Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Law and Gospel: What do they teach? -- Part 1

Our recent series on the “Walking Together Sunday” service seems to have caused quite a ruckus. Some were offended that published materials and public practice would be considered open to critique. Many others recognized the need for such critique and resonated with our criticism. Of central concern throughout the series was the proper handling of God’s Word, whether it rightly divided Law and Gospel. This, for many laymen, prompts a question. We hear this term “Law & Gospel” bandied about as a Lutheran distinctive and preaching requirement. Why is it important? Why is it necessary?

To teach Justification, Law and Gospel must both be taught and be properly divided
Although it is likely a composite of many related quotations, Luther is credited with stating the following: “Justification by faith alone is the article by which the Church stands or falls.” There is little question that the Reformation itself hinged on this essential doctrine. Rome had added works of the Law to the Gospel, teaching a form of synergism called infused grace, by which man is imbued with a divine animating force making him capable of cooperating with the Holy Spirit in obtaining and maintaining his Justification. Quoting from the Council of Trent (1547), today’s Catholic Catechism reads:
    Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

      ‘When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight’ [Council of Trent (1547): DS 1525.]

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church #1993, (emphasis mine).
In the Roman Catholic understanding, God’s grace is not “unmerited favor”, as we Lutherans teach, but is infused as an animating force enabling Christians to perform meritorious works that are necessary for salvation. We hear Baptists and Pentecostals often speak this way as well: “God has given me the grace to do/think/say this, that or the other thing.” Thus, according to Rome, the Holy Spirit enables man to accept God's Word and perform the works of charity necessary to move himself toward justice in God's sight; but apart from His enabling, mankind could never fulfill his obligation to do so. This is a doctrine of synergism.

Understanding the Roman definition of "charity" illuminates this further. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1965 - #1974) defines “charity” as the “Law of the Gospel”. It is the father of all virtues (#1826 - #1827), including the other two theological virtues, faith and hope, (#1814 - #1818), all three of which are
    infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being (#1813, emphasis mine).
Rome teaches that the theological virtues are the foundation of all Christian moral activity -- the manifestation of infused grace -- but that the theological virtue of charity stands above them all as the Law of the Gospel, which man must obey in order to merit eternal salvation. For the Roman, “Love” is a command which must be obeyed in order to secure eternity, it is made a burden, and becomes a lash with which to coercively whip fellow Christians.

For the conscientious Christian, who practices self-examination and is aware of his sin, his inability to perform the works of the Law is regularly manifest. Tortured under the requirements of the Law, Rome taught Christians to “trust the Church” in order to assuage their guilt and give them assurance of their salvation. With their minds and souls captive to the institution, Rome was free to engage in various methods and programs, declared “necessary” for various reasons, which further captivated Christians while providing for Rome’s financial stability: purgatory, indulgences, dietary restrictions, veneration of the saints and their relics, etc. False doctrine, in addition to tormenting souls, thus served corruption as well.

The corrective, of course, was the true teaching of Scripture. Suffering terrors of conscience under the impossible burden of the Law, Luther was directed to the Bible, where he read
    [A] man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ... for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. ...I do not frustrate the the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain (Ga. 2:16-21)
Rather than trusting in the Church, Luther was directed by the Scriptures to trust in Christ, fully and completely. Further, he was shown that in order for Justification to be taught correctly, in order for man to make Christ the sole object of his faith rather than also trusting the Church or his own efforts, the Law had to be stripped from it entirely. That isn’t to say that the Law was not to be taught. On the contrary, in order to understand Justification properly, it was necessary that the message of the Law precede it. In other words, Justification cannot be preached properly unless Law is distinguished and kept separate from the Gospel, and the Gospel has no application unless it follows the message of the Law.

And this is clear from the Confessions:
    [I]t was very foolish for the adversaries to write that men who are under eternal wrath merit the remission of sins by an act of love, which springs from their mind, since it is impossible to love God, unless the remission of sins be apprehended first by faith. For the heart, truly feeling that God is angry, cannot love God, unless He be shown to have been reconciled. As long as He terrifies us, and seems to cast us into eternal death, human nature is not able to take courage, so as to love a wrathful, judging, and punishing God... It is easy for idle men to feign such dreams concerning love, as, that a person guilty of mortal sin can love God above all things, because they do not feel what the wrath or judgment of God is. But in agony of conscience and in conflicts [with Satan], conscience experiences the emptiness of these philosophical speculations. Paul says, Ro. 4:15: The Law worketh wrath. He does not say that by the Law men merit the remission of sins. For the Law always accuses and terrifies consciences. Therefore it does not justify, because conscience terrified by the Law flees from the judgment of God. Therefore they err who trust that by the Law, by their own works, they merit the remission of sins... (AC:IV:36-39)

    [T]hey condemn us, for teaching that men obtain remission of sins not because of their own merits, but freely for Christ's sake, through faith in Christ... For they condemn us both for denying that men obtain remission of sins because of their own merits, and for affirming that, through faith, men obtain remission of sins, and through faith in Christ are justified. But since in this controversy the chief topic of Christian doctrine is treated, which, understood aright, illumines and amplifies the honor of Christ [which is of especial service for the clear, correct understanding of the entire Holy Scriptures, and alone shows the way to the unspeakable treasure and right knowledge of Christ, and alone opens the door to the entire Bible], and brings necessary and most abundant consolation to devout consciences, we ask His Imperial Majesty to hear us with forbearance in regard to matters of such importance. For since the adversaries understand neither what the remission of sins, nor what faith, nor what grace, nor what righteousness is, they sadly corrupt this topic, and obscure the glory and benefits of Christ, and rob devout consciences of the consolations offered in Christ. But that we may strengthen the position of our Confession, and also remove the charges which the adversaries advance against us, certain things are to be premised in the beginning, in order that the sources of both kinds of doctrine, i.e., both that of our adversaries and our own, may be known.

    All Scripture ought to be distributed into these two principal topics, the Law and the promises. For in some places it presents the Law, and in others the promise concerning Christ, namely, either when [in the Old Testament] it promises that Christ will come, and offers, for His sake, the remission of sins, justification, and life eternal, or when, in the Gospel [in the New Testament], Christ Himself, since He has appeared, promises the remission of sins, justification, and life eternal. Moreover, in this discussion, by Law we designate the Ten Commandments, wherever they are read in the Scriptures...

    Of these two parts the adversaries select the Law, because human reason naturally understands, in some way, the Law (for it has the same judgment divinely written in the mind); [the natural law agrees with the law of Moses, or the Ten Commandments] and by the Law they seek the remission of sins and justification. (AC:IV:1-7)

    ...Because, therefore, men by their own strength cannot fulfill the Law of God, and all are under sin, and subject to eternal wrath and death, on this account we cannot be freed by the Law from sin and be justified, but the promise of the remission of sins and of justification has been given us for Christ's sake, who was given for us in order that He might make satisfaction for the sins of the world, and has been appointed as the [only] Mediator and Propitiator. And this promise has not the condition of our merits... but freely offers the remission of sins and justification as Paul says Rom. 11:6: If it be of works, then is it no more grace. And in another place, Rom. 3:21: The righteousness of God without the Law is manifested, i.e., the remission of sins is freely offered. Nor does reconciliation depend upon our merits. Because if the remission of sins were to depend upon our merits, and reconciliation were from the Law, it would be useless. For as we do not fulfill the Law, it would also follow that we would never obtain the promise of reconciliation. Thus Paul reasons, Rom. 4:14: For if they which are of the Law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect. For if the promise would require the condition of our merits and the Law, which we never fulfill, it would follow that the promise would be useless.

    But since justification is obtained through the free promise it follows that we cannot justify ourselves. Otherwise wherefore would there be need to promise? [And why should Paul so highly extol and praise grace?] For since the promise cannot be received except by faith, the Gospel which is properly the promise of the remission of sins and of justification for Christ's sake, proclaims the righteousness of faith in Christ, which the Law does not teach. (AC:IV:40-43)


C.F.W. Walther, quoting Luther and Chemnitz, states the matter just as directly:
    Commenting on Ga. 3:19, Luther says (St.L. Ed. IX, 415): “If the Gospel is not fundamentally and plainly set apart from the Law, it is impossible to keep the Christian doctrine unadulterated. Again, when this distinction has been correctly and firmly established, we can have a fine and correct knowledge of the manner how, and by what means, we are to become righteous in the sight of God...” In conclusion, Chemnitz writes in his Chapters on Theology (Loci Theologici), in the chapter on Justification: “Paul states distinctly that the righteousness which is valid in the sight of God is revealed in the Gospel, apart from the Law. Hence the principal matter in this inquiry regarding justification is that the true and proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel be fixed and carefully maintained... Is there any other light, besides the one furnished by the true distinction between the Law and the Gospel, that has so forcibly broken up the dense darkness of the Pope’s dominion?”... If this light is not carefully guarded, it will soon go out. For instance, we find that this light was still burning in the days when the earliest writings of the Church Fathers were composed. But in the writings of the ecclesiastical teachers who followed them no definite statement is found regarding the distinction between the Law and the Gospel. That is the reason why the Papacy, in a later age, made such rapid headway. The same danger is now threatening us.

    Walther, C.F.W. (1986). The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel (W.H.T. Dau, Trans.). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. (Translation originally published 1928, original German work published 1897). pp. 65-67.


The centrality of the Doctrine of Justification
Returning again to Luther’s statement, Justification by faith alone is the article by which the Church stands or falls, we begin to see the importance of Justification. The fact is, Justification is the central article of faith in the Lutheran body of doctrine. All other teaching emanates from this doctrine, and returns to it.
    In Lutheran theology the article of justification is the central, chief article by which the Christian doctrine and the Christian Church stands and falls; it is the apex of all Christian teaching. And in assigning to justification this central position the Lutheran Church did not follow its own wisdom, but the teaching of Scripture... In general, Paul preached “all the counsel of God” (Ac. 20:27). When he then declares that he preached Christ only, he asserts that all other doctrines which he preached stand in close relation to the central truth that men are saved without any merit of their own, by faith in the crucified Christ [Ro. 3:9,19; Ac. 10:43; 1 Co. 2:2]... In Scripture, all doctrines serve the doctrine of justification... The Christian doctrine as taken from Scripture, without any foreign admixture, is not a conglomeration of disconnected truths, but an unbroken harmonious unity in which justification by faith, without the deeds of the Law, stands in the center and all other doctrines are either antecedent or consequent to it.

    Pieper, F. (1951). Christian Dogmatics (Vol. II; T. Engelder & T. Mueller, Trans.). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. (Original work published in German, 1917). pp. 512-514.
There is no teaching of Lutheran Doctrine – that is, of true Christian doctrine – that can be taught apart from also teaching Justification. And only the message of Law and Gospel teaches Justification. Thus, Law and Gospel, properly divided and properly used and applied, is not only central to all Lutheran preaching and teaching, it is necessary to all Lutheran preaching and teaching.

In coming days, the teachings of the Law and of the Gospel will be adduced from Scripture, in detail.


79 comments:

revfrsds said...

No need for any "links." Here is the section on justification right out of "This We Believe," the official statement of belief for the WELS.

This SHOULD be able to be the basis for discussion. Right? We'll see.

IV. JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH
1. We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends. It is a message relevant to people of all times and places, of all races and social levels, for "the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men" (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for "the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men" (Romans 5:18).
2. We believe that individuals receive this free gift of forgiveness not on the basis of their own works, but only through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). Justifying faith is trust in Christ and his redemptive work. This faith justifies not because of any power it has in itself, but only because of the salvation prepared by God in Christ, which it embraces (Romans 3:28; 4:5). On the other hand, although Jesus died for all, Scripture says that "whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). Unbelievers forfeit the forgiveness won for them by Christ (John 8:24).
3. We believe that people cannot produce this justifying faith, or trust, in their own hearts, because "the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him" (1 Corinthians 2:14). In fact, "the sinful mind is hostile to God" (Romans 8:7). It is the Holy Spirit who gives people faith to recognize that "Jesus is Lord" (1 Corinthians 12:3). The Holy Spirit works this faith by means of the gospel (Romans 10:17). We believe, therefore, that a person's conversion is entirely the work of God's grace. Rejection of the gospel is, however, entirely the unbeliever's own fault (Matthew 23:37).
4. We believe that sinners are saved by grace alone. Grace is the undeserved love of God for sinners. This love led God to give sinners everything they need for their salvation. It is all a gift of God. People do nothing to earn any of it (Ephesians 2:8,9).
5. We believe that already before the world was created, God chose those individuals whom he would in time convert through the gospel of Christ and preserve in faith to eternal life (Ephesians 1:4-6; Romans 8:29,30). This election to faith and salvation in no way was caused by anything in people but shows how completely salvation is by grace alone (Romans 11:5,6).
6. We believe that at the moment of death, the souls of those who believe in Christ go immediately to be with the Lord in the joy of heaven because of the atoning work of Christ (Luke 23:43). The souls of those who do not believe in Christ go to an eternity of misery in hell (Luke 16:22-24).

revfrsds said...

TWB Section VI - continued . . .

7. We reject every teaching that people in any way contribute to their salvation. We reject the belief that people with their own power can cooperate in their conversion or make a decision for Christ (John 15:16). We reject the belief that those who are converted were less resistant to God's grace than those who remain unconverted. We reject all efforts to present faith as a condition people must fulfill to complete their justification. We reject all attempts of sinners to justify themselves before God.
8. We reject any suggestion that the doctrine of justification by faith is no longer meaningful today.
9. We reject the teaching that believers can never fall from faith ("once saved, always saved"), because the Bible says it is possible for believers to fall from faith (1 Corinthians 10:12).
10. We reject the false and blasphemous conclusion that those who are lost were predestined, or elected, by God to damnation, for God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
11. We reject universalism, the belief that all people are saved, even those without faith in Christ (John 3:36). We reject pluralism, the belief that there are other ways to salvation besides faith in Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). We reject any teaching that says it does not matter what one believes so long as one has faith in God.
This is what Scripture teaches about justification by grace through faith. This we believe, teach and confess.

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Thanks for reproducing that information, Rev. Spencer!

It is indeed the basis for discussion among us, as it comes from the document that serves as our public statement on doctrinal issues. Of course, the Lutheran Book of Concord does as well, and it ought to be consulted in comparison to these statements if there is question regarding their Confessional integrity.

But should a discussion ensue at all? If, as Mrs. Quam reports in her comment on "Walking Together Sunday" - The Sermon, 9/29/2010 @9:06am, there are pastors among us who laugh, shake their heads and say things like, "there are too many takes on this doctrine within the WELS," then we are in dire need of a discussion on this topic. Without specific agreement on this very doctrine, there is no possibility of doctrinal unity. We are, of course, concerned with more than just what a person is discerned, after much probing, to actually "believe," more than whether such statements "can be properly understood" after a series of mental exercises; rather, it's the words that are choosen, and that Lutherans are taught to use, which directly express what we believe regarding Justification. Words represent categories of thought. We think about things using words. If our wording is sloppy, we think about things in sloppy terms, which leads to false or confused thinking, and ulimately believing. Sloppy words teach sloppy doctrine, and in the case of the Doctrine of Justification, sloppy wording and thinking in this article of faith impacts our entire body of doctrine. This is no trifling matter.

So thanks again, Rev. Spencer.

Mr. Douglas Lindee

P.S. -- And don't forget to sign your name next time!! :)

Daniel Baker said...

The first point of "This We Believe" leaves room for contention with regard to its blanket "declaration of righteousness." As Mr. Lindee suggests, I believe this is a prime example of "sloppiness" in terminology. Would it REALLY be that hard to simply state that Christ's merits are credited as righteousness to those in whom the Holy Spirit has created faith by means of the gospel? That would be a perfectly biblical and confessional alternative to the questionable statement we have here. The way in which we pull verse 18 out of chapter 5 amidst a plethora of other verses that state faith is credited as righteousness is startling. It seems highly reminiscent of certain other religious factions who like to pull select verses out of Romans 9 to promote what we find "blasphemous" per point 10 above.

We are righteous in God's sight because when He looks at us, he sees Jesus (at least that's what I was taught in my 14 years of WELS education). If He has declared unbelievers righteous, why would they be going to hell? Christ bore the sins of all on Calvary, yes, but his merits are not applied unless the Holy Spirit has created faith - hence crediting righteousness.

Am I wrong in my above assessment? I admit that this whole topic is mind boggling to me, and I have not thoroughly studied all the content that pertains to it. If I err in some way, please reproach me.

LutherRocks said...

Oh praise the Lord...and I mean that in the most Lutheran of tone!!! This is good...this is STELLAR!!! Now we are getting to the heart of the matter...to the meat! 2929 N. Mayfair Rd. are you listening? Mequon...are you getting this?

It is my opinion that a lot of this goes back to the residual effects of the LCMS (A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod [Adopted 1932]) and undoubtedly much further.(There are glaring problems in Kretzmann circa 1921.)

This passage puts it all in perspective and context:

Genesis 15:6 (King James Version)

And he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness.

In the spirit of the Reformation!

Joe Krohn

Brett Meyer said...

I agree with the statements of Daniel Baker and Joe Krohn. I do, however, believe that when the official confession of the (W)ELS states, "1. We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ." it is not a matter of sloppy writing or confession. It is a precise confession with words carefully chosen to convey a specific declaration, that all people, believers and unbelievers, have been declared by God to be righteous. My reason for believing this is that it is in perfect harmony with other WELS confessions concerning the central doctrine of the (W)ELS. I provide quotes to support this and also quotes from the Norm, the normed norm and Martin Luther that reject this confession as it is opposed to God's pure Word.

WELS President of MLC, Mark Zarling,
"Perhaps such a distinction is helpful if it assists us in understanding the glorious Gospel: In Jesus, God has declared the entire world righteous and forgiven, irregardless of whether or not the world believes it. Such is the jewel described by objective, universal, or general justification." Page 2
http://www.wlsessays.net/files/ZarlingJustification.pdf

WELS CA/AZ District President, Pastor Jon Buchholz 2005 Convention Essay
"God has declared the entire world righteous." This statement is true, as we understand it to mean that God has rendered a verdict of "not-guilty" toward the entire world. It is also true—and must be taught—that the righteousness of Christ now stands in place of the world’s sin; this is the whole point of what Jesus did for us at Calvary." Page 17
http://www.wlsessays.net/node/390

WELS Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Prof. Forrest L. Bivens
"To phrase it somewhat differently, God has justified, acquitted or declared righteous the whole world of sinners. He has forgiven them. They have been reconciled to God. Their status in his eyes has been changed from that of sinner to forgiven sinner for the sake of Jesus Christ. Since all this applies to all people, the term universal or general justification is used. In our circles an alternate term, objective justification, is also used. If justification is universal, it must also be objective; sinners have been forgiven whether they believe it or not."
http://www.wlsessays.net/files/BivensMessage.pdf

SCRIPTURE, THE CONFESSIONS AND LUTHER:

Romans 4:5, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

Romans 10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."

Cont...

Brett Meyer said...

Cont...

Apology of the Augsburg Confession, That We Obtain Remission of Sins by Faith Alone in Christ.
"But the remission of sins is received by faith alone, and, indeed, by faith properly so called, because the promise cannot be received except by faith. But faith, properly so called, is that which assents to the promise [is when my heart, and the Holy Ghost in the heart, says: The promise of God is true and certain]. Of this faith Scripture speaks. And because it receives the remission of sins, and reconciles us to God, by this faith we are [like Abraham] accounted righteous for Christ's sake before we love and do the works of the Law, although love necessarily follows. Nor, indeed, is this faith an idle knowledge, neither can it coexist with mortal sin, but it is a work of the Holy Ghost, whereby we are freed from death, and terrified minds are encouraged and quickened. And because this faith alone receives the remission of sins, and renders us acceptable to God, and brings the Holy Ghost, it could be more correctly called _gratia gratum faciens_, grace rendering one pleasing to God, than an effect following, namely, love."

"But since we receive remission of sins and the Holy Ghost by faith alone, faith alone justifies, because those reconciled are accounted righteous and children of God, not on account of their own purity, but through mercy for Christ's sake, provided only they by faith apprehend this mercy. Accordingly, Scripture testifies that by faith we are accounted righteous, Rom. 3, 26. We, therefore, will add testimonies which clearly declare that faith is that very righteousness by which we are accounted righteous before God, namely, not because it is a work that is in itself worthy, but because it receives the promise by which God has promised that for Christ's sake He wishes to be propitious to those believing in Him,"
http://www.bookofconcord.org/defense_4_justification.php

The Defense of the Augsburg Confession What Is Justifying Faith?
48] "The adversaries feign that faith is only a knowledge of the history, and therefore teach that it can coexist with mortal sin. Hence they say nothing concerning faith, by which Paul so frequently says that men are justified, because those who are accounted righteous before God do not live in mortal sin."
http://www.bookofconcord.org/defense_4_justification.php

Luther's Commentary on Galations
"Paul's words contain the implication of contrast. When he quotes Scripture to the effect that all nations that share the faith of faithful Abraham are to be blessed, Paul means to imply the contrast that all nations are accursed without faith in Christ. VERSE 10. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. The curse of God is like a flood that swallows everything that is not of faith. To avoid the curse we must hold on to the promise of the blessing in Christ."

"Paul goes on to prove from this quotation out of the Book of Deuteronomy that all men who are under the Law are under the sentence of sin, of the wrath of God, and of everlasting death."

"I cannot tell you in words how criminal it is to seek righteousness before God without faith in Christ, by the works of the Law. It is the abomination standing in the holy place. It deposes the Creator and deifies the creature."
http://www.bibleteacher.org/luthercom_3.htm

In Christ,
Brett Meyer

Brett Meyer said...

Not to jump ahead, only to clarify for the moment, the issue taken with "God has declared all sinners righteous" is not the only confession in the (W)ELS This We Believe under Justification By Grace Through Faith that is contrary to Scripture and the Confessions and should be discussed at some point. In my opinion the the following quotes are also at issue and are inseparable from the confession that "all sinners are declared righteous".

(1.)All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for "the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men"

(7.)We reject all efforts to present faith as a condition people must fulfill to complete their justification. (BM - this needs to be clarified in order to be addressed appropriately. ie: Does it intend to state, we reject declarations that faith must be present to be justified by God, as the WELS has taught and is currently teaching)

Gregory L. Jackson said...

The Holy Spirit only works through the Word (Isaiah 55) and never apart from the Word. Calvin and others taught that the Holy Spirit did God's work without the Word.

Grace comes to man only through God's appointed Instruments of Grace, the invisible Word of preaching teaching, the visible Word of the sacraments. To claim otherwise is pure Enthusiasm, which is utterly condemned by the Book of Concord.

As Paul clearly teaches in Romans 10, preaching the Gospel moves people to faith, who are declared righteous by God, receiving forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life.

Therefore, there cannot be two justifications, one without the Means of Grace and without effect - the other where faith as God's own creation is diminished and ridiculed.

Only one justification is taught in the Bible and the Book of Concord. The heresy of grace without the Means of Grace came from Calvinism via the Pietism of Halle University. Halle quickly turned from Pietism to rationalism, eventually absorbing Wittenberg University, which no longer exists. That should serve as a warning to all those who excuse, promote, or ignored UOJ. Forgiveness without faith is a cancer. Galatians 1:8.

Anonymous said...

I need to read everything more in depth still. Christ died once and for all, isn't that correct. Scripture says, "that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation" --2 Corinthians 5:19

In some sense, I would think that Christ death justifies the world. Faith is entirely the work of God. Christ's atonement is not limited. If it were so, we would be suscribing to the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement. Not only did he die for the sins of the Christian, but the sins of the whole world. So, in some sense, I believe he has justified the whole world. Yet, we are saved by grace through faith.

I, however, am unsure how Scripture can both say that Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world, and yet only some are to be chosen to go to heaven. This is my question.

Levi Powers

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Levi,

I'm trying to let the discussion continue without chiming in at every comment or at every assertion. But there are some questions I don't want to leave hanging in midair.

You're absolutely right that Christ has died to pay for the sins of the world. The atonement he made on the cross is NOT limited to those who believe, or who will believe. There can be no question about this.

In the same way, the paradox remains in the doctrine of election, and Lutherans have no problems with the paradox: God elected some to salvation, but he elected no one to condemnation. If someone believes and is saved, it is 100% the work of God. If someone disbelieves and is condemned, it is 100% the fault of man.

Perhaps the words of Luther Against the Heavenly Prophets will shed some light on the discussion,

"We treat of the forgiveness of sins in two ways. First, how it is achieved and won. Second, how it is distributed and given to us. Christ has achieved it on the cross, it is true. But he has not distributed or given it on the cross. He has not won it in the supper or sacrament. There he has distributed and given it through the Word, as also in the gospel, where it is preached. He has won it once for all on the cross. But the distribution takes place continuously, before and after, from the beginning to the end of the world. For inasmuch as he had determined once to achieve it, it made no difference to him whether he distributed it before or after, through his Word, as can easily be proved from Scripture. But now there is neither need nor time to do so.

"If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ, as Dr. Karlstadt trifles, in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross. Therefore, Luther has rightly taught that whoever has a bad conscience from his sins should go to the sacrament and obtain comfort, not because of the bread and wine, not because of the body and blood of Christ, but because of the word which in the sacrament offers, presents, and gives the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for me." (Luther's Works: Vol. 40, p.213).

Brett Meyer said...

In This We Believe posted above the WELS confession concerning Justification Romans 5:18 is used to contend that God declared the whole unbelieving world Justified by Christ whether they believe it or not. "All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for "the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men" (Romans 5:18)."

KJV - "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."

It's important to point out that if this verse is to be used as proof of universal Justification then to remain consistent it also is proof of universal salvation because the Justification that came upon all men is that Justification which brings eternal life. ie: "the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men." "unto justification of life." KJV

The exegesis that UOJ uses to declare the whole world Justified has in the same verse declared them saved, "life for all men."

Christ declares in this verse that the very same Justification brings life for all men. Note there aren’t two justifications here as UOJ teaches, Objective and Subjective. The one Justification brings life. Anyone who is declared Justified by God is saved.

Now I understand that every UOJist will wreathe in anguish over this and say they do not teach Universal Salvation but then they cannot use this verse in an attempt to prove Universal Justification either.

It's by God's grace that in this one verse there is the refutation of UOJ's claim that the whole world was Justified. It's important to remember the Lutheran method of exegesis which is that no verse is to be interpreted alone, Scripture interprets Scripture (2 Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.) and with this method the clarity, unity and perspicuity of Scripture is brought forth by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit working through the Word.

I hope this helps the discussion.

Mathetes said...

(Apologies to the moderators. I forgot to put my John Hancock on my comment.)

Thanks to all of you "Impavidissimos" for getting to this heart of Lutheranism! Any discrepancies in this doctrine seem to appear "like maggots on firewood that come with a gentle touch, but have the hardest teeth, and gnaw away at the core of the firewood, yet resulting that it still appears undamaged on the surface." (Also Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, Locus on Poverty. Translation own.)

It is so very easy to think of atonement and saving as the same thing. It is not. The wonderful phrase "Christ died for the whole world" does not mean that the whole world is heaven-bound.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Mr. Benjamin Rusch

Brett Meyer said...

Correction: I wrote "wreathe" and should have written "writhe". Forgive me, I didn't mean to imply that UOJists are in the holiday spirit.

Michael Sullivan said...

Because of his promise to Abraham, God declared all Old Testament Israel to be his chosen people. And yet only those who believed His Word were the true children of God. In the Old Testament the promise made by God was offered to every Israelites; it was objectively declared. But it only benefited those who received it by faith, those who heard the promise and in whose heart faith was created by means of the Word . Isn't this similar to justification? God declared the whole world forgiven, but only those who believe this promise receive forgiveness and are truly forgiven. Only those who hear the Gospel and in whose heart faith is created by means of the Gospel, truly receive the promise of salvation and forgiveness. My point is this: The argument against universal objective justification being that it sounds silly ("God saying you are forgiven, but not really") is not really an argument. God said something similar to his Old Testament people when He declared them to be his own, and yet only those who received this promise by faith were truly his own. Isn’t there a parallel here? (If not, I am willing to be corrected with an explanation.)
Another question I have is this: Every time I read Romans 3:23,24 I see Universal Objective Justification. If the subject of the participle of δικαιούμενοι in verse 24 is not πάντες of verse 23, than what is? I really would like to see a brief explanation of this verse from someone who says universal objective justification is not in Scripture.
In Christian love,
Michael Sullivan

Anonymous said...

I think part of the misunderstanding as well is the context. We must remember that Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome. They are already saved. There is a premise in place because of this. Paul is not addressing John Q. Public.

Peace in Jesus,

Joe Krohn

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Sullivan,

I would add a comment here about Romans 3:23-24 as a matter of exegesis. (Obviously a brief comment like this can't do exegetical justice to this section in Romans, but for what it's worth...)

It's not quite as simple as saying πάντες = all people, always, period. The context will reveal who the "all" are.

In v.22, Paul has just described what this "righteousness" is that has been revealed, and how it comes: a "righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to πάντας those who believe." Faith is already identified as key to this justification that comes from God.

In v.23, the πάντες clearly refers to "all" those whom Paul has already proved to be under sin, i.e., "the whole world" (c.f. v.19), both Jews and Gentiles. No question there.

But in v.24, the verb is a present tense, δικαιούμενοι, "being justified." One would think that if these "all" have already been justified, Paul would have used a perfect tense here. The present seems to indicate the status change that takes place as people are brought to faith in Jesus through the gospel.

In Luther's Commentary on Romans, he adds a gloss here: "all, as many as are justified" (quotquot justificantur in Latin). As many as are justified are justified, not by works, but freely by his grace...through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus...through faith in his blood.

Paul wraps up the whole thought of the paragraph in v.26, δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ, "justifying the one who is of the faith in Jesus."

I just don't see how faith is not an essential part of Paul's whole argument here - not faith as "that which man brings to the table," but faith as that gift of God through which a man's status before God changes from "wicked" to "righteous."

Brett Meyer said...

Michael, I believe your initial example is pointing to two very different things. God’s chosen people were the Isrealites, the decendents of Abraham. Chosen, meaning chosen to be the people through whom God would bring the promised Messiah. Not chosen as to those who would be His children and receive the forgiveness of sins since there were people of other nations who were children of God through faith in the promised Messiah, and because, as you correctly point out, there were those within the nation of Isreal who rejected the promise. Now this is separate from how God declared how the Old Testament people could become the children of God and receive the forgiveness of their sins. That way was through believing in the promised Messiah. Your statement, “In the Old Testament the promise made by God was offered to every Israelites; it was objectively declared. But it only benefited those who received it by faith”, is a good example of why this distinction needs to be made. You bring in a critical consideration concerning when a person is considered Justified, further, at what point is God’s wrath over a person’s sin removed, and he becomes a child of God. Christ declares in Galations 3:6-9, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”
Romans 3:23-25, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…” Note that verse 24 declares, “redemption that is in Christ Jesus” and teaches that in Christ is redemption from sin and death, in Christ is all righteousness and, in fact, the only righteousness that exists is in Christ and never apart from Him. Verse 25 shows how we have access to Christ’s righteousness, how He becomes the propitiation for someone’s sins, and that is through faith in His blood, through faith in Christ we are in Him and He in us. Through faith we have all that is His, His righteousness which avails against God’s wrath, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Instantaneously through faith worked graciously by the Holy Ghost through the Word and Sacraments, the Means of Grace. Pastor Rydecki’s quote of Luther’s faithful Against the Heavenly Prophets confirms this also. More importantly the Confessions of the Lutheran Church confirm this here, The Defense of the Augsburg Confession What Is Justifying Faith?, 48] "The adversaries feign that faith is only a knowledge of the history, and therefore teach that it can coexist with mortal sin. Hence they say nothing concerning faith, by which Paul so frequently says that men are justified, because those who are accounted righteous before God do not live in mortal sin." http://www.bookofconcord.org/defense_4_justification.php

Those who are accounted righteous before God do not live in mortal sin. This is a faithful confession which is in harmony with Scripture, anything contrary to this is not of God.

I hope this helps,
In Christ,
Brett Meyer

Marcus Manthey said...

As I read this thread, I must admit to being more than a little perplexed. I was unaware that there was, among us, such profound confusion over this vital doctrine of Scripture. Some of the statements here – particularly those that refer to “two justifications,” demonstrate a shallowness of thinking that is inconsistent with the level of theological concern and involvement typically displayed on this blog. Where has this idea come from? Is not the language sufficiently plain to make clear that what is called “objective justification” or “subjective justification” is simple short-hard for “justification viewed from an objective, or general, perspective” and “justification viewed from a subjective, or personal, perspective?”

These are not two justifications, nor has any WELS statement or confession of which I am aware ever claimed as much. It is, rather, two ways of speaking about the one justification that Scripture teaches. It acknowledges that Scripture itself speaks about God’s act of justification in two distinct, though related, ways. That’s why, in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul can write in v.18 of “God, who reconciled us (i.e. believers) to himself through Christ,” then in the very next verse and say “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ.” Paul isn’t talking about two reconciliations; he is only viewing God’s act of reconciling from two different points of view.

Think of justification as a magnificent banquet God has prepared. He intends all the delicious food and drink to be for all people. He has issued banquet invitations to all people. He isn’t kidding; the banquet really is for all. However, some people don’t know about the invitation so they don’t come to the banquet. Some don’t believe the invitation is meant for them so they don’t come. Some convince themselves that they won’t like or don’t need the food being served at the banquet so they don’t come. A fortunate few hear God’s invitation and believe it; they come to the banquet and enjoy all it has to offer. Then God lets them go out and tell those who don’t know it yet just how wonderful God’s banquet is.

The banquet that God prepares for all and the banquet that is enjoyed by the few are not two different banquets. It’s the same banquet, viewed from two points of view. The banquet as God sees it is for everyone; the banquet as the believer views it is just for him or her. Same banquet.

That’s justification, and if you read Scripture and the Confessions (and the WELS writers quoted above) with that in mind, you will find that all the pieces fall into place.

LutherRocks said...

"These are not two justifications, nor has any WELS statement or confession of which I am aware ever claimed as much."

There are scads; as recent as last June at the South Central District Convention. Go to their website. Go to the WELS website. Go to the seminary website. There are essays/statements/confessions galore.

Joe Krohn

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Marcus,

Thanks for your comments. They are much appreciated and well stated.

The banquet analogy seems appropriate (reminiscent of a certain parable, of course). I think the questions arise more when the forensic analogy is applied. For example, some would ask, "Is that atheist over there considered by God to be righteous or unrighteous - innocent or guilty - saint or sinner - saved or condemned?"

At least, that's how I've heard the question phrased. I'll step out of the discussion again for awhile and allow others to answer.

Brett Meyer said...

Marcus, according to Romans 5:18, used as UOJ's proof text for Objective Justification, those declared by God to be justified by His divine verdict are justified unto eternal life, saved eternally. When the doctrine of UOJ says no, your only saved when you believe you've already been declared justified, it teaches another justification - two justifications.

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

I don't get it....

LutherRocks said...

Martin Luther, the most interesting theologian in the world. He puts Justification right where it is supposed to be; After Faith.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

We've had some good discussion on this topic, but it's time to close this thread for awhile, lest we get sidetracked from what justification is all about: Christ.

In Christ, God's mercy extends to the world of sinners. In Christ there is justification for all. One's righteous status before God is only in Christ, not apart from Christ, and one becomes "in Christ" through faith alone.

What many are trying to guard against is the notion that "God has done his part. Now you have to do yours: You have to believe!" That's wrong, and we're right to guard against such a notion. Faith is not man's work that man must complete to be justified. It is the work of God as his Holy Spirit creates justifying faith through the preaching of the Gospel.

Another thing that people are trying to guard against is the notion that man's faith effects a change in the heart of God, as if God were angry until man complied with the "faith requirement," because of which God puts his anger aside and finally forgives. That, too, is wrong.

What is the objective reality conveyed in the preaching of the Gospel? It is the promise that, by faith in Christ's once for all sacrifice, we have the favor of a loving Father. The promise is objective (true, whether you believe it or not). Christ's sacrifice is objective and universal (a valid Substitute for all men). God's will for the salvation of all men is objective. The righteous status, however, is imputed only to faith.

Essentially, there are two verdicts of which Scripture speaks: condemnation for those who remain in Adam (the natural state of us all), and justification for those who are in Christ. There is one justification, pronounced upon Christ as the Substitute for all men (in this sense, it is objective). When the Spirit brings us into Christ by faith, then we, too, share in that verdict.

Where is our confidence, then? In Christ. What is our message to the world? Repent and believe the good news - that Christ has made satisfaction for the sins of all. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Whoever does not believe will be condemned.

There are plenty of doctrinal distinctions that can be made when speaking of justification, and preachers must be very careful how we speak.

But it is possible to overcomplicate the message, to the point that Christ is lost in the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rydecki

In my opinion you are closing the conversation just when it's getting somewhere. Please, allow a few more comments

The WELS (and other Lutheran Synods) confess what Walther did, that all men are considered Righteous irrespective of faith, the moment when Christ arose from the dead.

I think it's fair to challenge people to be introspective--challenge people to examine their own beliefs in this issue.

Christ cannot be lost in the discussion because we are talking about His imputed Righteousness to us.

I doubt anyone here would dare to suggest that Christ's Righteousness is imputed to anyone before faith. But therein lies to conflict. No one would say Christ's righteousness is imputed before faith, but many would, a half minute later say that all are justified. Those are mutually exclusive comments. A person cannot say both.

Is 'Christ's Righteousness available for all', or as many have claimed 'all are righteous'?.

There's a big difference there.

Tom Wyeth

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

OK, a few more, especially from those who haven't had an opportunity to comment yet.

Anonymous said...

I think it is sad that this discussion went beyond:

"We treat of the forgiveness of sins in two ways. First, how it is achieved and won. Second, how it is distributed and given to us."(Luther)

Then, Professor Manthey brought it back around to reality with the banquet analogy.

The people who try to pretend UOJ is any different from atonement try to pin doctrines on the WELS that they do not teach--trying to take statements about UOJ/Atonement as the WELS saying any are saved apart from faith.

That is not, nor has ever been true.

Schottey

Michael Sullivan said...

Dear Pastor Rydecki,
I know this thread is sort-of closed, but there is just one thing I wanted to add. Your wrote concerning the section surrounding Romans 3:23,24: "I just don't see how faith is not an essential part of Paul's whole argument here - not faith as "that which man brings to the table," but faith as that gift of God through which a man's status before God changes from "wicked" to "righteous."
I would agree 100% with that statement, and my questions were not meant to insinuate anything differently. It is just that it seems δικαιούμενοι is used in a different way in verse 24 than in the rest of the section.
When time permits, I will study Romans 3 exegetically. I don’t think I have done a text study on this particular text for quite some time and maybe my preconceived notions what the text is about prevent me from analyzing it objectively. Next time I will try to look at it more objectively.
Regarding my illustration with Israel - the reason I made the comparison is that Paul, in Romans 9-11, talks at length about the situation of Israel and the fact that not all believed, and this is why "not all Israel is Israel." This is not an argument against faith. On the contrary, it supports the truth that justification only comes through faith in the person and work of Christ, but the promise is nevertheless objective and true for all people to be received by faith.
Let me use an illustration to explain what I believe concerning justification and faith: After the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, there was a declaration of peace. But many Japanese soldiers living on the islands did not hear or believe it. Those soldiers were at peace with America - this was there status based on the treaty but those who did not know it or believe it continued to fight and die as enemies. However, if they believed the objective truth that they were at peace: they would not neither fight nor dies as enemies. Isn’t this somewhat similar to the Biblical doctrine of justification: While we were enemies, Christ reconciled us to God through his death. He is our peace. This is objectively true. But this truth does no good if it is not receive in faith. Whoever does not believe this message will die as an enemy of God because he remains an enemy of God (just as the Japanese soldiers who did not hear or believe the declaration of peace died as enemies of America because they were enemies of America since they did not believe the treaty) Those who believe this message (and faith only comes through the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel) are at peace and no longer live as enemies of Christ.
What do you think about this illustration? Where does it lack? Which part is wrong? I humbly submit it for analysis, If this thread is allowed to continue.
Thanks to all who responded. And thank you, Pastor Rydecki, for your good summarizing post.
In Christian love,
Pastor Michael Sullivan

Anonymous said...

Schottey:

The WELS statements on Justification have said that "all people have been declared righteous/saints" but then in many WELS churches we are taught that justification happens through faith only.

This incongruity makes it reasonable and fair to ask which is it:

a)Is Christ's righteousness 'available' to everyone, and imputed individually through faith alone?

or

b) Are all people declared Righteous, and the benefits of the Righteousness imputed through faith?

These are two divergent understandings of the most important doctrine of Christianity. Which is correct? Walther, Pieper, and many WELS theologians argue for viewpoint b) very clearly. Do you believe a) or b)?

---Tom Wyeth

Anonymous said...

The fact that Christ's righteousness is available to everyone is based in the truth that Christ's sacrifice was for everyone.

The guilt and punishment for sin was paid by Christ for everyone.

Yet, none are saved apart from faith.

It is not incongruous to talk about forgiveness in both ways. To say so calls scripture and the writings of Luther and the Concordians incongruous.

If you would like to further discuss this, go back up to posts by Pastor Rydecki, Pastor Manthey, or one of mine and pretend that I am responding to you again.

Schottey

Anonymous said...

Schottey:
You responded to me, but you avoided the question. This question is for everyone, by the way so I'll repeat it here: Pick one of the following.

a)Is Christ's righteousness 'available' to everyone, and imputed individually through faith alone?

or

b) Are all people declared Righteous, and the benefits of the Righteousness imputed through faith? I think I've fairly assessed both views in a) and b. Position a) promotes universal payment for sins (atonement) and individual justification through faith alone. b) promotes Objective and Subjective Justification.
Without being snarky, could you tell us which you believe in Schottey? If you think the my representation of each viewpoint is fair, why can't you answer the question?
---Tom Wyeth

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Sorry if I gave the impression that any of this is not worth talking about. It is. But it can't all be resolved in a comment thread.

Forgiveness won for all, forgiveness distributed through the Means of Grace. Righteousness merited for all, righteousness imputed to faith through the Means of Grace. Release purchased for all of Satan's captives, entrance into God's kingdom by faith in God's Son. A father's heart yearning for the prodigal's return, the relationship restored when the prodigal repents. God's love for the world, salvation for the one who believes in God's One and Only Son. (Lest there be any misunderstanding, see my previous comments about "believing" not being a condition which man must supply, but a condition supplied by God's gracious working.)

I don't know how to speak of this in any other way. I think this is how many people understand Objective and Subjective Justification, so I'm not sure, Mr. Wyeth, that I agree that the definitions you offered are the only possible definitions. (Personally, I would be happy not to use the terms at all, but to use only the words of Scripture when we talk about this.)

Scripture makes a sharp distinction between believers and unbelievers, the righteous and the wicked. When the Binding Key binds, it declares someone to be "not forgiven." I don't know how to speak of the same person as "declared righteous" - from man's perspective or from God's, since what is bound on earth will be bound in heaven, too.

I think we're safest speaking as the Scriptures speak. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son" (John 3:17-18).

I don't think people in the WELS deny the words of Jesus here. Might there sometimes be some inconsistency in the way we talk about it? Sure. Should we work to clarify our language and thus our thinking? Sure.

As I said before, Christ is the key to the whole discussion. As we hold Christ out to the world through the gospel message as God's ambassadors, we proclaim the simple truth: "Here is life! Here is forgiveness! Here is salvation! Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!" And then we trust, not in man's decision, but in the Spirit's power to work faith when and where he wills.

Anonymous said...

Put me down for "a" even though you didn't ask me. It is a good question!

If there is no repentance, how can there be forgiveness? If someone does something bad to me and they are not sorry, there is nothing to forgive because they have not asked for it! Forgiveness is only required when a person is repentant. Correct me if I am wrong but this is consistent throughout the Bible without exception.

Joe Krohn

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rydecki
I agree with your words:
"Forgiveness won for all, forgiveness distributed through the Means of Grace."

In these words you have spoken the undenial truth of Universal Atonement and Individual Justification by faith alone. Thus, will you condemn the doctrine of Objective Justification which states:

(J.P. Meyer) "When God reconciled the world to Himself through Christ, He individually pronounced forgiveness to each individual sinner whether that sinner ever comes to faith or not."

Since I assume you believe what you wrote in the above post, then I also assume that you you disagree with J.P. Meyer, Walther, Pieper, Sig Becker and all others who claim that ALL PEOPLE have been declared righteous.

Please confirm your belief by denying it's opposite.
---Tom Wyeth

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Mr. Wyeth,

This needs to be the end of this discussion for the moment. I've tried to summarize twice now.

You seem very bent on getting people to choose from your arbitrary options and to make condemnations based on them, which is what I meant with allowing the discussion to lose focus on Christ.

You arbitrarily define Objective Justification with the quote that supposedly came from J.P. Meyer. I say "supposedly," because Pastor Jon Buchholz was unable to find the exact source of that quote when he presented his 2005 paper at the WELS synod convention. Nevertheless he addressed it:

"When God reconciled the world to Himself through Christ, He individually pronounced forgiveness to each individual sinner whether that sinner ever comes to faith or not." When we wish to speak about objective justification, we must use objective terminology. This statement is a muddle of objective and personal terms. When God reconciled the world [objective] . . . he individually [a specific or personal term] pronounced forgiveness [as shown in the body of the essay, the word “forgive” in Scripture is overwhelmingly used to describe the personal remission of sins received through repentance and faith worked by the means of grace] to each individual [another specific term] sinner. (all brackets in the original)

And so, yes, I join Pastor Buchholz in rejecting the statement you quoted as Scripturally inaccurate, and also as an inaccurate representation of Objective Justification.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rydecki,

I've been very honest and willing for someone to challenge my "arbitrary" statements. Actually, I asked for opinions as to whether you (plural) think they are fair or not. Since you haven't argued with that, I suppose you think my two choices a) and b) are fair and valid. (As a matter of fact, I think my descriptions of both position are the most unbiased that I've yet read!)

But since you disagree that "All sinners are declared to be righteous regardless of faith" then I suppose you'd disagree with the following quote from The WELS statement of doctrine: "This We Believe", which agrees with J.P. Meyer by saying:

"We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ."

---Tom Wyeth

Anonymous said...

oh sorry... I should've written this in the comment I just sent

If you can post an answer on which of my two statements you agree with and answer whether or not you disagree with the quoted statement from "This we Believe" I promise I will never trouble you with Objective Justification again.

--Tom

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rydecki,

As a brother in Christ I must say: Your dodging of questions and control of information is disquieting. The Wisconsin Synod needs to have its senses sharpened, not dulled.

I find it impossible to understand why you would run from a conversation about Justification. If your position is so easily defendable (and so obviously true) why wouldn't you take my comment as an opportunity to clarify the issue of Objective Justification?

If you don't like my points a) and b), please say why. Without bias, those two points remain the clearest and most succinct summaries of the pro and anti Objective Justification arguments. Having read much of what you've written on this blog, I respect your mind enough to say that you are capable of it. You're no dummy.

Why the subterfuge? Why the deceit? If you want me to Prove, in no uncertain terms that my two statement a) and b) are fair and valid summaries, I will do so.

I fear you have been coerced into abandoning discernment by people who can legitimately threaten your job. Let me encourage you that IF this is the case, by forging ahead and practicing discernment (which WILL include questioning the WELS doctrinal positions) you will store up treasures for yourself.

You need to quit thinking about the WELS and begin thinking about the invisible church. If you truly believe your Pastoral Call is from God, then the WELS is merely a cosmic fart. If you lose your job, are shunned, become a Barista, or are physically harmed for your application of 1 John 4:1, you will be better for it, if you continue to Practice Scriptural discernment.

Again

a)Is Christ's righteousness 'available' to everyone, and imputed individually through faith alone?

or

b) Are all people declared Righteous, and the benefits of the Righteousness imputed through faith?

--Tom

Michael Sullivan said...

Dear Mr Wyeth,

I see both statements as incomplete. Sound biblical doctrine is not decided through multiple choice.

Here is my statement of faith: “All people are declared righteous by means of Christ's work of redemption (his perfect keeping of the law, his vicarious sacrifice, and his resurrection), and this righteousness is imputed to the individual through faith alone. Faith is created and sustained by the Holy Spirit working alone though the means of Grace (the Gospel in Word and Sacrament).

Dear Mr Krohn,

Regarding your statement about forgiveness: "If someone does something bad to me and they are not sorry, there is nothing to forgive because they have not asked for it! Forgiveness is only required when a person is repentant. Correct me if I am wrong but this is consistent throughout the Bible without exception."

You are VERY mistaken. Romans 5:10 says we were reconciled to God while we were still his enemies. Forgiveness is in the heart of God and His forgiveness does not need our repentance. Now, if you were to say that, for the imputation of forgiveness upon the individual, faith and repentance are needed; I would agree with that. Faith grabs hold of the promise of forgiveness and results in repentance. A man cannot repent without first knowing and believing Christ's promise of forgiveness, and it is only by means of the Gospel that faith is created. If a man does not believe the promise of forgiveness, then he does not repent and he remains under God's wrath - not because God has not forgiven him, but because he was unwilling to believe in Jesus and be forgiven. (Consider John 3:16-21, and look specifically at verse 18 and the reason for condemnation)

Forgiveness is 100% God's doing and not in the least bit caused or initiated by us. Consider God's love for Jacob before he was born (cf. Romans 9:11-16). He was forgiven and loved before he even had a chance to repent. Why? Romans 9:15 and 16 explain: “For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.”

There are many people I have forgiven from my heart who have neither asked for it or repented. They may still avoid and ignore me, living in a state of enmity against me, but they are forgiven from my heart. But what good does it do them if their animosity towards me isn't changed? How much more true is this regarding the world’s relationship with God.

In Christian love,
Pastor Michael Sullivan

Anonymous said...

Pastor Sullivan,

If you 'see both as incomplete", please describe why. I know a) and b) are not the complete picture, but I can quote you sources that make it abundantly clear that a)is what the anti-UOJ crowd believes, and b)is what the pro-UOJ crowd believes.

I have my opinion and my reasons, but I really am just trying to figure out if the folks on this site believe that Christ's righteousness is imputed to a person before they are given faith by the Holy Spirit. I've been asking pretty simple questions.

Pastor Sullivan, do you believe the faithless are righteous guilt-free saints???

--Tom Wyeth

LutherRocks said...

Pastor Sullivan,

Thank you for addressing my post.

Here is the verse in context. And remember, Paul is already talking to justified sinners (Believers) as stated in the opening verses of chapter 5. "1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have[a] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

(New KJV)
Christ in Our Place

"6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation."

Reconciliation does mean forgiveness, but is the end result of the process of repentance and forgiveness which comes through faith. Your last paragraph proves my point. You may have forgiven many people, but you still are not reconciled since there is still enmity. You have disproved your own argument. The Bible says if someone sins against us we are to go to him and show him his sin. (Conviction/Law) If he is sorry and asks forgiveness we forgive him. (Gospel) If he is not sorry his sins are retained. (Condemnation) Besides that if God doesn't need repentance from us to forgive, why should we bother?

Your John 3 reference is a beautiful picture of the Atonement. Christ's death clears the way for reconciliation, but there is no benefit before faith.

I believe your Romans 9 reference is more about Election that anything else.

Peace in Jesus,

Joe Krohn

Michael Sullivan said...

Dear Mr. Wyeth,

Not to sound flippant, but read my statement again and compare it with both of yours and you will see the difference.

I will restate it: I believe that ALL people are JUSTIFIED, that is DECLARED forgiven and RIGHTEOUS – because of the atoning work of Christ. I believe that THIS very RIGHTEOUSNESS is IMPUTED upon the individual ONLY through FAITH the Christ's work of atonement. Faith is a gift of God, created and sustain by the Holy Spirit working through the means of Grace alone.

Do I believe the faithless are righteous guilt-free saints? No, because, according to Biblical usage, the word “saint” is ALWAYS used in regard to a person who believes. I know about the Kokomo statements, but I disagree with the usage of the term saint in them (so did Becker, by-the-way). I also think the terms used in them are confusing at best (Becker also stated the same thing). Would I subscribe to the Kokomo statements as they were originally written? No, but not because I do not believe that Jesus declared the world forgiven in Christ Jesus (as stated, I do believe this), but because I think the statements are sloppy in terminology prone to misunderstanding.


Dear Mr. Krohn,

You wrote: “Reconciliation does mean forgiveness, but is the end result of the process of repentance and forgiveness which comes through faith.”

If reconciliation is the end process of repentance and forgiveness, how can “enemies” be reconciled to God? An enemy of God does not repent. An enemy has no faith. And yet, “WHEN we WERE enemies we WERE reconciled to God through the death of His Son . . .”!

You wrote: “Your last paragraph proves my point. You may have forgiven many people, but you still are not reconciled since there is still enmity.” But the enmity is one sided. I am no longer at enmity but at peace with them. They are forgiven whether or not they know or believe it. I hold no grudge against them.

You wrote: “I believe your Romans 9 reference is more about Election that anything else.” Yes, but you cannot speak election outside of justification and forgiveness. God’s love for Jacob happened “in Christ.” He could not choose to love Jacob without choosing to forgive and justify him. (Cf. Ephesians 1:4-14 and note how election and justification are so intertwined.

One more point of interest: Matthew 18:23-35 – Where in this parable is there repentance? The servants both asked for more time but not forgiveness? And the one who might have asked for forgiveness (based on the King’s Words) is thrown into jail for not showing mercy FROM THE HEART.

Again, forgiveness takes place in the HEART of the forgiver and is not dependant on the person asking for it. But forgiveness will only benefit the person who is forgiven if he knows and believes he is forgiven. And to know and believe you are forgiven, you have to know and believed you sinned. Repentance then is acknowledging our sin in sorrow and contrition and looking in faith in the promise of forgiveness. Repentance does not benefit God, it benefits me. Through repentance and faith the forgiveness that God has is his heart for me is imputed upon me.

Through the work of Christ God is at peace with me. But only though faith in the work of Christ am I at peace with God.

In Christian love,

Pastor Michael Sullivan

PS - I really have to get back to my studies for tomorrow. I will also be away until after Tuesday, so do not take my future absence from the discussion as any slight.

LutherRocks said...

Pastor Sullivan,

We were all enemies of God until the debt of sin was paid for at the cross. The debt of sin was reconciled. Atoned for. But yet it was still Abraham's faith that was given to him that saved him. Faith in the promise. This is what was credited to him as righteousness until the time of Christ's payment for his sins; Christ's death. This is why he is called the father of our faith. This is the model. This shows that there is only justification and righteousness and forgiveness through faith alone.

Look at the Old Testament at the Day of Atonement. In order to illustrate to the Israelites this atonement two goats were used. One was slaughtered to signify the payment; death. And the other used as a scapegoat. The sins (after confession) were put on the scapegoat and the goat was taken out of the camp taking the sins away from the people.

You said "But the enmity is one sided. I am no longer at enmity but at peace with them. They are forgiven whether or not they know or believe it. I hold no grudge against them."

It may be so with you, but not with God because all men are condemned outside of faith. To preach to a man that his sin is forgiven before he comes to faith...what good does that do him? It is illogical. He must be convicted by the Law first. It shows the need for the Gospel.

Peace,

Joe Krohn

Anonymous said...

It always seems to me that those who argue so vehemently against what's commonly called "UOJ" lack the capacity or willingness to understand the fundamental difference between an objective truth and a subjective truth. Something can be objectively true but not necessarily subjectively true at the same time. It's not a contradiction, it's simply a difference in perspective.

That's why the above demand to pick either choice A or choice B is silly, as if the deep mysteries of God can be reduced to a simple either/or question.

Let me give you an imperfect example. It would be silly for me to say to you, "Pick one: A) You're a sinner or B) You're a saint." Obviously Scripture says both things at the same time, and obviously it would be foolish to pick one choice or the other. It's not a matter of either/or, it's a matter of both/and, depending on one's perspective.

Likewise, from an objective perspective, Christ has justified the world. From a subjective perspective, Christ has justified those who believe. Scripture expresses both truths.

So, no, proponents of "UOJ" do not believe in two separate justifications. We believe in one justification which can be viewed from two different perspectives. Why should we be surprised that such a beautiful thing as justification is a multi-faceted gem?

Mr. Adam Peeler

Michael Sullivan said...

Dear Mr. Krohn,

I have a few minutes before I leave for service, so I wanted to respond to your post.

Regarding my forgiving as an example, your wrote: "It may be so with you, but not with God because all men are condemned outside of faith."

I agree that all men are condemned outside of faith, because outside of faith they are outside of Christ. But that doesn't mean that man's faith moved God to forgive man. Earlier I used an illustration. I will copy it again here for your consideration:

After the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, there was a declaration of peace. But many Japanese soldiers living on the islands did not hear or believe it. Those soldiers were at peace with America - this was there status based on the treaty but those who did not know it or believe it continued to fight and die as enemies. However, if they believed the objective truth that they were at peace: they would not neither fight nor dies as enemies. Isn’t this somewhat similar to the Biblical doctrine of justification: While we were enemies, Christ reconciled us to God through his death. He is our peace. This is objectively true. But this truth does no good if it is not receive in faith. Whoever does not believe this message will die as an enemy of God because he remains an enemy of God (just as the Japanese soldiers who did not hear or believe the declaration of peace died as enemies of America because they were enemies of America since they did not believe the treaty) Those who believe the message that God has reconciled himself to us (and faith only comes through the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel) are at peace and no longer live as enemies of Christ. Let me add to this: God is reconciled to us, not because of our faith, but because of his grace demonstrated in the work for Christ for the whole world. We are reconciled to God through faith in God’s grace demonstrated in the work of Christ for the whole world. Without faith, we would still be enemies of God – not because God did not forgive us but because we refuse Christ’s forgiveness. Again, look carefully at John 3:18 for the reason of condemnation: it is not because God didn’t forgive him, but because the person has not believed in Jesus and the forgiveness Jesus offered him.

You also wrote: "To preach to a man that his sin is forgiven before he comes to faith...what good does that do him? It is illogical."

Many things are illogical in the Bible, but they are still true (ie. Virgin Birth, Trinity, Dual nature of Christ, etc. . .) What good is it to tell a man that God has forgiven his sin, that God has reconciled himself to the man through the death of his Son? It gives the man something to put his faith in so that he may repent. Remember, part of repentance is trusting in the promise that Christ forgives.

You Wrote: "He must be convicted by the Law first. It shows the need for the Gospel."

You are absolutely correct with this statement. In order to believe one is forgiven, he must believe he has sinned. Law must be preached. But if Law is preached to the exclusion of the Gospel promise of God's reconciliation accomplished in Christ, the man will not be able to repent. Only the Gospel produces faith, and the Gospel is the proclamation that, in Christ, God reconciled the world to himself. Faith holds God to this promise and is only created through this promise. And when this promise is received through faith, the man is reconciled to God. He no longer views God as his enemy, but trusts God's declaration that he is forgiven - the declaration God made through the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Anyway, I ran out of time. Blessings to all.

In Christian love,
Pastor Michael Sullivan

Anonymous said...

Pastor Sullivan, I did read what you wrote again, and think I've finally made sense out your language game.

You are using the two verbs "imputed" and "declared" to mean different things. I.E.:: "Declared Righteousness" is different than "imputed Righteousness" according to you?? You're saying the whole world has been "declared" righteous, but only the faithful have righteousness "imputed" to them? Do I read you correctly?

Can you show me Scripture were it says "all men have been forgiven and declared righteous"? And can you point to Scripture that tells us at what exact moment in time when this happened?


Mr. Peeler--
I don't think it is becoming of a Christian dialogue to question someone's cognitive capacity. This is a complicated discussion, and therefore requires that people go back and forth to understand each others' metaphor. This takes time. I really respect the willingness to converse displayed by Pastor Sullivan and others and I expect that they are approaching the conversation with the same interest in dialogue that I am.

I'm not suggesting you don't understand, but if you'll allow me to unpack this issue apart from codified terminology, (and emotional upwelling) I think I can explain the gap in understanding between the two viewpoints.

--Tom Wyeth(to be continued)

Anonymous said...

(continued)

The people who disagree with Objective Universal Justification state that there is a difference between one's sins being paid for and one's guilt being removed. They state that Christ universally paid for the sins of the world, fulfilling for all people what God requires: righteousness. Through the Means of Grace, God creates faith in the hearts of individuals. Though this faith, God imputes the righteousness of Christ to individuals. This is where the phrase "Justification by Grace, through Faith" is such a clarifying statement. This must be understood sequentially: Man sinned, God promised a Savior, God sent the Christ, the Christ paid for all sin, The Spirit creates faith in hearts through the Means of Grace, the righteousness of the Christ is assigned (imputed) to the faithful.
Therefore, without the Means of Grace a man cannot possibly have faith. Without faith a man cannot possibly have the righteousness of the Christ assigned to him. Without this attribution, a man cannot possibly be Righteous, and therefore is not Justified by God.
Some of those who disagree with Objective Universal Justification think it's a semantic issue, noting that Scripture only uses the concepts "justify/righteous" to refer to those who possess faith. If Justification comes 'through' faith, (Justification by Grace 'through' faith) how can you also use that word to refer to the universal aspect of Christ's work?? Isn't that giving the word 'justify' multiple meanings? Those who believe the problem is semantic also recognize that the use of wrong words can and will lead to wrong beliefs--noting that Universal Objective Justification has, in the past, led to doctrinal errors, such as the 1984 paper on the subject by Sig. Becker where he wrote:
"For if the sins of all men have been forgiven in the heart of God, then men are forgiven by God whether they believe it or not."
This clearly states that forgiveness happens irrespective of faith, which of course, is Forgiveness of Sins without the Means of Grace. Contrast this with Luther, who wrote in the large Catechism (Third Article): "But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness, as also there can be no holiness [sanctification].
Those who disagree with Objective Justification believe that the burden of proof lies with those who present an idea that is not found in the Book of Concord or in the writings of the Early Fathers. Until they offer proof that Luther, the Confessors and thousands of faithful men believed in a forgiveness of sin before the reception of the Holy Spirit (and this not of ourselves...) into the hearts of man, we must continue to assert Objective Justification's misuse and misunderstanding of half a dozen (give or take) Scripture references interpreted in isolation from each verses' context.

Since I do not believe Objective Justification is true, this is my confession of faith. Please, if anyone wants to show how this confession is in error please do so.

--Tom Wyeth.

LutherRocks said...

I stand with Tom Wyeth in his confession.

Joe Krohn

David Jay Webber said...

Here is a little quiz. Who made these statements about the "objective" side of justification, in addition to, and as a necessary prelude to, what he said elsewhere concerning the "subjective" side of justification?:

...the merciful Father...sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: "Be Peter the denier; Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise; the thief on the cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them." Now the Law comes and says: "I find Him a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross!" And so it attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated from all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil. But when sin and death have been abolished by this one man, God does not want to see anything else in the whole world, especially if it were to believe, except sheer cleansing and righteousness. And if any remnants of sin were to remain, still for the sake of Christ, the shining Sun, God would not notice them. ... If the sins of the entire world are on that one man, Jesus Christ, then they are not on the world. But if they are not on Him, then they are still on the world. Again, if Christ Himself is made guilty of all the sins that we have all committed, then we are absolved from all sins, not through ourselves or through our own works or merits but through Him. But if He is innocent and does not carry our sins, then we carry them and shall die and be damned in them. "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen." (1 Cor. 15:57.)

...Christ came and removed the sin of the world so completely that it is entirely deleted, entirely forgiven. But to refuse the Helper, to refuse to hear the Man who abolishes sin, and, more than this, to want to kill Him and to persevere in sin - that is vile and base. It is terrible to hear this proclamation, which brings remission of sin and release from death, maligned as heresy and to see this Helper persecuted.

David Jay Webber said...

...the keys...are an office, a power or command given by God through Christ to all of Christendom for the retaining and remitting of the sins of men. ... Do you believe he is not bound who does not believe in the key which binds? Indeed, he shall learn, in due time, that his unbelief did not make the binding vain, nor did it fail in its purpose. Even he who does not believe that he is free and his sins forgiven shall also learn, in due time, how assuredly his sins were forgiven, even though he did not believe it. St. Paul says in Rom. 3[:3]: "Their faithlessness [does not] nullify the faithfulness of God." We are not talking here either about people's belief or disbelief regarding the efficacy of the keys. We realize that few believe. We are speaking of what the keys accomplish and give. He who does not accept what the keys give receives, of course, nothing. But this is not the key's fault. Many do not believe the gospel, but this does not mean that the gospel is not true or effective. A king gives you a castle. If you do not accept it, then it is not the king's fault, nor is he guilty of a lie. But you have deceived yourself and the fault is yours. The king certainly gave it.

The preaching of the holy gospel itself is principally and actually an absolution in which forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in general and in public to many persons, or publicly or privately to one person alone. Therefore absolution may be used in public and in general, and in special cases also in private, just as the sermon may take place publicly or privately, and as one might comfort many people in public or someone individually in private. Even if not all believe [the word of absolution], that is no reason to reject [public] absolution, for each absolution, whether administered publicly or privately, has to be understood as demanding faith and as being an aid to those who believe in it, just as the gospel itself also proclaims forgiveness to all men in the whole world and exempts no one from this universal context. Nevertheless the gospel certainly demands our faith and does not aid those who do not believe it; and yet the universal context of the gospel has to remain.

The answers can be found on this web page.

Anonymous said...

Martin Luther said that.


But what Luther did not say is that "All are declared righteous" apart from faith
--tom wyeth

David Jay Webber said...

Luther did not say that all are declared righteous "apart from faith," and Confessional Lutherans today who properly affirm the objective side of justification don't say that sort of thing either (or at least not without much qualification). And that's because the objective side of justification is affirmed and proclaimed precisely for the sake of faith, so that sinners can believe it. God's justification of the world in Christ, as it is made known to us in the Gospel, is offered to faith, invites and elicits faith, and is the object of faith. And it is of no personal benefit to an individual unless it is received in faith. It is therefore not something that is properly spoken of "apart from faith."

Daniel Baker said...

So basically, it's the merits Christ won in his life and death for all people (objective) that are properly distributed through faith by the Means of the Gospel (subjective), that all may be made righteous for His sake?

Anonymous said...

David Jay Webber wrote:

"Confessional Lutherans today who properly affirm the objective side of justification don't say that sort of thing [all are declared righteous] either"

From "This We Believe"

"We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ."

And did you read the Sig Becker quote I printed above?

"For if the sins of all men have been forgiven in the heart of God, then men are forgiven by God whether they believe it or not"

Looks like you might want to rephrase, Pastor Webber. It looks like the WELS and Becker DO TEACH that "All are declared righteous"...



--Tom Wyeth

David Jay Webber said...

When objective justification is explained most properly and most carefully, it is in the context of explaining what it is that is objectively offered to everyone in the Gospel, for the sake of faith, to elicit faith, and to be an object of faith. Of course, the faith of the penitent sinner does not make the Gospel true. It is true before we believe it, so that we can believe it. That is Becker's intended point. But objective justification is explained best when it is explained in such a way as to be linked to the means of grace, so that the means of grace are seen to be presenting and offering an objectively true justification in Christ, which penitent sinners may then believe for their salvation.

I would not consider any explanation of objective justification to be a proper and edifying explanation, if it just left objective justification as a concept "hanging out there" in theological space, disconnected from the means of grace, and disconnected from the invitation to faith that is actually the whole point of this teaching. Objective justification, when it is properly explained, shows that the Gospel really is a Gospel for my conscience, which gives, and does not demand. Objective justification, properly and carefully explained, assures my troubled conscience that God's forgiveness in Christ is true for me before I believe it, precisely so that I can believe it with divine comfort and confidence.

David Jay Webber said...

"Confessional Lutherans today who properly affirm the objective side of justification don't say that sort of thing [all are declared righteous] either"

Let me add, too, that your bracketed comment shows that you are not getting my point. What Confessional Lutheran do not say, when they are speaking carefully, is that God declares the world righteous in Christ apart from faith. It is the "apart from faith" part of your phrase that distorts what the teaching of objective justification is really all about, and the saving purpose it serves. Objective justification is a component of our overarching doctrine of "justification by faith." Anyone who would therefore say that all people are justified "apart from faith," and who would then just leaves it there, without going on to say that God's justification of the world in Christ is to be proclaimed specifically so that it can be believed, is not teaching according to the pattern of sound words.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Webber,

Thanks for your clarifications. I think they are particularly helpful.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Webber,

I don't want my words to be understood with the wrong tone. With every effort to be constructive I must say that what you wrote was totally unfair. It is plain relativism to trade what someone's words actually mean for what "everyone knows the writer meant". What does it matter what Becker was intending? His words are plain in English, and plain wrong. It's not academically honest to ignore the written errors of an intelligent person.
Becker and others have written that 'all are righteous and forgiven', and we must take them at their word: That is what Objective Justification teaches.

You are right to say that a person's faith doesn't validate Grace, but you don't need a doctrine of Justification-and-righteousness-before-faith to prove that. Scripture is very clear that the Christ came for everyone. Scripture is very clear that Jesus is the acceptable sacrifice for all people and that Jesus paid the price for all people.

To say this, that Jesus was an acceptable sacrifice and paid for all sin, does not mean therefore all people are justified. The Atonement (the payment for sin) is a true Objective fact, but that's not justification. Justification (becoming Righteous) happens when a man believes (faith not of ourselves) that Christ did become sin and conquered death to appease God on our behalf.

There is no forgiveness of sin outside the church, where the Gospel is not. (who said that?)
--Tom Wyeth

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wyeth, once again you are failing to understand the difference between an objective statement and a subjective statement.

Here are two good quotes that have been posted:

1. "Christ came and removed the sin of the world so completely that it is entirely deleted, entirely forgiven."

2. "There is no forgiveness of sin outside the church, where the Gospel is not."

Those two quotes seem to contradict, right? And yet, both of them are true and correct. How can that be? Simple. The first quote is spoken from an objective perspective, and the second is spoken from a subjective perspective. Scripture speaks both objectively and subjectively, and so do we. As Pastor Webber put it in his extremely well-written comments, we dare never separate the objective and subjective realities of salvation.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Pastor Webber,

I didn't see your second post, otherwise I would have addressed what you wrote. And I understand you perfectly:)

How am I distorting the issue when I am simply taking words at their face-value? The Doctrine of OJ, as described by many people using the same phraseology, says plainly that God has declared all people innocent. ("Apart from faith" is understood, because many who make up 'all people' die without faith.) No matter what they say next, they've still said that all people are righteous. There is no way to change the meaning of that with contextualization either, because there is nothing left unclear.

Even if Objective Justification was never spoken of in isolation, what you're saying doesn't mesh.

To say that "the whole world is innocent", followed by "and through faith we get that innocence" is logical contradiction, because the first statement says "all are innocent" while the second implies "all are not innocent, because we need faith get it".

Can you show me from Scripture where the Bible lays out a paradox like this, regarding justification?

--Tom

David Jay Webber said...

"Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

This statement by the Baptist was for the purpose of instilling and shaping a Christ-centered, justifying faith in the specific disciples to whom he made it. They were to "behold" Christ in faith, and as they beheld him, they were to believe what John was telling them. But the statement itself was a statement about Christ's removal and carrying off of the sins of the whole world, and not only the sins of those disciples. The disciples in question were to believe that Christ would take away their sins, not because they were singled out in Christ's saving work, but because Christ's work involved the taking away of the sins of all. And so, all who might hear what John the Baptist tells those disciples on this occasion, in the pages of Scripture, can and should believe that his words are true for them too, because they are true for everyone.

Anonymous said...

In the OT on the Day of Atonement, when the sins were put on the scapegoat to be taken away, there was first confession of sin as it would be with the coming Christ...

Joe Krohn

Anonymous said...

I didn't ask for one of your proof passages. I asked for Scriptural evidence of the paradox you are promoting.

The Christian is, at the same time, saint and sinner, but I find nothing in Scripture or the Confessions (or Augustine and the early Saints) to indicate that such a dichotomy exists in the faithless.


To say that Jesus was an acceptable sacrifice and paid for all sin, does not mean therefore all people are justified. The Atonement (the payment for sin) is a true Objective fact, but that's not justification. Justification (becoming Righteous) happens when a man believes (faith not of ourselves) that Christ did become sin and conquered death to appease God on our behalf.

--Tom

David Jay Webber said...

Joe,

Are you saying, then, that when John said to the disciples, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," what he really meant was, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of those who first confess their sin"?

Anonymous said...

After considering the blatant misuse of John 1:29
I've decided that I'm not going to be part of this conversation.

There is no winning when you are talking with people who twist grammar to prove their point. Baseless Sophistry

The Baptizer was pointing to Jesus and telling his audience who the man was and what he had come to do. He was not telling everyone that he "declared the whole world innocent whether you believe it".

Pastor Webber, I don't think you or anyone should be twisting Scripture this way.
--Tom

Anonymous said...

"Pastor Webber, I don't think you or anyone should be twisting Scripture this way."

How can you possibly claim that Pastor Webber is the one twisting Scripture? John says "the world" and Pastor Webber interprets that to mean "the world". The ones twisting Scripture are the ones who claim that "the world" means something less than the world.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

oh and I shouldn't have written "winning".

I haven't been discussing this to win. I should've written: There is no use talking with people who twist grammar to prove their point.

Adios Intrepid Lutherans.
--tom

LPC said...

When St John the Baptist said - behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, he meant that Jesus would receive the punishment for our sins and not the way Pr Jay teaches about this verse. I am astounded at this interpretation.

For I will counter and put to you that what Pr Jay says about John The Baptist's confession is not what Jesus taught. Here is counter proof of Pr. Jay's contention... from Jesus' words himself...

John 9:41...
Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

Why did Jesus say this if what Pr Jay says is true?

Hence, Pr. Jay is taking the phrase "takes away the sin of the world" as Atonement but as "Justification". Hence, by his teaching, all are already Justified even those who reject Jesus. They just have not believed yet that they have already been justified.

This is contrary to Augsburg Confession Article IV...
1] Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Anonymous said...

"he meant that Jesus would receive the punishment for our sins"

Umm, no. That's not what John meant. John meant exactly what he said. "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."

It's simply bizarre to see the lengths to which the anti-UOJ people have to go to explain away what Scripture clearly says, rather than simply realizing that Scripture speaks both objectively and subjectively.

Mr. Adam Peeler

David Jay Webber said...

"Why did Jesus say this if what Pr Jay says is true?"

Because he was here preaching the law to the impenitent, and not the Gospel to the penitent (as John was).

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Mr. Peeler,

Glad to have you commenting, but we received a post from "bored" regarding some of your comments. Since "bored" didn't sign his name, we can't post his comment as is, but he does make a valid point,

Multiple times now you have been rather rude. Let's bring it up a level. I, for one think LPC and Tom Wyeth made worthy points. If you disagree, please refute their points using the Word of God, and logic rather than simply repeating your opinion.

I disagree with Objective Justification, but I read this conversation to observe both perspectives. Please refute LPC's apt point regarding John 1:29 by other means that "ummm, no".


Let's be completely respectful, please, in how we speak to one another here. Let's avoid every hint of sarcasm or ridicule or superiority.

Anonymous said...

My apologies. It's hard for me to keep my cool when the central doctrine of Scripture is being attacked. (Luther also had the same problem.) But that's no excuse. I'll be more respectful in the future.

Mr. Adam Peeler

LPC said...

Pr Jay,

Then you contradict yourself. If you contend that man's sins are already removed and not the punishment (which is my point) then it does not matter if one is penitent or not.

It is still removed by your logic,period. Hence, once again you contradict your own teaching by reasoning as you did in your last comment.

Let me be concrete, take a known atheist like Dawkins from Oxford, the scientist who wrote The God Delusion. Do you believe he is already forgiven by virtue of Jesus' death? Further, if Jesus took away his sins, is his sins gone?

LPC

Michael Sullivan said...

Dear Mr. Wyeth,
I am back and can finally respond. First of all you said, “I've finally made sense out your language game.”

It wasn’t supposed to be a game. I used the very same terms (“declared” and “imputed”) you used in your two “choices” specifically so that it could be understood. If you were wondering what the difference was between what I wrote and your choice #2, it is this: you wrote that the “benefits” of righteousness are imputed by faith, whereas I wrote “this very righteousness” (similar terminology to your 2nd clause in choice #1) is imputed by faith and not merely the benefits.

(To be Continued)

Michael Sullivan said...

(continued from above)

You asked: “You are using the two verbs "imputed" and "declared" to mean different things. I.E.: "Declared Righteousness" is different than "imputed Righteousness" according to you?? You're saying the whole world has been "declared" righteous, but only the faithful have righteousness "imputed" to them? Do I read you correctly?”

Sort of. Declared righteousness and imputed righteousness are the SAME righteousness. The difference is that the declaration of righteousness does not do anybody any good unless it is received by faith. And righteousness cannot be imputed by faith unless it has been objectively declared. Let me give you an example: For soldiers fighting in a battle, a peace treaty does not do any good unless it is proclaimed and believed. The reverse is also true: no matter how much a soldier believes in peace, it does him no good unless peace has been objectively declared by his leaders. It is the same peace looked at from two different perspectives.

Your wrote: “Can you show me Scripture were it says "all men have been forgiven and declared righteous"

I could, but the problem is that these very verses are under contention. For me the clearest is still Romans 3:23-24. As noted, this verse is under contention (as well as Romans 5). The problem is when the objective view justification is spoken about to the exclusion of justification by faith or vice versa. I see in Romans 3 and 5 both views of Justification spoken about together – as they should be – neither to the exclusion of the other. But because these verses are under contention, we need a little time to study these passages exegetically. There are other passages as well that use similar terms, but then the terms are under contention. I agree with Pastor Rydecki – this will not get solved by blogging, but only after some more serious exegesis, which takes time to do.

You also asked for the “exact time” this declaration took place? That I cannot answer. It is like asking: When is the exact time Timothy came to faith – considering he was neither baptized nor circumcised, but still knew the Scriptures from infancy? We know Timothy had faith. We know his faith came through the means of grace. When was the exact time he first believed? We don’t know.

I believe that Jesus resurrection was a public declaration of God accomplishing salvation, but I believe that God decided in his heart to forgive me before the world began (cf. Eph 1), and whenever he decides to do something, it is as good as accomplished. Luther wrote about this his famous hymn: “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice” verses 4 and 5.

I have to admit that this will be my last post of the topic for a while. Why? For two reasons: 1) I need to re-examine Scripture exegetically – especially some key passages – so that there can be no contention about their meaning (at least in my mind). 2) My local ministry needs some important attention at the moment, and I will not be able to do the exegetical work justice for a while.

God’s blessings. I look forward to IL’s discussion on this topic in the future. And I would like to close by quoting the German of “Nun Freut Euch, Lieben Christen” – verse 4 and 5 mentioned above:

4. Da jammert Gott in Ewigkeit
Mein Elend übermaßen,
Er dacht an sein Barmherzigkeit,
Er wollt mir helfen lassen.
Er wandt zu mir das Vaterherz,
Es war bei ihm fürwahr kein Scherz,
Er ließ sein Bestes kosten.

5. Er sprach zu seinem lieben Sohn:
Die Zeit ist hie zurbarmen,
Fahr hin, meins Herzens werte Kron,
Und sei das Heil der Armen
Und hilf ihm aus der Sünden Not,
Erwürg für ihn den bittern Tod
Und laß ihn mit dir leben.

In Christian love,
Pastor Michael Sullivan

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Sullivan,

Thanks for your comments and for your analogies. Here's where I think the disconnect begins.

In your analogy of the soldier fighting even after a peace treaty has been signed with his country, you say, "It doesn't do him any good until he hears about it and believes it." The analogy limps (as they all do) because when the soldier hears and believes that a peace treaty has been signed with his country, his own status does not change. He simply stops fighting and perhaps enjoys a time of peace.

But when the Scriptures and Confessions speak of the justification of an individual, it isn't merely a promise that something already happened long ago. It's a promise of something being offered right here, right now.

We have no problem understanding this when we use the word "regeneration." We all understand that the whole world has not been "born again" ("regenerated"), but that our rebirth and adoption as God's children takes place when we are brought to faith. In the same way, we have no problem speaking of unbelievers as "dead in sin" and of believers as "made alive."

The Confessions speak of justification and regeneration (as the forgiveness of sins) as synonymous (although they are very different pictures). I think this is where many people get confused, because when they hear "objective justification," they understand that we're saying that the whole world has been "regenerated," (they just don't know it yet) because our Confessions use these words synonymously.

So a proper description of objective/subjective justification cannot be that "You were already regenerated long ago. Believe it and you receive the benefit of that regeneration."

I'll include this quote from the Formula for now, but I won't be able to continue the discussion until a couple of weeks from now. Sorry!

The word regeneration (regeneratio) is...sometimes used to mean only the forgiveness of sins and that we are adopted as God’s sons. It is in this latter sense that the word is used much of the time in the Apology, where it is written that justification before God is regeneration.
...The words “making alive” have sometimes been used in a similar sense. For when a person is justified through faith (which the Holy Spirit alone does), this is truly a regeneration. In this he becomes a child of God instead of a child of wrath [Ephesians 2:3]. So he is transferred from death to life, as it is written, “When we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ” [Ephesians 2:5]. Likewise, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17 [see also Habakkuk 2:4]). This is how the word is usually used in the Apology. (FC:SD:III:19-20)

David Jay Webber said...

"...just as the gospel itself also proclaims forgiveness to all men in the whole world and exempts no one from this universal context."

I think I should probably make it more clear that this statement, the larger quote from which it is taken, and the other three quotes with which I began my entry into this thread, all come from Martin Luther. So, other statements of Luther, where he emphasizes the "subjective" side of justification, cannot be quoted against this and kindred statements wherein he is emphasizing the "objective" side of justification. All of these statements stand together as a part of his total theology, in the context of the proper distinction between law and gospel, and according to the evangelical distinction between justification offered (to all) and justififation received (by believers).

Michael Sullivan said...

Dear Pastor Rydecki,

You are right. The analogy limps at the point you mentioned. This is why the distinction needs to be made that not only are simply "the benefits" of Christ's righteousness imputed to us through faith, but His very righteousness itself. I would agree with what you wrote about regeneration and objective/subjective justification. I did not mean otherwise with my analogies, but see now where they may have been unclear. (Maybe this is other reason for me to silently study for a while.)

Blessings to all. In Christian love,

Pastor Michael Sullivan

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