empowered by the spirit for mission

6 Aspects of Justification in the New Perspective on Paul

I’ve recently been trying to get a clearer understanding of the New Perspective on Paul. This is an approach to understanding the doctrines outlined in Paul’s letters that is gaining increasing popularity among evangelicals. Tom Wright’s book on Justification is one book that gives a good outline of this approach.

I have jotted down six main aspects of justification from the new perspective. These are just starting points in my understanding of this viewpoint. But I trust that they are helpful in seeing some of the similarities and differences of the new perspective and traditional evangelical understanding of the teachings of Paul.

1. Justification is the result of responding to the gospel.

The doctrine of justification is not the gospel. The gospel is primarily the message of Christ’s death and resurrection. Justification is the result of responding to the gospel. When we have done so God not only takes away our sin through Jesus death but also gives us righteousness through the Christ’s resurrection resulting in our justification.

2. Justification depends on the righteousness of Christ

The new perspective denies the doctrine of ‘imputed righteousness’ – i.e. the teaching that Christ’s righteousness is transferred to individuals so that on judgement day that is what God sees. But Wright still says God declares us righteous on the basis of Christ’s righteousness. So how can this be? The next two points explain.

3. Justification is the result of us being ‘in Christ’

Rather than Christ’s righteousness being given to us God simply declares us righteous because as we are ‘in Christ’. As I understand it this means that, rather than God looking at us each in turn and seeing the righteousness of Christ, God looks at Christ and he sees us, the church, as the body of Christ standing there together.

4. Justification is collective rather than individual

Justification & New Perspective on PaulWright argues that the Bible’s narrative culminates in both Jews and Gentiles coming into Christ as one new man. God’s purpose is not primarily about individual salvation but about the creation of a community. Together as part of this new creation we inherit the promises God made to Israel and so enjoy the blessings of the covenant.

5. Justification also depends on the Holy Spirit

Wright emphasises the need to trust in Holy Spirit to keep us ‘in Christ’ so that ultimately we will be judged to be righteous ‘in Christ’ on the day of judgement. However I don’t think Wright is saying that it is possible to lose our salvation as he also argues for the doctrine of assurance. Indeed, the sixth point emphasises this.

6. Justification fills us with joy and anticipation

As Christians we have been declared righteous in Christ. Eschatologically we look forward with great joy to the day when this same verdict will be announced. We live out our righteousness and make every effort to remain in Christ. We have the joy of knowing that our standing before God doesn’t depend on our efforts but God’s Spirit.

What do you think?

I trust that some of these points will add to your understanding of the New Perspective on Paul. I have tried to put them in my own words and I am still trying to get this viewpoint clear in my mind. Please feel free to let me know what you think about how I’ve expressed these six aspects and what you might add to this list.

Related Posts

Justification: Has Wright Got It Right? – a post from a couple of years ago on my old blog

Further Reading

Understanding Justification – a short review and some quotes from N.T. Wright’s book compiled by David Matthew

Current Trends of Thought on Paul and the Gospel by David Matthew

Justification and the New Perspective – a post by Scott Lencke from 2009

The Justification Debate: A Primer – a Christianity Today article from 2009

A Summary of the New Perspective on Paul from The Paul Page

September 24, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Walking Through God’s Creation

Today for September’s Synchroblog several bloggers are posting on the title “Loving Nature – Is God Green?” This post is my contribution. Please also read other contributors to the synchroblog by following the links at the bottom of this post.

Sundays in August

IMG_5871In August our church spends time out doors – we go for picnics in parks or walks in the countryside. These replace our usual Sunday services and are great times to invite friends to. I always love these times and get to as many as I can.

These are times when we can eat our packed lunches together and enjoy each other’s company but they are also times to revel in God’s creation. These are often opportunities to get out of an urban environment to walk in woodlands or at least to relax in the greenery of one of Birmingham’s parks.

It is great to be outside worshiping God through creation. God’s creation is important. It’s times like this that I feel reminded by God that we all have a part to play in looking after this beautiful world that he has given us.

Worshiping God through creation

IMG_5868What I like is both getting some good healthy exercise and time to wonder at the greatness of our king in making and sustaining each shade of colour in the trees and the sky. I must confess to sometimes finding a sense of oneness with God, of wholeness and peace on such occasions.

It can be just great to look up at the trees, to see an awesome horizon in the distance or even hold a leaf and meditate on its intricacies. Yes, I do things like that! God created all of these from the greatest to the smallest. This is the God that I know and intimately experience.

As Christians thinking of creation often leads to the creationist debate that puts the Bible at odds with science. Perhaps we need to get beyond such unhelpful debates. Instead we need to get to grips with the amazing wonder of creation and with our mandate not just to rule creation but also caring for creation on God’s behalf.IMG_5888

Why God’s creation is important

The Bible teaches we are stewards of God’s creation. God has given it for us as humans to rule on his behalf. This means we are to care for it and treat it respectfully. Just because we can increasingly control elements of the natural world does not mean that we can do with them as we please.

Damaging our environment will have consequences that we will have to live with perhaps for many generations. I know this idea may jar with those who expect Jesus to return at any moment. But I believe that we need to take such a long term view and it is irresponsible not to care because you think, ‘It will all burn anyway’!

We all have our part to play

I am glad that environmental issues are now more mainstream than they used to be – and not just the domain of extreme left-wing politics or new-agers. It’s now the norm to recycle much of our waste – at least here in the UK. Some of us also compost food waste. It’s a pity that others have led the way in this and as Christians we have been so slow of the mark to speak out on to the Bible’s teaching of stewardship.

I think it is great that we are now beginning to hear more of a positive Christian perspective on environment issues. If you want to know more you might be interested in exploring my brief selection of links below from such organisations as the Evangelical Alliance, Christian Aid, and Christianity Today. Don’t forget take a look at what other bloggers think on this issue too.

Further Reading

Christian Aid has a number of resources including these Climate Change Policy Papers
The Evangelical Alliance has a list of Christian Environmental Groups with more links to follow.
One of the groups listed, Christian Ecology Link has a number of leaflets such as this one on Ethical Investment

Related Posts

Planting New Life in Detroit’s Vacated Landscape – a link post to a Christianity Today article on Urban Agriculture.

Posts taking part in this synchroblog

September 17, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

New Wine School of Missional Leadership – Part 3

Concluding this series here are the rest of my notes from the School of Missional Leadership.

Missional leadership on purpose

The following day Mick Woodhead said something that really spoke to me at the beginning of his talk: ‘The place for healing is on the mission field not at the front of the church”.

He then went on to explain how in last ten years people can follow many people over the internet – but it is good to follow people who are next door and available.

As a starter he suggested listing the top ten people who are most likely to see you as a role model (apart from your family).

His main point on how to find people to lead involved what he called the 4Rs


From Luke chapter 10 he told us to look for what he called “the person of peace”
• the person who likes you – they chat with you
• listens to you – they are interested in you
• serves you – they get you a cup of coffee
Of these people particularly choose those who people gather around or who go round to people.

He suggested include University students if you can as these are the most under reached group in our country

Raise them up

Linking back to what Nick Haigh had set he encouraged us to meet with them, huddle with them (even if it’s just four of you briefly over coffee once a month), get them on board.


Give them opportunity to serve and apprentice them.

Resource them

Provide them with everything you have

Missional Leadership: What will be!

Mark Carey rounded off the school by looking getting us to think what we had learned and to begin to think about planning for the future.


His main concern was that we were discipled primarily by Jesus but also by someone following Jesus – mainly in character but maybe also in competence – but could find that elsewhere – it’s up to you to look.

A test he suggested for those you attempt to make yourselves accountable to is do they say “how have you got on with what we talked about before?” If they say this – especially if it makes you squirm because you haven’t done anything – this is a good sign that they are good people to disciple you.

Mark Carey has a monthly huddle via skype call including others being huddled. But it might be better for it to be more often, he said.

“I need some accountability I need someone to say, “How are you getting on with this”? I cannot do this on my own or I will be continually picked off by the enemy. You have to go after and find other people you can be accountable to.”


God's TimeMark encouraged us to take small steps – not too many steps at once or we miss out too much. Focus more on the process for our sake and those we are leading not too much on the destination. It may involve deliberately stopping something or letting some things slip so that you can concentrate on what God want you to be doing.

He encouraged us to get on and ‘Just do something’ and then evaluate it as we go.

The Greek word Kairos in Mark 1:14 the time he explained means an opportune moment – a time of breakthrough. In this time we are to repent by observing, reflecting and discussing and then believe by planning accounting (being making yourself accountable) and acting:

Mark Carey concluded by exhorting us in our missional contexts to look at what has happened, what is happening now and set goals of what will be.

September 11, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

New Wine School of Missional Leadership – Part 2

Here are more my notes from the School of Missional Leadership including the Character of a Missional Leader and a Disciple Who Makes Disciples as well as an extra seminar on by Andy Hawthorne who has initiated a number of missional enterprises.

Character of Missional Leader

Jesus followed a cultural model of a Rabbi when he invited people to follow him. How do we invitee people today into our lives?

I don’t usually like football but I was deeply touched by this powerful clip that Diane Kershaw showed us from Chasing Eric that highlights to importance of building relationship and working together.

Dianne went on to outline some principles of team work. Talk to God about people more than you talk to people about God she said and Challenge those who want to be in a challenging environment but leave others alone.

Jesus modelled vulnerability – people saw him in his most dire moments going to the cross. Be vulnerable – recognise where you’ve got things wrong and admit it – good spiritual recovery involves forgiveness and repentance.

Some people may feel unsafe if you are too vulnerable but there are some you can talk more deeply with who will be helped by you sharing your weaknesses.

New day of enterprise

Later that day I went to another additional seminar with Andy Hawthorn of the Message Trust.

Andy Hawthorn said that three things that vulnerable people who come to Christ need: a job, a good home and a supportive community. But today 20% young people unemployed, 10% graduates.

The Eden Project brings together Christ centred domestic enterprise (giving people jobs), creative arts and community transformation.

Following in footsteps of Booth’s Salvation Army match factories – the Message Trust developed 5 enterprises: hair & beauty, café, wedding business, cycle recycling and a building team.

Andy Hawthorn believes that the church is positioned perfectly to provide work for unemployed people.

A disciple who makes disciples

On the next day Nick Haigh explained how we all have different personalities some prefer to be a sheep – happy in our relationship with Christ – others prefer to be shepherds and activists.

Some of us need to make an effort to realise our responsibility to disciple others rather than just take time on our own to pray – others – visa versa.

He encouraged us to meet in a ‘huddle’ with those 4 to 12 people we are doing mission with. Discuss how you live your life in 3 dimensions – up (spirituality), in (support network), out (service) and ask how it is going for them, he said. You may need to explain spirituality however it is appropriate if they are not Christians.

September 10, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

New Wine School of Missional Leadership – Part 1

One of the aspects of New Wine summer conference that I really enjoyed was the seminars. The main set of seminars that I went to was the school of missional leadership. Over the next three days I plan to blog some of my notes from them. Sorry these are so rough and sketchy. I trust that they will make some sense to you.

What is Missional Leadership?

Reporter's notebookMark Carey led the school and began by quoting Mike Breen’s definition of a missional leader “someone who mobilises God’s people to join his redemptive work in the world”

It is important to get to the point where you hear what God is calling you to do and don’t just keep things going in the church. Get other people to this point too. Get others on board with you. Build a team. Multiply!

Get others to imitate you – don’t just do it all yourself. Giving work over to others may mean settling for a lower standard. It might be the most unlikely one will travel with you – some may be there for a time – like booster rockets.

All can be on this mission – even those with special needs. But it requires being a radically committed disciple.

Low Control and High Accountability

An important principle was one of low control but high accountability. What did he mean by this?

Low control means we need to get them to a point to hear God for themselves rather than telling people what to do. This may involve allowing people to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes.

High accountability means reminding people of the goals they set themselves and ask people how they are doing with respect to these goals. I think if they haven’t yet achieved them then we could ask questions such as: Has anything changed? What are the barriers?

Group Work

As well as a talk most days we also had time for group work. In this first session Mark Carey finally asked us to discuss what God had highlighted to us from this and what we were going to do about it.

Listening for Deeper Mission and Multiplication

In addition to the missional leadership school I also went to this additional seminar on listening for deeper mission and multiplication with Bob and Mary Hopkins where we looked at ‘360 degree listening’. This complimented what we were learning in the school well.

Examine the ‘mission field’ of the community you wish to reach – spy out the land – observe and listen to your community – as well as wider society and observe and listen to your people/team/church/etc as well as to God and to the scriptures

Collect information e.g. facts and figures, but also use intuition/instinct and inspiration (what God shows us).

Where are the hubs where people gather? Try to understand how relationships work in your area for instance we could ask “Are there networks based on location?” and “Are there networks by association?”

We were encouraged to test out things and reflect as our assumptions about the mission field may need adjusting!

God has a complete answer to our situation and so we need to plumb the depths of the gospel in how we present gospel. For instance as we build friendships we show people that God wants to be people’s friends.

More tomorrow…

September 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)