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”
John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is simultaneously a challenging and encouraging read. Pastoral ministry is serious work. It is not to be taken casually or viewed as a less strenuous alternative to a other professions. It is a glorious, demanding, painful, thrilling, satisfying endeavor with eternal ramifications. Pastors are charged with the accurate handling of God’s Word and responsible for the souls of men. It is no wonder why Paul cried out, “Who is sufficient for these things” (2 Cor. 2:16)? Continue reading “Two Lessons Learned from John Piper's 'Brothers, We are Not Professionals'”
Martin 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.