In a copyrighted Associated Press article, reporter Geir Moulson reported that
The Catholic and Lutheran churches have ended a nearly 5-century-old dispute over how people achieve salvation…"
After 30 years of consultations among theologians, followed by a year of hammering out the last details, both sides announced agreement on a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.
Rev. Ismael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, said the accord represents "a decisive step forward in the process of reconciliation."
Cardinal Edward Cassidy, who is in charge of the Vatican's relations with other denominations, stated, "It's not a document of compromise. It's a document based on truth, but in a spirit of reconciliation." Geir Moulson, Vatican, Lutherans End Dispute, June 11, 1999; quoted in the Catholic Information Network Al-Bushra Archives
Lutherans, for the most part, believe that salvation depends on the grace of God alone. Catholics, on the other hand, claim that good works are a part of the process.
According to the report, the declaration states that divine forgiveness and salvation comes "solely by God's grace" and that good works flow from that.
This all sounds quite wonderful – but did anything really change? I think not.
According to Moulson, Noko stated, "We do not claim agreement on all issues related to the doctrine of justification. Nevertheless, we have reached consensus on the principal points." (Ibid.)
I am certain that Rome's spin doctors didn't have much trouble accommodating to this 'revolutionary' agreement. After all, Rome has long maintained that salvation is by grace. She simply understands the concept differently than do Christians. The Catholic understanding is that God's saving grace does not flow directly from the Godhead to the sinner; it must be channeled through works (sacraments) of the Roman Church:
405. Although it is proper to each individual,[Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513.] original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence'. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.--Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), (c) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.
Yep, you read that correctly. The Spirit gives faith, but grace is imparted through baptism, and baptism is a work.
683. 'No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit.'[1 Cor 12:3 .] 'God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!''[Gal 4:6 .] This knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son. Baptism gives us the grace of new birth in God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit. For those who bear God's Spirit are led to the Word, that is, to the Son, and the Son presents them to the Father, and the Father confers incorruptibility on them. And it is impossible to see God's Son without the Spirit, and no one can approach the Father without the Son, for the knowledge of the Father is the Son, and the knowledge of God's Son is obtained through the Holy Spirit.[St. Irenaeus, Dem. ap. 7: SCh 62, 41-42.]--CCC, Op. cit.
The Roman cult is so involved in the salvific process that, according to her, she participates as a partner with the Lord in sanctifying men. Oh, my!
824. United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying. 'All the activities of the Church are directed, as toward their end, to the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God.'[SC 10.] It is in the Church that 'the fullness of the means of salvation'[UR 3 # 5.] has been deposited. It is in her that 'by the grace of God we acquire holiness.'[LG 48.]--Ibid.
So, the two-headed Roman Church speaks again. One head speaks of the agreement with Lutherans that divine forgiveness and salvation come "solely by God's grace," while the other head is proclaiming something entirely different:
1129. The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.[Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1604.] 'Sacramental grace' is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature[Cf. 2Pet 1:4.] by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior.--Ibid.
But what does the Bible say?
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.--Ephesians 2:8-9