Thursday, January 31, 2013

Philip Melanchthon on 2 Corinthians 5:19

Cross-posted from

MelanchthonCorinthiansOne of the Bible passages often cited by modern Lutherans in an attempt to prove that all people have already been justified is 2 Corinthians 5:19. They point especially to the phrase "not imputing their sins to them" ("them" being "the world"). Since the Apostle Paul equates the non-imputation of sins with justification in Romans 4:5-8, they claim that this means that the whole world has already been justified.

But it couldn't be more clear that when Paul speaks of the non-imputation of sins in Rom. 4:5-8, he is referring only to those who have faith, for "his faith is accounted for righteousness."

There are two possibilities here. Either (1) Paul is using the exact same language to describe two different "events," one justification that took place at the cross of Christ without the ministry of the Word and not through faith (2 Cor. 5:19), and another justification that only takes place through faith (Rom. 4:8). Or (2) Paul is using the exact same language to describe the exact same thing, that God does not impute sins to believers in Christ. In other words, justification only through faith.

Luther, Chemnitz and Melanchthon did not see any world justification in 2 Cor. 5:19. On the contrary, they saw Paul highlighting the ministry of the Word and teaching justification only through faith in Christ.

Here follows an excerpt from Philip Melanchthon's 1523 commentary on this verse. Notice to whom God does not impute sin.

Philip Melanchthon's

Annotations on Paul's Epistles: One to the Romans and Two to the Corinthians


(with introductory letter by Dr. Martin Luther)

2 Corinthians 5:19

not imputing their sins to them.

This demonstrates what the effect is of the reconciliation made by the Son. For since God the Father transferred the sins of us all from us to the Son so that He might pay for us the penalty for sins and in this way reconcile again the offended Father, the eternal Father now does not impute sins to those who believe in His Son; He regards them as righteous on account of the obedience and intercession of His Son. For the righteousness of man which God regards as righteousness is that sins are remitted, are not imputed and are covered, as Paul defines righteousness in Romans 4, citing Psalm 32. Therefore, the effect of reconciliation is that sins are not imputed; instead, the faith that embraces Christ the Reconciler is imputed for righteousness.

And He placed among us, etc.

That is, He instituted the ministry of teaching about the reconciliation made through the death of the Son. For God wants it announced to the entire human race that reconciliation has been made by the Son, so that sins are not imputed to believers; instead, righteousness is imputed to them, and thus believers are saved. For this reason, among the ruins of the empires and so many sects and heresies, God has to this day wondrously preserved this ministry, and will continue to preserve it until the end of the world and the advent of His Son, as Paul says, “You shall announce the death of the Lord until He comes.”


Anonymous said...

Would it be heresy to say that I side with Luther, Chemnitz and Melanchthon's interpretation of this passage?

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

So I am told...

Joel Lillo said...

None of what Schwartzerdt said above negates Objective Justification. It is a statement about Subjective Justification. I would agree with everything he says completely and I still maintain that Objective Justification is a true Bible doctrine.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Joel (please add your last name next time you comment),

No, Melanchthon is not making a statement about SJ. He is explaining the Bible text of 2 Corinthians 5:19, where he sees that the Apostle is talking about justification by faith alone, and not justification of the world without faith.

You maintain that OJ is a true Bible doctrine, but for that to be true, then it must actually be clearly taught in the Bible. Yet the passages that supposedly support OJ (i.e., the whole world already justified) are turning out to be teaching nothing but the simple truth of justification by faith alone in Christ, not the justification of all atheists and Muslims.

Anonymous said...


Your comment "It is a statement about Subjective Justification" re 2 Corinthians 5:19 will earn you the label "heretic" in some circles. I'd watch your back if I were you.

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Joel Lillo said...

Do you believe in a limited atonement or is this just an argument about definitions?
--Joel Lillo

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

No one has even hinted at limiting the atonement. Scripture does not make the atonement that Christ accomplished equal with the justification that the Holy Spirit carries out through the ministry of the Word. Nor does the Scripture teach any sort of justification that takes place (or has taken place) apart from the ministry of the Word.

Brett Meyer said...

The Christian Book of Concord:
113] But faith, properly so called, is that which assents to the promise [is when my heart, and the Holy Ghost in the heart, says: The promise of God is true and certain]. Of 114] this faith Scripture speaks. And because it receives the remission of sins, and reconciles us to God, by this faith we are [like Abraham] accounted righteous for Christ's sake before we love and do the works of the Law, although love necessarily follows. 115]Nor, indeed, is this faith an idle knowledge, neither can it coexist with mortal sin, but it is a work of the Holy Ghost, whereby we are freed from death, and terrified minds are encouraged and quickened. 116]

Unbelievers are not reconciled to God but remain under His wrath and condemnation over their sin. Therefore the whole unbelieving world is not considered by God to be, in any sense, in Christ, forgiven, justified, guiltless or righteous while they remain in unbelief - without the gracious gift of Faith.

Scripture is the source of this faithful Lutheran teaching:

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

John 3:18, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

Romans 5:1-2, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God"

Anonymous said...

In both of the referenced verses, the apostle Paul is simply preaching the ministry of the word. Corinthians addresses how Christ pardoned the world at the cross - Objective Justification. Romans addresses those who think they have to work to obtain salvation vs. faith alone or Subjective Justification. In other words, Christ died for the whole world that was dead in sin (Objective Justification). Those that are quickened in spirit and believe in Christ's sacrifice and resurrection will be the beneficiaries of his imputed grace (Subjective Justification). Those that reject will remain in their sins and forfeit salvation as it says in John 8:24 "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins."
Donald N. Gretel

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