Monday, January 28, 2013

A bit of Q & A with Hunnius on Justification

Cross-posted from my (other) blog.

Aegidius Hunnius didn't only write on the subject of Justification in the Theses Opposed to Huberianism (linked here). Among other things, he wrote a book (about 250 pages long) called The Article of the Gracious Justification of Sinful Man before God, Explained by Means of Questions and Answers. It'll take me a long time to finish translating that work, especially since I'm currently working on others, but here is a brief series of excerpts.

The Article of the Gracious Justification of Sinful Man before God: Questions and Answers

(Hunnius, p.17 ff)

What does the word “justify” mean in the present discussion?

In a human judgment, they are said “to be justified” who are pronounced free from the guilt of the crimes of which they were accused. (The Scripture speaks in this sense in Deut. 25: If a case arises and they go to judgment, the righteous man should be justified and the ungodly man condemned, as this word “justifying” is understood in both Proverbs 17 and Is. 5). In the same way, understanding the word in the same forensic usage, they are said to be justified before God who, fleeing to the Throne of Grace, are absolved from the guilt of sin and from damnation, and are reckoned as righteous by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, which consists in His obedience.

In order that each part may be examined in order, give me such a definition of justification that embraces the sum of the whole treatment that will follow.

Justification is the act of God by which He deigns to consider the man who is frightened by the awareness of sins and who flees to the Throne of Grace with pure mercy, through and for the sake of the merit of Christ, apprehended by faith; and, having forgiven him his sins, He reckons him as righteous, free from damnation, and also an heir of eternal life, without any human merit and without any view of God toward the virtues or the works of man.

What kind of definition is this?

It is a causal definition, seeing that the true causes are being enumerated and the false causes removed.

How many causes of justification are there?

Three. First is grace, that is, the gracious favor of God. Second: The obedience of Christ. Third: Faith.

Why do you number the causes in this order?

I put the grace of God in first place because this was given to us, as the Apostle testifies, before times of eternity, and it is also the source and beginning of the remaining causes, since it occurred by the mercy and grace of God that the Son was sent into the world to satisfy God in our place. Faith, on the other hand, since it is considered relatively to the obedience of Christ as the instrument that apprehends the thing that is apprehended, necessarily presupposes that which is apprehended, namely, the merit of Christ. In the order of causes, the merit of Christ comes before our faith, although in the case of the fathers, who lived before the Messiah was born and suffered, their faith (temporally speaking) existed prior to the suffering of the Lord, as they were naturally looking forward toward that which was to come. Still, if you consider the order of causes, the suffering of the Son comes first before God, who justifies (who views the merit of His Son outside the realm of time). Similarly, if you weigh the order of causes and effects, the suffering of Christ, is naturally prior to the salvation of the patriarchs (for this depends on the suffering of Christ as the effect brought about by the cause), although if you view the priority of time, the fathers gained that salvation before the Lord suffered—indeed, before He was born into the world.

(Hunnius, p.66 ff)

Explain more clearly what this means.

Scripture locates our justification in a twofold imputation, one positive, the other negative. Positive, in that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, which otherwise would not dwell in us. Negative, in that that which does dwell in us, namely, sins, are not imputed. The Apostle writes about both in Romans 4, with these words: As David also explains the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Here you hear of the imputation of righteousness (which, for us, is Christ in His obedience); you hear likewise of the non imputation of sin. Indeed, our justification is located in both, even as one reads again of this latter non-imputation in 2 Cor. 5, God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing sins to them.

As I understand your thinking, you believe that a man who is righteous by nature is justified?

When God justifies a man, He does not justify one who is righteous by nature. For He finds none, in that all have sinned, all have become useless and unrighteous, and fall short of the glory of God. Indeed, Christ did not come for the sake of righteous people, but to save sinners, to seek and to save what was lost. Paul does not hesitate to affirm in this regard that God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4)—not the ungodly as he continues in his ungodliness, but as he acknowledges it and turns to the Throne of Grace, Jesus Christ.

But Proverbs 17 says that it is an abomination before God if someone justifies an ungodly man. Knowing this, how, then, shall we attribute this to God Himself?

There is a great difference between the two. To be sure, in a human judgment (where the imputation of a foreign righteousness has no place), it is called “justifying the ungodly” when he who is neither righteous by his own nor by a foreign righteousness is reckoned and pronounced righteous, without respect to or intervention of any righteousness—that is, by a false and unjust sentence. But in God’s judgment, where a foreign righteousness is valid, the ungodly is justified, not without any righteousness at all, but, since he lacks his own righteousness (and is for this very reason “ungodly” by nature), nonetheless, he is clothed by faith with a foreign righteousness which most certainly can be and is imputed to believers by God, as was just demonstrated.

What is the means of this imputation?

Faith. As it is written, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him as righteousness. And again, To him who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is imputed as righteousness.

You said that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. Now it appears from the testimonies that have been produced that faith is imputed for righteousness?

These things are not at odds with one another. For each is imputed to us in its own way. The righteousness of the obedience of Christ is the very thing that is imputed, that is, because of which we are reckoned as righteous and by which we are called “righteous.” But faith is the means of that imputation as it lays hold of the righteousness imputed by God. In this sense, faith itself, insofar as it embraces the righteousness of the obedience of the Savior, is said to be imputed as righteousness.

So then, you are making faith a third cause of our justification?

Very much so. And this together with the Prophets and Apostles, who have set forth that justification of faith illustrated by the example of Abraham (Gen. 15, Rom. 4). Indeed, there are also other testimonies that confirm that man is justified by faith: John 3, God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that everyone who believes in Him should have eternal life. Acts 13, Let it be known to you that through this Man the remission of sins is announced to you, and through Him everyone who believes is justified from all the things from which you could not be justified through the law of Moses. And this phrase is often used by the Apostles from the Prophets: The righteous will live by faith. Paul makes this the proposition of his entire disputation in the introduction of the Epistle to the Romans, writing: The righteousness of God is revealed through it (the Gospel), from faith to faith, as it is written: But the righteous will live by his faith. And in Romans 3: But the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and upon all those who believe. And again: We judge that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. And: The inheritance is given by faith, so that [it may be] according to grace, so that the promise may be firm. Many such sayings occur here and there (Acts 10, Gal. 2, Phil. 3, Heb. 11, and elsewhere).

But what do you here understand by “faith”?

Justifying faith is not only the knowledge in the intellect by which we hold the chief articles of the doctrine that has been divinely passed down, which includes that Christ has been crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, etc., but is above all the confidence of the heart with which a man trustingly rests in the satisfaction obtained through the death of Christ.


Unknown said...

"Still, if you consider the order of causes, the suffering of the Son comes first before God, who justifies (who views the merit of His Son outside the realm of time)."

Isn't this exactly what is meant by objective justification?

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

No, it is not. Some people understand objective justification to be the same as the suffering of Christ or the satisfaction made by Christ. But that is not what OJ historically and currently means.

Objective justification means that all people have already been justified by God, whether they believe in Christ or not. That was surely not the case with "the fathers/the patriarchs" that Hunnius is talking about.

Hunnius is explaining that God was perfectly able to justify believers who came before Christ, even though Christ had not yet (in time) satisfied the law for us, because God views the merit of His Son outside of time. But nowhere does Hunnius imply that God justifies anyone apart from that "third cause" of justification, that being faith that apprehends the obedience of Christ.

I especially appreciate how Hunnius repeatedly makes "the obedience of Christ" the object of faith, rather than the "general justification" that some claim as the true object of faith. In his Theses Opposed to Huberianism, Hunnius destroys the notion of such a "general justification."

Jim Wilson said...

meh. Faith either is extra nos, or it's a false reed entirely. The action is all God's and none in the nature of this hateful, rebellious sinner.

Anonymous said...

I have been a WELS member my entire life, went to WELS schools from K-12th grade and even spent a semester at NWC. My grandfather, Clare Reiter, is a WELS pastor (retired). I have always understood that while Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, only believers are justified. With respect to those who believe this controversy is symantecs, I believe this change in language descibing justification, which is apparently the current WELS position, is not only a dangerous move in the direction that other christian churches have moved, but may already represent false teaching. I will say that it appears to be false teaching to me but I will leave that determination to those whose understanding of language and doctrine is better than mine. I hope that the current controversy will have the benefit of increasing my understanding of Scripture, doctrine, and language.

James Huey

Unknown said...

Pastor Rydecki, I disagree with your interpretation of what Hunnius is saying here. It seems to me he's making a distinction between the temporal and causal order of the elements of justification. Although, temporally speaking, the faith of the patriarchs came before the work of Christ, the faith of the patriarchs did not cause the work of Christ. God views the work of Christ objectively, completely independent of consideration of time or faith. Thus the grace of God and the work of Christ could be termed objective justification and faith could be termed subjective justification.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Yes, he is making a distinction between the temporal and causal order of the elements of justification. No, he is not saying that fhe faith of the patriarchs caused the work of Christ. Of course not. That would be ridiculous.

And yes, the Father views the work of Christ objectively. There is no question about that, either.

The question is, does He justify sinners who do not believe in Christ? The answer is, no.

You suggest that the grace of God and the work of Christ could be termed "objective justification," but that would be inconsistent with the use of the word "justification" in both the Scriptures and the Confessions, and it wouldn't be accurate, either, for God has not justified the whole unbelieving world, even though Christ has merited righteousness for the whole unbelieving world.

Anonymous said...

@ James Huey...
I agree with your words with exception of the following: "but I will leave that determination to those whose understanding of language and doctrine is better than mine."

You are capable of determining and already have seen the problem for what it is. You don't have to be ordained to know the truth. I have the same background as you. I know I was taught the truth when I began my education. By the time I graduated from DLMC, I could see things were already changing. I never could accept the change in the catechism...not because it was a different book, but because the teachings were different. Sadly, this is the book that almost all the pastors and teachers being churned out today have had ingrained into their education. Gausewitz would be foreign.

The sad truth is this... there are several kinds of pastors - here is a short list...
Group 1) Believe UOJ is correct without question...they can only think UOJ and cannot fathom any other idea - you heretic.
Group 2) Don't really know what's going on other than what is told/whispered about the controversy and the false teaching, and will always follow what Synod tells them to follow. They will forward you materials you "should read" to help you clear up your questions, probably the things Synod sent to them, as they have not, and will not do any extra to find out for themselves (eager Bereans would be good examples here)
Group 3) This type has questions too and would like to be able to discuss the subject openly. Sadly, out of fear of retaliation from Synod and risking they could be fit with new shoes - Rydecki Specials - or blackballed for the rest of their professional life, these guys will say nothing.
Group 4) The saddest group of all in my view are those who know the truth and will say nothing. They already are somewhat ostracized as they have possibly already spoken out against other flaky WELS issues like Church & Change, Parish Services, the Crossroads Churches and any other that is seemingly ashamed to proclaim the name of Lutheran in the church's name, as well as not supporting the "ministry" of Mark Jeske, questioning the direction of WLS, the shady alliance with Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as Willow Creek Association, not supporting the church growth folks, and any other possible cause that is happening among us. Sadly, they can't speak up as they may lose their retirement and many of these people are close to that age and cannot risk it.
and Group 5) Those that will boldly speak up despite the repercussions of doing so.

God warned us that there would be days like this. Make good decisions for your faith life and for your family. Your are also equipped to make spiritual decisions...the paradox is that it was this same group that trained you and told you to do it.

May God bless you... Linda Sasieta

Unknown said...

"God has not justified the whole unbelieving world, even though Christ has merited righteousness for the whole unbelieving world."

This is not an accurate statement of objective justification (though I know some talk this way). Any talk of God justifying unbelievers is an improper mixing of the objective and the subjective. The true teaching of objective justification, as I understand it, is that God justified Jesus Christ, who is the substitute for the entire world. Once we start defining the constituent parts of "the entire world" and dividing the world into groups of believers and unbelievers, we have necessarily crossed into the subjective realm.

So no, the question is NOT "Does He justify sinners who do not believe in Christ?". The question, when it comes to objective justification, is "Has the Father justified Jesus Christ, who served as a substitute for the world and had the world's sins imputed to him?". The answer to that question is "yes".

Anonymous said...


Good post. I think your categorization is appropriate, but I think it applies to church leaders and church elders, and finally to lay people, as well as pastors. Unfortunately, it seems that too many church leaders and elders are willing to go along with a pastor, no matter which category he falls into.

But I am seeing that more and more lay people, with the background that you and James have, are raising concerns. Unfortunately, when the concerns are raised, they are often viewed by leadership as being divisive.

On the other side, I have seen warning messages from church leaders, at high levels in the synod, that divisions must be avoided at all costs. One could conclude from those warnings that truth isn't that important any more. And I'm reminded of Luther's words, "Peace if possible, truth at all costs!"

I recall a time in the WELS when most in the WELS heeded Luther's words. Now, hearing the words of some of the leaders in the synod, I wonder where the majority resides.


Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


I appreciate that you're not espousing the crass views of some, and your position is, perhaps, less objectionable for that reason. However, since we've now gotten so far away from the language of the Lutheran Confessions and Scripture, it becomes increasing difficult to define what "the true teaching" of OJ is.

The WELS official position is not the one you stated. The WELS position says,

“Romans 3:23,24 and Romans 5:18,19 affirm that all are sinners and all are justified. Through Adam all are condemned, and through Christ all are justified. The astonishing reality is that God has forgiven the sins of the whole world, whether people believe it or not.” (Bivens, FIC article)

"We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends. It is a message relevant to people of all times and places, of all races and social levels, for "the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men" (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for "the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men" (Romans 5:18)." (This We Believe)

"Q. 253. How many people did God declare righteous?
A. 253. God declared all people righteous. (objective justification)" - Kuske Catechism

The position you have described is the position espoused by Kurt Marquart, for whom I still have a great deal of respect. The problem is, where is this teaching found in Scripture? The Article of Justification, as taught by the Lutheran Church and confessed in the Lutheran Confessions, does not include this "justification of Jesus," nor does it assert that the whole world of sinners was justified in Him. If you find any reference to such a thing in the Confessions or in Scripture, please advise. Note that 1 Timothy 3:16 has to be ripped entirely out of context to make it say this, although there are some who have pointed to it as the sedes doctrinae of this "vicarious justification." Lutherans believe in vicarious atonement, not vicarious justification. Our "Vicar" was slain for us. He was the one who suffered, not us. We are the ones who are justified, not He. He had no need to be justified, since He never ceased to be the Righteous One. He got what we deserved. We get what He deserved. That's the blessed exchange.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

I should have added, "We who believe in Him get what He deserved," or "We get what He deserved through faith in Him." We get what we deserve (namely, the wages of sin) if we don't believe in the Son of God.

Joe Krohn said...

"He had no need to be justified, since He never ceased to be the Righteous One. He got what we deserved."

No doubt. But He was also man and was unrighteous for a time since He was forsaken by His Father at the cross.

Anonymous said...

I am no Confessional or Biblical scholar, but in my reading of the Confessions they present the concept of "objective" justification as a comparison between Christ's work and our works. Christ's work is "objective" only in the sense that we can do nothing to earn our salvation by our works. Justification is never presented apart from faith; we are justified not because of what we do but because of the God-given faith in what Christ has done for us. Perhaps this is a source of confusion over justification: the objectiveness of Christ's work only in comparison to our works. That comparison of works is then incorrectly applied into a larger context of Universal Objective Justification, not comparing works but comparing Christ's acts to our faith.


Unknown said...


"...He was also a man and was unrighteous for a time since He was forsaken by the Father at the cross."

You will agree that the work of Christ in God is vicarious, that is, substitionary. God made Him the Substitute for our sinful race by imputing our sinfulness, our actual sins which flow naturally from our sinfulness, and our legal liability (guilt) before God, to Christ Jesus (Romans 5, II Corinthians 5). God's vicarious imputation was to the sinless, holy, righteous God and Man, Christ Jesus. The oxymoron of this is that He who was, is, and remains personally sinless, holy, and righteous was declared by the Father to be sinful, unholy, and unrighteous. Forsaken by God, completely and fully punished by God in every way, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, that, as noted, through the faith worked by the Spirit, using His means of Grace, the vicarious atonement of Christ is imputed individually as one's personal righteousness. It is in this divinely effected confidence that the believer's new and daily renewed life rests; not in himself, but in Christ, in whom alone is our justification from all which we cannot justify ourselves.

Gary Cepek

Unknown said...

Pastor Rydecki, I completely agree that the statement in "What We Believe" is imperfect and unclear. (That's why we shouldn't do theology by synod convention, but that's another issue.) Instead of saying, "We believe that God has justified all sinners", it would be better if it said, "We believe that God has justified Christ in the place of all sinners" or "We believe that God has justified all sinners in Christ". I'm fairly certain, though, that it's an issue of poor wording, not false doctrine.

As for where this "vicarious justification" is taught in Scripture, I'm not a fan of theology by proof text. Vicarious justification is taught by the resurrection itself. On the cross, the sins of the world were imputed to Christ. His resurrection is proof that sin is no longer imputed to him. If it were, he could not have risen from the dead, since sin leads only to death. Thus, Christ's resurrection means the non-imputation of sin to his account, otherwise known as justification.

Joe Krohn said...

Agreed, Gary. My point is the taking of this Justification by Faith Alone so far to the point of denying that all mankind is pardoned in the atonement. If this were so, the certainty of Election falters. The pardon becomes limited and so follows the atonement. As Lutherans, we believe that our election is by grace and not faith (in so far as.)

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Phinehas, the ability to recognize a problem with This We Believe is a good start. Before my expulsion from the WELS, I was willing to withhold final judgment about it being "false doctrine," but since I was excommunicated for disagreeing with it as worded, I am forced to call it what it is.

There is a vast difference between "theology by proof text" and drawing our doctrine from the Scriptures (and being able to prove it). "Theology by proof text" is exactly what has gotten us to this point as the "proof texts" for objective justification are thrown around as if they actually prove something. Rom. 3:24, Rom. 4:25, Rom. 5:18, 2 Cor. 5:19 do not prove that "all sinners have been declared righteous," and yet a whole (new) theology has been built around these verses, or even around isolated phrases within the verses, disregarding all surrounding context, rules of rhetoric, and the analogy of faith. That is poor theology.

If someone wants to speak of Christ as having been "justified" in some sense, I will not draw swords with him, although it is confusing and unnecessary. But even so, all sinners are still left "unjustified" by it. All sinners who are not born again of water and the Spirit remain "under wrath" and condemned by God, so it is quite useless to bring it into the article of justification. That, and then the fact that, as I keep repeating, the Lutheran Church specifically did not include it in the article of justification as it was confessed throughout history. Therefore, since it is not taught by the Scriptures, nor does it form any part of the pattern of sound words that have been handed down to us, I am certainly not obligated to believe it or teach it. It is, at best, uncertain.

Jon said...

What I was taught is that scripture explains scripture.

Take any scripture that God speaks in terms of the "world".

Was the flood a localized event or not?

When death itself entered the "world" is that a result of the "world" being subject to God's wrath or objects of God's wrath?

The great commission: is the gospel meant for the subjective few or for the objective everybody?

The world will end when according to Matthew 24:14?

This is the danger if OJ doesn't mean "everybody"... it allows the unbeliever to stand before God stating " Jesus never justified me for my sin" ... What is being indirectly stated is that God will not call that person a liar.

Rather God will say in effect "Liar... he did too. I searched your heart and you rejected it for yourself! You have no excuse for rejecting my Son's justification that his blood was spent for"

Michael Sullivan said...

Objective Justification is clearly taught in the Bible and not just by the following proof passages.

Romans 3:23,24 - The clear grammar of that verse. That subject of δικαιούμενοι is πάντες; Unless you are saying that not "all sinned" but that the "all" is referring only to those who are justified by faith - that "all those justified by faith" have sinned.

Romans 5 - The analogy with Adam makes no sense, unless Christ justified the world.
(By the way - "many" in Greek and in other languages like German, can stress the aspect of the large size of the group. The English word "many" does not have this aspect.

2 Corinthians 5:19. What does it mean that God was not counting men's sins against them?

(See next comment for the answer to your comment: "There is a vast difference between "theology by proof text" and drawing our doctrine from the Scriptures (and being able to prove it).

Michael Sullivan said...

Consider also the history of Old Testament Israel.

God chose "Israel" and called them "his people" - EVEN THOSE WHO DID NOT BELIEVE. Only those who believed received the benefit and blessing of being Israel and standing under God's gracious promises. The whole history of Israel - and the terms God uses to call his wayward people back to him - clearly teaches the interplay between objective and subjective justification.

In know that you, Paul, see this more as an illustration of the Church. I don't. Unbelievers can not be a part of the true Church. The wayward, unbelieving Israelites were not "weak" believers - they were unbelievers. And yet, they still stood under the promise - the promise that would only benefit them if they repented, believed and turned back.

Consider Isaiah 1:2-4, 18-20; 5:13; 22:4 ... Look at how God weeps and laments over "his people" who did not believe in him. The promise stood over Israel. It was objective. God declared the children of Abraham HIS PEOPLE. But those who did not believe were condemned. They showed themselves not his people because they did not receive the promise in faith. Was the problem with God? No. His declaration is clear - the wicked Israelites were his people, whom he chose and delivered. (cf. Deuteronomy 9 - especially verse 29) This truth clearly illustrates objective justification. Those who believed benefited from the covenant and were not condemned - subjective justification.

Consider the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Was the son who went away a believer? Absolutely not! And yet he is still called "a son" (vs. 13). Even though he wanted nothing to do with the Father, he was still His "son." Did that relationship benefit him while he was away - rejecting his Father? No - not at all. But he still was the Father's son. If he would have died in his sin and unbelief, he would have died a stranger in a strange land - even though he was still a son. But the son repented, turned back was received by the Father. Did the Father say: "Now that you returned to me and received me in faith, I now declare you a son - because before this faith you were not?" No, He simply receives him back and restores him to his position. Look at what the Father says in verse 24: "For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." (Luke 15:24 KJV) The son never stopped being a son. He was a lost, dead son when he lived in unbelief and sin. He was found and alive when he returned at repented.

Objective Justification is the fact that the son was a son.
Subjective Justification is that fact that the son was restored as an alive son - who had a restored relationship with his Father.

Can you not see the interplay between objective and subjective justification?

God reconciled the world to himself. The sins of all have been forgiven - God does NOT reckon them to man's account. But this forgiveness is meaningless unless it is received in faith.

One last analogy - a modern one: When Japan surrendered in WWII, the US declared peace. Every Japanese soldier was at peace with the US. But if a Japanese soldier did not hear the news or did not believe it - he was not at peace, but at war. He died fighting as an enemy of the US. Why? Was it because the US considered him an enemy until the time he showed himself not to be one? No, rather because He consider the US to be an enemy, and therefore was one.

God reconciled the world to himself in Christ Jesus. Every ones sins are forgiven for Jesus sake. But the one who does not believe, will be condemned. He remains in his sins - not because God's did not justify him, but because he refuses to be justified by God.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Michael, Objective Justification as you have described it is not at all taught in the Scriptures.

There are three issues with your personal interpretation of Rom. 3:23-24 (I call it a personal interpretation, because it is not consistent with the historical interpretation of the Church, or even with the interpretation of others like Stoeckhardt who did teach OJ).

First, you’re right about πἀντες being the antecedent, but you missed the rest of it. The antecedent is actually in v.22, πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας, “all who believe.” Paul’s entire argument is being made to and about believers in Christ. The phrase “all have sinned” certainly applies to all men, as the Apostle has demonstrated in chapters 2 and 3. But as he now begins to teach about this “other righteousness,” the righteousness that is not by law but by faith in Jesus Christ, he nowhere claims that those who do not have this faith in Jesus Christ have already been justified. He is speaking to those who have this righteousness of faith.

The second problem with your interpretation is that you are noticing the aorist (past tense) “have sinned,” but you seem to be missing the fact that δικαιούμενοι is a present tense passive participle. It by no means says that “all have been justified.” It says, as Luther rightly translated, “und werden gerecht,” “become righteous,” or as Melanchthon translated, “und werden gerechtfertigt,” “are justified” (passive verb, not stative verb). There is no way you can place this present passive verb into the past tense as something which God declared upon all people at the cross of Christ. You can’t escape the present tense. Grammars call this an “iterative” use of the participle. “All” are being justified one by one as they are brought to faith in Jesus Christ.

Thirdly, the context is very clear that it is by faith in Jesus Christ that sinners are counted righteous before God. It is either by law that they are accounted righteous (which is impossible), or it is by faith. There is no third option. Verses 22-26 are one long sentence in the Greek, which cannot be parsed into a “one-time justification of all men,” (v.24) and then another justification of those who believe (v.22,v.26). That, or the Apostle Paul is a terrible teacher, because he uses the same word and nowhere explains that he’s using it differently. God is “the Justifier of the one who believes in Jesus” (v.26). This is the “how” of justification. By grace, because of the redemption made by Christ Jesus, through faith. So all have sinned and are justified “when they believe,” as the Augsburg Confession also states.

Luther uses a similar phrase in his Galatians commentary, “All men are sinners and are justified solely by faith in Christ.” He anathematizes anyone who teaches the Gospel differently. (AE:Vol. 26, p.59).

That’s all the time I have for the moment. I’ll get to the other passages later on.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Romans 5 - The analogy with Adam makes no sense, unless Christ justified the world.
(By the way - "many" in Greek and in other languages like German, can stress the aspect of the large size of the group. The English word "many" does not have this aspect.

Your interpretation of this chapter is exactly the same as that of Samuel Huber, who was condemned for it by the Wittenberg faculty in the 1590’s. Here’s an excerpt from Hunnius, writing for the faculty:

For when it says in Romans 5, “Just as through the sin of one man, evil spread to all men for condemnation, so through the righteousness of one man, good spreads to all men for justification of life,” this is clearly what Paul means, that just as through the transgression of Adam, sin spread to all those who came after him resulting in their condemnation, so through the obedience of Christ, righteousness was acquired and obtained, which is more than sufficient for all men to be justified and made alive, if the whole world were to embrace it by faith. For this is how Romans 3 explains this sentence: “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and upon all those who believe.” One should not look to the Huberian dogma in order to confirm the true sense of the Pauline saying. For it is true that the Apostle, in each passage, mentions the established antithesis of propagation between Adam and Christ, not only of evil for condemnation, but also of good for justification. Now, certainly if one should press each and every aspect of the antithesis, wouldn’t we fall into the heresy of the papists, so that, just as sin was propagated from Adam to men through the indwelling of sin, so the righteousness of the Second Adam likewise must be transmitted and propagated to us by way of indwelling? But if we condemn this mode of propagation of the one , then it follows that no other mode exists for propagating in us the righteousness that avails before God, except for imputation. For salvation and the righteousness obtained for the whole world are apprehended through faith, so that those who believe apply that to themselves which would have been propagated through imputation by faith to all men, if all men had believed.

I refer you also to Gerhard’s treatment of Romans 5:18, here, where he makes it clear that sin is passed on by inheritance from Adam, and therefore to all, sin all men are descended from Adam. But not all are descended from Christ, but those who are born of Him (i.e., regenerated believers), although His merit is certainly sufficient for all men.

Then there are Luther’s own words on Romans 5:18,

for in the same manner also St. Paul writes in Romans 5[:18]: “As through one man’s sin condemnation has come over all men, so through one man’s righteousness justification has come over all men.” Yet not all men are justified through Christ, nevertheless he is the man through whom all justification comes. (AE:52:71).

Then there is our Lutheran Confessions’ take on the same verses, which ought to be definitive for those who profess to be confessional Lutherans:

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:SD:III:12-13)

Michael Sullivan said...

I understand where you are coming from (I read Luther and Stoeckhardt on this passage) but I still have a hard time seeing it.

Notice that I am not excluding subjective justification - I know Romans 3 is talking about faith. You can not speak of the objective side of justification without the subjective - as the example of Israel and the prodigal son clearly illustrate. Without faith, we are to God as Absalom was to David.

But what "difference" is Paul referring to when he says: there is no difference? There is no difference regarding the believers? Or is it that there is no difference between Jew, Gentile and all men regarding the salvation of all men: All sinned. All are justified by his grace through the redemption Jesus, and this propitiation is received through faith in his blood?

Regarding my other points: you are right in that the analogies do not specifically deal with the term "justification," but they all deal with a "status" of a sinner before God. How can God call unrighteous Israel his children? How can the wayward son be still a "son" of the Father who clearly meant to symbolize God?

As I said, there is a difference between a son, and a dead son. I know that the Kokomo statements talked about "saints in hell" from Meyer's Commentary. I think that the term "saint" was a wrong term for Meyer to use.

But let me use the illustration of the Prodigal son. What you have in hell are "dead sons," sons that never returned to the father; sons that were lost. Being dead, they are no longer a sons - not because God didn't reconcile them to himself, but because they sold their sonship for sin - just like Esau sold his birthright for soup.

Would you not agree that only those who are "justified" are to be considered children of God? The wicked are not his children. And yet how is it that the Old Testament is filled with examples God calling wayward Israel "his children" and "his people"? I guess one could say that they were under the Law, so it is like comparing apples and oranges. But this makes even less sense because the Mosaic covenant says: If you obey me then I will be your God. The people were certainly NOT obeying. So how could God call his wayward nation: his people?

Anyway, those are just some thoughts. I am busy too, so don't feel like you have to respond right away. Take care Paul, and may the Spirit of Christ lead us to the truth through His Gospel.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Michael, I appreciate the discussion. As to your analogy of sons, are you now asserting that all men have been adopted as God's sons, but are dead sons? That is also pure Huberianism.

God's relationship with Israel was one based on a covenant, and so He spoke to Israel as His covenant children. Do you now say that the whole world has been brought into the New Testament in the blood of Christ? I hope you're not saying such a thing. The sufficiency of His propitiation for the sins of the world by no means means that the whole world has been brought into Christ.

Baptism is the Sacrament that brings us into God's New Testament, and it's baptized believers who are heirs of eternal life--not the whole world!

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

But what "difference" is Paul referring to when he says: there is no difference?

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile in the fact that all have sinned (and therefore cannot be justified by works); there is no difference between Jew and Gentile in how they are justified before God--not by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ. All are equally justified by faith. None are justified by works. Those who continually attempt to be justified by works are never justified. Period.

Brett Meyer said...

Romans 9:6, "Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel."

Galatians 5:4, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace."

Michael Sullivan said...


First of all: I have not read your book, so I am at a loss when you compare my statements with Huber. A simple: "this is why you are wrong from Scripture" would suffice.

Secondly, I did not use the term "adopted" sons. That would confuse election and justification.

Thirdly: Yes, God's relationship with Israel was based on a covenant: the Mosaic. How does God's statements in Isaiah "fit" with that covenant, which promises that if you keep my laws, you will be my people? Or could it be that God is referring to the covenant that was made with Abraham?

The point I am trying to make here is this: Some people (not you, but others) laugh off the idea of how we can say God justified all people and yet only those who believe are justified. They think it is ludicrous and can not conceive that God would make such a double statement.

But God does make such double statements. He calls all Israel "Israel", and yet - as Brett Meyer pointed out - "they are not all Israel which are of Israel."

This is the exact point I wish to make. Not all Israel is Israel, and yet God calls them Israel and wishes them to be saved and has indeed saved them. But as long as they do not receive it in faith, they are not Israel. This is just like the prodigal son, who, while being a son, did not considered himself a son. Had he died apart from his father, he would not have died a son, even though He was indeed a son. Do you see the point?

If you don't see, then please explain to be the parable of the prodigal son. Who is the wayward son? Why is he called a son? Who was he we when he was away - in regard to himself? While He was away, did his father still consider him a son? Did his status of being a son begin only when he turned back to his father?

If you think I am wrong about Israel's status with God (that they were all his people, and yet only those who believed are his people and saved) then please explain to me: why does God call wayward Israel his people? How can he do it?

I only have limited time today, and maybe I got into a discussion that is over my head - but I thought I would mention these things that have been on my mind as I read through the Old Testament. To me they are clear. They are point to the wonderful work of Christ that - by grace, through faith we are saved.

Do to time, this will be my last post for a while.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Michael, I completely understand about the time constraints. Comment as you are able. I'll do the same!

You're still confusing "Israel" (whom God adopted and chose as His people) with "the whole world" (whom God never is said to have adopted or chosen as His people. Israel=the Visible Church. Unbelieving Israel=the hypocrites within the Visible Church. Believing Israelites=the Invisible Church within the Visible Church.

No matter how you view it, it doesn't include the whole world of pagans and atheists.

As for the prodigal son, you ask "Who is the wayward son?" Jesus explains that Himself in Luke 15. The wayward son is the tax collector, the prostitutes, the public sinners (in Israel) who were repenting of their sins and believing in Him. The other son represents the Pharisees and teachers of the law who begrudged the "sinners" a place in God's house, since they had served so long and hard under the law.

Does this parable have applications beyond the Jews? Of course. Does it in any way suggest that God considers all people to be His wayward "sons," or that He has already justified everyone? Absolutely not. That is contrary both to the immediate context and the analogy of faith.

Context is everything. And there is no Scriptural context for the assertion that God has justified everyone in the world.

Unknown said...

Regarding Michael Sullivan's query: "2 Corinthians 5:19. What does it mean that God was not counting men's sins against them?"

Verse 19 is used by the Spirit to further establish Paul's apostolic persuasion about twin truths he just summarized in v18 "But everything is from God, the One who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and who gave to us the ministry of reconciliation." Therefore v19 begins with two conjunctive particles, hws hoti, which together advance the content of his conviction about the particular relationship of these two things: "It was God in Christ who is reconciling the world to Himself, no longer imputing against them their transgressions, and who gave in us the word of reconciliation."

Please notice the pertinent parallels between v18 and v19, but the differences: v18, "who reconciled (completed action, Aorist tense) us to Himself through Christ," and v 19, "who is reconciling (ongoing action, Present tense) the world to Himself." Those reconciled in v18, the objects of God's completed action, are "us", and that completed action is "through Christ Jesus." But in v19 the object who God is reconciling is "the world," and that action is distinguished as an ongoing action indicated by the present tense which specifies God's ongoing reconciling. Paul furthermore clarifies this ongoing reconciling by God with the next two part clause of v19, "no longer imputing (note the "no longer" vs never, there is a big difference in the negation Paul sets forth - also imputing is an ongoing action, Present tense) against them (the world is the referent) their transgressions, and who gave (God is the referent; His action is a complete action, Aorist tense) in us the word of reconciliation." Paul, in v20 draws an inference about the 2nd part of the twin clause in the last part of v19, "Therefore (inference) in the place of Christ we are ambassadors (ongoing action, Present tense), just as God is paracleting through us (ongoing action, Present tense, "One making an appeal"). We are asking / begging (ongoing action, Present tense, emphatic position) in place of Christ: Please be reconciled (tentative, complete action that expresses what Paul would like to be established as a complete action) to God."
(by Gary Cepek; continued in next post)

Unknown said...

To Michael Sullivan, continued,

Paul has been reminding the Corinthians about His God-given apostolic ministry in this letter. It is a strong emphasis of what he has so far written. But his reminder is not being done as an abstraction or simply making things personal or emotional. This emphatic reminder of who God has positioned him and the other apostles to be on God's behalf is always in the context of the life giving ministry established by Christ in and for His Church. The heart of that ministry is Christ Himself, and the redemptive work by which He has won the victory over sin, death, and devil. That is why in v21 Paul now links what we will call part two of the inference he began in v20 with "Therefore (ouv, a particle which draws an inference based on what has been previously established:

"The One who no longer knew sin, (complete action, Aorist tense, emphatic position, referring to Jesus, note the "no longer vs "never") This One was made (completed action, aorist tense) sin in place of us, in order that we may become (complete action that is tentative, Aorist tense, expresses the projected result from v20's "Word of reconciliation") [the] righteousness (this noun without an article emphasizes the meaning of the abstracted word, namely, those who are declared not guilty because of Christ) in Him."

I hope you can wade through my messy and brief exegesis of these 3 passages. Please note for me anything which is out of place or needs correction according to the text.

But to the point you raised about II Cor. 5:19 in terms of its relation to what has been titled, objective justification. Please note what Paul clearly parallels with v19 and v 21, the non-imputation of sin to the world, and Christ being made sin in our place. Paul clearly teaches that the sinless Christ "was made sin in place of us", that is, God imputed the world's sin, our sin, to Christ as our Substitute. Paul's purposely precised teaching about the non-imputation of the world's sin, and that our sin was imputed to Christ does not allow one to say from these words that v18's phrase about non-imputation of sin to the world means objective justification of the world. In fact, in these verses, you can see that v.21 clearly teaches that the imputation of righteousness in Christ is projected by the apostle to be the result of "the word of reconciliation." In is not taught here as an established fact.

Your discussion with Pastor Rydecki works seems to be trying to assert objective justification by reading that concept into passages, not by mining it out from what the words and context of those passages. I urge you in Christ to please take time to examine those passages for what they say.

May God's Spirit give us all humbled ears that hear and penitent hearts that believe what His Words clearly and simply say. To Him, in Christ and the Father, alone be glory.

Gary Cepek

Anonymous said...

Gary, thanks for your comments regarding 2 Corinthians 5:19. WELS Readers might want to consider this paper in the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary essay files:

"To What Does the Reconciling in 2 Corinthians 5:19 Refer?"

WLS summarizes the paper with this introduction:

In this exegetical brief, Rick Curia identifies two different schools of thought among confessional Lutherans concerning the meaning of reconciliation. The Hoenecke/Meyer understanding is that reconciliation is the equivalent of justification, while the Pieper/Schaller understanding is that reconciliation=satisfaction or appeasement of the one offended accomplished by Christ. Curia comes to the conclusion that they are both acceptable ways of understanding this term when explained properly according to the truths of Scripture.

The point is this: 2 Corinthians 5:19 is not the "slam dunk" sedes doctrinae for Objective Justification. Esteemed confessional Lutheran theologians in the past have differed in their interpretation of this passage. As a first step at least in discussing this topic today, we ought to be allowed the same courtesy.

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Joe Krohn said...

Redemption=OJ; Regeneration=SJ...or more importantly: Sanctification.

Anonymous said...


It seems to me this is simpler and more in line with the way the Confessions speak:

Justification=by faith alone.

Why invent new terminology if it is going to result in at best confusion in terms that leads to frustration in theological dialog, at worst a confusion in doctrine that leads to weak sanctification.

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Joe Krohn said...

Pr. Schulz...with all due respect...even children get it. God died for all people=redemption. We believe this (worked by the HG)=regeneration (justification) and ensuing sanctification.

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