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What is Justification by Faith Alone? (Basics of the Reformed Faith) [Paperback]

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Pages   32
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.36" Width: 7.16" Height: 0.1"
Weight:   0.1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2008
Publisher   P & R Publishing
ISBN  1596380837  
EAN  9781596380837  

Availability  0 units.

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Ever since Martin Luther, the famous sixteenth-century Reformer, nailed his ninety-five theses to the castle door of Wittenberg, the doctrine of justification by faith alone has been one of the great truths of the Reformed faith. In this concise booklet J. V. Fesko takes a fresh look at this critical doctrine, explaining biblical teaching, examining classic Reformed statements, and answering common questions. Explains the doctrine of justification in uncomplicated, nontechnical language. Part of the Basics of the Reformed Faith series, which introduces lay readers to Reformed distinctives.

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More About J. V. Fesko

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! J. V. Fesko is Academic Dean and Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary in California.

J. V. Fesko was born in 1970.

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Short and Sweet  Jul 4, 2008
What is Justification by Faith Alone? by J. V. Fesko is the second book from the Basics of the Reformed Faith series that I've had the privilege of reading. Whereas the first book dealt with a theological position particular to Reformed theology, this book deals with a theological position particular to Reformation theology. Indeed, the author calls the doctrine of justification by faith alone "the chief rallying cry of the sixteenth-century Reformation" (p. 24). And throughout the book he helps us see why it was so important.

After a brief introduction, Fesko begins his presentation of justification by faith from the Old Testament. He observes that it can be seen as early as the first few chapters of Genesis. God made a covenant with Adam that if Adam would obey God, Adam would be declared righteous. Since Adam failed, God promised to send someone else who would reverse the curse and render to God the obedience that he had required from the beginning. God also made a similar covenant with Noah, but he too turned out to be unfit for the task. After the Noahic covenant came the Abrahamic covenant, though rather than tell Abraham to multiply and fill the earth, God told Abraham that he would fill the earth with Abraham's descendants. In Genesis 15:6, a crucial passage for the doctrine of justification by faith alone, Abraham believes God and God accounts it to him as righteousness. What is significant about Abraham's response to God's promise? Fesko identifies three things: 1) Abraham believed, placing his faith in the Lord's promise; 2) God looked upon Abraham, not as a condemned sinner, but as a righteous man; and 3) God "counted" Abraham's belief as righteousness, which indicates that the righteousness is not native to Abraham but is alien. In addition to this very significant passage, Fesko also notes Abraham's vision of God's promise to unilaterally fulfill the covenant between him and Abraham and swears on it with his own life. The significance of these passages cause Fesko to say in summary: "It is God who is active, who makes the covenant promise, who justifies Abraham by imputing righteousness to him by faith, and who swears an immutable and unchanging covenant oath to bear any penalties for the covenant's violation" (p. 15). How was God to fulfill his covenant promises? The answer is in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Fesko begins his survey of Christ's central role in our justification by showing that his fulfillment of the law and perfect obedience has accomplished the righteousness that God had required of man. He then speaks about Christ paying the penalty of the law so that those who look to him by faith wouldn't have to. Finally, in what is usually an underdeveloped area in the doctrine of justification by faith alone, Fesko explains why the resurrection of Christ is vitally important to our justification. He gives three reasons: "First, if death was able to hold Jesus in its bonds, it would have meant that Jesus was guilty of sin.... Second, if Christ had not risen from the dead, it would have meant that the power of sin and death had not been broken and conquered. Third, if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, it would have meant that God had not accepted the sacrifice on behalf of the people of God" (p. 21).

Having guided us through the Old Testament covenants and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, Fesko goes on to summarize the doctrine of justification by faith alone in four bulleted points. Then, in order to demonstrate its position as the chief rallying cry of the Reformation, Fesko quotes from a number of confessions and creeds of the Reformation. He draws out excerpts on justification by faith alone from the Augsburg Confession (Lutheran), the French Reformed Confession, the Belgic Confession (Dutch Reformed), the Heidelberg Catechism (Dutch Reformed), the Thirty-Nine Articles (Anglican), and the Westminster Confession of Faith (Presbyterian). He does this to show that "the doctrine of justification by faith alone was not an obscure teaching limited only to small pockets of the world but was widely affirmed, taught, and confessed in sixteenth-century Europe and beyond" (p. 27).

A surprise section came towards the end of the book, where Fesko devoted some space to answer two of the biggest objections to justification by faith alone. The first is antinomianism, which is lawless living (answered on pp. 27-29), and the second is legalism, a belief that a Christian can gain favor through obedience (answered on pp. 29-30). He deals with both succinctly and decisively before concluding the book with a few additional observations. For a more thorough explanation and defense of the doctrine readers will have to look elsewhere. But to the person wondering What is Justification?, he or she can do no better than Fesko's short and sweet answer.

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