Back to the Truth

A history of grace and justification from Augustine to Luther, by Matthew Barrett.


Matthew Barrett is Tutor of Systematic Theology and Church History at Oak Hill College in London, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is the author of several books, including Salvation by Grace, Owen on the Christian Life, God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture, and Reformation Theology.

Ideas for further thought and discussion

1. Over the centuries, how have debates about justification really been a debate about human nature?

2. In a sermon, Gabriel Biel describes the human condition by saying “we could use the illustration of a bird that has a stone tied to it so that it could scarcely fly away.” He goes on to say that what God does for us is like strengthening the wings of that bird so that it can take flight.

Of course every illustration is imperfect, but what would you say is going wrong here?

3. In Luther’s words (Primer 04 p23) “there is a clear and present danger that the devil may take away from us the pure doctrine of faith and may substitute for it the doctrines of works and of human traditions. It is very necessary, therefore, that this doctrine of faith be continually read and heard in public. …this doctrine can never be discussed and taught enough. If it is lost and perishes, the whole knowledge of truth, life, and salvation is lost and perishes at the same time. But if it flourishes, everything good flourishes – religion, true worship, the glory of God, and the right knowledge of all things and of all social conditions.” Do you think that’s true?

What do you think that means for the life and leadership of your church?