Over the past few months, I’ve been musing here and there about the way the NLT presents the doctrine of justification, especially in the Pauline epistles. To be precise, I have been working through my understanding of the way the NLT presents the causality (i.e. by/through faith) versus the instrumentality (i.e. because of faith) of justification. Two recent exercises have led me to believe that, on the main, I’ve been making a mountain out of a molehill.
First, I finally spent some time reviewing the notes and articles in the NLT Study Bible for the passages I listed in previous posts. Most notably, I read through the article titled, “Righteousness By Faith,” which appears in Galatians. This article unequivocably articulates the doctrine of justification by faith and says, “There is nothing people can or need to do. Only Christ could do—and has done—what must be done to make people acceptable to God. So we should simply receive his gift, gratefully thank him for what he has done for us, and trust in him” (emphasis mine).
Second, I talked with friends, co-workers, church members, and members of my Guard unit about the readings as presented in the NLT. Essentially, I asked them to explain to me their understanding of the passages. Though anecdotal, without exception, the people I talked to were able to articulate justification by faith because of Christ’s work on our behalf.
In sum, I am coming to think that my anxiety about how the NLT presents justification stemmed from my desire for more precision than the average reader brings to the text. ‘By,’ ‘through,’ and ‘because’…for many folks, though not all…are essentially synonymous terms in the everyday usage of the language. In preaching or teaching through the few passages where the NLT says ‘because of faith’ I will continue to be careful to articulate the instrumentality of faith over against the causality of faith in justification. Will I be driving home a point that some or many will think is unnecessary? Perhaps. If it avoids confusion for anyone, however, it will be worth it.
Many continued thanks to the NLT team for a fantastic translation that I have used as my primary preaching and teaching bible for over a year now…with absolutely no regrets! May God continue to use this translation to build his church!