In Justification by the Word, Jack D. Kilcrease reintroduces Martin Luther’s key doctrine. Though a linchpin of the Reformation, Luther’s view of justification is often misunderstood. For Luther, justification is an expression of God’s creative Word. To understand Luther on justification, one must grasp his doctrine of the Word. The same God who declared “let there be light”—and it was so—also declares “your sins are forgiven.” Justification is an objective reality. It is achieved in Christ’s resurrection and received through an encounter with the risen Christ in Word and sacrament. Justification turns us outward, away from our own unsteady feelings and limited understanding, to look to Christ. And the church must preach justification, lest we so easily forfeit the joy of the gospel.
Justification by the Word inspires readers to reencounter the radical doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Luther has often been made into a hero of modern subjectivity, as if it's all about having faith. Jack Kilcrease corrects the record: it’s all about the gracious Word of God, which gives us faith in the heart and every other good gift in Christ. For the Gospel word has the same effect as a sacrament: it gives what it signifies. Kilcrease’s book pushes us in the direction of this word-centered path, which is the great gift of Lutheran theology to the larger Christian tradition.
–Phillip Cary, professor of philosophy, Eastern University; author of The Meaning of Protestant Theology
The Reformation was not about a doctrinal debate, but a crisis in pastoral care. Kilcrease argues convincingly that Luther’s revolutionary teaching on justification was not merely a correction of medieval Catholic excesses, but a rediscovery of the ground of all Christian teaching and ministry: the sacramentality of the Word. Put simply, the Word of God does not merely teach or describe, it creates. If you believe—as I do—that the true care of souls is a ministry of the Word of God and that justification is the ground of consolation and comfort for wounded consciences, this is the book for you.
Harold L. Senkbeil, author of The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart
Given its relevance, it is therefore rather strange that the teaching of justification has recently been downplayed and sidelined in Christian theology and ethics. Commendably, Jack Kilcrease attempts to rectify that deficit in a wide ranging, systematic, ecumenical study from a Lutheran perspective for pastors and teachers to engage with people in their quest for personal validation and acceptance. … Through God’s word the pardon that Christ won for them is delivered to them and received as they put their trust in his word rather than in anything they do or feel or are.
—John W. Kleinig, emeritus professor of exegetical theology, Australian Lutheran College; author of God’s Word: A Guide to Holy Scripture
Too many Christians wring their hands over whether their faith is authentic and thus saving. Instead of looking to Christ alone, as Scripture teaches, they seek instead to assess the genuineness of their feelings or the extent to which their behaviors are changed. Jack Kilcrease tackles this pastoral problem head-on through a sweeping survey of Scripture, early Christian thinkers and medieval theologians, and the thought of Martin Luther along with his disciples and detractors. The upshot: views of justification which fail to honor the truth that God’s word not only describes reality but also conveys reality and gives Jesus Christ for faith to grasp, fall short of a scriptural view of the doctrine of justification. Kilcrease’s affirmation of the sacramentality of the word is a perspective that contemporary Christians need to hear.
Mark C. Mattes, professor of theology and philosophy, Grand View University; author of Martin Luther’s Theology of Beauty
Jack D. Kilcrease is a professor of historical and systematic theology at the Institute of Lutheran Theology in Brookings, South Dakota, and the author of The Self-Donation of God: A Contemporary Lutheran approach to Christ and His Benefits and The Doctrine of Atonement: From Luther to Forde. He also is the coeditor of Martin Luther in His Own Words: Essential Writings of the Reformation.