An Overview and Critique of the New Perspective on Paul’s Doctrine of Justification (Part One: The New Perspective Identified) -- By: Jeffery Smith

Journal: Reformed Baptist Theological Review
Volume: RBTR 03:1 (Spring 2006)
Article: An Overview and Critique of the New Perspective on Paul’s Doctrine of Justification (Part One: The New Perspective Identified)
Author: Jeffery Smith


An Overview and Critique of the
New Perspective on Paul’s Doctrine of Justification
(Part One: The New Perspective Identified)

Jeffery Smith

Jeffery Smith is one of the pastors of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Easley SC. He is also an instructor in Soteriology and Pastoral Theology for the newly formed Reformed Baptist Seminary. These articles are edited excerpts of lectures delivered at the Midwest Reformed Baptist Pastors’ Fraternal in Grand Rapids, MI on March 29–30, 2005.

The great doctrine of justification by faith alone was the main point of controversy in the Protestant Reformation that began in the early 1500s. Arguably the rediscovery of this doctrine led to the Reformation. Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk stricken by a deep and abiding conviction of his sin and by the terrors of God’s wrath, by God’s grace was brought through the study of Scripture to embrace the truth of justification by faith alone that long had been buried under Roman Catholic superstition and priestcraft. This was the spark that began the Reformation. Luther referred to justification by faith alone as “the summary of Christian doctrine”1 and declared it to be the article of a standing or falling church. Calvin agreed, referring to justification by faith alone as “the main hinge

on which religion turns.”2 Out of the fires and battles of the Reformation came the great Confessions and Catechisms in which the Reformed doctrine of justification is set forth so clearly. There is possibly no better statement of this doctrine than that found in the Westminster Larger Catechism. “Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.3

In recent years (within evangelicalism), interpretations of the apostle Paul, and particularly of his doctrine of justification by faith, have arisen that openly challenge the “Reformed” or “traditional Protestant” view.4

One of these interpretations is now commonly known as “the New Perspective” (NP). This is the challenge to the doctrine of justification that these articles address. For the last few years, I have been reading some of the major advocates of t...

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