Early Protestants and Justification by Faith
At the time of the 16th century Reformation conversion meant a whole lot more to the first Protestants than it does for modern evangelicals. Faith in Christ meant more than an “individual experience” or “personal testimony.” I do not believe that any of us today can imagine how exciting it was for these first Protestants to see the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ after nearly a millennium of bondage to efforts at self-salvation. Twisted teachings concerning salvation by works and ritual had dominated the Church for a long time. “As C. S. Lewis stated it, ‘We want, above all, to know what it felt like to be an early Protestant…what it felt like to be a new Christian.’”
This next quote from C. S. Lewis concerning the free grace of salvation is excellent. Just reading it gives a sense of liberation that the gospel intends to communicate. This truth is what the early Protestant Reformers discovered, rejoiced in, and gave their lives for.
“All the initiative has been on God’s side; all has been free, unbounded grace. And all will continue to be free, unbounded grace. His (the Christian’s) own puny and ridiculous efforts would be as helpless to retain the joy as they would have been to achieve it in the first place…He is not saved because he does works of love: he does works of love because he is saved. It is faith alone that has saved him: faith bestowed by sheer gift. From this buoyant humility, this farewell to the self with all its good resolutions, anxiety, scruples, and motive-scratchings, all the Protestant doctrines originally sprang.”
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified (declared righteous) by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23 – 24)
What Good News! I am saved by Christ’s righteous life, His death, resurrection and exaltation. All sins freely forgiven and eternal life bestowed due to God’s purpose and plan. This plan to save originated in the heart of the infinite Almighty God even before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). In time, the Holy Spirit enlightens and captivates my heart and affections through the gospel message. He, by His grace causes me to be born again by faith alone in Christ alone. All is of grace.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3 – 5).
Soli Deo Gloria! [Quotes from C.S. Lewis taken from For Kirk and Covenant by Douglas Wilson; Highland Books].