When Atlas Falls

I am in the midst of preparation for the message for this Sunday at our church.  We are continuing our look at Luke 15, in particular the elder brother (15:25-32).  And, we are going to get some help from Paul and his letter to the Galatians to understand and apply what Jesus is revealing in this parable.

As I spend time in these texts, it is clear, once again, how quickly we can forget and how easily we drift from the Gospel.  So many other things can attract our attention as seemingly important, critical, and urgent in the congregations of evangelical America.  And while we expend great effort on those topics and concerns, we lose our grasp of that which is central, or better, foundational.  That which frees us from slavery.  Namely, our justification through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  J.I. Packer writes:

The doctrine of justification by faith is like Atlas: it bears a world on its shoulders, the entire evangelical knowledge of saving grace…when Protestants let the thought of justification drop out of their minds, the true knowledge of salvation drops out with it, and cannot be restored till the truth of justification is back in its proper place.  When Atlas falls, everything that rested on his shoulders comes crashing down too.”      – J.I. Packer, “Introductory Essay,” in James Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification: An Outline of Its History in the Church and of Its Exposition from Scripture (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1961), vii.

It is only through understanding this doctrine (a central point of the Gospel) that elder brothers – religious church folk – can come to repentance and freedom in Christ.  It is only through understanding this doctrine that they will remain free as they walk and live by the Spirit.

I am eager to celebrate the Gospel this coming Sunday with all those at Calvary!  We will worship and praise God together in song, prayers, fellowship, and the expository exultation over God’s Word.  If you are in the St. Cloud metropolitan area, we invite you to join us.

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