I’ve been reading portions of Richard Gaffin’s new book, By Faith, Not By Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation (WTSBooks), and have found it helpful. Particularly insightful are his comments on (1) justification and the center of Paul’s theology and (2) the concept of eschatological justification.
The Center of Paul’s Theology
This selection summarizes his position well:
The central soteriological reality is union with the exalted Christ by Spirit-created faith. That is the nub, the essence, of the way or order of salvation for Paul. The center of Paul’s soteriology, at the center of his theology as a whole, then, is neither justification by faith nor sanctification, neither the imputation of Christ’s righteousness nor the renewing work of the Spirit. To draw that conclusion, however, is not to “de-center” justification (or sanctification), as if justification is somehow less important for Paul than the Reformation claims. Justification is supremely important, it is absolutely crucial in Paul’s “gospel of salvation” (cf. Eph. 1:13). Deny or distort his teaching on justification and that gospel ceases to be gospel; there is no longer saving “good news” for guilty sinners. But no matter how close justification is to the heart of Paul’s gospel, in our salvation, as he sees it, there is an antecedent consideration, a reality, that is deeper, more fundamental, more decisive, more crucial: Christ and our union with him, the crucified and resurrected, the exalted, Christ. Union with Christ by faith – that is the essence of Paul’s ordo salutis (43).
Eschatology and Justification
Gaffin argues that the concept of future justification is both biblical and Reformed. He approaches justification the same way he approaches the other aspects of salvation: through the already–not yet paradigm, or “the ‘inner’–’outer’ anthropology reflected in 2 Corinthians 4:16″ (83). Justification is tied to resurrection. We have already been raised in one sense, but not in another. This is analogous to our justification: “as believers are already raised with Christ they have been justified; as they are not yet resurrected they are, in some respect, still to be justified” (86). Another way to say it is that “believers are already justified – by faith. But they are yet to be justified – by sight” (88). The already–not yet dimensions of adoption also provide a helpful parallel to justification.
I commend this 114-page work.
Update: See this review by John W. Mahaffy.