Although almost forgotten today, Robert Barnes (1495-1540) played a significant role in bringing the Reformation to England. Influenced by Luther and his continental followers, Barnes was an unabashed advocate of the Lutheran ‘heresy’ in the England of Henry VIII. Barnes and his martyrdom are powerful expressions of the theology of the cross and the great comfort which God bestows on those whom He has brought to faith in their great Redeemer. ISBN 978-1891469022 • 48 pages • paperback • $4.99
About Dr. Robert Barnes, Lutheran martyr:
From Douglas Lindee on Intrepid Lutherans -
I won’t say much about his essay, Treatise on Justification, other than to point out the following:
- Regarding the false doctrine of Universal Justification – a relatively recent innovation among Lutherans that is now widely confessed among the majority of America’s Lutheran church bodies, and a doctrine which has been very frequently discussed, both at length and in depth, on Intrepid Lutherans (most recently in the post, What do you do with a Certified Letter? Here is one idea... ) – one will not find any support whatsoever in Dr. Barnes’ Treatise for this false teaching . At no point does Barnes confess the doctrine of Universal Justification, nor does he imply it, nor is there a shred of evidence suggesting that such a doctrine is “implicit” in his Treatise. Rather, over and over and over again we read Barnes’ emphatic confession that BEFORE GOD we are JUSTIFIED ONLY BY FAITH!.
It’s almost as if he had read the Augsburg Confession (AC:IV; AC VI; AC:XXIV:28ff) and its Apology(AP:II(IV):48ff; AP:II(IV):86ff; AP:III:61; AP:III:93ff ;AP:III:171ff; AP:III:177; AP:III:265; AP:V(XII):36) and actively discussed in depth with Luther and Melanchthon the doctrines they confessed! Both of those confessional documents were published during his tenure with Luther and Melanchthon in Wittenberg, and they make a confession that is identical to that of Dr. Barnes in his Treatise. That is the evidence I see in what follows, below.
- Dr. Barnes, like Luther, does not regard faith as an idle or passive thing, but as something that is active.
- Dr. Barnes, like Luther, sees two different kinds of “faith,” one that does not save and one that does. In one place, he uses this distinction in the manner of Augustana, as “that which merely acknowledges or believes the historical facts of Jesus Christ” and “that which believes we have grace, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins through Christ” (AC:XX:23), but in another place he adduces St. Athanasius to defend the idea that there is one kind of faith that is a gift of God which “justifies,” and that there is a second kind which is also a gift of God “whereby miracles are done.” Unable to find the source and context from the writings of St. Athanasius in English, I note this in footnote 16. I’m not sure if this is a doctrine that has been formally rejected, or a line of thinking that was never developed, but I note it here to alert the reader, because I have never heard this teaching before and thought it was rather curious.
- Dr. Barnes directly addresses the accusation that “Faith is a work, and therefore cannot justify,” and rejects it. Faith does not justify because it is either “work” or “merit,” rather “faith alone justifies, because it is that thing alone whereby I do depend upon Christ.”
- Regarding the formatting of the text, there was no bold or italics in the text of the 1842 document from which this was taken. I added these elements of formatting to signify the quotation of Scripture and of the Church Fathers, and to aid in the emphases and distinctions being made by Barnes.
- Regarding the footnotes, all of the footnotes from the 1842 document are reproduced here (with more explanatory text in most cases), except for one: in many places, the term “justice” was footnoted as “righteousness” for clarification. In those places, I simply substituted the word “righteousness” and omitted the footnote. In addition, I have added several other footnotes directing the reader to sources of quotations from the Church Fathers used by Dr. Barnes, and added one explanatory footnote.
- The main heading was in the original document, I added the subheadings to help break up the essay a bit, due to its length.
- Finally, this has got to be the clearest, most direct, most complete and most efficient defense of Justification by Faith Alone that I have yet read. It utterly devastates the works righteousness of the Romans and of other Synergists and Pelagians, and leaves no doubt as to the clarity of Scripture on the issue: apart from faith, there is no Justification whatsoever.
“Faith, however, reconciles and justifies BEFORE GOD the moment we apprehend the promise by faith. And throughout our entire life we are to pray God and be diligent, to receive faith and to grow in faith. For, as stated before, faith is where repentance is, and it is not in those who walk after the flesh. This faith is to grow and increase throughout our life by all manner of afflictions. Those who obtain faith are regenerated, so that they lead a new life and do good works.” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Chapter III, para. 212)
“Then, again, [the word regeneratio, that is, ‘regeneration’] is sometimes used pro remissione peccatorum et adoptione in filios Dei, that is, so as to mean only the remission of sins, and that we are adopted as sons of God. And in this latter sense the word is much and often used in the Apology, where it is written: Iustificatio est regeneratio, that is, Justification BEFORE GOD is regeneration.” (Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration, Part III, para. 19)
Read more about Dr. Robert Barnes and justification by faith at this link.