WE are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
There does come a time in a piece of theological exploration such as this when one is tempted to ask 'What is all the fuss about?' Why are there now eight articles about salvation. If this stuff could be explained to an uneducated Galilean labourer such that they would drop everything and follow Jesus, then why are Articles of faith now necessary? It's a fair question. It does have an answer.
Justification by faith alone is the pinnacle of the Protestant Reformation. It does us good to remember that Christian behaviour in the area of forgiveness, with a suggestion that souls could be released from purgatory by making a financial offering, was behind all this. Pondering on the letter to the Romans, Martin Luther came to the conclusion that the church had erred in its teaching and he returned to a theology of the grace of God as starting point and salvation as a gift.
You can't, says orthodox Christian teaching, do any more for the dead. Indulgences (paying for their forgiveness) are abhorrent. It leads us to our lovely prayer in the Common Worship funeral service to which I refer in most of my funeral addresses, that our job now is to use aright the time left to us here on earth. We've done all we can for the deceased except to commend them to God. In the light of their life and influence we go away and live better lives, hopefully as followers of Jesus.
O'Donovan reminds us that this Article's agreed wording wasn't quite as new as we might think. Medieval theology had struggled with this too. 'The achievement of the Reformers was not to raise the question of justification for the first time, but to handle it in a new way, and so to give new answers.' 'In Christ alone' is both wholesome and comforting.