Reformation 500: Theology and Legacy – Lecture 2: The Heart of the Reformation: Justification

Greg Strand – December 7, 2016 Leave a comment

Our 2017 Theology Conference will be held February1-3 on the campus of Trinity International University. In the introduction to the conference, we will focus on the EFCA’s roots in the Reformation and the Reformation’s legacy in the EFCA.

We are excited for this Theology Conference. Not only are we addressing the Reformation, a timely and important theme in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Luther posting the 95 Theses, but we have some of the foremost scholars addressing the various themes/topics of the Conference.

D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in our second lecture, will address the heart of the Reformation: justification by faith. This is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was also the truth that drove Luther mad against God until his eyes were opened and his heart changed to see and understand it was the heart of the gospel and the Christian life: “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17; cf. Hab. 2:4; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). Both before and after this critical doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been rediscovered at the Reformation, it has been variously understood, misunderstood, undermined, and denied. In this lecture we will once again hear and confess the heart of the gospel, “The righteous shall live by faith!”

The Heart of the Reformation: Justification

A common theme arising from the Reformation was that justification is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. Although this may be overstated since there are many vital doctrines to the Christian church, there were few more important doctrines than this for the church at this time. This truth was, and remains, the major dividing line between the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers. This was critical for Paul’s understanding of the gospel, and at the heart of his letters, particularly to the believers in Rome. The notion of “the justice of God” troubled him, and he despised this teaching. Rather than loving this just God, he “hated and murmured against him.” Luther describes his change, his conversion, in this way: “the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.” In this lecture, we will focus on Romans 3:21-26 and understand Paul’s teaching of this great doctrine. Some today question whether Luther and the Reformers got Paul’s doctrine of justification right. Proponents of this New Perspective on Paul claim the Reformation lens is misaligned and rather take their cue from the literature of Second Temple Judaism. The differences are stark and important.

Don has addressed this topic numerous times over the years. Here is a list of a few of those important works.

  • A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien and Mark A. Seifrid, Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001).
  • A. Carson and Peter T. O’Brien, Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Paradoxes of Paul (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004).
  • A. Carson, “The Vindication of Imputation: On Fields of Discourse and Semantic Fields,” in Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, ed. Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 46-78
  • A. Carson, “Atonement in Romans 3:21-26: ‘God Presented Him as a Propitiation,’” in The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Theological and Practical Perspectives, ed. Charles E. Hill and Frank A. James III (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 119-139.

Don has been teaching at TEDS, our EFCA school, since 1978. He has trained hundreds and thousands at TEDS, many of them who are now in Free Church ministries. Furthermore, Don is no stranger to the EFCA and to EFCA conferences. He has spoken at numerous EFCA conferences, including both our national conferences and our Theology Conferences. I personally am thankful I was able to sit under Don’s teaching while a student at TEDS, and I am grateful for the privilege of continuing to learn from him in settings such as this. We are grateful he is here with us again addressing this important topic.

You can read more about the Conference, the speakers and the schedule here. Please register here. Plan to attend with other staff, elders or leaders in the church.

Greg Strand


Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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