Volume Fifty-two— Article 1 Volume 52 | Home

Justification by Faith and "The Mark of the Beast"

Part 1: Justification by Faith — the Key to Biblical Clarity

Is the Bible clear and easy to understand? Has the proliferation of divisions within the Protestant movement proved that the Reformers were too optimistic in affirming the clarity of the Bible? If it is clear, why are so many professed Christians so incredibly ignorant of the Bible?

When the Reformers contended that the Bible is clear and easy to understand, they did not mean that it is comprehensively clear. Obviously, there are difficulties and mysteries about certain parts of the Bible that may never become clear in this life. Neither did the Reformers close their eyes to the fact that men of scholarship and mental acumen had failed to understand the Bible. But what they did mean was that the Bible is essentially clear when seen in the light of the great Reformation doctrine of justification by faith.

The formal principle of the Reformation (the Bible alone) and the material principle of the Reformation (justification by faith in Christ alone) stand together. If one is lost, so is the other. Said Luther:

If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time. . . . it alone makes a person a theologian. . . . For with it comes the Holy Spirit, who enlightens the heart by it and keeps it in the true certain understanding so that it is able precisely and plainly to distinguish and judge all other articles of faith, and forcefully to sustain them. - What Luther Says, ed. E. Pass (St. Louis: Concordia, 1959), Vol.2, pp. 702-714, 715-718.

If these statements by Luther are correct—and we believe they are—this means that there is one great reason why the Bible is not clear in today's church. We have lost sight of the truth of justification by faith! Let this central biblical message be restored to its right place, and the Bible will become essentially clear.