Sola Fide-Justification by Faith—–J.I.Packer (Faith Alone)

Posted: April 1, 2009 in Church History, doctrine, General Discussion, Scripture, Theology
Tags: , , , , ,

The confession of divine justification touches man’s life at its heart, at the point of its relationship to God. It defines the preaching of the Church, the existence and progress of the life of faith, the root of human security, and man’s perspective for the future.”1 So wrote G. C. Berkouwer of the doctrine of justification by faith set forth by Paul and reapprehended with decisive clarity at the Reformation; and in so writing he showed himself a true heir of the Reformers. For his statement is no more, just as it is no less, than a straightforward spelling out of what Luther had meant when he called justification by faith articulus stands aut cadentis ecclesiae—the point of belief which determines (not politically or financially, but theologically and spiritually) whether the Church stands or falls.

With Luther, the Reformers saw all Scripture as being, in the last analysis, either law or gospel—meaning by “law” all that exposes our ruin through sin and by “gospel” everything that displays our restoration by grace through faith—and the heart of the biblical gospel was to them God’s free gift of righteousness and justification. Here was the sum and substance of that sola Fide—sola Gratia—solo Christo—sola Scriptura—soli Deo gloria which was the sustained theme of their proclamation, polemics, praises and prayers. And to their minds (note well!) proclamation, polemics, praise, and prayer belonged together, just as did the five Latin slogans linked above as epitomizing their message. Justification by faith, by grace, by Christ, through Scripture, to the glory of God was to them a single topic, just as a fugue with several voices is a single piece. This justification was to them not a theological speculation but a religious reality, apprehended through prayer by revelation from God via the Bible. It was a gift given as part of God’s total work of love in saving us, a work which leads us to know God and ourselves as both really are—something which the unbelieving world does not know. And to declare and defend God’s justification publicly as the only way of life for any man was at once an act of confessing their faith, of glorifying their God by proclaiming his wonderful work, and of urging others to approach him in penitent and hopeful trust just as they did themselves.

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