I have just submitted an article with the above title for publication in "Peace and Truth," the magazine of the Sovereign Grace Union. It is hoped that this will be the first of a series of articles exploring this issue. The plan is to begin by examine the doctrine of Justification by Faith, both in its Scriptural context (especially in Romans and Galatians) and also as taught by the Protestant Reformers, particularly Luther and Calvin. From this background I intend to look at the so called "New Perspective on Paul," and the way that this has undermined the Biblical Teaching. Ultimately, I am hoping to publish this material in book form.
But why is this so important? As I have sought to show, Justification by Faith alone, by Grace alone, through Christ alone is absolutely central to Paul's letter to the Romans and thus to the gospel expounded therein. In the words of one Lutheran pastor, it is "the article on which the Church stands or falls," and (as Calvin said) "the main hinge upon which religion turns." Without the forgiveness of our sins and the imputed righteousness of Christ, we cannot hope to stand accepted before God in the judgement.
The attack on Justification by Faith has come, in the first place, by well meaning scholars (notably G. F. Moore and E. P. Sanders) who have sought to vindicate the first century rabbinic teachers from the charge of legalism. Unfortunately, this has entailed a re-writing of history! This in turn has led to a redefinition of Paul's teaching on justification - if, in his teaching on Justification by Faith, Paul wasn't combating salvation by the works of the law, what was he combating? The answer for James D. G. Dunn and N. T. (Tom) Wright is that he was opposing a sort of Jewish nationalism that made circumcision and Torah observation the badge of who belongs to the people of God. The upshot of this "New Perspective" is to so skew and distort the Biblical teaching that faith becomes just a badge of belonging to the Church and Justification is robbed of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Not only so, but ultimately, salvation at the Last Judgement depends upon works of righteousness that we have done - and with such teaching, we are back to pre-Reformation works religion and darkness! For those who wish to know more, the best book currently available on this subject is that of Cornelis P. Venema, The Gospel of Free Acceptance in Christ, Banner of Truth. You can preview this book at:
This Easter, in our service, I have been reflecting upon Psalm 22. This is an amazing psalm because, written 1000 years before Jesus' birth, not only does it describe in great detail his death upon the cross - as if written by a contemporary eyewitness - but also it gives us the inside story of the cross: the Saviour's inward thoughts and his prayer to his Father as he agonized in our place upon the cross.
Luther said of Psalm 22: "This is a kind of gem among the Psalms, and is particularly excellent and remarkable. It contains those deep sublime and heavy sufferings of Christ, when agonizing in the midst of the terrors and pangs of divine wrath and death which surpass all human thought and comprehension. I know not whether any psalm throughout the whole book contains matter more weighty, or from which the hearts of the godly can so truly perceive those sighs and groans, inexpressible by man, which their Lord and Head, Jesus Christ, uttered when conflicting for us in the midst of death, and in the midst of the pains and terrors of hell."
The Psalm consists of two parts: 1. In verses 1-21, we have the Saviour's prayer from the cross. This consists of three cycles in each of which Jesus alternates between pouring out his heart to God and looking to God, trusting in and praying for his deliverance. 2. In verses 21-31, The Father answers Jesus, assuring him of his bodily resurrection, his messianic banquet and his cosmic kingdom that will endure for ever more.
For those who want to know more, my Easter sermon on this psalm is now available on this website.
It was a joy to be invited to a special presbytery meeting of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales on Sat. 5th March, 2016. The Meeting began with a sermon by Rev Warren Peel, of the Reformed