A Very Special Reformation 500th Book: Gospel Truth of Justification

The Reformed Free Publishing Association has just released its latest publication – a title timed for this year’s 500th anniversary of the great Reformation of the sixteenth century – and a very special title it is.

gospel-truth-justification-DJE-2017Gospel Truth of Justification: Proclaimed, Defended, Developed by David J. Engelsma brings to the foreground the central truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the core doctrine rediscovered by the Protestant Reformers beginning with Martin Luther – justification by faith alone in Christ alone, wholly apart from the works of the sinner or the merits of any saint.

The publisher has this description on its website of the new title:

AD 2017 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation of the church of Jesus Christ. In 1517 the Reformer Martin Luther affixed the ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, the act by which Jesus Christ began his reformation of his church. Essential to this Reformation was the gospel-truth of justification by faith alone. This book on justification is intended by the Reformed Free Publishing Association and the author to celebrate that glorious work of Christ.

But the purpose is more than a celebration of the beginning of the Reformation. It is to maintain, defend, and promote the Reformation in the perilous times for the church at present. The doctrine of justification by faith alone is so fundamental to the gospel of grace that an exposition and defense of this truth are in order always. The true church of Christ in the world simply cannot keep silent about this doctrine. To keep silent about justification by faith alone would be to silence the gospel.

In a recent email announcing the book, the publisher included these pertinent words, part of the author’s “Preface”:

Many churches today proclaim the false gospel, that is no gospel, of righteousness and salvation by the works and will of the sinner (Rom. 9:16). Today the churches with the most exalted reputation for Reformation orthodoxy are helpless, apparently, before the onslaught of the federal vision.

At such a time as this, a work that echoes Luther’s “here I stand” with specific regard to the fundamental doctrine of the Reformation is not only appropriate, but necessary. Clearly, unequivocally, creedally, biblically, the gospel truth of justification by faith alone, without works—any works, all works! Only the alien, perfect work of the Son of God in our flesh, Jesus the justifying Christ of God! Received by faith alone!

Protestantism, Protestantism in North America, Protestantism worldwide, especially Reformed and Presbyterian Protestantism, again hear this gospel, believe it, confess it, and defend it!

We will be referencing this work again this year, but we make this initial notice of it for your benefit.

Add it to your “must read” Reformation books this year. Be prepared to dig deep into the heart of the gospel, the need for which now more than ever the church and true Protestants need to proclaim, defend, and develop. Here is a great place to begin.

P.S. And yes, the PRC Seminary library does have it – two copies, in fact.

Luther: Bold Reformer – Reforming Our View of God

bold-reformer-steeleIn the sixteenth century, Luther identified the areas where the church needed to be reformed. The word reformation comes from the Latin verb, reformo, which means ‘to form again, mold anew, or revive.’ In our day, there is an ongoing need for the church to be remolded and revived. There is urgent need for reformation in the church of Jesus Christ.

…Three specific areas need reformation.

First, our view of God must be reformed. We live in a culture where the doctrine of God is constantly under fire. Open theists attack God’s comprehensive foreknowledge. Modalists deny the distinctions in the Trinity and denounce the Trinity. Inclusivists reject the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. And many evangelicals embrace a vision of God that is captivated by his love but casts aside any notion of wrath or eternal judgment.

…Four strategic initiatives will help ensure our view of God is always reforming:

  1. Recover Our Vision of God’s Greatness.
  2. Recover Our Thirst for God’s holiness.
  3. Recover Our Passion for God’s Glory.
  4. Recover Our Holy Fear of God

…One way we can recover our holy fear of God is by preaching and teaching about the wrath of God. Once again, Trueman casts light on this important subject. He highlights the reluctance of our culture to acknowledge that God is holy and deserves to be feared. He adds, “‘Luther’s doctrine of justification depends upon two things: the constant preaching of the wrath of God in the face of sin; and the realization that every Christian is at once righteous and a sinner, thus needing the hammer of the law to terrify and break the sinful conscience.’ [Quoted from Luther on the Christian Life by Carl R. Trueman]. Sadly, some Christians shy away from this God-centered counsel and minimize God’s wrath or even discard it all together. The net result is a devastating blow to the cause of Christ. To remove God’s wrath is tantamount to theological treason.

Our view of God must be reformed by recovering our vision of God’s greatness, recovering our thirst for God’s holiness, recovering our passion for God’s glory, and recovering our holy fear of God. A key aspect of this commitment is to warn sinners that God is angry with sin and will unleash his wrath on the unrepentant.

Read today in part of Chapter Two, “Bold Reformers Recognize the Need for Reform,” in Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther by David S. Steele (Kindle ed.).

Martin Luther Documentary Official Trailer – Plus a J. Wycliffe Notice

This newly released (April 2017) special documentary film commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation focuses on the life and work of Martin Luther.

It is produced by Stephen McCaskell and makes use of prominent Reformed and Evangelical theologians and historians such as R. C. Sproul, Steven Lawson, Robert Godfrey, and Carl Trueman. The beautiful photography features the places and sites surrounding the life of Luther in Germany.

You may order a copy for viewing individually or with a group at http://www.lutherdocumentary.com or at FaithLife TV (part of Logos.com). This may be something our schools or Bible study groups would want to make use of. It is a recommended resource in this year in which we too celebrate God’s work in the great Reformation.

To view the trailer, click on the video below.

JWycliffe-BibleAnd in pre-Reformation church history news for this date, you should know that John Wycliffe, the “morning-star of the Reformation,” was condemned for his “heretical” views by the Council of Constance on May 4, 1415.

History Today carries the brief story, a part of which email notice I quote:

Meanwhile, in 1415, the Council had considered, and condemned as heretical, the teachings of the Prague priest Jan Hus and he was burned at the stake in Constance. It also condemned an Englishman whose writings had influenced Hus.

Fortunately for the Englishman, he was dead. Thought to have been born in the mid-1320s, John Wycliffe or Wyclif (there are several other spellings) was a Yorkshireman, who studied at Oxford University, became a fellow of Merton College and went on to win a brilliant reputation as an expert on theology. Ordained priest in 1351, he was vicar of Fylingham, a Lincolnshire village, from the 1360s, but spent most of his time at Oxford. In 1374 he was made rector of Lutterworth in Leicestershire.

By that time Wycliffe had developed startlingly unorthodox opinions, which were condemned by Pope Gregory VII in 1377. He had come to regard the scriptures as the only reliable guide to the truth about God and maintained that all Christians should rely on the Bible rather than the unreliable and frequently self-serving teachings of popes and clerics. He said that there was no scriptural justification for the papacy’s existence and attacked the riches and power that popes and the Church as a whole had acquired. He disapproved of clerical celibacy, pilgrimages, the selling of indulgences and praying to saints. He thought the monasteries were corrupt and the immorality with which many clerics often behaved invalidated the sacraments they conducted. If clerics were accused of crime, they should be tried in the ordinary lay courts, not in their special ecclesiastical tribunals.

For the rest of this story, visit the History Today link above.

Prayers of the Reformers (20) – Easter Praise and Petitions

prayersofreformers-manschreckFor this final Lord’s Day of April 2017 we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press (1958).

Since we are still in the season of remembering our Lord’s resurrection from the dead in a special way, and since every Lord’s Day is a celebration of our risen Lord, we give you two Easter prayers today.

The first is an Easter prayer or hymn of Martin Luther (dated 1524) and is taken from the section “A Calendar of Prayer” (p.148). The German title is “Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den Tod” (Jesus Christ, our Savior, out from the Dead”).

Jesus Christ, who came to save,
And overcame the grave,
Is now arisen,
And sin hath bound in prison.
Have mercy, Lord.

Who withouten sin was found,
Bore our transgression’s wound.
He is our Saviour,
And brings us to God’s favor.
Have mercy, Lord.

Life and mercy, sin and death,
All in his hands he hath;
Them he’ll deliver,
Who trust in him forever.
Have mercy, Lord.

The second is an Easter prayer of Miles Coverdale, simply titled “Easter” (pp.148-49, slightly edited).

O God, strengthen Thou our weak faith in the resurrection of Thy beloved Son:

Illuminate our minds, and expel out of us all darkness, through the light and brightness of the glorious resurrection: O strengthen our weakness through the power of Thy Spirit. Raise us from the death of sin, in the same Spirit and power wherein Thou hast raised up Thy Son from the dead.

Comfort and strengthen us in adversity, and make us constant therein; that we may press through the same in steadfast hope to the joyful and blessed resurrection.

Kindle in us the fire of Thy godly love, that with earnest and fervent desire we may seek and find Thee through Christ…

Set up the spiritual kingdom of Christ Jesus in our hearts, that in us Thy name may be sanctified, and Thy will performed; that we may become Thy virtuous children, and never displease Thee, our gracious Father; that we, continuing still in Thy merciful covenant, do never fall away from the company and fellowship of Thee and Thy Son.

And whereas Thou hast given us such knowledge, grace, and understanding, grant that we may make the same known unto many, being always ready through charitable love to serve our brethren.

Amen.

 

Two New Crossway Books for Review: Reformation Theology and Reading the Bible Supernaturally

In the last month I have received for review (by request for the Standard Bearer) from Crossway Publishing two new titles. Both are significant and should be of interest to our readers. If you are interested in reviewing either, contact me here or by email.

reformation-theology-barrett-2017The first is a major work on the theology of the Reformation – Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary, edited by Matthew Barrett, with contributions from Gerald Bray, Carl Trueman, Mark Thompson, Michael Reeves, Cornelis Venema, et al. (Crossway, 2017; hardcover, 784 pp.).

The publisher gives this description on its website:

Five hundred years ago, the Reformers were defending doctrines such as justification by faith alone, the authority of Scripture, and God’s grace in salvation—some to the point of death. Many of these same essential doctrines are still being challenged today, and there has never been a more crucial time to hold fast to the enduring truth of Scripture.

In Reformation Theology, Matthew Barrett has brought together a team of expert theologians and historians writing on key doctrines taught and defended by the Reformers centuries ago. With contributions from Michael Horton, Gerald Bray, Michael Reeves, Carl Trueman, Robert Kolb, and many others, this volume stands as a manifesto for the church, exhorting Christians to learn from our spiritual forebears and hold fast to sound doctrine rooted in the Bible and passed on from generation to generation.

Want to know more of what is inside? Here is the Table of Contents:

Prologue: What Are We Celebrating? Taking Stock after Five Centuries
 Michael Horton
Abbreviations

Introduction

  1. The Crux of Genuine Reform
    Matthew Barrett

Part 1: Historical Background to the Reformation

  1. Late-Medieval Theology
    Gerald Bray
  2. The Reformers and Their Reformations
    Carl R. Trueman and Eunjin Kim

Part 2: Reformation Theology

  1. Sola Scriptura
    Mark D. Thompson
  2. The Holy Trinity
    Michael Reeves
  3. The Being and Attributes of God
    Scott R. Swain
  4. Predestination and Election
    Cornelis P. Venema
  5. Creation, Mankind, and the Image of God
    Douglas F. Kelly 
  6. The Person of Christ
    Robert Letham
  7. The Work of Christ
    Donald Macleod
  8. The Holy Spirit
    Graham A. Cole
  9. Union with Christ
    J. V. Fesko
  10. The Bondage and Liberation of the Will
    Matthew Barrett
  11. Justification by Faith Alone
    Korey D. Maas
  12. Sanctification, Perseverance, and Assurance
    Michael Allen
  13. The Church
    Robert Kolb
  14. Baptism
    Aaron Clay Denlinger
  15. The Lord’s Supper
    Keith A. Mathison
  16. The Relationship of Church and State
    Peter A. Lillback
  17. Eschatology
    Kim Riddlebarger

For a recent review of this work at the “Reformed Reader” blog, visit this post.

 

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017The second is a major contribution to the doctrine of Scripture by John Piper. Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture is a follow up to Piper’s other recently published book on Scripture – A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness (Crossway, 2016). The publisher gives this brief description:

Does it take a miracle to read the Bible?

God wrote a book, and its pages are full of his glory. But we cannot see his beauty on our own, with mere human eyes.

In Reading the Bible Supernaturally, John Piper aims to show us how God works through his written Word when we pursue the natural act of reading the Bible, so that we experience his sightgiving power—a power that extends beyond the words on the page.

Ultimately, Piper shows us that in the seemingly ordinary act of reading the Bible, something miraculous happens: we are given eyes to behold the glory of the living God.

But perhaps this quote from Piper’s Introduction will give you a better idea of what this book is about. After stating how Scripture reveals the incredible glory of the majestic God, but then showing how natural man is blind to this glory in his sinful state, Piper says this:

If we are on the right track, the only hope for seeing the glory of God in Scripture is that God might cut away the diamond-hard, idolatrous substitutes for the glory of God that are packed into the template of our heart. The Bible speaks of this supernatural act in many ways. For example, it describes this supernatural in-breaking as a shining into our hearts of divine glory (2 Cor.4:6), and as a granting of truth and repentance (2 Tim.2:25), and as the giving of faith (Phil.1:29), and as raising us from the dead (Eph.2:5), and as new birth by the word (1 Pet.1:23; James 1:18), and as the special revelation of the Father (Matt.16:17) and the Son (Matt.11:27), and as the enlightening of the eyes of the heart (Eph.1:18), and as being given the secret of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:10).

When this miracle happens to us, the glory of God cuts and burns and melts and removes from the template the suicidal cement of alien loves and takes its rightful place. We were made for this. And the witness of this glory to the authenticity of the Scriptures is overwhelming. Where we only saw foolishness before, we now see the all-satisfying beauty of God. God has done this – supernaturally.

No one merely decides to experience the Christian Scriptures as the all-compelling, all-satisfying truth of one’s life. Seeing is a gift. And so the free embrace of God’s word is a gift. God’s Spirit opens the eyes of our heart, and what was once boring, or absurd, or foolish, or mythical, is now self-evidently real [p.25].

Good thoughts. Good for us to remember as we continue reading and studying and meditating on God’s holy Word. For one thing, that truth certainly implies that we read our Bibles in humble dependence on the Holy Spirit, the Author of our spiritual sight. But Piper lays out many more in this important book. For more on its contents, visit the link above.

Available for any who wants to read a deep but practical book on how to read the Bible.

Let Hardship Grow Us – Martin Luther | Christian History Insititute

We have referenced these “Refo Thursday” posts from the Christian History Institute before here, and this is another one (dated March 16, 2017)as we consider the life and work of Martin Luther during this year of marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

 

This post focuses on a more personal and practical side to Luther’s life – and that of every believer: suffering and affliction. Below are some thoughts on this from Andrew Garnett and from Luther himself. Find the full post at the link below.

On November 3, 1515, Martin Luther began to lecture on Romans at the University of Wittenberg. Luther had been a professor at the university for just over three years, but the posting of his famous Ninety-five Theses was still two years in the future. After several weeks of lecturing, he reached Romans 5:3-4: “…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” (NRSV).

As he prepared his lecture notes, Luther could see the positive impact of hardship which Paul had described; Luther saw how suffering could develop virtues in an individual’s life. However, Luther realized that the converse was also true: hardship could also have a corrupting effect on an individual. Perhaps he was thinking of his own life as an Augustinian friar. Luther was very unhappy while living the cloistered life of a friar, but his hardship did not lead to spiritual growth; on the contrary, Luther found that the more he fasted and prayed, the more miserable he became.

Source: Blog: Let Hardship Grow Us | Christian History Insititute

In connection with this post, the CHI also featured a video providing a tour of the Wartburg Castle where Luther was hid following the Diet of Worms in 1521.

And, on this PRC archives day, we may also add this cover image of Luther on an early issue of the Beacon Lights. Unfortunately, there were no articles on him or the Reformation in that issue, other than the words to his famous hymn (see cover below). But they made up for this in future issues. 🙂

BL--RWH-Luther_0001

M. Luther on Christ’s Sufferings

Luther-Christ-crucified

4. Fourthly, they meditate on the Passion of Christ aright, who so view Christ that they become terror-stricken in heart at the sight, and their conscience at once sinks in despair. This terror-stricken feeling should spring forth, so that you see the severe wrath and the unchangeable earnestness of God in regard to sin and sinners, in that he was unwilling that his only and dearly beloved Son should set sinners free unless he paid the costly ransom for them as is mentioned in Is 53:8: “For the transgression of my people was he stricken.” What happens to the sinner, when the dear child is thus stricken? An earnestness must be present that is inexpressible and unbearable, which a person so immeasurably great goes to meet, and suffers and dies for it; and if you reflect upon it real deeply, that God’s Son, the eternal wisdom of the Father, himself suffers, you will indeed be terror-stricken; and the more you reflect the deeper will be the impression.

5. Fifthly, that you deeply believe and never doubt the least, that you are the one who thus martyred Christ. For your sins most surely did it. Thus St. Peter struck and terrified the Jews as with a thunderbolt in Acts 2:36-37, when he spoke to them all in common: “Him have ye crucified,” so that three thousand were terror-stricken the same day and tremblingly cried to the apostles: “O beloved brethren what shall we do?” Therefore, when you view the nails piercing through his hands, firmly believe it is your work. Do you behold his crown of thorns, believe the thorns are your wicked thoughts, etc.

8. Eighthly, one must skilfully exercise himself in this point, for the benefit of Christ’s sufferings depends almost entirely upon man coming to a true knowledge of himself, and becoming terror-stricken and slain before himself. And where man does not come to this point, the sufferings of Christ have become of no true benefit to him. For the characteristic, natural work of Christ’s sufferings is that they make all men equal and alike, so that as Christ was horribly martyred as to body and soul in our sins, we must also like him be martyred in our consciences by our sins. This does not take place by means of many words, but by means of deep thoughts and a profound realization of our sins. Take an illustration: If an evil-doer were judged because he had slain the child of a prince or king, and you were in safety, and sang and played, as if you were entirely innocent, until one seized you in a horrible manner and convinced you that you had enabled the wicked person to do the act; behold, then you would be in the greatest straits, especially if your conscience also revolted against you. Thus much more anxious you should be, when you consider Christ’s sufferings. For the evil doers, the Jews, although they have now judged and banished God, they have still been the servants of your sins, and you are truly the one who strangled and crucified the Son of God through your sins, as has been said.

9. Ninthly, whoever perceives himself to be so hard and sterile that he is not terror-stricken by Christ’s sufferings and led to a knowledge of him, he should fear and tremble. For it cannot be otherwise; you must become like the picture and sufferings of Christ, be it realized in life or in hell; you must at the time of death, if not sooner, fall into terror, tremble, quake and experience all Christ suffered on the cross. It is truly terrible to attend to this on your deathbed; therefore you should pray God to soften your heart and permit you fruitfully to meditate upon Christ’s Passion. For it is impossible for us profoundly to meditate upon the sufferings of Christ of ourselves, unless God sink them into our hearts. Further, neither this meditation nor any other doctrine is given to you to the end that you should fall fresh upon it of yourself, to accomplish the same; but you are first to seek and long for the grace of God, that you may accomplish it through God’s grace and not through your own power. For in this way it happens that those referred to above never treat the sufferings of Christ aright; for they never call upon God to that end, but devise out of their own ability their own way, and treat those sufferings entirely in a human and an unfruitful manner.

Taken from Martin Luther’s sermon “Christ’s Holy Sufferings,” as found on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, where you find the following bibliographic material:

The following sermon is taken from volume II of The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI). It was originally published in 1906 in English by Lutherans In All Lands (Minneapolis, MN), in a series titled The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. 11. The original title of this sermon appears below (preached by Luther approx. 1519-1521). This e-text was scanned and edited by Shane Rosenthal; it is in the public domain and it may be copied and distributed without restriction. Original pagination from the Baker edition has been kept intact for purposes of reference.

April Tabletalk: The Church in the Seventeenth Century

With the start of a new month, we take time to introduce you to the April 2017 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine.

The April issue continues Tabletalk’s series on church history, focusing this time on the seventeenth century. Editor Burk Parsons introduces us to this theme with his editorial “Every Thought Captive.” In part, these are his comments on this significant period of church history:

We rightly celebrate the lives and ministries of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other Reformers whom the Lord used to help bring the church back to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Yet the Reformation did not end with the passing of the sixteenth century. The gospel seed planted by the fifteenth-century forerunners of the Reformation was watered and tended by the Reformers in the sixteenth century. However, it is in the seventeenth century that we begin to see the full flowering of Reformed doctrine, piety, and practice. During the seventeenth century, so much of what it means to be Protestant and Reformed was codified in the creeds and confessions that we affirm and confess today.

Rome was not built in a day, and neither was the confessional, Reformed, Protestant church. The faithful men and women of the seventeenth century continued the work of the sixteenth-century Reformers by bringing every doctrine, every practice, and every thought captive to the Word of God. May they serve as a model to us as we stand on their shoulders, holding firmly to the divinely revealed truths they faithfully proclaimed for the sake of Christ’s church, kingdom, and glory.

Dr. Nick Needham has the opening article, which is an overview of the entire period and an important one to read to get the “big picture” of what God was doing in His church during this age.

We link the complete article below but give you a section of it here – that on the confessionalism of this century. Here is what Needham has to say about this aspect of the history of the 17th century:

CONFESSIONALISM

For the English-speaking world, the seventeenth century bequeathed another legacy: the documents of the Westminster Assembly, which met intermittently from 1643 to 1653. Among its products are the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. These were the finest fruits of British Reformed theology at that time, and they have molded the thinking and piety of Reformed English speakers ever since.

Nor has their influence been confined to Presbyterians. When English Congregationalists adopted their own confession of faith (the Savoy Declaration) in 1658, it was a slightly modified version of the Westminster Confession. Again, when English Reformed Baptists in 1689 set forth their confession it was likewise Westminster slightly modified. The Baptists even went so far as to attach a preface stating they had deliberately embraced Westminster as an act of Reformed ecumenism. To this day, these confessions live on.

What he does not mention but which others do in this issue is the work of the Synod of Dordt against the Arminians and the adopting of the Canons of Dordt, another significant confession of this period.

Also, it is worth mentioning that the daily devotions continue with the Reformation doctrines theme, this month on the doctrine of salvation by grace alone – sola gratia!

Source: Overview of the Seventeenth Century by Nicholas Needham

Prof. D. Engelsma’s Interview on “Iron Sharpens Iron” Now Available in mp3

iron sharpens iron logo

DJEngelsma-2016 Prof. David J. Engelsma (emeritus PRC Seminary) was interviewed on Thursday March 30 by national Christian radio host, Chris Arnzen, on his program Iron Sharpens Iron.

The interview focused on the Reformation subjects covered in the book edited by Prof. Engelsma, The Sixteenth-Century Reformation of the Church , which are especially timely and significant in connection with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year. 

UPDATE: Mr. Arnzen has graciously made available an mp3 file of this interview.

We are grateful to Mr. Arnzen for his desire to conduct this second interview with Prof. Engelsma (for more on the first, visit this post), and pray that it is used to inform many of the great good of God’s work through the Reformation.

The following is taken from the “About” page on the “Iron Sharpens Iron” website:

Chris Arnzen | Christian Radio Programming & Advertising Executive & Talk Host of Iron Sharpens Iron.

Chris Arnzen | Christian Radio Programming & Advertising Executive & Talk Host of Iron Sharpens Iron.

If you’re weary of the typical fluffy Christian radio broadcasts, you’ll find Iron Sharpens Iron addresses a multitude of topics from a distinctly Reformed Christian worldview. Chris Arnzen asks the right questions, presents guests who have the answers, and continually challenges Christians to apply their faith to every aspect of their lives.

Why the Reformation Still Matters – Because of Grace

In Roman Catholicism grace was seen as a ‘thing,’ a force or fuel like Red Bull. Catholics would pray, ‘Hail, Mary, full of grace,’ as if Mary were wired with spiritual caffeine.

…That is nothing how Luther and his fellow Reformers saw grace. For them, grace was not a ‘thing’ at all; it is the personal kindness of God by which he does not merely enable us but actually rescues and… freely gives us himself. Or, to be more precise: there is no such ‘thing’ as grace; there is only Christ, who is the blessing of God freely given to us. That being the case, Luther tended not to talk much about grace in the abstract, preferring to speak of Christ. For example:

  • Therefore faith justifies because it takes hold of and possesses this treasure, the present Christ… the Christ who is grasped by faith and who lives in the heart is the true Christian righteousness, on account of which God counts us righteous and grants us eternal life.

In other words, the grace and righteousness we receive in the gospel are not something other than Christ himself: ‘Christ… is the divine Power, Righteousness, Blessing, Grace, and Life.’

why-reformation-matters-reeves-2016Taken from Why the Reformation Still Matters, co-authored by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester (Crossway, 2016), Chapter 4, “Grace”, pp.88-89.