator Between God And Humankind?
Before moving on to matters which are still points of disagreement
and divergence between our churches, we as a Dialogue Commission
propose to confess together our faith in Christ. We give this
affirmation of faith the title "confession" even though
it is neither a confession in the ecclesial sense nor a complete
statement of faith. We do so because we are convinced that the
importance of what we are able to say together merits such a
make this confession of faith, wishing to manifest publicly
our desire to re-examine the reasons which brought about our
separation in the past and to assess whether or not they are
still of such a nature as to justify our division. Jesus Christ,
in whose name our forbears separated themselves from one another,
is also the one who unites us in a community of forgiveness
and of kinship. We wish to voice our conviction that what unites
us as Christians is more important, more essential, than that
which separates us as Roman Catholics and Reformed. Even if
full communion is not yet granted us, we cannot define our relations
to each other simply in terms of separation and division.
make this confession, moreover, mindful of this world of ours,
so as to give common witness before it. With respect for all
who seek God, however God is named for them, or even if for
them God cannot as yet be named, we wish to speak the Good News
of salvation brought in Jesus Christ by God seeking out humankind.
In that Good News we Christians already find our reconciliation
and the strength to work for the fuller reconciliation of all
with God and with each other.
confession involves on our part the recognition of the authority
of the Scriptures, as these have been identified by the early
church, to whose teaching we desire to remain obedient. We recall
what was said on this subject in the report of the first phase
of our dialogue (The Presence of Christ in Church and World,
25-33). In the same way we recognize together in the teaching
of the ancient Church, the force of a norma norrnata, i.e.,
an authority which is subject to the authority of the Scripture,
and we desire to maintain that teaching in its purity. The teaching
of the Church ought to be an authentic explanation of the Trinitarian
and christological affirmations of the early confessions of
faith and the early councils (cf. on this subject, PCCW, 34-38).
2.1.1. Christ, Mediator and Reconciler
all humankind, our sisters and brothers, we announce the death
of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 11:26) and proclaim his resurrection
from the dead (cf. Rom 10:9; Acts 2:32; 3:15). In that mystery
of death and resurrection we confess the event which saves humanity,
that is, liberates it from the distress in which it is imprisoned
by sin and establishes it in communion of life with God. That
event reveals who God is, who we are and who Christ is as mediator
between God and humankind.
God is the One who "chose us (in Christ) before the foundation
of the world... He destined us in love to be his sons through
Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:4-5)2,
a God of tenderness and mercy, who wills not the death of the
sinner, but rather that the sinner should be converted and live.
God is the One who has loved us unto death: indeed, in the person
of Jesus Christ, God himself died on the Cross for, "in
Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor
5:19). But this was not the "death of God" proclaimed
in recent times: it was the death of the Just One fallen into
the hands of evil persons, and faithful to his mission to the
end. Jesus died a death which is a victory over the death which
touches all. God's omnipotence is revealed in the deepest weakness
of human nature, assumed in solidarity with us. If the death
of Jesus is the work of sinners, God from all eternity has made
it one with the design of salvation, accomplishing that life
giving work by raising Jesus from the dead. Placed at the heart
of human violence, Jesus by his love has transformed the work
of death into the work of life.
The death and resurrection of Jesus also reveal to us who
we are: not merely creatures who are object of God's benevolence,
but also human beings capable of sin, historically imprisoned
in the bonds of a sin which is our curse. From the beginning
we hid ourselves from God, and this is why God is hidden from
us. It is not that God is distant and inaccessible, but that
we reject the God who is too near and too explicit. This awareness
of alienation and exile in the midst of faith we call sin.
We recognize that there is a betrayal of God's trust in us
and that God's heart is saddened by our separation. From this
condition we cannot free ourselves by our own strength. This
is why the need and expectation of a mediator are central
to the Old Covenant, where the law, sacrifices, prophecies,
wisdom are ways of mediating between a living God and a humanity
subject to sin and death. But none of these paths fully reach
the goal. Because of sin, the law intended for life judges,
condemns and leads to death. Substitute sacrifices are endlessly
repeated. Prophecies lag, bide their time, fall silent. Wisdom
remains an ideal. In Jesus, the unique mediator, in his death
and resurrection, we are radically freed from this situation:
the way of true life is opened to us anew.
c) The death and resurrection of Jesus finally reveal who
Jesus himself is, the one mediator between God and humanity,
that is, the One who comes to reconcile us with God. This
is why we accept together the confession of faith of the New
Testament. " For there is one God, and there is one Mediator
between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself
as a ransom for all" (1 Tim 2:56). We confess that "there
is no other name under heaven given among men by which we
must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
and reconciliation have been embodied and located, named and
personified in Jesus of Nazareth - whence it was thought at
that time nothing good could come, condemned and executed at
Jerusalem - which God has since David's time identified as the
place of God's peace, resurrected by the power of God and placed
at God's right hand. This is the news, still surprising and
overwhelming, which constitutes the Gospel; of this the Church
is the beneficiary and the herald.
therefore confess together that Christ, established as Mediator,
achieves our reconciliation in all its dimensions: God reconciling
humanity, human beings reconciled with each other; and humanity
reconciled with God.
On the one hand, indeed, in and through Jesus Christ we have
reconciliation with God. For "every good endowment and
every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father
of lights" (Jas 1:17). For "all this is from God,
who through Christ reconciled us to himself." (2 Cor
5:18); "In him we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of our trespasses"(Eph 1:7).
On the other hand, in and through Jesus Christ, we have
reconciliation among ourselves, "For he is our peace,
who has made us both one." In his flesh he "has
broken down the dividing wall of hostility... that he might
create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making
peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through
the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And
he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace
to those who were near" (Eph 2:14-17). The vertical
and horizontal dimensions of reconciliation are interdependent:
just as hostility is the consequence and sign of separation
from God, so reconciliation in peace among human beings
is the fruit and sign of reconciliation with God. From Christ
we receive the gift of reconciliation which aims to extend
to all. To this we witness together in faith.
Finally, thanks to Jesus Christ, Jews and Gentiles "both
have access in one Spirit to the Father" (Eph 2:18).
In and through Christ we can offer ourselves "as a
living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is ...
spiritual worship" (Rom 12:1). For he "gave himself
up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God"
(Eph 5:2). Jesus, the Christ, marks the end of condemnation
by the law, because he is "...our righteousness and
sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30); he marks
the end of the sacrifices of the law because "he entered
once for all into the holy place, taking... his own blood,
thus securing an eternal redemption" (Heb 9:12); Christ
marks the end of waiting on prophecies because he fulfils
all that was written of him "...in the Law of Moses,
and the prophets and the psalms" (cf. Lk 24:44); Christ
marks the end of the anonymity of wisdom, for he himself
is the "wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24).
is conceivable that many if not all of the Reformers' goals
might have been realized without dividing the Western Church
into different confessional traditions. Their aims and insights
could perhaps eventually have been accepted by the entire Church
and issued in a comprehensive, unified Reformation. In fact,
this did not happen. The established leadership of the Western
Church was not generally prepared to agree to the amendments
of doctrine, Church order and practice which the Reformers sought.
The Reformers for their part were convinced that nothing less
than obedience to God and the truth of the Gospel was at stake,
and interpreted resistance as unwillingness to undergo conversion
and renewal. In addition, the process of reform proceeded at
different paces and took different forms in different local
and national settings. The result was division and much mutual
exclusion even among the reformation churches.
2.1.2. The Work of Christ Reveals That He is the Son Within
his life and in his death Jesus is revealed as the Son par excellence
of God, the One who alone knows the Father and whom the Father
alone knows (cf. Mt 11:27), who can address himself to God saying
"Abba, Father" (Mk 14:36). Thus in the light of Jesus'
resurrection and exaltation Christians have confessed that he
has been made Christ and Lord (cf. Acts 2:36) and that he is
the one to whom are applied the words of the Psalm: "Thou
art my Son, today I have begotten thee"(Acts 13:33; cf.
Heb 1:5). He is, then, this One whom God has sent us (cf. Gal
4:4); he who "though he was in the form of God, did not
count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself,
taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of
men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became
obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:6-8).
This is why with the Church of every age, we confess Jesus Christ
as at once true God and true human being, at once one with God
and joined in solidarity with humankind, not an intermediary
between God and humanity but a genuine Mediator, able to bring
together God and humanity in immediate communion. His reconciling
mediation opens up for us a vision of his mediation in creation:
he is "the first-born of all creation; for in him all things
were created, in heaven and on earth... all things were created
through him and for him" (Col 1:15-16). He is the Word
and "all things were made through him" (Jn 1:3). The
mediation of Christ has thus a cosmic universality: it is directed
towards the transformation of our world in God.
the work of Jesus, the Son, reveals to us the role of the Spirit
of God who is common to him and to the Father: it reveals to
us that God is Triune.
Holy Spirit is present and active throughout the history of
salvation. In the life of Jesus the Spirit intervenes at all
the decisive moments: Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit
(cf. Lk 1:35; Mt 1:20); the Spirit descended on him at his baptism
(Lk 3:22); he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk 4:1); he accomplished
his ministry with the power of the Spirit (Lk 4:14). He proclaimed
that the prophecy of the book of Isaiah: "The Spirit of
the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me"
(61:1) was fulfilled in him (Lk 4:17-21). He rejoiced in the
Holy Spirit (Lk 10,21). No one had ever possessed the Spirit
as lie did, "not by measure" (Jn 3:34). Still more,
it is he who promises to send the Spirit (Jn 14:26; 16:7) and
invokes the Spirit on his own disciples after the resurrection
(Jn 20:22), because his death had been an act of "giving
up" the Spirit to God and at the same time an act of "transmission
of the Spirit" (Jn 19:30). In turn God raises him up and
gives him the Spirit, so that he might spread the Spirit among
us (cf. Acts 2:32-33). By the life, death and resurrection of
Jesus, the Holy Spirit becomes the common gift of the Father
and the Son to humanity.
as the Spirit came upon Jesus at the moment of his baptism,
so the Spirit descends upon the disciples gathered in the upper
room (Acts 2:1-12) and on the Gentiles who listen to the word
(Acts 10:44-48). These three closely linked "Pentecosts"
belong to the foundation of the Church and make it the "Temple
of the Spirit." Thus the design pursued from the beginning
by God the Creator and Savior - to bring into being a people
- is accomplished.
2.2. Justification By Grace, Through Faith
we believe in Christ, the one Mediator between God and humankind,
we believe that we are justified by the grace which comes from
him, by means of faith which is a living and life-giving faith.
We recognize that our justification is a totally gratuitous work
accomplished by God in Christ. We confess that the acceptance
in faith of justification is itself a gift of grace. By the grace
of faith we recognize in Jesus of Nazareth, established Christ
and Lord by his resurrection, the one who saves us and brings
us into communion of life with God. To rely for salvation on anything
other than faith, would be to diminish the fullness accomplished
and offered in Jesus Christ. Rather than completing the Gospel,
it would weaken it.
speak in this way of our justification and reconciliation with
God is to say that faith is above all a reception (Rom 5:1-2):
it is received and in turn it gives thanks for grace. The raising
to life, by God alone, of Jesus Christ, put to death by all, is
the eschatological event which defines faith as reception of a
gift of God, not as any human work (Eph 2:8-10). We receive from
Christ our justification, that is our pardon, our liberation,
our life with God. By faith, we are liberated from our presumption
that we can somehow save ourselves; by faith, we are comforted
in spite of our terror of losing ourselves. We are set at liberty
to open ourselves to the sanctification which bod wills for us.
person justified by the free gift of faith, i.e. by a faith embraced
with a freedom restored to its fullness, can henceforth live according
to righteousness. The person who has received grace is called
to bear fruits worthy of that grace. Justification makes him or
her an "heir of God, co-heir with Christ" (Rom 8:17).
The one who has freely received is committed to gratitude and
service. This is not a new form of bondage but a new way forward.
And so, justification by faith brings with it the gift of sanctification,
which can grow continuously as it creates life, justice and liberty.
Jesus Christ, the one mediator between God and humankind, is also
the unique way which leads toward pleasing God. Faith receives
freely and bears testimony actively, as it works itself out through
love (Gal 5:6).
2.3. The Calling of the Church: its Role in Justification by Grace
we confess the Church, for there is no justification in isolation.
All justification takes place in the community of believers, or
is ordered toward the gathering of such a community. Fundamental
for us all is the presence of Christ in the Church, considered
simultaneously as both a reality of grace and a concrete community
in time and space. Christ himself acts in the Church in the proclamation
of the Word, in the celebration of the sacraments, in prayer and
in intercession for. the world. This presence and this action
are enabled and empowered by the Spirit, by whom Christ calls
to unite human beings to himself, to express his reality through
them, to associate them in the mystery of his self-offering for
Church's calling is set within the triune God's eternal plan of
salvation for humankind. In this sense, the Church is already
present at creation (Col 1:15-18). It is present in the history
of humankind: "the Church from Abel," as it was called
in the ancient Church. It is also present at the Covenant declared
to Abraham, from which the chosen people would come. Even more,
the Church is present at the establishment of the People of the
covenant. Through the law and the prophets, God calls this people
and prepares them for a communion which will be accomplished at
the sending of Emmanuel, "God with us" (cf. Mt 1:23).
The novelty introduced by the incarnation of the Word does not
call into question the continuity of the history of salvation.
Nor does it call into question the significance of the interventions
of that same Word and Spirit in the course of the Old Testament
revelation. For God has not rejected this people (Rom 11:1). The
continued existence of the chosen people is an integral part of
the history of salvation.
we believe that the coming of Christ, the Word incarnate, brings
with it a radical change in the situation of the world in the
sight of God. Henceforth the divine gift which God has made in
Jesus Christ is irreversible and definitive. On God's side, salvation
is accomplished and is offered to all. The presence of God has
become inward among believers (Jer 31:33; Ezek 36:26) in a new
fashion, by the Holy Spirit which conforms them to the image of
Jesus Christ. At the same time, God's presence becomes universal;
it is not limited to one people but is offered to all humanity
called to be gathered together by Christ in the Spirit.
is why we believe that the people of God gathered together by
the death and resurrection of Christ does not live solely by the
promise. Henceforth it lives also by the gift already received
through the mystery of the event of Jesus, Christ and Lord, who
has sent his Spirit. We therefore confess Jesus Christ as the
foundation of the Church (1 Cor 3:11).
inauguration of the Church takes place in time and in stages related
to the unfolding of the Christ-event. These stages, closely related
as they are, are three in number:
There is, first, the missionary activity of Jesus "in the
days of his flesh" (Heb 5:7): his preaching of the Kingdom,
which presupposes the promises of the Old Testament, and his
mighty works; the invitation to believe in him and the call
to conversion addressed to all; the gathering of the disciples,
men and women (Lk 8:1-3) and the appointment of the group of
Twelve (Mk 3:13-19); the change of Simon's name to Peter (Mt
16:18) and the role which is assigned to him in the circle of
the disciples (Lk 22:31-32).
The second stage is Jesus' celebration of the Last Supper with
these same disciples as a memorial (Lk 22:14-20) of the giving
of his life for all; his death on the Cross, by which he accomplished
the salvation of all (Jn 12:32); the resurrection of Jesus,
which gathers the scattered community of the disciples. The
risen Christ for forty days leads his followers into a more
profound faith (Acts 1:2-3); in leaving them he gives them the
command to baptize (Mt 28:18), to preach repentance and forgiveness,
and to bear witness to him (Lk 24:47-48).
The third stage is the sending of the Spirit upon the community
of one hundred and twenty gathered on the day of Pentecost (Acts
2/2-4). The disciples are sent out to Israelites and to Gentiles,
as is shown by the gift of the Spirit to the Gentiles (Acts
10:44) which may be called a "new Pentecost." Thus
the Church is founded once for all, fully constituted and equipped
for its universal vocation in the world and for its eschatological
destiny. This gift of the Spirit is the first fruits. The Spirit's
work of renewal and gathering will be fully achieved and manifested
only when Christ returns in glory.
Church is called into being as a community of men and women to
share in the salvific activity of Christ Jesus. He has reconciled
them to God, freed them from sin and redeemed them from evil.
"They are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption
which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:24).
justification of Jesus' disciples, sinful individuals freely justified
by grace without any merit on their part, has been one of the
constitutive experiences of the Christian faith since the foundation
of the Church. Justification by grace through faith is given us
in the Church. This is not to say that the Church exercises a
mediation complementary to that of Christ, or that it is clothed
with a power independent of the gift of grace. The Church is at
once the place, the instrument, and the minister chosen by God
to make heard Christ's word and to celebrate the sacraments in
God's name throughout the centuries. When the Church faithfully
preaches the word of salvation and celebrates the sacraments,
obeying the command of the Lord and invoking the power of the
Spirit, it is sure of being heard, for it carries out in its ministry
the action of Christ himself.
ministerial and instrumental role of the Church in the proclamation
of the Gospel and in the celebration of the sacraments in no way
infringes the sovereign liberty God. If God chooses to act through
the Church for the salvation of believers, this does not restrict
saving grace to these means. The sovereign freedom of God can
always call anyone to salvation independently of such actions.
But it is true to say that God's call is always related to the
Church, in that God's call always has as its purpose the building
up of the Church which is the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:2728; Eph
1:22-23) (cf. N. 101).
common confession of the Church, of its vocation and of its role
in justification by grace through faith, provides a positive context
for a study of some of the questions which still divide us in
our respective understandings of the relationship between Christ's
Gospel and the Church as a community existing in the world.
are taken from the Common Bible: the Holy Bible, Revised
Standard Version, containing the Old and New Testaments
with the Apocryphal Deuterocanonical Books: An Ecumenical Edition,
New York, Glasgow, London, Toronto, Sydney, Auckland: Collins: