145 In What, Then, Does Justification of Man the Sinner Before God Consist According to the Statement of the Gospel?
- In this very thing, that God imputes to us the righteousness of the obedience and death of Christ the Mediator and thus justifies us freely out of grace, without our works or merits, alone by faith that apprehends the grace of God the Father and the merit of Christ; that is, He forgives us [our] sins, receives [us] into grace, adopts [us] as [His] sons, and receives [us] to the inheritance of life eternal. Ro 4:24–25, 28; 4:5; 10:4; Gal 3:24; Eph 2:8–9; Titus 3:5–7.
- [PAR – Chemnitz makes no distinction at all here between “objective” justification and “subjective” justification. He speaks of the Justification of “Man the Sinner,” which, in UOJ terminology, is the same as saying “mankind / the whole world of sinners/ all people.” But there is no justification of “Man the Sinner” in Chemnitz’s definition except “alone by faith.”
By definition, “justification” in Chemnitz’s language is the actual imputation of the righteousness of the obedience and death of Christ to the one who believes. Where there is no faith, there is no imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and therefore, no justification at all.
Also important is Chemnitz’s constant repetition describing the object of faith. A sinner is not to have faith that “the whole world has been justified.” Instead, faith “apprehends the grace of God the Father and the merit of Christ.” Chemnitz appears to know of no other justification than this, no “objective righteous status of all people” assumed to be in the background. He fully defines justification here in this answer: “that God forgives us our sins, receives us into grace, adopts us as His sons, and receives us to the inheritance of life eternal.”]
146 But to Justify, by Reason of Etymology or Composition, is the Same as to Make Just; And Since the Holy Ghost Renews Believers, So that They Yield Their Members Instruments of Righteousness (Rom. 6:13), Surely Justification Consists in that Renewal of the Holy Ghost, or in the New Obedience of the Reborn.
- One must not determine the true meaning of the word justify by Latin usage, for it is a special word proper to the Holy Scriptures. For when Scripture wants to say that someone is cleared of a charge that was aimed [at him] and of the sentence of damnation, it uses the word justify in a forensic sense and often in antithesis, opposing damnation with justification. Dt 25:1; Prov 17:15; Ro 5:18; 8:33–34. Now, at this point the Holy Spirit was pleased [to use] the word justification in a forensic sense. For the whole process or act of the reconciliation of man the sinner with God is simply and clearly represented, as it were, with the word justify. For this matter is not handled incidentally or lightly, but seriously and, what is more, before the court of God and God Himself the judge. For the Law summons us to the tribunal of divine judgment, where it not only accuses us of sin, but completely convicts us. And since before that just court of God every mouth is to be stopped and the whole world [is to be] subject to God (Ro 3:19), therefore Moses pronounces against us the sentence of death and condemnation. 2 Co 3:7, 9; Dt 27:26. Therefore when our conscience, now convicted of sins and therefore made subject to eternal death and damnation, anxiously looks about for something with which to oppose this just judgment of God, so that it might avoid and evade the broad sentence of damnation, it finds nothing at all. But finally God Himself, rich in mercy, sets His Son before us in the Gospel as atonement. Ro 3:25. And those who through faith take recourse to that Son the Mediator, and apprehend Him by faith—those the Father justifies from the charge placed by the Law and from the sentence of condemnation; that is, He absolves [them] for the sake of Christ, and, by imputation of the obedience and death of Christ, declares [them] righteous and awards them life eternal. Ro 8:33–34. And this is the process or act of the justification of a sinner before the judgment seat of God, so that he appeals from the throne of the strict justice of God to the throne of grace in the blood of the Son of God, as Gerson describes the matter of justification by the apt simile of forensic appeal.
- [PAR – Chemnitz could not be clearer here. He describes the whole process of justification. According to his description, the world does not stand righteous before God. On the contrary, the world stands convicted by the Law before the “tribunal of divine judgment.” Far from being declared righteous, the whole world stands condemned. Only those “who through faith take recourse to that Son the Mediator – those the Father justifies from the charge placed by the Law…He absolves them…declares them righteous and awards them life eternal.”]
147 Does God, Then, Justify the Sinner Because of Sins, So that in that Justification No Righteousness Whatever Need Intervene in Respect to Which the Sinner is Pronounced Righteous?
- God Himself calls that kind of justification abomination. Ex 23:7; Pr 17:15; Is 5:22–23. Therefore the judgment of God must be met with such righteousness—or there must be interposed between God, the angry judge, and man the sinner [such righteousness]—through which and because of which God justifies the wicked. For justification cannot take place without righteousness. Ro 3:22, 24.
- [PAR – In summary, Christ himself has provided the righteousness necessary for the sinner’s justification to take place. It is the righteousness of Christ that the believer claims before the Judge. Those who do not claim the righteousness of Christ (i.e., all unbelievers) still stand before an angry judge. They are not justified.]
148 But What, Then, is the Righteousness that Faith Brings to the Judgment Seat of God, that God Might Justify the Miserable Sinner Because of It?
- The new obedience of the reborn is indeed also called a kind of righteousness; e.g., Ro 6:16; 1 Jn 2:29. But it cannot be that righteousness through and because of which we are justified before God unto life eternal. For before anyone might render that righteousness of new obedience, it is necessary that the person be reconciled to God, that is, be justified by God. 1 Jn 2:29. Moreover, because of sin dwelling in our flesh, the new obedience of the reborn is weak, impure, and imperfect in this life, so that we can by no means be justified by it before God. Ps 143:2; 1 Co 4:4. Since, then, faith instructed by the Word of God knows that it cannot find such righteousness—either in the nature or in any of the most sanctified life of any man, or in any other creature—by which a man might be justified before God, it therefore apprehends, in the Word and the Sacraments, Christ the Mediator with His most holy obedience and most innocent death, by which He satisfied the Law for us, having formed the resolute conviction that this is the true and only righteousness that avails and stands before God. And faith meets the judgment of God with this righteousness, wishing, desiring, praying, and in true confidence believing that because of it a sinner is justified by God, that is, absolved of sins, received into grace, and given life eternal. And since this righteousness of Christ, rendered for us, is perfect, sufficient and abundant and can stand before the judgment seat of God, therefore God has promised that He would impute it to believers just as if they rendered it themselves. Ro 3:22; 4:23–25; 5:18. And thus believers absolutely have, not indeed in themselves, but in Christ, true and genuine righteousness, through which they are justified before God.
- [PAR – The word “reconciliation,” both in the Enchiridion and in the Confessions seems to have a sense of "completion" in the vicarious satisfaction of Christ on the cross, and of "continuation" in the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. Some have concluded that "reconciliation" and "justification" are perfect synonyms. But this conclusion is not borne out by Chemnitz in this section, who associates "justification" with only the latter sense of the term "reconciliation" (i.e., in the sense of its "continuation," not in the sense of its "completion").
Proponents of UOJ frequently make the argument that “faith must have something to believe; it must grasp something that already exists.” Here again in this section, Chemnitz describes what that “something” is. It is not “that all people have already been declared righteous. Believe it!” Instead, Chemnitz very graphically describes faith and its object above. The object of faith is the righteousness of Christ – not even the “justification” of Christ, but the righteousness of Christ. This is what God has “promised that He would impute to believers just as if they rendered it themselves.”
Finally, note the passages Chemnitz cites above to prove that it is the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to believers: Romans 3:22; 4:23-25; 5:18. These are the very sedes that UOJ proponents point to in order to prove an objective justification of the world. But Chemnitz cites these passages as clear testimonies of the justification that only takes place when a person believes in Christ and thus has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him.]