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By Richard B. Gaffin Jr. / Paternoster / 2006
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This study of Paul's theology of salvation argues that appreciating the believer's union with Christ is central for understanding Paul's theology of salvation.
How, according to the teachings of Paul, does the individual receive salvation? That is the focal question behind By Faith, Not By Sight. Against some recent scholars, Gaffin argues that it is both a meaningful and an appropriate question to ask. So what does the application of salvation to sinners involve for Paul? Does he distinguish between salvation accomplished (historia salutis) and salvation applied (ordo salutis) and, if so, how, and how important is the latter for him? And what exactly is the place of justification in his theology?
Gaffin argues that, “[t]he 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… 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 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.”
Richard Gaffin brings together a lifetime of reflection on Paul’s letters with his expertise in the field of systematic theology to produce this encouraging study. The issues are central to our understanding of the gospel and its implication for Christian living. It was a delight to hear him deliver this material and I am grateful that it is now available for a wider audience.
—David Peterson, Oak Hill College, London
Dr. Gaffin is nothing if he is not a master exegete. Watching him walk through a passage in the original Greek in class is akin to observing while a master chef prepares his signature dish.
—Mark Traphagen, FoolishSage.com
Richard B. Gaffin is Charles Krahe Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary where he has taught since 1965. An ordained teaching elder of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he is also the author of several books.