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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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  • « Karlberg on the Mosaic Covenant and the Concept of Works | Main | Engagement with Secular People »

    A Quote on the Importance of Justification by Phil Johnson

    Justification by faith is unique, I believe, precisely because it distills the pure essence of everything else that is fundamental to and distinctive about Christianity.

    Here's what I mean: A person can affirm the deity of Christ, give lip service to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, be very sound in all the basic points of Trinitarian doctrine—and still come under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9 because he preaches a different gospel.

    Someone could also affirm the virgin birth of Christ, have a solid grasp on the incarnation, believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, and yet be one of those described in Romans 4:4 and Romans 9:32 and Romans 10:3 who—rather than trusting in Christ alone for justification—are seeking to establish a righteousness of their own by works. In other words, you can be basically sound on Christology or theology proper and unsound on the gospel. If so, believing the wrong gospel will damn you without remedy, regardless of how well-tuned your Trinitarianism is.

    The converse is pretty hard to imagine. I've never met anyone who had a sound belief about justification by faith but who was unsound on Christology or Trinitarian doctrine. After all, if you affirm the principle of imputed righteousness, then you are almost certainly going to affirm the deity of Christ. Because the imputation of righteousness requires a perfect Substitute, with perfect righteousness—as perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. The only Substitute who qualifies is a Christ who is also God. So the necessity of Christ's deity is practically built right into a sound understanding of justification by faith.

    I realize there are probably exceptions to that rule, but it is a plain fact that every major denomination and creed that affirms sola fide also affirms the deity of Christ and all the other doctrines generally referred to as "fundamental." That's because all the fundamental doctrines of Christianity—the incarnation, substitutionary atonement, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the truth of a Trinitarian Godhead, the doctrine of original sin and the fallenness of all humanity, the freedom of divine grace, and the authority of Scripture—are all linked in one way or another so that the better you understand this doctrine of justification by faith, the more sound you will be in all of your theology.

    That's why if you were to ask me to name the one principle in all of theology that is most vital; the one doctrine that carries the most weight; the one conviction to hold most tightly; the one precept most important to handle with care and most vital to proclaim accurately; the one article of faith you need to master well—it would not be a difficult choice. It's the doctrine of justification by faith—the Reformation principle of sola fide. This one doctrine encompasses the heart and soul of everything that is essential to Christianity, everything that is fundamental to our faith. The doctrine of justification by faith is the very life and nerve of the gospel itself.

    - Dr. Phil Johnson

    Posted by John Samson on June 21, 2006 10:15 AM

    Comments

    This is Phil at his best. I so appreciate the dedication and biblical framework he provides on foundational doctrine such as justification by faith. Well done!

    And John, thank you brother for this always helpful blog and theological resources provided at Monergism.com. Both are invaluable tools in my own ministry and walk with the Lord that I weekly recommend to others.

    Grace and peace to you,
    Steve
    Col. 1:9-14

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