Right With God
There’s a famous saying that goes something like this: “The doctrine of justification is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls.”
Many think the Reformers actually said this, but it’s not true. It came later after the Reformation. It was a saying that was popular post-Reformation after the sixteenth century. But it’s true of the Reformers, nonetheless. It’s a concept that they would have affirmed, and they did affirm in many of their writings.
Both Luther and Calvin say very similar things. Why do they say this? Well, perhaps the main reason is that they understand that central to Christianity is really this one question: How is one right with God?
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.
Does the doctrine of justification make a difference in the way that we live the Christian life?
In the 21st Century, though, we not only continue to face that challenge that the Reformers had with the Roman Catholic Church but also a bigger task.
The Protestant Reformists believed that Scripture is our final authority—and that made a difference in the layout of the church itself.