The Very Gate Of Paradise To Me: The Development Of Protestantism’s Teaching On Justification By Faith -- By: Richard C. Gamble

Journal: Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal
Volume: RPTJ 04:1 (Fall 2017)
Article: The Very Gate Of Paradise To Me: The Development Of Protestantism’s Teaching On Justification By Faith
Author: Richard C. Gamble


The Very Gate Of Paradise To Me:
The Development Of Protestantism’s Teaching On Justification By Faith

Richard Gamble

Professor of Systematic Theology
Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary

I. Introduction: Luther’s (1483-1546) 95 Theses.

This paper traces the glorious Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone from Luther’s developing understanding to Calvin’s clearer exposition.

This doctrine developed out of the overall darkness of the system of Roman Catholic theology. The particular issue which generated Luther’s 95 Theses, and is the exclusive topic of each of those theses, was the presence of indulgence preachers in Germany. For the purpose of funding St. Peter’s Basilica, preachers offered papal forgiveness and release for those who were bound in purgatory. Only the holiest people, like monks, had assurance of direct access to heaven, so indulgences meant that a possessor could obtain the release of souls of less than perfect loved ones dearly departed. Luther’s 95 Theses were against those preachers, sent from Rome, and the papal theology behind the indulgence. When one reads the 95 Theses in their historical context, there is no question that because of this terrible situation, Luther was looking for a fight.1 In looking at these theses, however, there is not a word on justification in any of this opening salvo of the Reformation from 500 years ago. The articulation of this doctrine came later for Luther. This paper will now move from the 95 Theses to an examination of Luther’s articulation of the doctrine of Justification.

II. Luther’s Doctrine Of Justification.

A. Human Nature.

Analysis of the doctrine of justification must begin with Luther’s concept of human nature. Luther rightly argued that the natural state of the human heart is not at all inclined toward God’s holy Law – it does not want to conform to it. Human nature also does not admit its frailty

and sin.2 He believed that the human heart is in bondage to sin and is addicted to this world.3 Luther’s biblical view of human nature did not fit into contemporary Roman Catholic teaching.

B. Salvation And Works.

As Luther understood the Roman notion of justification, a person can and does perform certain good works prior to their actual justification before God. The Roman system argued that those good works are fully acceptable to God.4 After comi...

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