Review: Justification by Faith Alone

Justification by Faith Alone by Jonathan Edwards

Also found in Banner of Truth Vol. 1

I stumbled upon this discourse while looking for something to read, providentially just after I had finished Fuller’s Gospel & Law, and had my mind thoroughly exercised with Edward’s theology of “Justification by Faith Alone.” This was originally a set of sermons he preached which had resulted in a great response from his congregation, and at their insistence he had them published.

He first goes to his typical great lengths to define what he means, first by “Justification,” “Faith”, and “Alone.” He clears away misunderstanding when talking about faith: calling it a “condition” of justification may be true, but not very clear; calling it the “instrument” of justification is liable to misunderstanding. In the end, he defines it from a couple directions. 1.) Faith is “that which renders it a meet and suitable thing, in the sight of God, that the believer, rather than others, should have this purchased benefit assigned to him.” 2.)It is suitable because “it is that in him which, on his part, makes up the union between him and Christ.” We are not justified as a reward for the virtue and excellency that is in faith, and Edwards goes to great lengths to explain why this is so.

Throughout the discourse, several related subjects are given thorough Edwardsian treatment, particularly as they relate to justifying faith. The infinite guilt of the sinner, how Paul’s reference to “the law” as distinct from faith cannot refer merely to the “ceremonial law,” and how the honor of the Mediator is at stake in this doctrine, are just a few.

I had never thought about “the honor of the authority of God,” but Edwards has, and he explains how it relates to justifying faith. He gives an exposition of how “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” how the saints will have differing degrees of glory in heaven, yet each as full as they can be, and all on the basis of Christ’s righteousness not our own. He defines repentance and its relation to faith, explains how hatred of sin flows from justifying faith, and concludes with a model of Christian charity in theological controversy, even when the stakes are as high as this.

And much more!

Throughout he is Christ exalting, concerned that Christ be glorified and magnified, and not an ounce of glory that He is due be withheld due to faulty doctrinal thinking. Once again, my mind has been lifted to new heights in reflection on the glory of God, the grace of God, the love of God, the beauty and the excellency of Christ.

Highly recommended.

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