By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation, 2nd edition. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2013. 141 pp. Paper, $9.99.
Gaffin is the Professor Emeritus of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. Not surprisingly, he comes from a Calvinistic and Reformed perspective (p. 4). Mark Jones, the author of the new book Antinomianism, writes the forward. Also, not surprisingly, he comments that without good works eternal life is not possible (p. xi).
There are aspects of the book that the readers of the JOTGES will appreciate. Gaffin has a high view of the inspiration of the Scripture (p. 9). He also says that one’s systematic theology must be based upon the exegesis of Scripture and Biblical theology (p. 17). In addition, he sees justification in Paul as forensic. The believer in Jesus Christ is declared righteous by God (p. 55). This results in the eternal security of the believer (p. 76).
Free Grace readers will also welcome Gaffin’s discussion on the broadness of the concept of salvation. It not only involves justification, but also the believer’s corporate identity, sanctification, and eschatological realities. Even though most in the Free Grace camp believe the word “salvation” in the NT is even broader than Gaffin does, this provides interesting reading.
In the book, Gaffin primarily critiques the New Perspective on Paul (NP). The NP diminishes the individual aspect of justification (p. 4). There is a difference between the ordo salutis (“order of salvation”) and the historia salutis (“history of salvation”). The former deals with how salvation is applied to the believer while the latter describes the completion of salvation. While the NP emphasizes corporate redemption, Gaffin says Paul is certainly also concerned with individual salvation by faith in Christ. The ordo salutis is grounded in the historia salutis. Both are important (pp. 21-29, 45).
Even though he does not specifically mention Free Grace Theology, Gaffin implicitly critiques it. He comments that grace is opposed to self-salvation, which he identifies as “semi-Pelagian,” a term sometimes associated with Free Grace Theology.
Gaffin adopts the familiar theme that true believers will persevere in good works. That is how he takes Phil 1:6 (p. 77). This leads to a long discussion about the indicative versus imperative in Paul. The imperatives in Paul, which are addressed to believers, are based upon the Law, which Gaffin says is the Ten Commandments. Without these commandments, without the imperatives, we have antinomianism (pp. 81-82).
Gaffin acknowledges that the believer, who has experienced salvation by faith (the indicative), may only fulfill the commands (imperatives) imperfectly. However, the believer must still work out his salvation with fear and trembling, as Paul says in Phil 2:12-13 (pp. 82-83).
In addition, Gaffin says these works will be necessary at the final judgment. Believers will experience such a judgment, where works will be necessary for final justification. Paul refers to this judgment in 2 Cor 5:10 (p. 107). Gaffin does not discuss the possibility that this refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ, where rewards will be given for faithfulness. Gaffin’s view is the same as Thomas Schreiner’s, that at this judgment the believer’s works will result in a future declaration of the present justification the believer already has (p. 112).
In line with these views, the reader will not be surprised that Gaffin takes the common interpretation of James 2. The faith that saves is never alone. It has good works and perseveres to the end (p. 118).
For the reader looking for a discussion on some of the issues surrounding the New Perspective on Paul, I recommend this book. However, when it comes to the issues of assurance of salvation, sanctification, and eternal rewards, the reader will find the usual Reformed views, as Gaffin admits from the start.
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