Martin Luther, the icon of the protestant reformation, said it best when he proclaimed the doctrine of Justification by faith to be articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae “the article of faith that decides whether the church is standing or falling” (Packer). The doctrine of Justification by faith is not only one out of many church doctrines, it is the primary doctrine that breathes life into the rest. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that sparks spiritual reformation when given its proper place in the Christian life. Churches that ignore the doctrine of the perfect righteousness of Christ that covers our sinful imperfection ignore the primary message of the Bible at their own peril.
Reformation theologian J.I. Packer stated there are certain presuppositions that must be granted in order to come to a full understanding of Justification:
1. The divine authority of scripture
2. The divine wrath against human sin
3. The substitutionary death of Christ
If Protestants lose a clear understanding of these doctrines, they will lose justification by faith that can be equated with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In my own life, I have been disappointed with the willingness of fellow protestant believers to compromise the divine authority of scripture for more liberal views of the ancient texts. Some refuse to believe in a wrathful God that punishes sin and focus on an unbiblical view of God that makes the death of Christ nothing more than a historical event. Others go to the opposite extreme by proclaiming Christ died for the whole world and therefore the whole world will be saved regardless of devotion to Christ.
A more dangerous and evil brand of theology claims that doctrines are nothing more than human attempts to explain the mind of God, that doctrine is simply a matter of personal interpretation, and salvation comes apart from knowing the essentials of the Christian faith.
All of these unbiblical points of view are not from the Holy Spirit and are diabolical attempts to undermine the core doctrine of the Bible—Justification.
The apostle Paul equates the gospel of Justification with the message of Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ died to atone for our sins and resurrected so that sinful human beings might stand justified before a holy God:
“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25, NIV).