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Summary: We will look at the Justification controversy beginning with Martin Luther and look into some things that are held up by the opposition as given by J.D.G. Dunn.

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Justification Controversy

New Testament Synthesis

By: Bruce Landry

I. What is the Controversy over Justification Page 1

II. The Biblical Texts of this Controversy Page 5

III. Conclusion Page 11

Justification Controversy

By: Bruce Landry

I. What is the Controversy over Justification

I had no idea at the beginning of this research that there was such a diversion of thought on the idea of Justification by faith alone. Some believe that justification or the removal of sin in our lives is simply accomplished in the accepting of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Others believe that we are only justified by faith and work. We will hopefully look at some of the differing views and allow you to draw a valid conclusion from this presentation.

Martin Luther recognized this controversial premise, while professor of sacred theology at the University of Wittenberg. Luther began to study the Epistle to the Romans in order to expound it to his students. This was the beginning of this controversy in the Churches who call themselves Christian today.

Soon a great change came over his thinking. He later wrote regarding these events:

I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, He justifies us by faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before “the righteousness of God” had filled me with hate, now it became unto me inexpressively sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gateway to heaven.

With this discovery the Reformation began and centuries of darkness began to roll away. The evangelical doctrine swept through nation after nation. In a short space of time much of Europe had been won to the Reformation and the greatest revival since Pentecost, both in scope and importance, had taken place. But what was proposed would never be forgotten if true and is at the center of this great movement and this controversy between orthodox Catholicism, Russian Orthodoxy, or Greek Orthodoxy and Reformed believers. This was the truth that sinful man, apart from his own works and by simple trust in Christ alone, could obtain pardon for his sins and acceptance with his God. This doctrine is called justification by faith or justification by faith alone. However, this great doctrine, once the battle cry of the Reformation, has become sadly neglected over the past one hundred years or so, and needs to be examined afresh and made prominent in the Christian’s proclamation and witness.

The opponents of the doctrine contained in this passage distort the whole plan of salvation.

Against Rome’s doctrine of justification as a medical process, by way of sanctification or good works, Luther writes: “One is justified not by doing what is right; but he who is justified, does what is right” (W 2, 492. Seeberg, 298. Non iusta faciendo, iustus fit, sed factus iustus, iustus facit iusta). Again: “Divine grace does so much that we are fully and wholly declared righteous before God…it receives us altogether into the favor [of God] for the sake of Christ, our Intercessor and Mediator” (E 63, 124. Seeberg, 301). To say that God justifies the sinner means, according to Luther, that “He forgives us our sins for the sake of Christ in whom we believe” (ibid). Luther often quotes the statement of St. Augustine as a “beautiful saying”: “In Baptism there is remitted all our sin, not as if it no longer existed, but that it is not imputed” (W 7, 344. Seeberg, 306f). That “sin is not imputed” is for Luther the essence of justification.


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