According to Martin Luther, justification by faith alone is the article on which any church stands or falls. In order for a sinner to be declared to be righteous before God the sinner needs the merit of Christ reckoned to their account. This fourth pillar deals with how this is done. How does the righteousness of Christ be reckoned to a sinner’s account, thus removing their guilt and condemnation and declaring them to be righteous before a holy God?
The Reformers at the time of the Reformation went back to primitive New Testament Christianity and said that this is done solely by faith alone, without any works on the part of the sinner who is being declared righteous.
The instrumental cause of this 'infused righteousness' are the sacraments of baptism and penance. Roman Catholicism maintains that the righteousness of the saints and of Christ is gradually ‘infused’ into the believer through the sacraments. This whole process will therefore commence with baptism. For the Roman Catholic individual, 'infused righteousness' either gradually decreases, even to the place of being lost altogether, as the person takes part in worldly sins or is enhanced by their good works.
It is described by one Roman Catholic writer as: Our dirty robe is first washed clean through (Sacrament of) Baptism. Whenever we make it dirty again through sinning, God through Christ helps us to clean it through (Sacrament of) Reconciliation [penance].
If the believer dies without having the fullness of righteousness, coming in part from the sacrament of last rites, he or she will temporarily spend time in purgatory until the sinful status is purged from his or her record. For the Roman Catholic, the believer is made righteous by cooperating with God's grace.
Romanism mixes up Justification and sanctification. Justification is an act. Sanctification is the process, But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Cor 3:18.
If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema, Session vi, Canon 9;
If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema, Session vi, Canon 12;
If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema, Session vi, Canon 14.