If we don’t understand justification correctly, we not only misunderstand our own salvation, we misunderstand who Christ is as well.
When they read the Bible, when they preached the Bible, they knew that once you get to Genesis 3 and the fall of Adam, we have a massive problem on our hands. With Adam’s fall comes sin, corruption, and guilt. That puts all of mankind, through Adam, in a very disastrous state.
Reconfiguring the Gospel
The central question becomes at that point: “How can we be right with a holy God—a God who is perfect in his holiness?” This was the question that the Reformers answered. This is the question, that in many ways, is central to so many books of the Bible—like Romans or Galatians, for example.
This is the question that Paul needs the church to answer correctly. The reason why it’s so pivotal for the apostle Paul and for so many other New Testament authors is that if we don’t understand justification correctly, we not only misunderstand our own salvation, we misunderstand who Christ is as well. If we think that we can somehow be justified on our own, or perhaps contribute something of our own, then that means we must reconfigure who Christ is and what he’s done. That means the gospel itself has been changed entirely.
This is a guest article by Matthew Barrett, editor of The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls: Justification in Biblical, Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective. This post originally appeared on crossway.org; used with permission.
Matthew Barrett is Tutor of Systematic Theology and Church History at Oak Hill Theological College in London. He is the executive editor of Credo Magazine, as well as the author of Salvation by Grace, Owen on the Christian Life, and editor of The 5 Solas Series. He is the author of several other forthcoming books, which you can read about at matthewmbarrett.com.