‘The God who Justifies’ by James White

tgwj-l.gifMartin Luther described the doctrine of justification—the topic of this book—as the article of faith that determines whether the church is standing or falling. Speaking of Luther, James Buchanan writes,

By this he meant that when this doctrine is understood, believed, and preached, as it was in New Testament times, the church stands in the grace of God and is alive; but where it is neglected, overlaid, or denied, as it was in medieval Catholicism, the church falls from grace and its life drains away, leaving it in a state of darkness and death (14).

Justification, properly (and here briefly) defined teaches that God, solely out of sovereign mercy and grace, declares repentant sinners righteous on the basis of the perfect righteousness and subtitutionary death of Jesus Christ alone. This gift of justification is accessed by the believer through faith alone and is wholly apart from any works. Faith itself is not a work, nor does it contain any merit – rather, faith is merely the empty hands of the sinner laying hold of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ – a righteousness that matches God’s perfect standard of righteousness because it is, in reality, God’s righteousness.

White, in his weighty, passionate, thorough, and nourishing treatment of justification, examines the historical and contemporary significance of a proper and highly nuanced understanding of the doctrine, and provides the exegetical basis for it from key texts like Romans 1-3:18, 3:19-31; 4:1-5:1 and 8:28-34. In the latter portion of the book, White also deals with problems raised in the book of James where some contend that Paul is contradicted by James’ statement that Abraham was justified by works (James 2:14-26). White further bolsters the truth of justification by tapping into other texts like Galatians 1-3, II Corinthians 5:17-21, Titus 3:4-7 and Ephesians 2:1-10, demonstrating the unity of the New Testament regarding this particular doctrine.

Every New Testament text quarried is examined in the original language. For each key text studied, White provides the Greek reading of the text with an English translation following. White often references and discusses Greek words, phrases, and grammar throughout the book as well, so some knowledge of the original language is helpful, though probably not essential. A lay-person who does not have any working knowledge of Biblical Greek will, I believe, also greatly benefit from this book.

The God who Justifies a solid and heart-felt treatment of the glorious—and often neglected—doctrine of justification. It is not a quick read, and it is not an easy read. But the riches mined by a careful, prayerful and thoughtful reading of this book are more than worth it. I highly recommend it.

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