Martin Luther once said that justification by faith alone was “the doctrine by which the church stands or falls.” What is so special about this doctrine, and why is it so crucial for our understanding of salvation? On this program, we’re presenting part two of a four-part series of conference addresses that Dr. Horton recently gave on the topic of his two-volume book project Justification. In this talk, Dr. Horton walks through Paul’s arguments in Galatians chapter 4.
Michael Horton: Paul says the law imprisoned everything under sin. The purpose of the law was not really to make good people better. The purpose of the law was to take everybody and put them in prison so they could see that what they had done was not simply a mistake. It was a transgression. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified through faith.
Term to Learn
Q. Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?
A. It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me. Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make my right with God. And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone.
Q. Why can’t the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with him?
A. Because the righteousness which can pass God’s scrutiny must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law. Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.
Q. It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all his blessings: where then does that faith come from?
A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it through our use of the sacraments.
(The Heidelberg Catechism, Questions and Answers 61, 62, and 65)