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”
In their defense of Scripture Alone, Luther and the Reformers did not reject tradition outright; rather, they rejected the place that tradition presently had in the life of the church. Nor did he Reformers believe their position was novel; it was always the position of the church, they argued, and the view of the early church fathers. Matthew Barrett explains,
Luther and the Reformers believed that for the early church fathers, Scripture alone (as opposed to Scripture and Tradition) was inspired by God, perfect and flawless as a source of divine revelation, and therefore the final and ultimate authority in all matters of faith and practice. Tradition was a tool meant to assist the believer in understanding Scripture’s meaning. While Scripture possesses magisterial authority tradition’s authority was always ministerial, a handmaiden to the biblical witness, rather than an authoritative voice governing Scripture (God’s Word Alone, 45) Continue reading “Sola Scriptura: Tradition vs. tradition”
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. – Matthew 16:13-20
The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) appeals to Matthew 16:18-19 as biblical basis for their teaching that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ (i.e., Christ’s representative on earth) and the one who exercises authority over the worldwide church (see The Catechism of the Catholic Church 881, 882). Continue reading “Matthew 16 and the Papacy: The Authority of a Message, Not an Office”
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”