The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls: Justification in Biblical, Theological, Historical, and Pastoral Perspective

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls: Justification in Biblical, Theological, Historical, and Pastoral Perspective


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This collaborative volume of 26 essays explores the doctrine of justification from the lenses of history, the Bible, theology, and pastoral practice—revealing the enduring significance of this pillar of Protestant theology.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433555411
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 03/31/2019
Pages: 912
Sales rank: 1,009,669
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 2.25(d)

About the Author

Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine and the host of the Credo Podcast. He is the author of several books, including None Greater; 40 Questions About Salvation; God’s Word Alone; and Owen on the Christian Life. He is the editor of The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls and Reformation Theology.

D. A. Carson (PhD, Cambridge University) is Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He is a cofounder of the Gospel Coalition and has written or edited nearly 120 books. He and his wife, Joy, have two children and live in the north suburbs of Chicago.

Gerald Bray (DLitt, University of Paris-Sorbonne) is research professor at Beeson Divinity School and director of research for the Latimer Trust. He is a prolific writer and has authored or edited numerous books, including The Doctrine of GodBiblical Interpretation, God Is Love, and God Has Spoken.

Chris Castaldo is the lead pastor at New Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois, and the author of Talking with Catholics about the Gospel.

Leonardo De Chirico is professor of historical theology at Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione in Padova, Italy, and pastor, at Breccia di Roma. He is the author of Evangelical Theological Perspectives on Post-Vatican II Roman and A Christian's Pocket Guide to the Papacy.

J. V. Fesko (PhD, University of Aberdeen, Scotland) is the academic dean and professor of systematic and historical theology at Westminster Seminary California. He was the pastor of Geneva Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Woodstock, Georgia, for ten years. J. V. lives in Escondido, California, with his wife, Anneke, and their three children.

Jason C. Meyer (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church and associate professor of New Testament at Bethlehem College and Seminary. Prior to coming to Bethlehem, he served as dean of chapel and assistant professor of Christian Studies at Louisiana College. He is the author of Preaching: A Biblical Theology and a commentary on Philippians in the ESV Expository Commentary.

Andrew David Naselli (PhD, Bob Jones University; PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is associate professor of systematic theology and New Testament at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis and one of the pastors of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor, professor, and author. He is currently the senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was previously a visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and blogs regularly at

Mark D. Thompson (DPhil, University of Oxford) is the principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, and head of the department of theology, philosophy, and ethics.

David VanDrunen (PhD, Loyola University Chicago) is the Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, California.

Willem A. VanGemeren is director of the Doctor of Philosophy in Theological Studies program and professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

Stephen J. Wellum (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and editor of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Stephen lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, Karen, and their five children.

Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine and the host of the Credo Podcast. He is the author of several books, including None Greater; 40 Questions About Salvation; God’s Word Alone; and Owen on the Christian Life. He is the editor of The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls and Reformation Theology.

Brian J. Vickers (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of New Testament interpretation and biblical theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the assistant editor of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. He is actively involved in leading short-term mission trips and teaching overseas. He is also a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Institute for Biblical Research.

R. Lucas Stamps (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate professor of Christian studies at the Clamp Divinity School of Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. He serves as an executive director for the Center for Baptist Renewal, a fellow for the Research Institute of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and a senior fellow for the Center for Ancient Christian Studies.

Bruce Baugus (PhD, Calvin Theological Seminary) is associate professor of philosophy and theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He serves as a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and is the editor of China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom.

Read an Excerpt


"He Believed the Lord"

The Pedigree of Justification in the Pentateuch

Stephen Dempster

It is indisputable that the Pauline doctrine of justification is grounded in a reading of the Old Testament. The apostle did not create the doctrine ex nihilo. As with other doctrines formulated by New Testament authors, they have their start in Genesis if not in other parts of Israel's Scriptures. These sacred writings gave Paul common ground with his theological opponents. They never argued over the fact of their authority or their extent, but they did argue about their interpretation.

Paul uses a number of texts in seeking to prove his doctrine that God justifies the wicked through faith in Christ. But the most important for him is Genesis 15:6, where we read these words: "He [Abram] believed in the Lord, and he reckoned/credited it to him for righteousness." Paul cites this verse three times (Rom. 4:3, 22; Gal. 3:6; cf. Rom. 4:9), and it provides the conceptual substructure for his discussion of faith, grace, works, and law. In fact, one commentator's statement could be viewed as representative of many: "For Paul this Old Testament verse is the classic passage for justification by faith alone apart from the works of the law." And another is not far off the same mark: "Genesis 15:6 is the hermeneutical key for Paul's reading of Abraham's story, and the one act of Abraham that Paul ever emphasizes is Abraham's faith." Still another scholar in no way understates the significance of this verse: "No other Old Testament text has exercised such a compelling influence on the New Testament."

It is often mentioned in this discussion that James uses the same text to prove that with God justification is by works, not by faith (James 2:23), a distinctive early Christian perspective that seems to directly contradict Paul's view. A significant number of modern scholars would agree that Paul has essentially distorted the meaning of Genesis 15:6 in the interest of his view of justification by faith. Reinhard Feldmeier and Hermann Spieckermann write in their magisterial God of the Living, "Neither does God make Abraham just, nor does Abraham effect anything for other people through his faith." Another commentator states explicitly, "The verse [Gen. 15:6] has no relation to the dogma of 'justification by faith.'" Paul thus reads this verse "through Christian glasses." James Barr, ever the contrarian, argues that

the most prominent example of Christianizing [the Old Testament] ... lies in the conception of justification by faith. ... Justification by faith is, among the convictions that Christian Old Testament theologians have most often held, the one where they have been most reluctant to give up the "Christianizing" of the Hebrew Bible.

Part of Barr's argument is that the entire doctrine may be based on a mistranslation of the Hebrew of Genesis 15:610 and that another "correct" translation has developed somewhat of a following and provides "a new perspective" on this Old Testament text.

Along with Barr's criticism coming from a Christian direction in Old Testament studies, another comes from a more Jewish angle. In an important essay, Jon Levenson criticizes the traditional Christian reading as exemplified in Gerhard von Rad's exegesis of Genesis 15:6. He argues that such a reading privileges a part of the narrative and is essentially in conflict with another part, Genesis 26:5, where it states that Abraham kept the law — that is, Abraham had established a reservoir of merit through his good deeds and was therefore justified in God's sight. Von Rad thus is accused of taking 15:6 in "isolation from the rest of the Abraham material in the Hebrew Bible and indeed from the Hebrew Bible itself." Thus, we have two types of interpretation, "a Pauline type which takes the verse in isolation and insists on the autonomy of faith and a Philonic type, in which faith and the observance of commandments are each predicated of Abraham on the basis of texts in Genesis." Indeed, this "rabbinic" view has received further support from Walter Moberly, who argues that, contrary to von Rad, the best way to interpret Genesis 15 is through the lens of another text, Psalm 106:30–31, where Phinehas is credited with righteousness as a reward for his act of zeal on behalf of Yahweh. Thus, Abram's faith is more about his faithfulness than his faith, more about obedience than any one act of faith, and this provides a solid basis for this text to be understood in line with the rabbinic doctrine of merit. Thus, Moberly accounts for a significant Jewish strand of interpretation that connects Abram's faith in Genesis 15 with his act of obedience in Genesis 22. While Moberly still believes that the Pauline understanding has a place at the interpretive table, it is only one option.

In light of these concerns, this essay seeks to examine the evidence afresh and explore this influential text to determine its meaning and significance within the Pentateuch.

The Significance of Genesis 15

Genesis 15 is a pivotal text in the Abraham story, and of course, the Abraham narrative is crucial for the book of Genesis and the Torah as a whole, because it is the first of the so-called patriarchal narratives, which describe the beginning of the nation of Israel. This chapter contains the first account that formalizes the divine-human relationship between Abram and God in the form of a covenant, it is the first major dialogue that takes place between these two "partners," and it is in this text that Abram for the first time speaks directly with God. Before this time, he has heard the word of God and simply obeyed, but now for the first time he actually addresses God. From a narrative point of view, the first time that a speaker talks in a story is often considered revelatory of the person and his or her state of mind and is extremely significant for the events as they unfold. God is the first speaker in Genesis, and his words are "Let there be light!" (1:3). The serpent's first words are "Has God really said ...?" (3:1). Cain's first words are "Am I my brother's keeper?" (4:9). In this text, Abram, the prospective father of the nation of Israel, speaks his first words to God, and they reveal an anxious state of mind that has been bothering him for some time (15:2–3), and his second word to God, a year before Isaac will be born, amplifies this anxiety (17:17–18). So, obviously, this text is a critical one in the Abraham story.

Moreover, in this text there are some significant differences from the surrounding context. It is the first example in the Abraham narrative where the author uses asyndeton to indicate a major break in the flow (15:1 begins without a conjunction), and the text contains another example at the ending of the episode (15:18), which functions to explain what happened in this particular section. This text in a sense functions as an important transition marker in the narrative. Before this time, the narrative has focused explicitly on the promise of land. This text formalizes that promise with a covenant and a divine oath that secures the future land for Abraham's descendants, but it also introduces the theme of the next chapters that focus on seed and concludes with another divine oath securing the future for the seed. Unlike many of the narratives in Genesis, chapter 15 contains explicit theological reflection, or narrative explanation. The events in the story are not just left to explain themselves, as one finds in many of the stories of the patriarchs; the narrator provides commentary: "This means that ..." Moreover, here appear the only reference to faith and righteousness in the Torah and the first mention of the Abrahamic covenant, both of which become important themes in the Scriptures. Furthermore, in this text the writer is aware of the remainder of the Pentateuch, as there is a prophecy of the nascent Israel's descent into Egypt, an allusion to the burning bush, and predictions of the liberation from Egypt and even the conquest of Canaan (Gen. 15:13–16)! Moberly's comments in no way understate the significance of Genesis 15: "Genesis xv gives the impression of being the fullest and most formal portrayal of Yahweh's commitment to Israel (both people and land) in the whole Abraham cycle, a portrayal of unusual and imaginatively suggestive character."

The Abraham Narrative in the Torah

In the larger story of the Torah, the patriarchal narratives, of which the Abraham story is the first, "are set within the framework of the primaeval history on the one side (Gen 1–11), and the establishment of the nation [of Israel] on the other [Ex–Deut]." Abram has been called out of Mesopotamia by God (Gen. 12:1–3). He has been promised that he will become a great nation, receive a great name, and be blessed, as well as be a source of universal blessing. Those who bless Abram will in turn be blessed, and the one who curses him will be cursed. All this suggests that Abram and his future descendants are set on an unstoppable mission of universal blessing.

The syntax of Abram's call is straightforward: two imperatives to Abram followed by three promises each:

Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land I will show you.

I will make of you a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great. (12:1–2a)

Be a blessing —
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse the one who curses you,
All the families of the earth will be blessed in you. (12:2b–3)

Thus, there are two distinct sections, each introduced by an imperative followed by a trio of verbs. The first trio emphasizes becoming a great nation, and the second stresses a role among the nations, culminating in the mother of all blessings — blessing for the entire world. In other words, the promise to Abram reaches its goal "when it includes all the families of the earth."

These two sections anticipate two "panels" in the Abraham narrative, the first one focusing on land and concluding with a covenant in response to the patriarch's great faith (12:4–15:21) and the second one focusing on descendants and the patriarch's great act of obedience (16:1–22:23). Moreover, the beginning of the Abraham narrative is echoed near the end of the story, when his second call, to offer his son as a holocaust offering, uses the same language of divine demand as his first call, to depart Mesopotamia (Genesis 22). These are the only times this linguistic construction occurs in the Bible, and thus it provides bookends for the Abraham story. Thus, the first divine call commands the patriarch to give up his past, represented by three descriptors: country, kindred, and father's house (12:1). The second call asks him to give up his future and raises the stakes with four descriptors of Abraham's miracle heir: your son, your only son, the one whom you love, Isaac (22:2). Significantly, the second call reemphasizes that Abraham's descendants will be the means of universal blessing, this time because of Abraham's obedience (cf. 12:3; 22:18).

This call to personal and universal blessing at the beginning and ending of the Abraham story, of course, is set against the backdrop of a world gone awry. The world in fact lies under curse and not under blessing. The pristine world of harmony and goodness that was created for the first human couple to thrive in and be blessed has turned into a world of sin, death, and alienation. The stunning world of harmony and wonder whose goodness filled God's vision with delight has become a horror show that tears apart the divine heart as he sees his creation being violated. Adam and Eve have sinned and been sent into exile from the garden (3:23–24), Cain has killed his brother and been exiled (4:10–16), and the flood has "exiled" a sinful human race from existence (Genesis 6–9). Even after the flood, the human community en masse has revolted by seeking to storm heaven and make a name for itself, and it has in turn been exiled from that location and scattered across the face of the earth (11:8–9). In each example, with the exception of the last, God has shown grace — in providing clothes for the first couple and giving them a promise, in providing Cain with a mark of protection, in saving Noah and his family and the creatures of the earth in an ark. And this salvation is because Noah, the tenth generation from Adam, is clearly a righteous person (6:9; 7:1). Because of this righteousness, God has made a covenant with all creation.

Righteousness is absolutely central to covenant and creation, and without it the created order cannot continue. Yet it is clear that after the flood and the covenant with Noah, nothing has changed in terms of the general human condition. Humanity is as evil after the flood as it was before, although Noah, the world's savior, is righteous (6:5–8; 8:21; see also 6:9; 7:1). Although God promises that he will never destroy the world by flood again, humans continue to rebel, the paradigmatic example being the Tower of Babel, where the building of this huge tower is a gargantuan expression of human hubris to make a name for itself (11:1–9). Yet even here, God disperses the builders of the tower across the face of the earth. In many of these cases, God has been concerned with "damage control." But it is with Abram that God makes a significant new start, moving beyond "damage control" to decisively restore the lost conditions of Paradise and reverse the curses of Adam.

Whereas the presence of curse has been explicitly mentioned five times in the narrative of Genesis 3–11 (3:14, 17; 4:11; 5:29; 9:25), with the call of Abram in 12:2–3, blessing appears in a rapid-fire succession of phrases, in fact, five times. Moreover, the promise of universal blessing is repeated another four times in the narrative of Genesis (18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14), matching the fivefold blessing in 12:2–3! Against a context of death and disorder, God decisively blesses Abram; against a backdrop of people questing for fame and glory in the construction of a tower, Abram will receive a great name; against a backstory of exile and alienation, Abram is going to get land and become a great nation; against the dark canvas of a world that has descended once again to being [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] (1:2: "without form and void" [KJV]; "formless and empty" [NIV]; "a formless void" [NRSV]), God is going to shine his light of universal blessing through Abram.

But it is extremely significant that as Noah represented the tenth generation from Adam, Abram is the tenth from Noah. Noah's righteousness saved not the world of his time but only his own family and the animals, but it is said of Abram that through him all the families of the earth will be blessed — not just one. Yet as the story unfolds, nothing is heard about Abram's righteousness, nor about a covenant. Not only do the questions about Abram's progeny and possession of the land drive the narrative forward to seek an answer, but also do the closely related questions of righteousness and covenant. Prior to his call, given the context, it can be assumed that Abram can be classed as unrighteous just as everyone else was, with the exception of Noah in the distant past, with whom a covenant with creation had been made. Although he is never called "unrighteous," that is a clear implication of his backstory. But if he is to be the savior of the world in a far greater sense than Noah, will God work differently now because of the problem of sin? What about another covenant, and what about righteousness? The reader must wait to hear the answers to these questions.

As the story unfolds, Abraham experiences many trials. His journey to the land of Canaan is derailed in Haran for a while until after his father dies (11:31–32). When he arrives at his destination in Canaan, it is occupied byCanaanites, and the promises of land and nationhood seem a remote reality. To make matters worse, as soon as he enters the land, he makes a hasty exit because of a severe famine (12:6, 10–20). In fact, the only land that Abram will personally own in Canaan will be a graveyard for his wife, purchased for an outrageous sum of money (Genesis 23). The delay in land possession requires an explanation.

Moreover, "the facts on the ground" about future progeny for the future patriarch and matriarch are not auspicious either. Their biological clocks are ticking. They are not getting any younger. Abram was called at the age of seventy-five, and his wife was sixty-five, with no prospect of an heir, except perhaps Lot, Abram's nephew, and he has now departed (13:12–13). And although Abram rescues him from Mesopotamian armies, Lot returns to Sodom (Genesis 14; 19). Now — perhaps a decade after Abram's initial call — there has been no progress in fulfillment. If the promise of receiving land seems a bit of a stretch, the prospect of descendants and becoming a great nation is doubly so. Later it will seem ludicrous and laughable, as Sarai's womb is considered "dead" at the age of eighty-nine; the aged couple then will laugh incredulously at the reiteration of the divine promise (17:17; 18:12).


Excerpted from "The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Matthew Barrett.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations,
Foreword D. A. Carson,
Introduction The Foolishness of Justification Matthew Barrett,
1 "He Believed the Lord" The Pedigree of Justification in the Pentateuch Stephen Dempster,
2 Singing and Living Justification by Faith Alone The Psalms and the Wisdom Literature Allan Harman,
3 Salvation Is the Lord's Prophetic Perspectives Willem A. VanGemeren,
4 Setting the Record Straight Second Temple Judaism and Works Righteousness Robert J. Cara,
5 What Does Justification Have to Do with the Gospels Brian Vickers,
6 The Righteous God Righteously Righteouses the Unrighteous Justification according to Romans Andrew David Naselli,
7 By Grace You Have Been Saved through Faith Justification in the Pauline Epistles Brandon Crowe,
8 An Epistle of Straw? Reconciling James and Paul Dan McCartney,
9 The New Quest for Paul A Critique of the New Perspective on Paul Timo Laato,
10 What's Next Justification after the New Perspective David A. Shaw,
11 "Behold, the Lamb of God" Theology Proper and the Inseparability of Penal-Substitutionary Atonement from Forensic Justification and Imputation Stephen J. Wellum,
12 Raised for Our Justification The Christological, Covenantal, Forensic, and Eschatological Contours of an Ambiguous Relationship Matthew Barrett,
13 The Theology of Justification by Faith The Theological Case for Sola Fide Mark Thompson,
14 The Passive and Active Obedience of Christ Retrieving a Biblical Distinction Brandon Crowe,
15 A Contested Union Union with Christ and the Justification Debate David VanDrunen,
16 Faith Works Properly Understanding the Relationship between Justification and Sanctification R. Lucas Stamps,
17 Justification, the Law, and the New Covenant Jason Meyer,
18 Reformation Invention or Historic Orthodoxy? Justification in the Fathers Gerald Bray,
19 The Evolution of Justification Justification in the Medieval Traditions Nick Needham,
20 Can This Bird Fly? The Reformation as Reaction to the Via Moderna's Covenantal, Voluntarist Justification Theology Matthew Barrett,
21 The First and Chief Article Luther's Discovery of Sola Fide and Its Controversial Reception in Lutheranism Korey Maas,
22 The Ground of Religion Justification according to the Reformed Tradition J. V. Fesko,
23 Not by Faith Alone? An Analysis of the Roman Catholic Doctrine of Justification from Trent to theJoint Declaration Leonardo De Chirico,
24 The Eclipse of Justification Justification during the Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment Eras Bruce P. Baugus,
25 Justification and Conversion Attractions and Repulsions to Rome Chris Castaldo,
26 The Ground on Which We Stand The Necessity of Justification for Pastoral Ministry Sam Storms,
General Index,
Scripture Index,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“The tide is definitely turning. No longer can it be taken for granted that the New Perspective has the last word on the ‘chief article.’ With essays by specialists in various fields, this volume is a wonderful defense of the gospel, and I heartily recommend it.”
Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California

“A thoughtful, thorough, and important set of essays on the current ‘state of the union’ on the perennial issue of justification by faith. The introductory essay by Matthew Barrett is worth the price of admission itself—outlining in detail the wide range of biblical-theological issues at stake in the current discussions about the nature of justification, now forty years on from the advent of the New Perspective on Paul. It is hard to imagine a single volume covering virtually every single aspect of the controversy surrounding Protestant—and, to a lesser extent, Roman Catholic—scholarship on the doctrine, but this large collection of essays comes very close. This volume reflects well a core conviction throughout Reformed Protestantism that the Word must be heard afresh in every generation, most especially because it is the Word of Life. This book also takes seriously and graciously the voices of opposition. If you want to dive deep into the doctrine of justification, this volume ought to be at the top of your list.”
Richard Lints, Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is a sterling contribution to a biblically informed, theologically deep, historically sensitive, and pastorally astute engagement with the doctrine of justification by faith alone—sola fide. Controversies past and present relating to the doctrine are deftly explored, whether it is the Council of Trent on view or the New Perspective on Paul or the apocalyptic reading of Paul. An invaluable resource and stimulus to careful thought about a crucial doctrine provided by a galaxy of eminently able scholars.”
Graham A. Cole, Dean, Vice President of Education, and Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; author, He Who Gives Life and Faithful Theology

“Into a world literally hell-bent on self-justification through better performance, the biblical doctrine of justification of sinners through faith in Jesus Christ brings a refreshing, ever re-creating breeze. In this volume, twenty-seven essays examine this doctrine from exegetical, systematic, historical, and practical perspectives. The authors stimulate readers to return to the rich resources of Scripture and enable them to proclaim God’s way of restoring sinners to their God-given relationship with their Creator. This volume provides readers with insights mined from the Bible and from the pastoral needs of people today, aiding personal reflection and material for bringing the saving presence of Christ into everyday life.”
Robert Kolb, Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology, Concordia Seminary

“The breadth and depth of this new work on justification is quite astonishing. An array of scholars from various backgrounds assess the biblical witness, the theological profile, the historical backdrop, and the pastoral application of justification. A most impressive achievement.”
Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“We’ve just celebrated the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and at the same time have passed through about fifty years of questioning (and reformulation) of the classic Reformation doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. This makes The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls timely indeed. As someone who has been engaged in both the academic and ecclesiastical defense of the historic Reformation doctrine, I welcome this sturdy volume. I have already learned much from the authors and will return to this book again as a resource as I continue to explain and address this crucial topic.”
Ligon Duncan, Chancellor, CEO, and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary

“With a distinguished cast of scholars representing a wide range of competencies and traditions, this book ices the cake of the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Not only are the biblical data (Old and New Testaments) and Second Temple writings thoroughly covered, topics like the New Perspective, justification in Patristic writings, the Reformation, Roman Catholic teaching on justification, and justification since the rise of the Enlightenment all come under careful scrutiny. No new book can be declared a classic. Yet in an era when post-Christian Westerners—even in the church—have tended to devalue doctrine in exchange for the worship of experience, this book’s timely and skilled affirmations of doctrine generally and justification in particular make it a contender for classic status in coming years. It will not only inform but reinvigorate all careful readers desiring to plumb the depths of justification’s priceless truth.”
Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary

“Thoroughly rooted in Scripture and classical Protestant theology, the essayists in The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls passionately and accessibly demonstrate the truth manifest in the classical Reformers’ commendation of the doctrine of justification by grace alone: God imputes Christ’s righteousness to sinners for Jesus’s sake. In light of current obfuscations of this doctrine from so many quarters—misplaced ecumenism, liberal Protestantism, and faulty exegesis—this book is a welcome, indeed vital, resource for all gospel preachers and teachers. This volume promises to carry forward the achievements of the Reformers beyond the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation to future generations.”
Mark Mattes, Department Chair and Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Grand View University

“Justification is ‘the heart of the matter,’ as Luther called it in his debate with Erasmus. Faith, church, and theology all depend on this doctrine. This topic thus needs attention and—although it sounds odd—deserves a great book like this one edited by Matthew Barrett. The wide spectrum of issues surrounding justification is opened up by a team of top scholars and is written down in a clear and sound biblical style. This book is a very helpful guide for students and pastors but will also help the Christian church rediscover why there is a church and what her core business is all about.”
Herman Selderhuis, President, Theological University Apeldoorn, the Netherlands; Director, Refo500; President, Reformation Research Consortium

“The doctrine of justification by faith alone was not invented by the Reformers of the sixteenth century, but it was the centerpiece of their program to renew the church on the basis of the Word of God. It remains no less crucial today. I welcome this new collection of essays—scholarly, substantial, engaging—which moves the discussion forward in a helpful way.”
Timothy George, Research Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is a robust survey of the doctrine of justification. Assembled is an outstanding team of scholars and pastors whose research and reflection afford rich fare to readers hungering to know more of the grace of justification. Whether you want to know more of the doctrine’s foundations in biblical teaching, the relationship of justification to other theological doctrines, the ways in which the doctrine has been formulated throughout the history of the church, the ancient and modern controversies and disagreements concerning the doctrine, or justification’s implications for Christian life and ministry, you will find yourself informed and challenged by the servings of this volume. The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is nothing less than a full-course meal, well served. Bon appétit!
Guy Prentiss Waters, James M. Baird Jr. Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi

“How can a person be right with God? In this stellar, well-conceived volume, the contributors’ collective answer to this question is, ‘One is right with God only by trusting in the righteousness of another, namely, in the sinless substitute, Christ Jesus, alone’—the ‘great exchange.’ In this, they stand in a powerful biblical and historical tradition, as the volume amply demonstrates. Highly recommended!”
Andreas J. Köstenberger, Director, Center for Biblical Studies and Research; Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Founder, Biblical Foundations

“Obscuring the doctrine of justification has been one of the devil’s most effective weapons against the church. This landmark study calls us back to a God-glorifying, loving, missional faith in the God who justifies. As justification depends on and determines so much of life and theology, it is only fitting that this book so ably incorporates wide-ranging exegesis, church history, doctrine, and pastoralia. I warmly commend it to all who wish to be better equipped for life and ministry.”
Peter Sanlon, Director of Training, The Free Church of England

“Intrinsic to the heart of the Protestant tradition is the confession of justification by faith alone. Rooted in the Reformation response to the faith-and-works orientation of the basis of salvation, this doctrine has been rightly seen as utterly biblical. Matthew Barrett also knows that this core doctrine of true Christianity can never be taken for granted—hence this excellent treatment of what this doctrine entails and how it relates to other areas of the Christian life. Warmly recommended.”
Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“In The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls, Matthew Barrett and more than twenty other capable and gifted thinkers have offered a thorough and persuasive case for the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. Exploring this vital theological concept from the perspective of the Hebrew Scriptures, the teaching of the New Testament, and the history of Christian doctrine, as well as from the vantage point of systematic and pastoral theology, the authors offer a comprehensive and symphonic chorus for readers of this outstanding volume. The exposition, explication, and application of this essential Christian teaching found in this impressive book should become essential reading for theologians, biblical scholars, pastors, students, and interested laypersons. Barrett is to be commended and congratulated for putting together this much-needed work at this important time.”
David S. Dockery, Chancellor, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“Since justification by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone is truly that doctrine on which Christ’s church stands or falls, this wonderful doctrine cannot be studied enough or too deeply. Barrett has assembled a solid group of faithful and first-rate scholars to tackle this subject from biblical, theological, historical, and pastoral perspectives. While some ask the question, ‘Why the Reformation?’ this volume provides the answer. This is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls because this doctrine is the gospel! A feast awaits the reader.”
Kim Riddlebarger, Senior Pastor, Christ Reformed Church, Anaheim, California

“Looking at this substantial work, the expression ‘kid in a candy store’ comes to mind—at least if the candy you seek is a thorough, in-depth, sophisticated, and biblically faithful treatment of the doctrine of justification. I commend Matthew Barrett for assembling a team of exceedingly competent biblical scholars, church historians, and theologians who have canvassed this enormously important doctrine from multiple angles, theoretical and practical. I highly recommend this book to scholars and pastors alike who are looking for the latest thinking on justification from an orthodox Protestant perspective. This book has it all!”
Alan W. Gomes, Professor of Theology, Talbot School of Theology; Senior Research Fellow, Phoenix Seminary

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The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls: Justification in Biblical, Theological, Historical, and Pastoral Perspective 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Joshua Wong 11 months ago
Matthew Barrett has compiled an important resource for this day and age, tackling the important and weighty doctrine of justification. This book can really be seen as a collection of essays written by various authors from 4 perspectives (biblical, theological, historical and pastoral). Each essay is insightful, enlightening and invites us to see justification as a further opportunity to draw closer to and understand God’s character. This is an important resource for all believers to keep in their bookshelves. With the incoming waves of liberal theology threatening key doctrines in the church, the various essays will challenge the believer and equip them to think carefully about grace and faith. I really liked how the doctrine of justification can be seen throughout the Psalms (Allan Harman’s essay) and a historical analysis of how Roman Catholicism has viewed this doctrine (Leonardo de Chirico’s essay). A fair word of warning however, these are not easy to read, and will take several hours, days, if not weeks to digest. But take your time to read it, part by part and you will most certainly benefit from this. I received a complimentary version of this Bible as part of the Crossway Blog Review Program. If you’re interested to find out more, I recommend checking them out!
ReynaOrozco More than 1 year ago
It is very important for us to understand our history, where we are standing as a church. But we also need to know what we believe. Even my girl continuously asks me things about this topic. Doctrine is important because ideas lead our actions. It amazes me the work it took for this team to finish this research and put it all together in a massive book like this. I found the tables and diagrams very helpful to understand the point of view. I found chapter 14 interesting, it was about The passive and active obedience of Christ. Three big parts, this book is big, it will take you a long time to finish it, and reflect on this research. What I like about this book is that is one of those that let you feel ignorant about so many issues, then you take time and learn. I want to keep studying about how faith works (page 506) because I find difficult to explain to others how to Properly Understand the Relationship between Justification and Sanctification, these topics are deep. Do not expect to finish this book in days as a normal book. You will find yourself questioning your doctrine and wanting to learn and question more. I´m so thankful about this Crossway book. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand justification doctrine, but especially those serving in ministry or if you have to give an answer to these questions in your circle of influence.
Cam Hyde More than 1 year ago
If you were to ever wish to learn more about the doctrine of justification, you are in luck. Crossway has just released a massive volume on that very topic. Edited by Matthew Barrett, The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is a 900 page treatise on the doctrine of justification. Does the church really hinge on this doctrine? Barrett and his contributors would certainly assert so. With this book, not only do you get a whole host of contributors providing for the reader a wealth of knowledge, you also get an excellent foreword by D.A. Carson. As stated, this book is huge. It's broken into four parts: Justification in Biblical Perspective, Justification in Theological Perspective, Justification in Church HIstory, and Justification in Pastoral Practice. Each chapter is written in essay form so it allows the reader to go through the book chronologically or to skip right to the topic related to justification that he or she may be interested in. What I found especially and immediately helpful in this book were parts one and four. Part one takes the reader through justification beginning in the Old Testament and all the way through the New Testament. I can’t help but mention the essay dealing with Romans titled The Righteous God Righteously Righteousness the Unrighteous—what a title! Part four shows us why justification is relevant and necessary in salvation and all of ministry right here and right now. Both of these parts will be immediately helpful to the pastor who needs to preach justification from the Old Testament and understand how justification fits in his ministry here and now. Part two is also very helpful if you’re unfamiliar with theological aspects of justification (we can all always use reminders). Part three is necessary because we can gain a better hold on justification by understanding the dealings with it throughout church history. I think this book is a valuable resource for those in ministry and for those wanting to know God more—which should be all of us! I will say though that I do not think this is a beginner level book. There is a helpful chart in the front of the book that aids with abbreviations and terms, but this still is not a book that those unfamiliar with theology will find easily accessible. It may require some work and digging to understand. However, I think the work would be worth it as justification truly is a very important topic. I could easily see it being used in a group setting for discussion and it would profitable being used this way as those less familiar could be helped with discussion. The whole of the Christian faith hinges on sinners being made right before God. Therefore, this book is aptly titled. The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is such a valuable resource. Justification is of prime importance. We need this resource and I’m thankful for the contributors, editor, and Crossway for making it available to us.