The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1).
The issue of justification by faith alone has been a central and contentious issue between Roman Catholics and Protestants since the Reformation. Now there is a new threat to the doctrine of justification being advocated by those who propose a “New Perspective” on the Apostle Paul.
The Reformers held to the view believing they were following the Apostle Paul, in claiming that justification was a forensic act by which man was declared righteous before God because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Paul writes in his Letter to the Galatians “that a man is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ” (2:16). Justification was based on the imputation of our sins to Christ on the cross and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us (the elect) at regeneration at which we point we are also justified.
Some within the New Perspective movement have argued that Paul was not speaking about forensic justification and imputation as classically defined but rather he was emphasizing the entrance into and the requirements of staying within the covenant community. They have also argued that Luther greatly misread Paul and brought his 16th-century contest with the Roman Catholic Church into his understanding of the Pauline letters.
It has been well said that the issue of justification is the doctrine upon which the “church either stands or falls.” There is much at stake in denying that we are justified by faith alone. The doctrine of justification is God’s solution and the only solution to the human sinful predicament.
The Roman Church has greatly confused justification with sanctification and the New Perspective also emphasizes justification as a process that is brought about and by obedience and works. We are seeing a shift from the reformed view of monergism (salvation is entirely a work of God-man is passive) to synergism in which both God and the person has a part to play in their own salvation (justification). In this view man has a part in working along with grace to merit full salvation.
These are dangerous times in so many ways but the primary threat is the serious attack on the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us pray and make sure that we are “contenting for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).