How Luther discovered the doctrine of justification by faith alone
One of the decisive doctrines to emerge from the Protestant Reformation—and central to Luther’s theology—was the doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide).
But when and how did Luther come to his new understanding of this doctrine?
Rather than seeing his theological discovery as a single decisive event, we should view it more as a gradual process.
Let’s take a look.
Luther’s early encounters with Romans and Psalms
Between 1513 and 1516, Luther lectured on the Psalms and Romans. It is clear from these texts that he was beginning to think differently about how the individual sinner finds forgiveness from God.
He retained some of the older traditional concepts alongside his radical new ideas. Only after some years of biblical study under the inspiration of the theology of Augustine did Luther arrive at a more fully formed distinctive…
What is justification?
In Romans 1:17, Paul writes: “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”
This does not refer, in so many words, to “justification by faith.” However, the idea is clearly expressed: God’s righteousness is “by faith from first to last.” It is the one who is “righteous by faith” who will gain spiritual life.
What does this mean? Douglas Moo explains:
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How Do Catholics and Protestants Disagree over Salvation & Justification?
On October 31, 1517, an unsuspecting monk ventured to challenge the prevailing ecclesial authorities of his day by posting his “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
Underlying his disputes with the Indulgence Industrial Complex was a theme that would become one of the single most important rallying points in the Protestant Reformation. John Calvin pointedly named this theme:
The only point in dispute is how we are deemed righteous in the sight of God. (Acts of the Council of Trent)
This point of dispute still sits at the heart of what divides Catholics and Protestants five hundred years later. But how exactly do they differ? And is there no point of agreement when it comes to salvation and justification? Gregg…
Using an Outdated Term? – An Excerpt from Faith Alone
“What is the solution to this mess called sin?” This is one of the most important questions the Gospel answers. In Faith Alone — the first book in the “5 Solas Series” — Thomas Schreiner reminds us that salvation is by faith alone, and how fundamental this is to the Gospel. Read the introduction here, then order your copy of Faith Alone today.
One of the five rallying cries of the Reformation was the statement that we are saved by faith alone — sola fide! These words declared that salvation does not come from looking at our own works of righteousness, but from looking outside ourselves to another, to the person and work of Jesus Christ. This statement grew out of a desire to return to the biblical…
Did the Early Church Teach ‘Faith Alone’?
Tom Schreiner addresses these questions and more in his new book Faith Alone, one of five new resources exploring the five sola rallying cries of the Reformation. It offers a historical, biblical and theological tour of the doctrine of justification, and concludes with contemporary challenges to it.
He believes sola fide “should continue to be taught and treasured today because it summarizes biblical teaching…” (15) Schreiner tours how the church has understood this teaching, beginning with the early church. Because as he writes, “By affirming sola fide, we are not saying that we believe the true church only arose in the sixteenth century…we stand in the deepest appreciation of believers…
Extracurricular Activities 2.28.15 — Diversity, the Church and Utopia, & Rural Churches
In the latest issue of JBL is an article by Paula Fredriksen on “Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the Ten Commandments, and Pagan ‘Justification by faith,’” JBL 133.4 (2014): 801-7.
Fredriksen attempts to understand “justification by faith” beyond its usual theological discourse and identify the meaning of the phrase in its original social context. Her starting point is Josephus, Ant. 18.116-19 with John the Baptist’s preaching of “piety” and “righteousness” which correspond to the two tables of the Ten Commandments: commands 1-5 (piety toward God) and commands 6-10 (justice towards others).
A prominent question many worldviews and metanarratives are now wrestling with is the question of human diversity. Diversity is a fact that cannot be denied. The insularity…
Highlights of the ETS 2010 Annual Meeting by Craig Blomberg
The theme of this year’s meeting was “Justification by Faith.” Themes for annual meetings of the ETS determine the choices of topics and speakers at the plenary sessions, and inevitably a plurality of the papers for the smaller parallel sessions held in between will have something to do with that topic as well. But with all the different study groups and specialized interests of the members, it Is certainly possible to select sessions to attend in between the plenaries during every single time slot on entirely unrelated topics. Some years the plenary speakers have been so-so and the best papers have been some of the less highlighted ones. This year, however, I suspect there would be widespread support for the belief that the three plenary speakers did indeed dominate the “highlight reel.”