Sometimes Christians will say things like, “I’m not interested in all those heavy doctrines that Paul talks about. I’m only interested in the simple teachings of Jesus.” But did Paul reshape the Christian message, or was he actually a faithful apostle? To put the question more sharply, did Paul invent the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone, or was this something that Jesus himself clearly taught in a variety of ways throughout his earthly ministry? That’s the focus of this edition of White Horse Inn.
I think a lot of people read the gospels and they think, “Well, I don’t see that word justification like I do in Paul’s letters.” And so they assume, well, Jesus is all about the ethical teachings and Paul’s all about that legal stuff, justification. But the reality is, when you look at the gospels, Jesus focuses on the forgiveness of sins which is a part of our justification. You think of Mark 2 where he basically says that the forgiveness of sins is central even above doing miracles.
TERM TO LEARN
Q. Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?
A. It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me. Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make my right with God. And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone.
Q. Why can’t the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with him?
A. Because the righteousness which can pass God’s scrutiny must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law. Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.
Q. It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all his blessings: where then does that faith come from?
A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it through our use of the sacraments.
(The Heidelberg Catechism, Questions and Answers 61, 62, and 65)