It has been said that justification is the article by which the church is standing or falling. This statement is usually attributed to Martin Luther, whose actual statement is pretty close to the popular paraphrase. Others within the Reformed tradition have affirmed the truth highlighted in this statement, including Westminster professor, John Murray (1898-1975). The point of the statement is to underscore the spiritual and theological importance of justification: if the church is unclear about her standing with God, then spiritual life and vitality will quickly vanish.
In this post, I want to focus on the essential truth that justification is an instantaneous declaration. I will begin with some preliminary definitions. Continue reading “Justified at the First Moment of Faith”
Roman Catholic theologians turn to James 2:24 to argue their case that justification is according to works. There is good reason for this. James says explicitly: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). We need to get a solid grasp on this passage so we can be clear on what Scripture teaches about justification and know how to answer our Catholic friends when it comes to sharing the gospel. Continue reading “Justified by Works? Sola Fide (Faith Alone) and James 2:24”
One objection the Reformers faced was that their doctrine of justification by faith alone eliminated the need for good works and sanctification and thus robed people of the motivation for these necessary elements of the Christian life. Nevertheless, despite accusations to the contrary, Luther championed justification by faith alone while making clear that true faith would bear the fruit of good works. But it is was John Calvin a few years later who would provide greater clarity on how to understand the relationship between justification and sanctification. Continue reading “How Union with Christ Helps Us Apply Justification and Sanctification”
When we write or teach on the solas of the Reformation, with which distinctive should we begin? In the end, this is probably a matter of preference, but after completing Reeves and Chester’s (excellent) book Why the Reformation Still Matters and pondering how I would begin our young adult’s study on the Reformation, I was forced to wrestle with the question of order. Continue reading “Scripture Alone or Faith Alone: What Sola Should Come First?”
Luther’s spiritual breakthrough from the darkness of legalism to the glory of the gospel came because he sought spiritual light in the Scriptures. The doctrine of Scripture Alone was implicit in his search for assurance. But as we trace the development of Luther’s thought, we see how his conviction of Scripture Alone enabled him to depart from the early church fathers when they didn’t agree with Scripture. In Luther’s life, then, we see a vivid illustration of what he meant by the expression “Scripture Alone.” Take Luther’s engagement with Augustine over the doctrine of justification, for example. Continue reading “Scripture Alone in the Life of Martin Luther: Augustine and the Doctrine of Justification”
For those who love the truth of Romans 3:27 and 4:5—that we are justified by faith alone apart from works of the law—Romans 2:6-16 can be a tough, even unsettling passage. But it is vital that we understand this passage so that our minds and hearts remain clear and our walk with Christ unhindered. Every passage of Scripture is given to us as a gift from a wise and good God, and spiritual blessing comes by wrestling with difficult texts, not setting them aside in favor of familiar, less intimidating passages. Continue reading “Justification, Works, and the Final Judgment: Making Sense of Romans 2:6-16”
Are there times when our desire for spiritual growth could hinder us from walking in the truth of the gospel?
For Christians serious about making progress in their spiritual lives, such a question sounds either intuitively wrong-headed or so easy to answer that it doesn’t even merit a response. Growth in godliness and right affections is one of the primary aims of the Christian life. Peter commands us, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). The sign of a sound pastoral ministry is individual and corporate spiritual growth (see Eph 4:15, 18). But is there a way to approach spiritual growth that actually keeps us from making progress and diverts our gaze from Christ? Continue reading “Replacing Christ with Spiritual Growth”