A foundational assumption of those who adopt some version of the ‘New Perspective on Paul’ is that Second-Temple Judaism was a not a religion of works-righteousness, but of grace. ‘Works’ were not seen as the way of meriting salvation, as has often been thought, but rather were the ‘boundary-markers’ of God’s people; the things that marked them out as belonging to him.
I have long viewed this with some suspicion. There seem to be too many instances in the Gospels when people did seek to justify themselves before God. …
There is much concern about ‘radical’ religion these days. But what does radical Christianity look like?
Previously (3:21-31): humanity’s perilous plight – ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’, v23; God’s drastic solution, v24f – ‘God presented Christ Jesus as sacrifice of atonement’; and the means by which we experience this: v28 – ’a person is justified by faith apart from observing the law.’
The Puritan Thomas Watson lays down ‘four maxims or positions about justification.
1 That justification confers a real benefit upon the person justified. The acquitting and discharging of the debtor, by virtue of the satisfaction made by the surety, is a real benefit to the debtor. A robe of righteousness, and a crown of righteousness, are real benefits.
2 All believers are alike justified: justificatio non recipit magis et minus. Justification does not apply to some more than to others.!…
John Stott comments on the teaching of the English Reformers, and their determination that their doctrines of justification and of the Lord’s Supper should be compatible with one another:-
They strenuously denied transubstantiation (‘the change is not the nature, but the dignity’ – Latimer), the real presence of Christ in the elements (‘his true body is truly present to them that truly receive him, but spiritually’ – Cranmer), and the notion that the mass could be a propitiatory sacrifice (for then ‘doth this sacrament take upon it the office of Christ’s passion, whereby it might follow that Christ died in vain’ – Ridley).
A couple of years ago Roger Forster, founder of Ichthus Christian Fellowship, discussed the atonement with atheist Marilyn Mason on Premier Radio’s ‘Unbelievable’ show. I’m normally a big fan of ‘Unbelievable’, but this was not, I think, one of the more enlightening episodes. Marilyn Mason’s stock response to any and every point made from the Christian perspective tended to be, simply, ‘That doesn’t make sense to me’, and so little progress could be made.
More disappointing still, however, was Roger Forster’s dismissal of justification as a central element in the atonement:-
I could run you off a list of some fifteen words which are used in the New Testament to try and explain what is going on at the cross, showing that there are at least fifteen – probably a lot more – models of actually what is taking place.
Bishop Tom Wright is a hugely influential figure in the Christian church today. He is a prolific author – both at the scholarly and the popular levels -, an engaging speaker, and an original thinker. It is, perhaps, his penchant for ‘fresh’ thinking that thrills some, infuriates others, and perplexes the rest of us. Of course, he himself would chuckle at this last remark, for he would say that he is regarded in the theological academy and in the Church of England as an ultra-conservative. …
There are many different kinds of people in the world: big ones, small ones, fat ones, thin ones, tall ones, shorts ones, bright ones, dull ones, happy ones, sad ones, rich ones, poor ones, old ones, young ones, black ones, white ones, Jewish ones, Gentile ones. And so we could go. But for the apostle Paul, it comes down in the end to just two kinds. There are two humanities.
At the head of each of these two humanities stands a representative.…
I’ve been posting, off and on, on Tom Wright’s Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision. Haven’t finished yet. Reviews have starting appearing, and I was particularly interested to read that of Craig Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. Blomberg writes:
Throughout his prolific writing career, Wright has increasingly centered his attention on the breadth of the gospel message being much more than how an individual attains salvation, defined as life in heaven after death.