Justification by Faith Alone An Exposition of Galatians 2:15-21 -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 12:1 (Summer 2003)
Article: Justification by Faith Alone An Exposition of Galatians 2:15-21
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Justification by Faith Alone
An Exposition of Galatians 2:15-211

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.a


Martin Luther called justification by faith alone “the article of a standing or falling church” (articulus stantis aut cadentis ecclesiae).2 He meant by that statement that it was the fundamental article of the faith of the church and determined whether the church would stand or fall. If the biblical doctrine of justification was received and taught, the church would stand. If the doctrine were abandoned, the church would fall. It is as simple as that.

G. C. Berkouwer, the eminent Dutch theologian, once said something very similar. In one of his works he wrote, “The confession of divine justification touches man’s life at its heart, at the point of its relationship to God (italics mine). It defines the preaching of the Church, the existence and progress of the life of faith, the root of human security, and man’s perspective of the future.”3

It is clear that J. I. Packer, one of the leading contemporary theologians, would agree. Dr. Packer, an Anglican, has written, “For the doctrine of justification by faith is like Atlas. It bears a whole world on its shoulders, the

entire evangelical knowledge of God the Saviour. The doctrines of election, of effectual calling, regeneration, and repentance, of adoption, of prayer, of the Church, the ministry, and the sacraments, are all to be interpreted and understood in the light of justification by faith, for this is how the Bible views them.”4 Later on in this series we shall develop the relationship between justification and the other doctrines. It is enough now to note the dependence of them upon a proper understanding of justification by grace through faith.

Finally, Luther also said in his exposition of Galatians, “It [the gospel of justification by faith] is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually. For as it is very tender, so it is soon their hurt.”5

We say all of this because in the passage before us we meet for the first time in this letter the word to justify (δικαιόω, You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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