Monday, September 26, 2011

Fraternal Dialogue on the Topic of "Objective Justification"

Over the weekend, I was monitoring the discussion taking place in our recent blog post, The WEB: A viable English Translation?, which had turned almost immediately from the issue of translations to that of “Universal Objective Justification.” This is due to the fact that the NNIV translates certain sections of the Bible in a way that is heralded by those who support and make propaganda for this teaching, much to the concern of those who question it. Because I was traveling over the weekend, I was unable to participate in the discussion, but kept notes here and there, particularly as Rev. Webber began his participation. Last fall, in one of our posts on the Marquart paper that Rev. Rydecki reviewed (Justification – Marquart, Recap), he and I had what I would consider a “fraternal,” though somewhat vigorous, exchange, from which I benefited. So, reading through the discussion he held with Rev. Rydecki and others over the weekend, I felt that it was appropriate to put my notes together and compose my own challenges – for the sake of feeding a dialogue which needs to happen.

Earlier today, Rev. Webber commented with reference to the doctrine of “Objective Justification” that, “these are times for fraternal and patient discussion, to seek clarification, in the spirit of what Gerhard says.” In a previous comment, he noted that this doctrine has seen protracted and confusing controversy in the recent past. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that such continues to be the case. Our discussion in this forum is neither unusual nor out of place (although some would prefer that the “heat” be turned down a little), and as evidenced by the fact that laymen and clergymen continue to turn discussion to this topic, and the generally high interest and passionate discussion this topic generates, it is one which is very much on the minds of fellow Lutherans.

The following is the notes I had composed, originally intending it as a comment in the previous blog post. After discussion with the other moderators, we decided to make it a full post. Although it is addressed to Rev. Webber (as the comment initially was intended), commentary on this blog post is certainly not limited to him. It is intended as a starting point for a general dialogue on the topic.

Rev. Webber,

Thank you for weighing in on this discussion – I'll repeat what Rev. Rydecki stated, that your opinion definitely has value among us at Intrepid Lutherans. I am also pleased to hear it admitted that there had been continued protracted and confusing controversy regarding the doctrine of justification, and not just by "fanatics" on either end of the spectrum, but among respected theologians like Marquart, Preus and Maier.

You approvingly quoted Marquart as follows:
    A contemporary clarification of justification would have to begin with what the Formula of Concord calls 'the only essential and necessary elements of justification,' that is, (1) the grace of God, (2) the merit of Christ, (3) the Gospel which alone offers and distributes these treasures, and (4) faith which alone receives or appropriates them (SD III.25). The first three items define the universal/general dimension of justification (forgiveness as obtained for all mankind on the cross, proclaimed in the resurrection [see Rom 4:25 and 1 Tim. 3:16] and offered to all in the means of grace), and the fourth, the individual/personal dimension. No one actually has forgiveness unless and until he receives it by faith.
I would first understand from the remainder of your comments that if (1) through (3) is preached, but (4) is not preached, then Justification has not been preached. No faith, no justification. Correct? In other words, so-called "Objective Justification," being only three out of four necessary criteria in the Doctrine of Justification, is an incomplete Gospel, and thus, it is not Gospel. Second, prior to faith and regeneration – that is, "outside of Christ" – individuals stand before God in the filthy rags of their own wreaking sins as "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:1-3). Correct? Or does the scary talk of the New Testament ultimately amount to empty rhetoric? If the Law contained in the New Testament is not empty rhetoric, then for those "outside of Christ" the phrase "in him all humanity was declared to be righteous and was vindicated" has no material value. Correct? This is important because in order to arrive at the conclusion represented by this phrase, one must rely on a syllogism, not Scripture. As you state it, the syllogism goes:
    (major premise) "If righteousness has been proclaimed upon humanity's substitute, then righteousness has in fact been proclaimed upon humanity"
    (minor premise) "In the resurrection of Christ, as he stood in the place of all humanity, he was justified. That is, he was declared to be righteous...
    (conclusion) "...and was vindicated as the representative of all humanity. This means that in him, and in his resurrection, all humanity was thereby justified. In him all humanity was declared to be righteous and was vindicated".
I'm not sure that syllogisms are a good way to do Scripture doctrine – and I certainly do not feel compelled to be automatically bound by them. Even if they are, in this case I question the validity of the minor premise. Scripture states most clearly that Christ bore the sin of the world, as humanity's substitute. That makes Him humanity's substitute with respect to our sin and His atoning work. His obedience under the Law was necessary for the sake of this work, but once His atoning work on the cross was complete, once His work as humanity's substitute was completed, His substitutionary role was also "finished." What Scriptural validity is there in extending His substitutionary role beyond His role as the world's sin bearer? I don't see Scriptural basis for claiming that Christ is the substitute for all humanity in the Resurrection, I only see it in His atoning work on the cross (Rom. 4:24-5:2 is quite clear, "raised again for our justification" is limited to those to whom Christ's righteousness is imputed through faith).

Moreover, I really don't see the necessity that Christ be the bearer of "our" righteousness, rather than His own, and therefore also the necessity of invoking a syllogism over the plain meaning of Scripture to arrive at this conclusion. Supposedly, it is necessary that God see all individuals as sinless, regardless of whether they have faith, if the Doctrine of Justification is to remain monergistic and confer true hope and comfort. Well, it isn't necessary that God see all individuals as sinless prior to faith, and it is a good thing because it isn't true. It is necessary that Christ has atoned for the sins of the whole world, and that Christ now offers to all men the promise of forgiveness of sins, spiritual life and eternal salvation, and freely gives man the faith to believe this promise through the Means of Grace. Man is entirely passive. Scripture testifies to these facts with abundant clarity. We receive these promises through the gift of faith (Eph. 2:8), and faith clings to them as accomplished facts – even though they remain objects of hope until the Day our "redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:25-28), in which we will finally receive the righteousness we hope for (Gal. 5:5) and "the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls" (1 Pet. 1:3-9). This is why the Scriptures exhort the believer to "endure to the end" (Matt. 24:8-14) – for apart from faith, we have no forgiveness of sins, no righteousness and no salvation, and in our sin remain "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:1-3).

"But do I have faith?", it is asked. Have I been baptized? Then I, in this outward objective act, have been crucified with Christ – which atoned for my sin – and thus in this death have been freed from sin's condemnation; and I, in this outward objective act, have been buried with Christ and raised with Him into spiritual life as a new creature – and sharing in Christ's Resurrection share also in the declaration of righteousness that He earned (Rom. 6:3-11). In this outward, objective "washing," in which I am entirely passive, I am quickened (1 Pet. 3:17-22), I receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38-39) and am declared righteous, I am regenerated (Titus 3:3-7). And having "become righteous" in this way, the promise of God in the Doctrine of Conversion is given full potency. Ezekiel records directly from the lips of God:
    But if the wicked man will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live (Ezk. 18:21-22)
And the author of Hebrews characterizes the New Covenant in terms of God's promises in Conversion, as well:
    For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people... For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more (Heb. 8:10-12)

    This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin (Heb. 10:16-18)
The Christian simply does not need the Doctrine of Justification, in order to secure the Gospel's comfort, to be construed in such a way that God has never seen the sin of the sinner. The Doctrine of Conversion supplies this comfort for us – telling us that God does see our sin, yet as a consequence of turning from that sin to righteousness instead (Repentance and Conversion), our prior life of sin is no longer considered by Him, and is forgotten. Indeed, to so construe the Doctrine of Justification seems to set it at war with the Doctrine of Conversion, even to overthrow it. Why on earth (literally) is such a teaching even uttered by God, if before Him mankind is not seen as sinful in the first place? The fact is, the declaration of righteousness conferred on us through faith and baptism satisfies the righteousness required in the Doctrine of Conversion. It is not my righteousness, it is the perfect righteousness of Christ.

It is no wonder to me that the Concordists point out that
    "[regeneration] is sometimes used to mean only the forgiveness of sins and that we are adopted as God's sons [as opposed to forgiveness of sins plus the succeeding renewal worked by the Holy Spirit]. It is in this ...sense that the word is used much of the time in the Apology, where it is written that justification BEFORE GOD is regeneration" (SD 3:19, Reader's Edition).
Here the Confessions speak directly regarding our status BEFORE GOD, and that regarding such, "justification" is not three out of four necessary criteria. The Solid Declaration here, and in the Apology, represent a serious challenge to those who say that, before God, we are forgiven and righteous apart from regeneration. Rather, according to the Confessions, BEFORE GOD our Justification is Regeneration.

Maier, Marquart, Preus and company may have come to "an agreement" of sorts. Fine. Political factors swirl about that episode in ways that would leave any objective person suspicious. Who really knows what factors were involved? For myself, I find the Confessions and Scripture to be much more compelling.

But do the Confessions teach “Objective Justification”? You stated regarding this question:
    By the way, I do not concede that the "objective" side of justification is not taught in the Confessions. With the understanding that forgiveness and justification are essentially synonymous in meaning, the quotation from St. Ambrose quoted approvingly in Apology IV:103 teaches it most clearly.
I examined AP:IV:103. But I also read AP:IV:104-105. Together, they read as follows:
    [103] ...For Ambrose says in his letter to a certain Irenaeus: Moreover, the world was subject to Him by the Law for the reason that, according to the command of the Law, all are indicted, and yet, by the works of the Law, no one is justified, i.e., because, by the Law, sin is perceived, but guilt is not discharged. The Law, which made all sinners, seemed to have done injury, but when the Lord Jesus Christ came, He forgave to all sin which no one could avoid, and, by the shedding of His own blood, blotted out the handwriting which was against us. This is what he says in Rom. 5:20: "The Law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Because after the whole world became subject, He took away the sin of the whole world, as he [John] testified, saying John 1:29: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." And on this account let no one boast of works, because no one is justified by his deeds. But he who is righteous has it given him because he was justified after the laver [of Baptism]. Faith, therefore, is that which frees through the blood of Christ, because he is blessed "whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered," Ps. 32:1, [104] These are the words of Ambrose, which clearly favor our doctrine; he denies justification to works, and ascribes to faith that it sets us free [105] through the blood of Christ. (AP:IV:103ff, Triglotta)
I don’t consider this quote to teach “Objective Justification.” Its use by the Confessors was not intended to communicate any such thing, but was used simply to demonstrate to the Romans that St. Ambrose taught Justification by Faith Alone – apart from works – as opposed to justification by faith and works, as the Romans teach. We know this, because they qualify their use of St. Ambrose by stating as much: “These are the words of Ambrose, which clearly favor our doctrine; he denies justification to works, and ascribes to faith that it sets us free.” Given their qualification, don’t you think it is putting words in their mouths to separate a single clause from this citation (“He forgave to all sin which no one could avoid”) and say that on this basis the Confessors clearly taught “Objective Justification?”

But let’s look at St. Ambrose’s letter to Irenaeus. Did Ambrose intend at all to teach “Objective Justification” to Irenaeus, or was this clause merely incidental to some other topic he was addressing? Well, I found the letter. It was a very short letter in which St. Ambrose addressed the question of why God gave His Law, since it only caused further hardship for the condition of man. He was not developing a Doctrine of Justification. Here is the concluding, and pertinent, section:
    At first Moses' Law was not needed; it was introduced subsequently, and this appears to intimate that this introduction was in a sense clandestine and not of an ordinary kind, seeing that it succeeded in the place of the natural Law. Had this maintained its place, the written Law would never have entered in; but the natural Law being excluded by transgression and almost blotted out of the human breast, pride reigned, and disobedience spread itself; and then this Law succeeded, that by its written precepts it might cite us before it, and every mouth be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. Now the world becomes guilty before God by the Law, in that all are made amenable to its prescripts, but no man is justified by its works. And since by the Law comes the knowledge of sin, but not the remission of guilt, the Law, which has made all sinners, would seem to have been injurious.

    But when the Lord Jesus came, He forgave all men that sin which none could escape, and blotted out the handwriting against us by the shedding of His own Blood. This then is the Apostle's meaning; sin abounded by the Law, but grace abounded by Jesus; for after that the whole world became guilty, He took away the sin of the whole world, as John bore witness, saying: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Wherefore let no man glory in works, for by his works no man shall be justified, for he that is just hath a free gift, for he is justified by the Bath. It is faith then which delivers by the blood of Christ, for Blessed is the man to whom sin is remitted, and, pardon granted.

    Letter LXXIII: Ambrose to Ireneaus, who enquired why the Law was even given
Just as the Confessors stated, this section from St. Ambrose clearly teaches Justification by Faith Alone, apart from works – which was fully their purpose in quoting it. In it we see clearly that as a consequence of the Law, man is “guilty before God.” We also see very clearly that the clause “He forgave all men that sin which none could escape” is not given in reference to Justification, but is attached to Christ’s atoning work. We see this as St. Ambrose associates “forgiveness” with the shedding of Christ’s blood, and not His resurrection, but especially given his citation of John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” in support of this clause – which is a classic Atonement text, not a Justification text. Finally, following his discussion of God’s Law and the guilt of mankind under it, and the atoning work of Christ, St. Ambrose concludes with Justification – by distinctly attaching it to faith and baptism.

In his letter, St. Ambrose properly concluded a discussion of Law with a preachment of the Gospel. Though this preachment was imperfect, this imperfection was inconsequential to the point the Confessors were trying to make by including it in the Apology.

So, there it is. Let the fraternal dialogue continue!


Daniel Baker said...

Thank you for this post, Mr. Lindee. It clearly and succinctly details and expands upon what I, however imperfectly, was trying to communicate in the other post's discussion.

One question: What did you mean when you stated that St. Ambrose's "preachment was imperfect?" I am not sure what you meant in the context of your post.

Thank you again for posting this and allowing the dialogue to continue.

David Jay Webber said...

"Let the fraternal dialogue continue!"

Maybe in two or three weeks. I just told myself today that I'm glad this has died down, because I am way too busy to keep up with it. I've got way more on my plate right now than usual. So, this will have to wait. But in all honesty I don't know what else I would be able to say.

I've presented the Preus/Marquart exegesis of 1 Timothy 3:16, and have said that I am persuaded of its soundness. You are not.

I've pointed out that in the context of discussing the atoning work of Christ, and Christ's taking away of the sin of the world, St. Ambrose taught that Jesus forgave the sins of "all," and that this objective forgiving is a necessary prelude to the teaching that we are individually justified by faith alone. You point out what I already knew - that this theme is not the main topic of the letter in which it is stated.

You emphasize that an individual's justification before God is by faith in the Gospel. I agree. What I have been seeking to explicate is the full content of that Gospel which must be believed for an individual's justification. If I haven't been able to make that clear by now, I don't know how I ever could.

So, maybe in two or three weeks the dialogue will continue. Or maybe by then everyone will be tired of it, and will not welcome a repetition of what has already been said.

David Jay Webber said...

If you're interested, here is the original Latin of the pertinent section of Ambrose's letter. (The quotation of this letter in the Latin Apology is actually a little bit off from the original, but not in any way that matters too much for our purposes.):

Accipe aliud. Non fuit necessaria lex per Moysen. Denique subintravit: quod utique non ordinarium, sed velut furtivum significare videtur introitum; eo quod in locum naturalis legis intraverit. Itaque si illa suum servasset locum, haec lex scripta nequaquam esset ingressa: sed quia illam legem excluserat praevaricatio, ac propemodum aboleverat pectoribus humanis, regnabat superbia, inobedientiaque sese diffuderat; ideo successit ista, ut nos scripto conveniret, et omne os obstrueret, ut totum mundum faceret Deo subditum Subditus autem mundus eo per Legem factus est, quia ex praescripto Legis omnes conveniuntur, et ex operibus Legis nemo justificatur; id est, quia per Legem peccatum cognoscitur, sed culpa non relaxatur, videbatur Lex nocuisse, quae omnes fecerat peccatores.

Sed veniens Dominus Jesus, peccatum omnibus, quod nemo poterat evadere, donavit, et chirographum nostrum sui sanguinis effusione delevit. Hoc est quod ait: Superabundavit peccatum per Legem: superabundavit autem gratia per Jesum; quia postquam totus mundus subditus factus est, totius mundi peccatum abstulit, sicut testificatus est Joannes, dicens: Ecce agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccatum mundi. Et ideo nemo glorietur in operibus, quia nemo factis suis justificatur: sed qui justus est, donatum habet, quia per lavacrum justificatus est. Fides ergo est quae liberat per sanguinem Christi; quia beatus ille cui peccatum remittitur, et venia donatur. Vale, fili, et nos dilige; quia nos te diligimus.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Great post, Mr. Lindee!

Sometimes we make justification so complicated. I want to share a very simple definition of justication given by Chemnitz in his Loci, almost in passing, since this is what the Lutheran Church had been teaching about justification all along:

In the case of our justification, which is the full and perfect acceptance of the believer unto eternal life, certain effects in our life, such as the new obedience, follow rather slowly because of the weakness of our flesh. (Loci, electronic edition, p.555)

And since we're bringing Latin into the discussion, here's the original in Latin:

Sed in justificatione, quae plena et perfecta est acceptatio credentis ad vitam aeternam; quidam effectus in hac vita propter carnem languide sequuntur, ut nova obedientia...

We can speak of the causes of Justification (the grace of God, the merit of Christ and the instrumental cause of the Means of Grace). We can speak of how Justification is received (through faith alone). But if we want to understand what Justification is, it is just what Chemnitz says, "the full and perfect acceptance of the believer unto eternal life."

Justification was not viewed by Chemnitz as the "full and perfect acceptance of the unbelieving world unto eternal life." So to speak of the justification of all people as something that has already taken place simply doesn't fit with the (16th Century) Lutheran view of Justification. It (that is, "to be fully and perfectly accepted unto eternal life") is certainly offered to the whole world in Christ, but it has not taken place for the world that remains outside of Christ. Unbelievers have not been "fully and perfectly accepted unto eternal life." To say otherwise seems to be a more recent innovation.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Another great quote, from Luther:

Meanwhile, however, to make us righteous also in this present life, we have a Propitiator and a mercy seat, Christ (Rom. 3:25). If we believe in Him, sin is not imputed to us. Therefore faith is our righteousness in this present life. (LW, vol. 27, p.64)

Joe Krohn said...

Bravo. May the Lord continue to bless His faithful servants.


Joe Krohn said...

I had one more comment that I thought of last evening when I was skimming over this post; it is directed at Pr. Webber and those who seem to find this OJ lying next to SJ all the time in scripture and the BoC. I see the problem as a failure to look at Justification in context. UOJ works when you zoom in too far to certain passages; just like other heterodox religions do to make their doctrine work. Ironically, when I read the study notes from the Concordia NIV to a WELS heavyweight re: Romans 3:22-24, he thought it sounded like limited atonement...of course it was taken verbatim from the Zondervan NIV Study Bible. The irony is that Calvinists fall short with the 'all' and UOJers overshoot the 'all'.

Mr. Lindee made a great stride by putting the Ambrose quote in context from the letter. I would only add that where this quote appears in the Apology follows under these headings: Of Justification 1-47; What is Justifying Faith? 48-60; That Faith in Christ Justifies 61-74; That We Obtain Remission of Sins by Faith Alone in Christ 75-121.

So you see it is always in the context of faith; justified by faith in the Propitiator, namely, Jesus Christ.

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Mr. Baker,

I finally found a few moments this evening to respond to your comment. I'm glad you found this little blog post useful. We'll see what comes of it...

You ask, What did you mean when you stated that St. Ambrose's "preachment was imperfect?" I am not sure what you meant in the context of your post.

Recall Rev. Rydecki's Luther quote, from the recent post on "The WEB" translation. We normally associate the declaration/distribution of forgiveness with Justification ("forgiveness declared/distributed"), not with the Atonement ("forgiveness achieved/won") -- but St. Ambrose associates a positive declaration of forgiveness with Atonement. That's all I meant by "imperfect." He is imprecise here, but it is clear that he wasn't meticulously developing the doctrine of justification either.

Daniel Baker said...

Mr. Lindee,

Thank you for the clarification. If we're going to call St. Ambrose "imperfect" in this context, should we also do the same of Luther, for example, in the excerpts cited by Mr. Peeler in the previous discussion? It seems to me that admitting our forebears in the faith (especially some of the more recent sort) didn't always get it 100% right is the first step in solving some of our theological problems. Of course, we would also have to quickly cede that *we* don't get it 100% right all of the time either . . . and probably much less so than did the likes of St. Ambrose and the blessed Dr. Luther.

At any rate, we shall indeed see what comes of this discussion. I consider the timing especially pertinent, given a certain article by a certain professor in a certain synod magazine.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your willingness to discuss doctrine and practice in the WELS openly.

Rick Techlin

D. Jerome Klotz said...

Pastor Rydecki,

I am not sure I am understanding you, and I do not want to misrepresent your position. Are you asserting that the forgiveness is NOT to be pronounced upon the world? Has this world of sinners not truly been reconciled to the Father by the blood and cross of His Son (I Cor. 5:19)?

To proclaim such forgiveness is not to confuse objective with subjective justification/reconciliation. To proclaim such forgiveness is to deliver the very message of the Gospel, namely, that Christ has died FOR YOU, has risen FOR YOU, and has reconciled YOU to the Father. Repent, be baptized, and believe: YOU ARE FORGIVEN!

If we, as I understand you to be arguing, are to water down this objective reality of universal objective justification, then what is it that the sinner grasps hold of and clings to in faith? Does the sinner not receive the forgiveness that has already been won for him in Christ? To speak of justification in any other way implies that our faith is in some way contributive to our forgiveness, i.e., either that our sins were not truly paid for until we believed, or that we could not possibly have known that ours sins were forgiven until we believed. The fact is, however, that we can know that our sins are objectively forgiven prior to our subjective act of faith--which is an act worked in us passive sinners by the working of the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament.

In sum, without the objective actuality of forgiveness existing apart from faith, we are left with a faith that exists apart from objective forgiveness, i.e., a faith that clings to itself, or imagines that faith somehow actualizes the potential of forgiveness.

Such preaching robs the sinner of assurance and the radical nature of the grace of the Gospel, being freely (perhaps too freely we think) pronounced upon a world of sinners.

Yet, this forgiveness won in Christ is not beneficial to me the sinner until I have received it, through the Word preached, and through the Sacraments administered. Apart from faith in the actual forgiveness won for me in the crucified and risen Christ, I am cut off from Christ and His saving benefits and am condemned to eternal hell and judgment.

I agree with you that we need to safeguard the doctrine of objective justification from abuse (e.g., to equate it with subjective justification). But to turn objective justification into something potential rather than actual--which is what I am understanding you to be saying--is to destroy the Gospel altogether.

Please correct me if I have misunderstood you, Pastor.

In Christ,

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


I appreciate the opportunity to explain. I'll try to answer your questions as best I can.

Are you asserting that the forgiveness is NOT to be pronounced upon the world? Has this world of sinners not truly been reconciled to the Father by the blood and cross of His Son (I Cor. 5:19)?

I am asserting that the message of Christ is to be pronounced to the world: "Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name, etc." (Luke 24). I am asserting that it is not a proper presentation of the Gospel to preach to a group of unbelievers, "You are already forgiven! You are already reconciled!" This was not the message of Peter on Pentecost, nor the message of Paul in Philippi, nor the message of Paul at Athens, or anywhere else as recorded in Scripture.

Peter's preaching on Pentecost was not, "Repent, be baptized, believe, you are forgiven!" It was "Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins." All I'm saying is, the two are not the same, and we should stick with the apostolic Gospel proclamation.

Both Peter and Paul preached Christ. They didn't preach the pre-forgiveness of their audience, but rather the substitionary sacrifice of Christ, the satisfaction of God's wrath against the world in the objective atonement of Christ, the finished redemption of Christ, the reconciliation of the world to God in Christ, and the righteousness of Christ as the only righteousness that avails before God, revealed in the Gospel for men to receive by faith, by which a man is justified.

Is the forgiveness that Christ has acquired for all an objective reality? Yes it is! It exists objectively in Christ, and is earnestly offered by God to all in the promise of the Gospel.

what is it that the sinner grasps hold of and clings to in faith?

The answer is Christ - Christ as the God-Man, Christ as the Righteousness that avails before God and has made satisfaction for the world's sins, Christ, in whom the Father wants all men to take shelter from his righteous wrath. That is the object of faith. The object of faith is not MY forgiveness, or MY justification, but the forgiveness/justification that Christ has obtained FOR ME and that is freely offered TO ME in the promise of the Gospel. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to faith, not to the world apart from faith. Those who seek shelter in the redemption of Christ have a "righteous" status before God. Those who fail to seek shelter in the redemption of Christ have a status of "wicked" before God.

This is how the Scriptures and the Confessions teach us to speak. I don't think that terms like "universal objective justification" follow the pattern of sound words to which we are to adhere.

But the problem also lies in the fact that there are about a half-dozen different understandings of "objective justification." Here's a definition I read recently: "Objective justification means that in the death of Jesus the sins of the whole world were charged to His account in order that His righteousness might be credited to the world." I agree with the concept expressed in this way. It agrees with Paul's presentation of justification in Romans perfectly. But I think that many people would change this definition to read, "...and that His righteousness has been credited to the world." That I don't find in Scripture.

Sorry if I haven't covered everything you asked about. Happy to discuss some more.

Anonymous said...

"He does not announce that the death of Christ 52 days earlier forgave them their sins." - Pr. Rydecki

Exactly. I still don't understand how a UOJ advocate would preach to an Old Testament heathen...

Mitch Forte

Joe Krohn said...

I know y'all are in the heat of the battle...but Mitch Forte's comment was really quite illuminating aside from the rhetoric...and I tried to clarify using his quote...not sure why I got preempted...Joe

Daniel Baker said...

"To argue otherwise is as arrogant as the petulant child who refuses to believe his father's promise, 'Dinner is ready!' and foolishly imagines instead that his dinner did not exist prior to entering his mouth!"

UOJ advocates don't stop there. They would argue that, in order for the "dinner" that the father has prepared to be real, the child must be considered "full" before he actually eats. Can you not see how illogical that is?

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

I believe it is time again to review how it is that the synthetic distinction of "Objective Justification" from "Subjective Justification" entered into and became a normative part of the theological lexicon of North American confessional Lutheranism. It was a result of the 19th Century Election Controversy, in which the Ohio and Iowa Synods were teaching bald Synergism/semi-Pelagianism. When C.F.W Walther became publicly critical of this teaching, the Ohio and Iowa Synods accused Missouri of teaching Calvinism. Thus began a decades-long public battle among Lutheran churchmen of notoriously intractable and polemical personalities. Every historian of that era that I have read has lamented that situation, and suggested that if men of more even temperament had been involved, the resolution would have been far different, more swift and much healthier for the subsequent state of Lutheranism in America.

In November of 2010, we published a full explanation of the issues involved, written by a Lutheran who was there: Carl Manthey-Zorn on Justification, Conversion and Election: An explanation in context. His explanation is a favorable defense of the Synodical Conference formulation, but most illuminatingly, he characterizes the errors of Ohio and Iowa in their own words. They weren't just hinting at Synergism. They weren't just guilty of a poor choice of words, which might result in Synergism, if one weren't careful. They were actually teaching it. This fact must be appreciated. The formula of OJ/SJ that emerged from Missouri and was adopted by the Lutherans of the Synodical Conference was developed as a reaction to open Synergism being taught among confessing Lutherans. There is, however, no compelling case to be made that OJ is the only or even best formulation which successfully avoids Synergism. There are others. And if others, then perhaps also better formulations. Any claim which suggests that alternate formulations ipso facto constitute Synergism is not only irresponsible, it is intellectually lazy – dismissing serious doctrinal formulations in order to avoid the difficulty of evaluating them against Scripture. Or perhaps it is just fear of change.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

And such alternate formulations are more than permissible. OJ is a synthetic doctrine – that is, it is construction of human reason which departs several steps in reason from the direct positive statements of Scripture and the testimony of the Confessions. OJ does not emerge from a natural reading of the text of Scripture, and thus no responsible theologian in the history of the Christian church, prior to the 19th Century, had developed this doctrine in any complete sense, nor had such a teaching been generally accepted and promoted as orthodox. Instead, this doctrine emerged in the 19th Century as ardent reason dictated an almost frantic escape from, or defense against, Synergism. The result is that today, all attempts to support this doctrine from Scripture and the Confessions, begin with the doctrine of OJ having been concluded from reason, and constitute a mad search of the Scriptures and the Confessions to find single verses or clauses, which "can be understood" to support it.

This is a discussion concerning the central teaching of the Scriptures. It is a serious issue. The discussion must begin with and revolve around the testimony of the Scriptures and the Confessions, as they flow naturally and communicate plainly. It must not begin with conclusions pre-determined through reason (in a subsequent search of support from Scripture and the Confessions), nor should it proceed by brandishing analogies – which no reasonable person should find convincing anyway. The position which Rev. Rydecki and I have put forward in this thread for discussion, we are convinced, is a suitable alternative to OJ. A better and more Scriptural formulation than OJ/SJ, we propose, that is worth serious consideration and discussion. Not a scintilla of Synergism can be found in it (which is the reason OJ was developed to begin with); it descends naturally from the plain meaning of the Scriptures (whereas Scriptural defense of OJ seems always to be a bit contrived, if not forced); and it is thoroughly Confessional. It maintains the (so-called) "objectivity" of Christ's work of Atonement/Reconciliation, in addition to the Christian's Justification in Christ. It respects the accomplishments of Christ and His gifts which come to us exclusively through the Means of Grace, by recognizing that what it offered to us in the Gospel is His, not somehow ours, and that it becomes ours only through faith which appropriates that which He offers: His righteousness. And it avoids not only the clear universalistic tendencies of OJ, but the notably incoherent (and unnecessary) assertion that "all of mankind is already justified before God, but no individual is justified prior to faith."

David Jay Webber said...

Mr. Lindee is mistaken in about two-thirds of his historical analysis. He is correct that the terminology of "objective justification" was developed in opposition to synergism in the 19th century, but the context was not the election controversy, and it didn't happen first in the Missouri Synod.

As the Norwegian Synod was interacting with other Scandinavian groups, an issue that came up was whether the pastor's pronouncement of absolution was an expression of a wish for forgiveness, or whether it was a real impartation of forgiveness. Some of the pietistic/synergistic Scandinavian groups said that it was an expression of a wish for forgiveness. They wanted to avoid an ex opere operata view of how absolution works in the life of a Christian, and emphasized the necessity of faith. The Norwegian Synod fathers countered that it is the declaration of forgiveness itself that is the object of faith, and that creates the faith that it calls for. They said that the declaration of forgiveness, in absolution, is objectively true, because Jesus is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world, and who has put his forgiveness into the means of grace to be distributed to the world. This obviously applies to everyone who is hearing the absolution here and now, and who is thereby being invited to believe the absolution in the act of the absolution being pronounced to them. The absolution is pronounced on the basis of the Lord's death and resurrection, in the context of the penitent's confession of his sins. It is not pronounced on the basis of the penitent's confession.

So, the development of the Norwegian Synod's teaching on "objective justification" was in the context of their teaching on the objective power and efficacy of absolution, over against a synergistic interpretation of absolution. That's why it's absurd to imagine that "objective justification" as a concept somehow makes the means of grace irrelevant. The whole point of "objective justification" is precisely to make it clear that a real and objective Gospel of forgiveness is contained within, and is delivered to people through, the means of grace!

This history is explained in Herman A. Preus's 1874 paper on "The Justification of the World," to which I would refer anyone who wants to know what this issue was really about in the 19th century. Note that this was written several years before the election controversy broke out.


Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Let me add this section from Chemnitz to the mix regarding the manner in which God reconciles the world to himself:

For Paul expressly distinguishes between the power and efficacy of reconciliation which belongs to God, and the ministry which was given to the apostles, so that it is God who reconciles the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19) and forgives sins (Is. 43:25), not however without means but in and through the ministry of Word and sacrament.

Ministers indeed are said to loose and remit sins on account of the keys, that is, because they have the ministry through which God reconciles the world to Himself and remits sins. Thus Paul says (2 Cor. 1:24) that although he has authority, he nevertheless does not lord it over their faith but is a servant and steward of the mysteries of Christ (1 Cor. 4:1), so that he who plants and he who waters is nothing, but He who gives the increase, namely God (1 Cor. 3:7). Nevertheless, he shows that the use of the ministry is useful and necessary, for, says he, we are co-workers, that is, assistants, whose labors God uses in the ministry, but where nevertheless all the efficacy belongs to Him. We are servants, says he, through whom you have believed. Likewise: “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). Paul treats this distinction clearest of all in 2 Cor. 5:18–20. It is God who reconciles us to Himself through Christ, not counting our sins against us. To the apostles, however, He gave the ministry of reconciliation. But how so? “He entrusted to us,” says Paul, “the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
(Examination of the Council of Trent, Vol. 2, p.559-560).

David Jay Webber said...


While the "objective justification" terminology was developed in the 19th century, the substance of this teaching is implicit everywhere where the forgiveness of sins is understood as something that is received by faith, rather than something that is brought into existence by or in faith. If faith receives it, that means that it exists conceptually before faith, precisely so that faith can receive it. This is an aspect of the Gospel. It is what makes the Gospel to be objectively true for everyone, and available to be believed for salvation by anyone who hears it preached or who hears it applied to them in absolution.

And there are also plenty of elaborations of the concept of objective justification in the writings of recognized theologians of the Lutheran Church before the 19th century - Luther in the forefront - even though that exact terminology was not used. Many examples of this kind of teaching have been posted to this forum. But the opponents of objective justification seem to be unfazed by this - except to suggest that while it must be admitted that Luther did indeed teach this way, he erred when he did so. Here is an example of that:

"If we're going to call St. Ambrose 'imperfect' in this context, should we also do the same of Luther, for example, in the excerpts cited by Mr. Peeler in the previous discussion? It seems to me that admitting our forebears in the faith...didn't always get it 100% right is the first step in solving some of our theological problems."

I would say, in contrast, that on this point St. Ambrose and Luther did get it 100% right.

And speaking of St. Ambrose, the expression by him in which he teaches the essential point of objective justification, which is quoted in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, is a part of the public doctrine of the Lutheran Church. Mr. Lindee suggests that this Confessional endorsement of St. Ambrose's statement is not binding on us, since it is not a "meticulously developed point" in Ambrose's letter. He writes:

"We normally associate the declaration/distribution of forgiveness with Justification ("forgiveness declared/distributed"), not with the Atonement ("forgiveness achieved/won") -- but St. Ambrose associates a positive declaration of forgiveness with Atonement. That's all I meant by "imperfect." He is imprecise here, but it is clear that he wasn't meticulously developing the doctrine of justification either."

Our Confessional obligation does not, however, cover only those doctrinal points in the Symbolical Books that are "meticulously developed" (which was basically Wilhelm Loehe's view of Confessional subscription). Rather, in the words of the Brief Statement of 1932, "The confessional obligation covers all doctrines, not only those that are treated ex professo, but also those that are merely introduced in support of other doctrines."

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pastor Webber,

You had me until your point about Ambrose. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with his quote. It is very applicable and understandable in the context of the ministry and Baptism and the free forgiveness that covers the baptized - forgiveness that was purchased by the precious blood of Christ, shed for the sins of the world.

But you're really grasping at straws to make this prove that - no matter how thoroughly justification is tied to faith alone in the rest of the Book of Concord - "all people have already been declared righteous by God," which is the sine qua non of universal justification.

As you know, the Confessors did not quote Ambrose so that every word of his quotation should be parsed and developed into doctrine. They clearly stated what the point of quoting him was: not to show that "the whole world has already been declared righteous," but...

These are the words of Ambrose, which clearly favor our doctrine. He denies justification to works and teaches that faith sets us free through the blood of Christ.

You can't get past the "faith sets us free through the blood of Christ" part. That is clearly the emphasis and the doctrine being set forth by the Lutheran Confessors. As I said, it doesn't make the rest of the quote wrong, it just makes it irrelevant to this discussion.

By your argumentation, we would all have to confess the perpetual virginity of Mary if we wanted to maintain our confessional subcription, because it's referenced in passing in one title given to her. But I've already heard you explain why that is not necessarily the case.

(To all our readers: For the love of all that is good, let us NOT begin a discussion on the perpetual virginity of Mary - that's not my point.)

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Mr. Klotz,

Thank you for continuing this discussion, and for carrying on in such an even manner. I must point out, however, that you err in using a Reconciliation text to prove that Justification is universal. Reconciliation is not Justification, nor do texts which teach Reconciliation also teach Justification. This is a common and repeated error of UOJ proponents, to marshal Atonement and Reconciliation texts, which everyone agrees are universal, to prove that Justification is therefore also universal. Scripture and the Confessions define Justification for us as a positive declaration of righteousness. There is no such declaration involved in either Atonement or Reconciliation. None whatsoever. They are distinct from Justification and cannot be equated with it. Moreover, Christ's Atoning work, His work of Reconciliation, was accomplished on the cross. The Scriptures clearly teach that Justification is in Christ's resurrection. Thus, that which accomplished Christ's Atonement/Reconciliation is also separate and distinct from what accomplished His Justification. They are definitely related, but separate and distinct. They must remain that way in our theology. If you want to show that Justification is universal, then you must adduce Scripture in which Justification is actually the subject and which states that it is universal just as clearly as it does Atonement/Reconciliation.

Regarding 2 Cor. 5:17-21, the full context of the Scripture you cite must be taken in. It reads:

"[17] Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. [18] And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; [19] To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [20] Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. [21] For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

Note that in v18, the "all things of God" are those which in v17 we are told "are become new" for those in Christ. v18 repeats this fact, making clear that the "us" spoken of are those in Christ to whom, and on behalf of whom, St. Paul is writing. v19 is Christ's work of Reconciliation on the Cross, which no one disputes. vv20-21, finally, conclude in the final clause with man's Justification as related to, though distinct from, God's work of Reconciliation in Christ, and as something which follows from it, not which is consonant with it: "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him". Universal Justification is not taught in this reference. Universal Reconciliation is.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

In demonstration that this section does not address Justification until v21, and is distinct from Reconciliation, the Confessions (SD:V:20-22) use this verse in connection with Rom. 4:25, which in context reads:

"[24] But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; [25] Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. [5:1] Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: [2] By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

Again, Justification is a consequence of Christ’s resurrection, not His death on the cross, and as stated in the body of this post, this Scripture reference is quite clear “‘raised again for our justification’ is limited to those to whom Christ's righteousness is imputed through faith.” That is, Rom. 4:25 does not teach Universal Justification either.

David Jay Webber said...

Whenever "objective justification" is discussed, it should always be in the context of the atonement and resurrection; and also always in the context of the offering of justification in the means of grace, and the reception of justification by faith. So, St. Ambrose's point is not muted or made irrelevant just because he makes that point as a lead-in to his affirmation of justification by faith. It is precisely because he says what he says in that context that his teaching is considered to be sound, and is quoted in the Apology! We are justified by faith and not by works, because it is Jesus himself who performed the work of our justification. And he did this in his death and resurrection.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Webber,

"Jesus performed the work of our justification 2000 years ago." That's what you said, right? Isn't this where the problem lies?

The "work" of justifying people is presented in the Confessions thoroughly in the context of the Gospel ministry and faith, not what was accomplished 2000 years ago when Christ *obtained* reconciliation and justification for the world.

The "work" of justifying anyone and everyone is "performed" by God through the ministry of the Word, right? God is the "justifier" of the one who believes, right? (Rom. 3:26) How is it that you're now saying that this "work" of "justifying" was "performed" 2000 years ago?

Joe Krohn said...

We know there were no righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah when God judged, condemned and destroyed them. But now Christ comes later and forgives them. Is this what you are saying by supporting this OJ?


David Jay Webber said...

How is it that you're now saying that this "work" of "justifying" was "performed" 2000 years ago?

Because that's what the Bible says. Romans 4:24b-25: "[Faith] will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification."

The restaurant chef who prepares the meal, and the waiter who delivers the meal to the restaurant guests, are both performing a work. In regard to the justification of sinners in Christ, God does the work of making that justification a reality in the death and resurrection of his Son, and God also does the work of delivering that justification through the means of grace. There is no contradiction.

If Jesus' justification in the Spirit, as described in 1 Timothy 3:16, is not a vicarious justification that pertains to those whose sins he had carried to the cross, then is it a justification that pertains to Jesus personally? Did Jesus die for his own sins after all? Is the resurrection God's declaration to Jesus that Jesus' own sins are forgiven?

I am concerned that the direction you are going - in denying that any justification of sinful humanity takes place in, with, and under the death and resurrection of Christ - will take you eventually to a serious Christological error. Please pause and consider where you are going, before you go there.

Daniel Baker said...

Pr. Webber,

I did not, in the quotation you cite, mean to imply that Luther "teaches" the doctrine of Universal Objective Justification as it is understood by many modern theologians. In a previous incarnation of this discussion, I examined a number of the oft-cited "proof texts" from Luther that seem to support the mindset of UOJ. In that examination, I argued that these "proof texts" were out of context and, when analyzed in greater depth, did not lend themselves to the UOJ position as much as they initially seemed to in one-line excerpts.

In stating that Luther can err, my point was not to dismiss a supposed teaching of UOJ. Rather, my intent was to state that Luther's wording could have been less convoluted - in other words, more in line with Scriptural terminology. As Pr. Rydecki has repeated an ample number of times, the Apostles urged the following: "Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins." They did not say "your sins have been remitted already. Believe it!" To me, the latter is poorly phrased. That's all I meant in my statement.

Anonymous said...

It's trust in the promise just like in the Old Testament and like it should be today. Did prophets in the Old Testament say, "Your sins are forgiven, believe it!" No. They preached like we still should preach and teach today. You're sinful(Law,)but God's Son will come and take your sins upon himself and be reconciled to the Father for you. Faith clings to that promise and they are given Christ's merits.

Basically the analogy that was used wouldn't work in the Old Testament. Christ hadn't come yet. Which technically would mean that forgiveness(the food)wasn't won yet. Therefore, if they can't cling to the objective reality that the food is there (forgiveness) they can't cling to anything (that's how I see UOJ). Ah, but the Old Testament believers could! They relied on the Promise of Atonement and Christ's merits just like we would today.

The "You are forgiven, believe it!" scenario can only work with believers. It's like saying "I am baptized." It's an assurance that we are God's elect.

I was all over the place and had limited time so my thoughts may be incoherant and I can explain in greater detail if need be.

Mitch Forte

D. Jerome Klotz said...

Mr. Lindee,

Justification is synonymous with reconciliation. Where the sinner is reconciled to God, there the sinner is justified before God. In Christ, the whole world is justified/reconciled before/to God. This justification/reconciliation in Christ is for us, but it does not belong to us apart from faith.

Pastor Rydecki's quotes from Chemnitz show that God is already objectively reconciled to us in Christ, and that through the ministry of reconciliation we receive it. As St. Paul writes in Colossians 1:19-20:

"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him [Jesus Christ], and through Him to reconcile to Himself ALL THINGS, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed ON THE CROSS."

Reconciliation does not occur in 'our hearts'. It occurred 2000 years ago on the cross of the crucified Christ ("It is finished!" [John 19:30]) and is received by faith through the Word unto life everlasting.

Anonymous said...

The overwhelming majority of passages that actually use the word righteousness, or its cognate justification, connect it to faith. Here is a list of such passages and questions I ask myself. The answers to which explain to me why on nearly every page of the Scriptures and the Confessions faith is praised and extolled.
Luke 18:14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Does Jesus speak of all people being justified?

Acts 13:39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.

Who is justified?

Acts 24:15 and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

What two categories does Paul put people in?

Romans 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

The beginning and end of this righteousness revealed in the Gospel is by what?

Romans 3 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

To whom does this righteousness come?

He did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Whom does God justify?

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

How is a man justified?

Romans 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

What is credited as righteousness? To whom is it credited?

It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.

How does the righteousness come?

The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

To whom will God credit righteousness?

Romans 5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

How have we been justified?

(continued in next post)

Anonymous said...

Romans 8 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What does God do to those he justifies?

Romans 9:30-32 30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.”

What didn’t Israel attain? Why didn’t they attain it?

Romans 10 4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

For whom is there righteousness?

Romans 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

How are we justified?

1 Corinthians 6:11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

These people used to be vile offenders, but a change occurred. When did this change happen and who brought about this change?

2 Corinthians 3 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!

What does the ministry bring?

Galatians 2:15-17 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!

How did Paul and these Jews know that justification takes place? How then did they seek to be justified?

Galatians 3 6 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

What was credited to Abraham as righteousness? Who are children of Abraham? How would God justify the Gentiles?

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

How might we be justified?

Philippians 3:8-9
8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Righteousness comes through what?

David Brandt

Anonymous said...

The Confessions equate Romans 5:18-19, the sedes doctrinae of UOJ, with justification by faith. They are to be "considered the same thing.":

"12] Therefore it is considered and understood to be the same thing when Paul says that we are justified by faith, Rom. 3:28, or that faith is counted to us for righteousness, Rom. 4:5, and when he says that we are made righteous by the obedience of One, Rom. 5:19, or that by the righteousness of One justification of faith came to all men, Rom. 5:18. 13] For faith justifies, not for this cause and reason that it is so good a work and so fair a virtue, but because it lays hold of and accepts the merit of Christ in the promise of the holy Gospel; for this must be applied and appropriated to us by faith, if we are to be justified thereby."

- Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration. III:12-13. The Righteousness of Faith

Pr. Jim Schulz

D. Jerome Klotz said...

Rev. Schulz,

You mistakenly (conveniently[?]) left out the preceding words:

"9] Concerning the righteousness of faith before God we believe, teach, and confess unanimously, in accordance with the comprehensive summary of our faith and confession presented above, that poor sinful man is justified before God, that is, absolved and declared free and exempt from all his sins, and from the sentence of well-deserved condemnation, and adopted into sonship and heirship of eternal life, without any merit or worth of our own, also without any preceding, present, or any subsequent works, out of pure grace, because of the sole merit, complete obedience, bitter suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Christ alone, whose obedience is reckoned to us for righteousness.

10] These treasures are offered us by the Holy Ghost in the promise of the holy Gospel; and faith alone is the only means by which we lay hold upon, accept, and apply, and appropriate them to ourselves. 11] This faith is a gift of God, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the Word of the Gospel, and trust in Him, that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the father, and are eternally saved."

Note especially the words: "This faith is a gift of God, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the Word of the Gospel." That is to say, faith lays hold upon a redemption that both precedes it and exists objectively outside of itself in Jesus Christ. Is it your pastoral practice to turn the sinner to his own faith when he doubts his forgiveness? I sincerely hope not. When a doubt-stricken Christian approaches a pastor and pleads for an answer to the question: "How do I know that God is favorable toward me?" I pray that you do not reply, "If you believe then you are justified, and God is favorable toward you because of your faith in Him." The pastor ought not to direct the sinner to his own faith for assurance anymore than the gardener ought to pull on flowers to make them grow. Rather, faith is created only through the Gospel, i.e., the objective reality of the forgiveness of sins in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ for you and I and ALL.

Note also these words, namely, that faith, which is a gift of God, "trusts in Him [Christ], that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the father, and are eternally saved." That is to say, the sinner, through faith, learns who Christ is and what He has done on his behalf, and trusts in the reality of His Person and Work for him. While this article does speak strictly in terms of subjective justification (is this a surprise? After all, it is entitled: The Righteousness of Faith!), nevertheless, even when we speak strictly in terms of the subjective aspect of justification, we are always and everywhere presupposing the objective reconciliation/justification of the world in Christ.

And if we are not presupposing the objective reality of forgiveness in Jesus Christ, then our faith is akin to the uroboros: a self-devouring faith.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


Again, not sure against whom you're arguing. Pr. Schulz didn't for a moment deny the objective nature of the redemption.

That is to say, faith lays hold upon a redemption that both precedes it and exists objectively outside of itself in Jesus Christ.

Yes. Of course. That's what we've been saying all along. Where you're plowing new territory (new in relation to the Confessions) is to equate this objectively existing redemption with justification. It is not the same thing and isn't treated as the same thing in the Confessions. So I ask again, why is Melanchthon wrong to say that "faith alone justifies?" Of, if he is not wrong, why are we speaking about people being justified without faith?

To answer Rev. Webber's questions from before about 1 Timothy 3:16,

If Jesus' justification in the Spirit, as described in 1 Timothy 3:16, is not a vicarious justification that pertains to those whose sins he had carried to the cross, then is it a justification that pertains to Jesus personally? Did Jesus die for his own sins after all? Is the resurrection God's declaration to Jesus that Jesus' own sins are forgiven?

1 Timothy 3:16 is one of those stretches to find UOJ in Scripture, I think. Here's how Chemnitz interprets 1 Timothy 3:16 in his Loci. I agree with Chemnitz, and I think his explanation is so solid that it should resolve the issue for us:

This is the forensic or legal meaning of this word. But just as is the case in all languages, words are transferred from the specific to the general. Thus “justify” is sometimes used to approve, testify to, recognize, acknowledge, confess, and celebrate the fact that someone is righteous—granting, conferring, and attributing praise to his righteousness. Luke 7:29: “The people and the publicans justified God, but the Pharisees spurned the counsel of God.” Luke 16:15: “You justify yourselves before men.” Luke 10:29: “The scribe, wanting to justify himself …” Jer. 3:11 and Ezek. 16:51: “You have justified your sisters.” 1 Tim. 3:16: “He was manifested in the flesh and justified in the Spirit,” that is, the humility of His flesh offended many, and He was crucified as a misleader and a seditious man; but because of His divine works and the sending of the Spirit, He was declared and approved as the Son of God and the Messiah. (Loci Theologici, p.478).

Anonymous said...

Dr. Klotz,

I'm merely saying as the Confessions state, esp. in that quote, that justification is by faith alone.

Pr. Jim Schulz

D. Jerome Klotz said...

Pr. Schulz,

The Confessions are speaking in the article you cite of the righteousness of faith. It is only natural that an article whose topic is such will speak of such, is it not?

Yet, even when this is done, namely, speaking strictly of the subjective aspect of justification, the objective aspect of is necessarily presupposed. Continuing on with FC SD III:

"This righteousness is brought to us by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel and in the Sacraments. It is applied, taken, and received through faith. Therefore, believers have reconciliation with God, forgiveness of sins, God's grace, sonship, and are heirs of eternal life."

Did you hear that? Righteousness is brought to faith through the Word and Sacraments. Righteousness is applied, taken, and received through faith. Our righteousness (synonymous with justification) objectively precedes faith, being brought to it, applied, taken, and received. Subjective justification/righteousness exists at the moment faith receives objective justification/righteousness.

Anonymous said...

D. Jerome Klotz said... "The Confessions are speaking in the article you cite of the righteousness of faith. It is only natural that an article whose topic is such will speak of such, is it not?"

Dr. Klotz, could you please show me where the article on Objective Justification is found in the Book of Concord? I will answer that question myself: There is none because justification is by faith alone.

Pr. Jim Schulz

David Jay Webber said...

O.K., one more post, and then I will try to honor Paul's wishes and not post anything else beyond his topical restriction...

I can understand why Chemnitz would read 1 Timothy 3:16 in this way. But his reading does not rule out what I would consider to be a necessary corrolary to such a "personal" justification of Jesus. The 18th-century Lutheran theologian Johann Jacob Rambach makes the following observation in his Ausfuehrliche Erklaerung der Epistel an die Roemer (p. 322), regarding the Lord's payment and satisfaction of sinful humanity's "debt" to God:

"Christ was in his resurrection first of all justified for his own person, Is. 50:5, 1 Tim. 3:16, since the righteousness of God declared that it had been paid and satisfied in full by this our Substitute, and issued him as it were a receipt thereof; and that happened in his resurrection, when he was released from his debtor's prison and set free. But since the Substitute was now justified, then in him also all debtors were co-justified."

Later in that commentary Rambach also writes (in a way that shows that he has 1 Tim. 3:16 in mind):

"The justification of the human race indeed also ocurred, in respect of the acquisition, in one moment, in the moment in which Christ rose and was thus declared righteous; but in respect of the appropriation it still continues till the last day."

Rambach is here echoing the teaching of the 17th-century Lutheran theologian Johannes Quistorp, who had said:

"The word justification and reconciliation is used in a twofold manner: 1) in respect of the acquired merit, 2) in respect of the appropriated merit. Thus all are justified and some are justified. All, in respect of the acquired merit; some, in respect of the appropriated merit."

All of this is from F. A. Schmidt, Justification: Subjective and Objective (1872) (translated by Kurt Marquart) (Fort Wayne, Indiana: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1982), p. 21. This essay was, by the way, read at the inaugural meeting of the Synodical Conference. F. A. Schmidt (of the Norwegian Synod) had not yet had his falling out with Preus, Koren, Ottesen, and Walther over election. He was in this essay articulating the public doctrine of the Norwegian Synod, as that doctrine had been hammered out in its controversy over absolution with some synergistic Swedes and others. This way of understanding and explaining justification in all its aspects became the public doctrine of the whole Synodical Conference.

Some theologians outside the Synodical Conference, such as C. H. Little of the United Lutheran Church in America, also later embraced this comprehensive manner of teaching justification. Little said in this respect:

"If personal or subjective Justification is the acceptance by faith of objective Justification, it is manifest that it does not take place 'in view of faith.' Thus a synergistic view of Justification is avoided. This is the chief advantage in treating the subject under these two forms."

D. Jerome Klotz said...

Pr. Schulz,

First of all, I am not a doctor.

Second of all, while there may be no article entitled 'Objective Justification', the teaching that justification exists objectively prior to faith is taught clearly in the Confessions, as cited above.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Klotz,

I would encourage you to consider what WELS District President Rev. Jon Buchholz wrote in his paper presented at the 2005 WELS convention entitled "Justification Expounded by Scripture":

"We want to be careful about carelessly interchanging words. Atonement, reconciliation,
justification, and redemption are not synonyms, and they must be used appropriately in their correct context. Use words like righteous and holy according to their precise meanings. 'Bear this in mind, dear friends . . . it is your duty not only to believe as the Church believes, but also to speak in harmony with the Christian Church.' (Walther)"

Pr. Jim Schulz

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Rev. Webber,

I've been away from my desk for several hours now, and I notice that I have been addressed in several posts, above, but your last post is foremost on my mind at the moment. I am disappointed. Of course, none of us have ever heard of this theologian you quote with distinction, Johann Jacob Rambach, and use to discredit the orthodox theologian Martin Chemnitz in his exegesis of 1 Tim. 3:16. One of us Intrepids -- not me, not Rev's Rydecki or Spencer, but one of us who does a lot of work behind the scenes -- began feverishly researching this theologian, to find out who he is. You quote Rambach from Schmidt/Marquart, so perhaps you don't really know who he is, either. I assume, in all charity, that you don't.

What our fellow Intrepid found is that Rambach was a confessing Pietist. In fact, several essays from the WELS essay file identify and criticize him as such:

Pietism’s Teaching on Church and Ministry: As Evidenced in its Pastoral Practice
After Three Centuries - The Legacy of Pietism
Agreement on the Correct View of the Authority of Scripture as the Source of Doctrine: The Way to Unity in the Church
A Historical Survey and Brief Examination of the Hymnbooks Used Within the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
The Confessional Lutheran Emigrations From Prussia And Saxony Around 1839

When I found out about this, I immediately pulled my copy of Loescher's Timotheus Verinus off the shelf, only to discover that Loescher really had nothing to say about the man. But when I pulled Schmid's History of Pietism down, and search for Rambach, I discovered that he was no ordinary Pietist. He was a Halle Pietist, and a close associate of Hermann August Franke. Schmid, on page 319, identifies Rambach as a Halle Pietist and compatriot of Franke, and credits Rambach for his accomplishments in the area of hermeneutics -- which is, no doubt, how it is that we find him prominently mentioned in F.S Schmidt's work. However, on page 320 Schmid qualifies his praise of such pietists, stating that their accomplishments are low compared to the harm caused by them: thee use of such accomplishments was for the purpose of discrediting orthodoxy. And here we are now, treated to the authoritative work of a German exeget of whom we were happily ignorant, who is marshaled for the purpose of discrediting Chemnitz and elevating UOJ, only to discover that this man was a bona fide Halle Pietist, and that he engaged his work, alongside that of Franke and other radical Pietists, to serve the design of toppling Lutheran orthodoxy.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

You know, we at IL have been very careful, for the sake of fraternity, to avoid mention of his name or reference to his research on this subject. But the prominent use of a Halle Pietist, who produced his work at the pinnacle of the period of radical German Pietism, to discredit an orthodox theologian like Chemnitz and instead supporting the teaching of Universal Objective Justification, only proves Dr. Jackson's thesis: UOJ did emerge from Halle Pietism. I myself, up to this point, have been skeptical of this thesis, as my own extended and personal contact with confessing Pietists has had me convinced that they are not guilty of distinguishing Objective from Subjective aspects of Justification -- certainly not to the elevation of the Objective! -- as everything for them is Subjective. But rather, I had thought, they are guilty of separating (subjective) Justification from Conversion. You yourself have read Iver Olson's Baptism and Spiritual Life, and know precisely what I am referring to. To me, if there was anything to Dr. Jackson's connection of Halle to UOJ, it was in later Halle Rationalism. But now there can be no doubt. Rambach, a bona fide Halle Pietist, supplied the foundation necessary to topple formerly orthodox teaching on the matter of Justification.

David Jay Webber said...

I knew that Rambach was a pietist. I was not using his observations on this verse to discredit Chemnitz, but to supplement Chemnitz. His exegesis and reflections stand on their own, and should be evaluated on their own merits, regardless of what he might have said on other topics on other occasions. And it is also clear that on this topic in particular, he was not inventing a new pietist notion, but was recapitulating the orthodox teaching of the orthodox theologian Quistorp. Theologians with pietist leanings were not wrong in everything they said, especially when they were repeating the sound teaching of orthodox theologians of earlier times.

tshinnick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D. Jerome Klotz said...

Pr. Schulz,

Reconciliation and justification are synonymous terms. They are used this way in Scripture. They are also used this way in Walther.

Pieper has a succinct way of expressing it:

"'[N]ot imputing trespasses' is, according to Scripture (Rom. 4:6-8), synonymous with 'forgiving sins', 'justifying' the sinner. The resurrection of Christ is, as Holy Writ teaches, the actual absolution of the whole world of sinners. Rom. 4:25: 'Who was raised again for our justification.' At that time we were objectively declared free from sin" (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. II, p. 348).

Anonymous said...

Mr. Klotz,

Re your statement, "Reconciliation and justification are synonymous terms."

WELS Wauwatosa theologian Prof. John Schaller comments on 2 Corinthians 5:19, which reads "...that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s (NIV11: people’s) sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.":

"If, however, μὴ λογιζόμενος (English: "not counting") denotes an action which is not identical with reconciliation nor is presupposed by it, then Luther is correctly interpreting when he inserts an “and,” which Paul did not have. “And did not impute their trespasses unto them.” (emphasis Schaller’s). … it is obvious that therewith not a presupposition but a consequence of reconciliation is to be expressed…Thus the giving or establishing of this Word (of reconciliation) is a consequence of the reconciliation and therefore at the same time includes the knowledge of the justification of the sinner, which indeed is involved in the reconciliation, but is not identical with it (my emphasis)." – Biblical Christology, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1981.

Pr. Jim Schulz

Joe Krohn said...


The explanations set forth in the second and third articles of the Apostles Creed make quite plain that redemption and reconciliation are second and justification is third...justification needs the work of the cross, but justification is a work of the Holy Ghost and not a work of Christ's death and resurrection.


D. Jerome Klotz said...


Romans 4:25

Joe Krohn said...

Jerome, What about the unforgivable sin? What about the OT believers who did not have the benefit of this reconciliation that took place on Calvary? You never address these always speak in terms of post Calvary. How do you know Pr. Rydecki has not put forth as much study as those theologians you named?


Daniel Baker said...

Mr. Klotz really illustrates the confounding nature of this "doctrine." The whole world is forgiven - but the whole world is not really forgiven. The whole world is absolved by the mighty Word of God - but this is futile until obtained by faith.

Of what use, prey tell, is being forgiven if this forgiveness is invalidated by ignorance? A god who damns sinners who have received the pardon of his supposedly incorruptible word, on the basis that they were ignorant of the word of pardon? And then, having the gall to place the blame on the ignorant soul for not knowing he was actually forgiven in the first place? It would be like a Governor pardoning a death-row inmate on the evening of his execution, but then neglecting to inform the warden until the following day. Oops!

Rather than utilizing these "logical gymnastics," as the phrase has been coined, to somehow try to make God look better (which, per the preceding paragraph, I would argue mack him look much, much worse), I would prefer to cite St. Paul's explanation for the condemnation of the wicked: they are without excuse, for God's invisible qualities have been known to man's heart since the beginning of the world (cf. Romans 1). Men are condemned for rejecting the immutable will of God instead of their own corruption and sin. Men are not condemned because God declared them not guilty but then refused to recognize His own verdict.

In His sight, God does not declare the guilty innocent at all. He declares His Son innocent. When God sees His children, He sees His Son by virtue of Holy Baptism, because when He saw His son on Calvary, He saw the world. But God only sees Christ in His Church, because it is to the Church that the Holy Gospel has been given - not to the world. No, when God sees the world, He sees the reason he "baptized" it in the days of Noah; "only evil all the time."

Daniel Baker said...

On another tangent, something occurred to me concerning the use of 1 Timothy 3:16 as a basis for the objective/subjective differentiation (I will admit that this particular citation *is* one of the more compelling arguments). However, it sort of reminds me of the papist use of James 2:24. By itself, it sure does seem to compellingly state that man is justified by faith *and* deed. However, taken in the context of St. James' full epistle, it is clear that he means that man is "justified," or proven to be a bearer of "good fruit" (as Christ would word it), by what he does.

In a similar vein, St. Paul appears to be saying that, by virtue of His work on earth and the Spirit's testimony to the same, Christ has proven to be what He claimed to be - the God-Man and Savior of all. As such, in these particular instances neither St. James nor St. Paul seem to be talking about the Justification that comes by grace through faith at all.

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