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Is Justification in the Old Testament? New Podcast Episode with Stephen Dempster

Where is justification visible in the Old Testament? Why is Genesis 15:6 such a pivotal text in understanding justification? How should we think about the connection between faith and works in the life of Abraham? Should we consider Abraham a type of new Adam and if so, how does he point us forward to Christ as the last Adam? Is justification lost on the prophets?

In this new episode of the Credo podcast, Matthew Barrett is joined by Stephen Dempster to discuss how the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone is present in the Old Testament.

Stephen Dempster (PhD, University of Toronto) is Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall in New Brunswick, Canada. From 2011 to 2016, Dr. Dempster served as Chair of the Biblical Theology Section for the Evangelical Theological Society. He is the author of Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible and Micah: A Theological Commentary (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary).

Listen to the podcast today and view previous episodes of the Credo podcast as well.

If you enjoyed this episode, take a look at Stephen Dempster’s contribution to Matthew’s Barrett’s new edited volume, The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls: Justification in Biblical, Theological, Historical, and Pastoral Perspective (Crossway).

Many factors contributed to the Protestant Reformation, but one of the most significant was the debate over the doctrine of justification by faith alone. In fact, Martin Luther argued that justification is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls. This comprehensive volume of 26 essays from a host of scholars explores the doctrine of justification from the lenses of history, the Bible, theology, and pastoral practice—revealing the enduring significance of this pillar of Protestant theology.

You can order The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls at Crossway or Amazon.

Table of Contents

Foreword (D.A. Carson)

The Foolishness of Justification
(Matthew Barrett)

Part One
Justification in Biblical Perspective

1. “He Believed the Lord”
The Pedigree of Justification in the Pentateuch
(Stephen Dempster)

2. Singing and Living Justification by Faith Alone
The Psalms and the Wisdom Literature
(Allan Harman)

3. Salvation Is the Lord’s
Prophetic Perspectives
(Willem VanGemeren)

4. Setting the Record Straight
Second Temple Judaism and Works Righteousness
(Robert J. Cara)

5. What Does Justification Have to Do with the Gospels?
(Brian Vickers)

6. The Righteous God Righteously Righteouses the Unrighteous
Justification according to Romans
(Andrew David Naselli)

7. By Grace You Have Been Saved through Faith
Justification in the Pauline Epistles
(Brandon Crowe)

8. An Epistle of Straw?
Reconciling James and Paul
(Dan McCartney)

9. The New Quest for Paul
A Critique of the New Perspective on Paul
(Timo Laato)

10. What’s Next?
Justification after the New Perspective
(David A. Shaw)

Part Two
Justification in Theological Perspective

11. “Behold, the Lamb of God”
Theology Proper and the Inseparability of Penal-Substitutionary Atonement from Forensic Justification and Imputation
(Stephen J. Wellum)

12. Raised for Our Justification
The Christological, Covenantal, Forensic, and Eschatological Contours of an Ambiguous Relationship
(Matthew Barrett)

13. The Theology of Justification by Faith
The Theological Case for Sola Fide
(Mark Thompson)

14. The Passive and Active Obedience of Christ
Retrieving a Biblical Distinction
(Brandon Crowe)

15. A Contested Union
Union with Christ and the Justification Debate
(David VanDrunen)

16. Faith Works
Properly Understanding the Relationship between Justification and Sanctification
(R. Lucas Stamps)

17. Justification, the Law, and the New Covenant
(Jason Meyer)

Part Three
Justification in Church History 

18. Reformation Invention or Historic Orthodoxy?
Justification in the Fathers
(Gerald Bray)

19. The Evolution of Justification
Justification in the Medieval Traditions
(Nick Needham)

20. Can This Bird Fly?
The Reformation as Reaction to the Via Moderna’s Covenantal, Voluntarist Justification Theology
(Matthew Barrett)

21. The First and Chief Article
Luther’s Discovery of Sola Fide and Its Controversial Reception in Lutheranism
(Korey Maas)

22. The Ground of Religion
Justification according to the Reformed Tradition
(J. V. Fesko)

23. Not by Faith Alone?
An Analysis of the Roman Catholic Doctrine of Justification from Trent to the Joint Declaration
(Leonardo De Chirico)

24. The Eclipse of Justification
Justification during the Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment Eras
(Bruce P. Baugus)

Part Four
Justification in Pastoral Practice

25. Justification and Conversion
Attractions and Repulsions to Rome
(Chris Castaldo)

26. The Ground on Which We Stand
The Necessity of Justification for Pastoral Ministry
(Sam Storms)

Endorsements for The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls

“The tide is definitely turning. No longer can it be taken for granted that the New Perspective has the last word on the ‘chief article.’ With essays by specialists in various fields, this volume is a wonderful defense of the gospel, and I heartily recommend it.”
Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California; author, Justification (New Studies in Dogmatics)

“A thoughtful, thorough, and important set of essays on the current ‘state of the union’ on the perennial issue of justification by faith. The introductory essay by Matthew Barrett is worth the price of admission itself—outlining in detail the wide range of biblical-theological issues at stake in the current discussions about the nature of justification, now forty years on from the advent of the New Perspective on Paul. It is hard to imagine a single volume covering virtually every single aspect of the controversy surrounding Protestant—and, to a lesser extent, Roman Catholic—scholarship on the doctrine, but this large collection of essays comes very close. This volume reflects well a core conviction throughout Reformed Protestantism that the Word must be heard afresh in every generation, most especially because it is the Word of Life. This book also takes seriously and graciously the voices of opposition. If you want to dive deep into the doctrine of justification, this volume ought to be at the top of your list.”

Richard Lints, Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is a sterling contribution to a biblically informed, theologically deep, historically sensitive, and pastorally astute engagement with the doctrine of justification by faith alone—sola fide. Controversies past and present relating to the doctrine are deftly explored, whether it is the Council of Trent on view or the New Perspective on Paul or the apocalyptic reading of Paul. An invaluable resource and stimulus to careful thought about a crucial doctrine provided by a galaxy of eminently able scholars.”

Graham A. Cole, Dean, Vice President of Education, and Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; author, He Who Gives Life and The God Who Became Human

“Into a world literally hell-bent on self-justification through better performance, the biblical doctrine of justification of sinners through faith in Jesus Christ brings a refreshing, ever re-creating breeze. In this volume, twenty-seven essays examine this doctrine from exegetical, systematic, historical, and practical perspectives. The authors stimulate readers to return to the rich resources of Scripture and enable them to proclaim God’s way of restoring sinners to their God-given relationship with their Creator. This volume provides readers with insights mined from the Bible and from the pastoral needs of people today, aiding personal reflection and material for bringing the saving presence of Christ into everyday life.”

Robert Kolb, Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology, Concordia Seminary

“The breadth and depth of this new work on justification is quite astonishing. An array of scholars from various backgrounds assess the biblical witness, the theological profile, the historical backdrop, and the pastoral application of justification. A most impressive achievement.”

Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“We’ve just celebrated the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and at the same time have passed through about fifty years of questioning (and reformulation) of the classic Reformation doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. This makes The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Fallstimely indeed. As someone who has been engaged in both the academic and ecclesiastical defense of the historic Reformation doctrine, I welcome this sturdy volume. I have already learned much from the authors and will return to this book again as a resource as I continue to explain and address this crucial topic.”

J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor, CEO, and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary

“With a distinguished cast of scholars representing a wide range of competencies and traditions, this book ices the cake of the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Not only are the biblical data (Old and New Testaments) and Second Temple writings thoroughly covered, topics like the New Perspective, justification in Patristic writings, the Reformation, Roman Catholic teaching on justification, and justification since the rise of the Enlightenment all come under careful scrutiny. No new book can be declared a classic. Yet in an era when post-Christian Westerners—even in the church—have tended to devalue doctrine in exchange for the worship of experience, this book’s timely and skilled affirmations of doctrine generally and justification in particular make it a contender for classic status in coming years. It will not only inform but reinvigorate all careful readers desiring to plumb the depths of justification’s priceless truth.”

Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary

“Thoroughly rooted in Scripture and classical Protestant theology, the essayists in The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls passionately and accessibly demonstrate the truth manifest in the classical Reformers’ commendation of the doctrine of justification by grace alone: God imputes Christ’s righteousness to sinners for Jesus’s sake. In light of current obfuscations of this doctrine from so many quarters—misplaced ecumenism, liberal Protestantism, and faulty exegesis—this book is a welcome, indeed vital, resource for all gospel preachers and teachers. This volume promises to carry forward the achievements of the Reformers beyond the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation to future generations.”

Mark Mattes, Department Chair and Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Grand View University

“Justification is ‘the heart of the matter,’ as Luther called it in his debate with Erasmus. Faith, church, and theology all depend on this doctrine. This topic thus needs attention and—although it sounds odd—deserves a great book like this one edited by Matthew Barrett. The wide spectrum of issues surrounding justification is opened up by a team of top scholars and is written down in a clear and sound biblical style. This book is a very helpful guide for students and pastors but will also help the Christian church rediscover why there is a church and what her core business is all about.”

Herman Selderhuis, Professor of Church History, Theological University Apeldoorn; Director, Refo500

“The doctrine of justification by faith alone was not invented by the Reformers of the sixteenth century, but it was the centerpiece of their program to renew the church on the basis of the Word of God. It remains no less crucial today. I welcome this new collection of essays—scholarly, substantial, engaging—which moves the discussion forward in a helpful way.”

Timothy George, Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University; general editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is a robust survey of the doctrine of justification. Assembled is an outstanding team of scholars and pastors whose research and reflection afford rich fare to readers hungering to know more of the grace of justification. Whether you want to know more of the doctrine’s foundations in biblical teaching, the relationship of justification to other theological doctrines, the ways in which the doctrine has been formulated throughout the history of the church, the ancient and modern controversies and disagreements concerning the doctrine, or justification’s implications for Christian life and ministry, you will find yourself informed and challenged by the servings of this volume. The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is nothing less than a full-course meal, well served. Bon appétit!

Guy Prentiss Waters, James M. Baird Jr. Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary

“How can a person be right with God? In this stellar, well-conceived volume, the contributors’ collective answer to this question is, ‘One is right with God only by trusting in the righteousness of another, namely, in the sinless substitute, Christ Jesus, alone’—the ‘great exchange.’ In this, they stand in a powerful biblical and historical tradition, as the volume amply demonstrates. Highly recommended!”

Andreas J. Köstenberger, Director of the Center for Biblical Studies and Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Founder, Biblical Foundations

“Obscuring the doctrine of justification has been one of the devil’s most effective weapons against the church. This landmark study calls us back to a God-glorifying, loving, missional faith in the God who justifies. As justification depends on and determines so much of life and theology, it is only fitting that this book so ably incorporates wide-ranging exegesis, church history, doctrine, and pastoralia. I warmly commend it to all who wish to be better equipped for life and ministry.”

Peter Sanlon, Director of Training, The Free Church of England

“Intrinsic to the heart of the Protestant tradition is the confession of justification by faith alone. Rooted in the Reformation response to the faith-and-works orientation of the basis of salvation, this doctrine has been rightly seen as utterly biblical. Matthew Barrett also knows that this core doctrine of true Christianity can never be taken for granted—hence this excellent treatment of what this doctrine entails and how it relates to other areas of the Christian life. Warmly recommended.”

Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“In The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls, Matthew Barrett and more than twenty other capable and gifted thinkers have offered a thorough and persuasive case for the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. Exploring this vital theological concept from the perspective of the Hebrew Scriptures, the teaching of the New Testament, and the history of Christian doctrine, as well as from the vantage point of systematic and pastoral theology, the authors offer a comprehensive and symphonic chorus for readers of this outstanding volume. The exposition, explication, and application of this essential Christian teaching found in this impressive book should become essential reading for theologians, biblical scholars, pastors, students, and interested laypersons. Barrett is to be commended and congratulated for putting together this much-needed work at this important time.”

David S. Dockery, President, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“Since justification by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone is truly that doctrine on which Christ’s church stands or falls, this wonderful doctrine cannot be studied enough or too deeply. Barrett has assembled a solid group of faithful and first-rate scholars to tackle this subject from biblical, theological, historical, and pastoral perspectives. While some ask the question, ‘Why the Reformation?’ this volume provides the answer. This is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls because this doctrine is the gospel! A feast awaits the reader.”

Kim Riddlebarger, Senior Pastor, Christ Reformed Church, Anaheim, California

“Looking at this substantial work, the expression ‘kid in a candy store’ comes to mind—at least if the candy you seek is a thorough, in-depth, sophisticated, and biblically faithful treatment of the doctrine of justification. I commend Matthew Barrett for assembling a team of exceedingly competent biblical scholars, church historians, and theologians who have canvassed this enormously important doctrine from multiple angles, theoretical and practical. I highly recommend this book to scholars and pastors alike who are looking for the latest thinking on justification from an orthodox Protestant perspective. This book has it all!”

Alan W. Gomes, Professor of Theology, Talbot School of Theology; Senior Research Fellow, Phoenix Seminary

Matthew Barrett

Matthew Barrett is the editor-in-chief of Credo Magazine, director of the Center for Classical Theology, and host of the Credo podcast. He is professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the author of several books, including Simply Trinity, which won the Christianity Today Book of the Year Award in Theology/Ethics. His new book is called The Reformation as Renewal: Retrieving the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. He is currently writing a Systematic Theology with Baker Academic.

Stephen G. Dempster

Stephen Dempster (PhD, University of Toronto) is Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall in New Brunswick, Canada. From 2011 to 2016, Dr. Dempster served as Chair of the Biblical Theology Section for the Evangelical Theological Society. He is the author of Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible and Micah: A Theological Commentary (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary).

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