A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
by Steve West
Editor’s Note: Most of our readers will already be at least somewhat acquainted with John Owen (1616-1683), “the prince of Puritans,” but it is not likely that many have read him extensively. His works are not only voluminous – they are tightly packed and deeply considered. Owen is neither quick nor light reading!
Today we continue our year-long series of summaries of Owen’s famous works. We trust these will be of help in introducing and/or increasing your acquaintance with this giant Puritan theologian.
Summary, Part 1
The Doctrine of Justification by Faith
General Considerations Previously Necessary unto the Explanation of the Doctrine of Justification
The proper ends of the doctrine of justification are the glory of God in Christ and the peace and obedience of believers. The first thing to consider is how a sinner can find a proper relief of their conscience in knowing that they are in a right relationship before God. Nobody can have true relief unless they know how it is that God has pardoned their sins and made them righteous. Those who have put their faith in Christ know that they are made righteous on the basis of his work and righteousness, and not on the basis of anything we are or do. All of the motives and grounds for our obedience to God are contained in the doctrine of justification. Far too many get entangled and lost in futile disputes and debates on this subject, losing sight of the fact that the doctrine is about how guilty sinners can be accepted by God.
It is essential that in this study we consider the one with whom we have to do: It is God who justifies. It is in the sight of God that we are justified or condemned. We must be ready to stand before our Judge, and on that day our own righteousness will not avail. Those who diminish the holiness of God produce religious superstitions and vain imaginings, but the holiest saints felt themselves undone in the presence of the holy God. As Anselm said, the only thing we have to put between ourselves and God’s judgment and wrath is the death of Christ. No flesh can be justified in his sight on the basis of works and self-purity.
We need to understand the depths of our apostasy against the holy and severe nature of God’s law. Nobody can obey God’s law perfectly, and we are born with the guilt of sin, so the just must live by faith. Some try to deny the imputation of Adam’s sin, but this overthrows the imputation of Christ’s righteousness which is central to Romans 5. If people do not recognize the totality of their depravity and how fallen they are in every faculty and inclination, they will not see their need for Christ’s righteousness. Those who see themselves as healthy will not call a doctor, but the disease of sin is worse than we can imagine. Scripture places God’s grace in opposition to our own works in the matter of justification. . . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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