Which justification by faith alone do you mean?

The debate about justification is a delicious irony.  Those who are most voicy about being Presbyterian and Reformed, or just Reformed, like the Reformed Baptists, claim to be defending the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone – but they are not.

You see, there are two versions of the sola fide doctrine – one as held by the Reformers, and the other as held by the Anabaptists and modern evangelicals, and they are very different!

The original version of sola fide as taught by Martin Luther and every other Protestant leader of note links the free forgiveness of our sins to a particular way that the said forgiveness is imparted or conveyed – in baptism.  By baptism I mean baptism – you know, the sprinkling of water upon someone accompanied by the recitation of the Trinitarian formula, not some other kind of baptism that has no relation to wet water.

There can be no proper disagreement by anyone who actually reads history, the Bible, and the various Confessions.  Without handcuffing God to baptism as an inseparable means of justification, the Protestant Churches of the Reformation taught with one voice that they acknowledged one baptism for the remission of sins, and taught that those who received it worthily received at once from God both justification and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Those who are shouting the loudest today about the need to defend justification, the pillar of the standing or falling church, people like Andrew Webb and the OPC, the “Confessionalists” within the PCA, and the rest of that sorry lot, have an entirely different version of it.  Being mystics, and having a deeply Baptistic mentality, they deny that Baptism has anything to with the imparting and conveying of grace.  The situation in the UK is the same, sadly.

Modern evangelicals of every stripe fall into this category, which is the reason that I no longer use that term to describe myself.

Here is the irony again: the so-called Federal Vision is not hereticals on justification, but their accusers and persecutors are.


4 thoughts on “Which justification by faith alone do you mean?

  1. Surely, to be truly “reformed” is to return to the teaching once for all entrusted to us through Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Martin Luther seems to have had a problem with the apostle James. You have referred to: “The original version of sola fide as taught by Martin Luther…”. Well Martin Luther did not set forth the final doctrine of Christian faith – and in fact, to Luther’s disapproval, James taught that we are not saved by faith alone – if it were to wrongly presumed that there could ever be genuine faith which is not proven by repntance and good works as the clear evidence of such “saving” faith.

    • To be Reformed is to follow the Bible as it was understood in these things by the whole Reformation. Luther is the very best expositor of justification by faith apart from the Bible itself. The fact that he had a problem with James shows that he was fallible on James, not that everything he said must be thrown out. The word “justification” is used in many different ways, and can mean many different things depending upon the context, including resurrection! Even Luther saw that, but he failed on James.

      I totally agree with you that true faith is evidenced by repentance.

      Get a copy of Martin Luther’s lectures on Galatians for a feast of biblical teaching.

      • You wrote: “Luther is the very best expositor of justification by faith apart from the Bible itself.”

        However, it appears that it is precisely on the issue of justification that Luther had a problem with James, and James wrote: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”

        How could Luther be described as “the best expositor of justification by faith apart from the Bible itself” when by his very teaching he raises a controversy with that which is clearly written in the Bible – and he acknowledges that he has a problem with what is written in James because it conflicts with the particular emphasis of his teaching. The notion of “Scripture alone” would suggest that we may disregard Luther’s teaching where it seems to have conflicted with Scripture.

      • You need to read Luther for yourself on justification before you write him off. Until then you will be rationalising. He is best expositor of justification by faith alone regardless of James, because James is about a different justification.

        BTW our doctrine is not sola scriptura, but that the scripture is the supreme authority. Reason and the Church have true authority, albeit subordinate to the Bible.


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