“Although the place of justification by faith in Paul’s theology will continue to be debated, it is manifestly a major theme, and it is not an exaggeration to say that it conveys the essence of Paul’s gospel. To make such a claim is not to exclude other themes, such as reconciliation, the preaching of the cross, or being ‘in Christ’ as conveying his gospel as well. But it is questionable whether Paul’s theology can get along without the doctrine of justification by faith. Every interpretation of Paul sooner or later has to come to terms with it.
The doctrine is indeed polemical, and it does indeed defend the right of gentiles to have a place in the community of the new age (an apologetic function). But it cannot be reduced to these functions alone, since it is based on the prior conviction of Paul concerning the saving righteousness of God for all without distinction.” (Arland J. Hultgren, Paul’s Gospel
and Mission, p. 93)