In the recent issue of Credo Magazine, “Luther at 500,” Timo Laato has contributed an article called, “By God’s grace: Rome and Luther on salvation.” Timo Laato is Associate Professor of New Testament at The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Here is the start of his article:

The Roman Catholic Church clearly teaches that a man is saved by God’s grace. His grace is based upon the atonement that Jesus Christ won on Golgotha. This is recurrently stated and should not be for­gotten. The works of the law do not affect salvation. They are completely and wholly rejected. Instead, the church emphasizes faith through which a man participates in God’s grace and daily lives in thankful re­liance on him. To this Catholic doctrine of salvation belong all the Protestant and Lutheran fundamen­tals, particularly in the current ecumenical era when the denominations humbly and in mutual love seek to leave aside the old contentions and reach communion across confessional lines to create a sufficient unity, trusting in the Holy Spirit’s help. The Lord obligates us to such a vision in his High Priestly Prayer that “they may all be one so that the world may believe.” This much unification has been reached at present! Christian unanimity continues to grow and is on the path to completion. Therefore, the future really looks bright.

Or does it?

Were you surprised by what I just said? I imagine so. One can read parallel descriptions, to the one I just gave above, in many ecumenical reports and events. This is how the matter is formulated. It is generally felt that the whole story should be believed without any objections. Hence, it is important that you, the reader, would encounter the prevailing reality which powerfully ensnares the leaders and decision makers of the church today.

The Roman Church Teaches God’s “Grace”

The Roman Church does indeed teach God’s grace, and with great emphasis. In a cer­tain sense they give it even more weight than other church bodies. However, upon closer inspection the mean­ing of the language is changed extensively.

In the Bible, God’s grace is understood as his love, and is par­ticularly shown in the fact that Jesus died on the cross as the perfect, once-and-for-all atoning sacrifice for the whole world. When a sinner believes this he is completely justified (saved) and needs nothing else. He is an heir of heaven by faith. “It is finished!” (John 19:30)

The Roman Church does not teach God’s grace in a similar way. To be sure – I repeat – it teaches much, very much about God’s grace. But not in accordance with the Bible. In what follows, allow me to summarize the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation. …

Read the rest of this article today in “Luther at 500.”