Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Johann Gerhard on Romans 3

Since many folks across Confessional Lutheranism are discussing the meaning of Romans 3, I thought it would be interesting to hear what Johann Gerhard had to say about these verses. So I translated a portion of his commentary from Latin to English, for general consumption.

Johann Gerhard
Adnotationes ad priora capita Epistolae D. Pauli ad Romanos (1644)
Romans 3:26 (final section, page 118)

In this passage the causes and the object of our justification before God are expressed.

1. The chief efficient cause (causa efficiens principalis) is the grace of God, that is, God’s free favor that takes into account our misery.

2. The meritorious cause (causa meritoria) is Christ in the office of redemption, which the Apostle describes with three very significant words.  First, with the word redemption (πολύτρωσιν), which regards the spiritual captivity in Satan’s kingdom, from which we have been redeemed by the precious ransom (λύτρ) of Christ.  Second, with the word mercy seat (λαστήριον), which regards the cover of the ark of the covenant in the Old Testament.  Third, with the phrase the blood of Christμα το χριστο), which, by way of synecdoche, signifies the entire obedience of Christ, active as well as passive.

3. The instrumental cause (causa instrumentalis) is faith, that receiving (ληπτικόν) medium that embraces the benefits of Christ offered in Word and Sacraments, those giving (δοτικος) means.

4. The formal cause (causa formalis) is forgiveness (πάρεσις), the remission of sins, which is joined by an indivisible connection with the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. (Rom. 4:3).

5. The final cause (causa finalis) with respect to God is the demonstration of His righteousness (νδειξις τς δικαιοσύνης ατο).  In justification or the remission of sins, God remains just in that He justly punishes our sins in Christ, who took them upon Himself; and He justifies believers, since the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to them.

The object of justification is sinful man, but only such as believe in Christ, that is, those who know their sins from the Law, who seriously  grieve over them, and who by faith apply to themselves the promise of the remission of sins for the sake of Christ.


Anonymous said...

I would conclude from these words of Johann Gerhard that if he were alive today and a member of the WELS, he too would face prospects of being suspended. It seems like many other "fathers" of the Lutheran church would face a similar fate today.


AP said...

I used the following from Martin Chemnitz last year in a chapel sermon. I suppose I should not have, looking back at it, since Chemnitz would probably too have brought himself under church discipline for this statement:

"We must note the foundations. For we are justified by faith, not because it is so firm, robust, and perfect a virtue, but because of the object on which it lays hold, namely Christ, who is the Mediator in the promise of grace. Therefore when faith does not err in its object, but lays hold on that true object, although with a weak faith, or at least tries and wants to lay hold on Christ, then there is true faith, and it justifies."


Anonymous said...

Good for you, A.P. It's going to be pretty hard to round up and deal with all those "justified by faith" people, whether they be alive today, or staring back at us through the ages.

Borrowing a line from the "Tea Partiers", if this controversy in the Lutheran Church about justification is 'hope and change' in action, I'll live with the hope that comes from being justified by faith, and others can keep the change.


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