Justification is always the issue… Preaching

I know we have kind of beaten the horse a bit with this issue, but I don’t ever get bored with this.  Justification is always the issue.  So in this article, I would like to talk about how Objective Justification is expressed simply in the proclamation of the Gospel.

What we know about the Bible is that it all centers around Christ, who He is, and what He did.  So practically, all teachings of Scripture tumble down if the Bible’s message about Christ’s reconciliation of the world to God and His justification for all people is not true.

For one, how can a pastor forgive sins in Christ’s stead and pronounce with certainty the grace of God upon a sinner if he cannot see the sinner’s faith?  If the pastor says to a sinner who inwardly does not have faith “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” does the pastor as a result lie or say something untrue?  Of course not!  If that were the case, then God would be a liar.  Sure, the sinner does not personally receive by faith the forgiveness and will be ripe for destruction if he continues in his unbelief, but that does not make God a liar.  Rather, it makes the unbeliever the liar. (Rom 3:3ff)  If the pastor says to someone, “This promise is for you,” but he doesn’t believe, will the pastor then say, “Well, I guess it wasn’t for you!”?  Of course not!  This article of faith is not merely theological handy work; it is not merely unneeded elaboration.  It is the very heart of the Gospel that Jesus mandated to be preached to all nations.

 

 

Here is what the Old Norwegian Lutheran Synod president Herman Amberg Preus (1874) had to say on this topic when a seminary professor was denying this teaching of Objective Justification:

 

 

According to his new gospel the professor must preach that through his suffering and death Christ has only accomplished so much that God has now become willing to let his wrath cease and to be reconciled and to loose, confer grace, forgive, justify and open access to salvation, but that in actuality he can only do and does all this if man on his part fulfills the condition placed on him by God, namely that he is supposed to believe. And the thing which is thus supposed to be believed does not become this that God already has done this and is reconciled but that God will do it and will be reconciled when he sees the obedience and the good quality in man, that he believes.

This whole issue comes down to the preaching of the Gospel, that is, the preaching of the vicarious atonement for us, the objective redemption for us.  This objective reality is proclaimed to us personally.  Objective justification fills the Word with the assuring proclamation: “This redemption, this reconciliation, this justification, this forgiveness is for you; Christ is your righteousness.”

At the end  of his Pentecost sermon from Acts 2, Peter says, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)  Then Peter proclaims to them that this promise is “for you and your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2:39)  Notice how Peter first calls them to repentance; he then immediately presents them with the gift of baptism and the Holy Spirit; then he says who this promise is for.  The promise is for everyone, but Peter does not start with that.  Rather, he first says, “This promise is for you and your children.”  This is the implication of Objective Justification, namely a personal proclamation: “for you.”  Preaching Objective Justification is not merely preaching the fact that Jesus died for the sins of all and rose again for the justification of all, then letting the people connect the dots.  It is more direct than that.

 

God justified me.  He justified me by faith on account of the justification already won for me by Christ (this is what propter Christum per fidem means), offered to me, given to me, and, inseparable from His Word, delivered to me personally by the Gospel for faith and through faith. (Rom 1:16-17)  Adolf Koeberle makes this point that Paul saw no separation of God’s act of redemption and his mission to proclaim it.  This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 :

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

Paul received it to deliver it and proclaim it “for you.”  Again, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and has given to us the Word of reconciliation.”  God’s act of reconciling the world to Himself in Christ and His giving of the Word are perfectly united.  Paul continues by uniting the office of the ministry to this Word of reconciliation.  The office of the ministry cannot possibly be separated from the universal reconciliation that God accomplished for us in Christ.  The primary task of the office of the ministry is to personally proclaim to people Objective Justification.  And how is this done?  It is done by preaching Christ for us.

Objective Justification teaches not only who justifies but whom He justifies.  For the sake of Christ’s obedient suffering and death, God justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5).  Objective Justification teaches to whom God gives this promise.  As His Word proclaims, it is for all.  Those who have faith receive it and are saved.  Those who do not believe are condemned, and the wrath of God remains on them.

Justification is always the issue in preaching, because that is what Christ has commanded His pastors to preach.  When the pastor preaches that “Christ died for your sins, and He rose again for your justification,” he is preaching Objective Justification; he is preaching the Gospel.  May we always remember the power of God’s Word, and from where this message gets its efficacy, namely the Vicarious Atonement.  May we always take comfort in the certainty of the promise.  We can have certainty in it; the Resurrection proves it!

 

About Pastor Andrew Preus

Pastor Andrew Preus is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran/St. Paul Lutheran, Guttenberg/McGregor, IA. He is the eighth of eleven sons, with one sister. He received his seminary training at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, ON (MDiv) from 2009 to 2013, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN (STM) from 2013 to 2014. His main theological interests include Justification and Church and Ministry. He is married to Leah Preus (nee Fehr), and they have four children: Jacob, Solveig, Kristiana, and Robert.


Comments

Justification is always the issue… Preaching — 179 Comments

  1. @T. R. Halvorson #151
    I don’t see your point, other than the fact you took that statement out of context and did not temper it with the passages I provided.

    Christ’s satisfaction for the debt of sin does not guarantee that someone will not die in their sins by the rejection of the Holy Ghost; the unforgivable sin. God’s will is for all men to be saved. But we know that all men are not saved.

  2. Joe Krohn :
    @Jim Pierce #148
    1) No. Christ’s sacrifice at the cross was for all men.
    2) As I answered in post #136; No. That would be limited atonement.
    3) No.

    Mr. Krohn,

    Thank you for answering my questions! I really do appreciate it.

    I think your answer to question number one is very important so I want to ask you to clarify what you mean.

    Why was Christ’s sacrifice at the cross for ALL men? What happened at the cross?

  3. Levi Schmidt :
    you can’t take back the first part of what you say, namely that Christ’s righteousness has been conferred on all whether they believe it or not.

    But that is not what OJ teaches and so your entire diatribe fails.

    Levi Schmidt :
    Of course the whole world’s sins (past, present, and future) were nailed to the cross.

    Why? What does that mean?

  4. “Scripture teaches that God has already declared the whole world to be righteous in Christ (objective justification),… that therefore not for the sake of their good works, but without the works of the Law, by grace, for Christ’s sake, He justifies, that is, accounts as righteous, all those who believe, accept, and rely on, the fact that for Christ’s sake [they’ve already been declared righteous] (subjective justification).” (Brief Statement, Article 17)

    Is the above a correct interpretation of Objective and Subjective Justification?

    And, it means that the Son, who was perfect, had to get sin from somewhere — namely, us. But just because we, regardless of faith, made him dirty doesn’t mean that he makes us pure and righteous regardless of faith.

  5. @Levi Schmidt #155

    Yes the Brief Statement is correct, Mr. Schmidt.

    You write, “And, it means that the Son, who was perfect, had to get sin from somewhere — namely, us. But just because we, regardless of faith, made him dirty doesn’t mean that he makes us pure and righteous regardless of faith.”

    I don’t know what you mean with “the Son… had to get sin from somewhere — namely, us.” I also don’t know hat you mean with “we… made him dirty.” Can you explain yourself?

    Let me offer some thoughts. Sin does come from “somewhere,” but Christ didn’t have to get it from anywhere, since sin was brought to us from Adam. As for “we… made him dirty” I have no idea what you could mean, since Christ is sinless. Perhaps you can explain yourself?

  6. If you agree that the part of the Brief Statement (with my descriptions) I cited was a correct representation of OJ/SJ then my initial comment (#150) still stands.

    He was a perfect sacrifice. But He who knew no sin took the sin of the world on Himself. He was punished for the sin of humankind (past, present, and future). He was punished for our sin because He couldn’t have possibly been punished for His sins because He didn’t have any. He was raised for doing what we can’t — being sinless. God is happy with Christ’s sacrifice. Christ, Himself, is therefore absolved because He who knew no sin took sin on Himself. So yes, in a sense He had to get sin from somewhere (the world) because He, Himself, was blameless. He had to take our dirtiness upon Himself to even be punished.

    So now Christ, alone, being absolved, justified, and declared righteous, of the sin He took on from the world, stands as a treasure for mankind.

    How do we, sinners and unrighteous people, become righteous and apprehend this treasure? Only when we use Christ’s righteousness as a shield against God’s wrath through faith. Only when, through faith, we are drowned with Christ in His death and punishment, and raised by faith. Therefore it is faith that justifies. There is no justification or righteous status of the sinner prior to faith. There is only the treasure of Christ’s righteousness waiting to be dispensed to the sinner through the killing by the Law and proclamation of faith. So, again, faith justifies — faith alone. There is no “God has already declared the whole world to be righteous in Christ [because of His sacrifice]” before faith (I say “before faith” because you affirm that before faith, or subjective justification, the world already has a righteous status before God. (Brief Statement, Article 17)

  7. @Levi Schmidt #157

    “Therefore it is faith that justifies. There is no justification or righteous status of the sinner prior to faith.”

    Your first statement is of course most certainly true. Your second (false) statement does not follow, because you are not contrasting faith with works (as the context of God’s Word does). You erroneously contrast man’s faith with God’s grace.

    Do you trust the former or the latter?

  8. @Joe Krohn #152

    Just so, but then the lack of coverage is not at the point of the atonement, but at a subsequent point in an order of salvation, or else you have constructed your own, novel limited atonement. An atonement that does not atone for all people and for all sin is limited.

    Your overall argument depends on a division you make between atonement and justification, which might be fine, but you maintain that division when convenient and abandon it when convenient. This lets you always complain that everyone is taking your words out of context because the shifting conveniences make it impossible to say when and where your division is between atonement and justification. In other words, it’s slippery.

  9. @T. R. Halvorson #159
    Christ paid for my sins and the sins of the whole world. They are His. But some people do not receive the Holy Ghost and all He offers through the Means of Grace; in fact they reject the Holy Ghost. So God says ‘Fine, you keep your sins and I will condemn you forever’.

    @Jim Pierce #153
    Mr. Pierce…answer forthcoming. I am not ignoring you.

  10. @Jim Pierce #153

    In order for all men to be restored into God’s good grace, (since they were lost without His help) He promised a Savior to save all men from their sin.

    Christ’s sacrifice at the cross was the fulfillment of that promise.

  11. @Levi Schmidt #157

    Mr. Schmidt,

    Pr. Crandall has hit the nail on the head, answering you nicely and succinctly.

    It also doesn’t help your cause when you imply that your opponents, in this case, do not confess the truth of justification by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus. In fact, it shows that you do not understand the doctrine of Justification. If you did, then you wouldn’t be making the silly arguments you have regarding OJ.

  12. Joe Krohn :
    @Jim Pierce #153
    In order for all men to be restored into God’s good grace, (since they were lost without His help) He promised a Savior to save all men from their sin.
    Christ’s sacrifice at the cross was the fulfillment of that promise.

    I am not following you here, Mr. Krohn. What does it mean that “all men to be restored into God’s good grace”? That is, what does it mean to be “restored into God’s good grace” where “all men” are concerned?

  13. @Jim Pierce #163
    In order for men to be restored, they needed someone to do it for them since they were unable after the fall. So God brought forth His only Son as a propitiation; a substitute for men; a man (Godman) who could keep the Law while offering up His life as a ransom for men and paying their debt; the debt of eternal death caused by sin.

  14. @Ted Crandall #158

    @Jim Pierce #162

    The only righteousness before a sinner comes to faith is Christ’s righteousness. My faith is in Christ’s merit/righteousness. My faith is not in some already conferred righteousness that’s in my back pocket whether I believe it or not. The Brief Statement says:

    “God has already declared the whole world to be righteous in Christ [because of His sacrifice]” before faith (subjective justification). There’s no need for a so called subjective justification because the first statement, before faith is ever mentioned, has the whole world — believer or not — declared righteous, forgiven, justified, and therefore imputed with Christ’s righteousness. Again, I think it’s pretty simple. There’s no need to add in extra philosophical fluff. Either a person is righteous before God or he is not.

    Please answer this: according to UOJ, how is a person damned to hell?

    Thanks for discussing this with me even though we may be on totally opposite ends of the spectrum.

  15. Levi Schmidt :

    Please answer this: according to UOJ, how is a person damned to hell?

    All who do not have faith are damned to hell because they are not in Christ. There are no saints in hell, and there are anonymous Christians.

    “It is contrary to Scripture and the pure Gospel to teach:

    That Christ’s work of atonement is of such a nature that even those who do not believe receive justification to life and salvation;

    That without faith one is not under the wrath of God and eternally lost;

    That it is proper to speak of saints in hell or to use similar expressions in describing justification;

    That there can be anonymous Christians, that is, those who have not had access to the means of grace but nevertheless believe without true repentance and faith in Christ, of whom they have never heard and about whom they know nothing.” (LCMS Theses on Justification)
    http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=422

  16. @Joe Krohn #160

    If that’s so, keeping its meaning in the context of the rest of what you’ve said, we’d better stop calling Christ’s work on the cross atonement since, before faith, there is no at-one-ment in your formulation. Does the atonement atone, or is it only a basis for a potential atonement. If the latter, we need a lest misleading word than atonement for the work of the cross.

  17. @T. R. Halvorson #167
    Christ’s atoning sacrifice; Christ’s satisfaction for the debt of sin opens the door of heaven for all men who believe in Him. There is no potential atonement. “It is finished”.

    What are you getting at, Mr. Halvorson?

  18. @Joe Krohn #164

    @Joe Krohn #168

    Mr. Krohn,

    I appreciate these last few postings of yours, since you are actually engaging questions and I am getting a better idea of where you are coming from, I think.

    You write, “…a substitute for men; a man (Godman) who could keep the Law while offering up His life as a ransom for men and paying their debt; the debt of eternal death caused by sin.”

    That sounds like you are saying that only death is conquered by the atonement. Is that what you mean to say? Isn’t sin also dealt with in the atonement? After all, what is being atoned for?

  19. Levi Schmidt :
    Please answer this: according to UOJ, how is a person damned to hell?

    Well, firstly, there is a mistake buried in your question. We are talking about the Justification of the sinner, not about why people are damned. Furthermore, the implication in your question is that OJ is simply a version of the false doctrine of Universalism that teaches everyone is going to heaven. IOW, nobody is damned. The doctrine of Justification, which OJ is but an aspect of, does not teach everyone is going to heaven.

    So, let’s stop this right here. OJ is one facet of the teaching on Justification. OJ doesn’t explain why people are damned, but it does explain what makes the Gospel promise real. Let’s stop wasting time with these silly red herrings that the objective nature of justification doesn’t even deal with.

    Now to answer your question directly. Yes, sadly, some people do not receive the Gospel and die in their sins. OJ is NOT the false teaching that all people go to heaven.

    You write,

    Levi Schmidt : “The only righteousness before a sinner comes to faith is Christ’s righteousness. My faith is in Christ’s merit/righteousness. My faith is not in some already conferred righteousness that’s in my back pocket whether I believe it or not. “

    Again, you are raising another red herring. OJ doesn’t tell us how Christ’s righteousness is imputed to individuals. Again, it deals with why the gift is REAL or as we find in the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration:

    “But, since it is the obedience as above mentioned [not only of one nature, but] of the entire person, it is a complete satisfaction and expiation for the human race, by which the eternal, immutable righteousness of God, revealed in the Law, has been satisfied, and is thus our righteousness, which avails before God and is revealed in the Gospel, and upon which faith relies before God, which God imputes to faith, as it is written, Rom. 5:19: For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous; and 1 John 1:7: The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sin. Likewise: The just shall live by his faith, Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17″ (FC III, 57 emphasis mine).

    Chemnitz understood the above as belonging to the article of Justification. He writes in his Examination of the Council of Trent:

    “However, the Gospel reveals and declares this mystery which was hidden for long ages, that since the human race could not make satisfaction to the Law and the Law could in no way be dissolved and destroyed, God made a transfer of the Law to another person (a matter which belongs to the article of justification) who should fulfill the Law both by satisfaction and obedience for the whole human race. And because that person is both God and man, therefore His satisfaction is the expiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), and hence Christ is the end of the Law for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom. 10:4)” (Vol., I, Art. VII, p. 497 emphasis mine)

    OJ is the teaching that Christ’s full satisfaction “is the expiation of the sins of the whole world.” This is the foundation of Justification. Unless Christ nullifies the Law for the whole world, by atoning for the sins of the entire human race, then there is no Justification, no imputed righteousness. Take away the objective nature of justification and its universality, then you are left with the Romish error of justification and/or errors similar to that of Limited Atonement.

  20. @Jim Pierce #169
    As iron sharpens iron, I have appreciated the discussion as well, Mr. Pierce.

    The wages of sin is death. The satisfaction for the sin of the world has been made (atonement) while also conquering death (the wages [debt] of sin). So yes.

  21. Joe Krohn :
    @Jim Pierce #169
    As iron sharpens iron, I have appreciated the discussion as well, Mr. Pierce.
    The wages of sin is death. The satisfaction for the sin of the world has been made (atonement) while also conquering death (the wages [debt] of sin). So yes.

    What you state with “The satisfaction for the sin of the world has been made” is a universal statement and is objective. According to Chemnitz, as quoted above, Christ’s satisfaction of the sins of the whole world belongs with the article of Justification. Furthermore, what you have stated is similar to what Paul writes in Colossians 2:13–15 which has taken us to this point in the conversation. Recall that you claim Paul is making a statement about believers, but that is not the case. Just as you said that Christ’s satisfaction for sin is for the whole world, Paul tells us “…by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).

    Can you now see why Paul’s statement concerns the whole world and not just believers? Read the FC III, 57 (quoted above) and compare with Colossians 2:13-15. The cancellation of the debt of sin is the forgiveness of all our trespasses (Colossians 2:13). So says the Scriptures.

  22. @Jim Pierce #172

    Justification is tied to the Atonement. No Atonement, no justification. Agreed. Just as the Third Article (Forgiveness of Sins) is tied to the Second Article (Work of Redemption). Are we still agreed?

  23. @Jim Pierce #175
    As good Lutherans do…LOL.

    I will submit more to come…sidebar:

    All the talk of atonement has for some reason made me think of the Ark of the Covenant; rich with symbols that point to Christ. Made from Acacia wood; True Man…Gilded in gold; True God…Containing the Ten Commandments; Law…Manna contained in a gold container; Bread of Life…Aaron’s rod that sprouted; Christ as our Shepherd and the Resurrection. All topped off with the Cover of the Atonement; the Atoning sacrifice of Jesus that would keep the Law and make satisfaction for the sins of men; bringing salvation for the world and covering all who believe with the blood of Christ; a cover that serves as a judgement seat for those who reject Christ and what He has merited; and a mercy seat for those who claim Christ as their Redeemer!

  24. @Jim Pierce #175
    I don’t think Chemnitz is saying what your are saying (in#172). Whereas he is talking about transferring the Law to Christ; his fulfilment of the Law and His sacrificial satisfaction for the sin of the world…these matters belong TO the article of justification since it is these things that when the sinner is brought to faith, his faith justifiies him for believing these things as Chemnitz goes on to conclude at the end of the passage you provided. You stated that the article belongs WITH the atonement…I don’t think it is the same thing.

    I can say that justification is objective in the sense that it resides in Christ’s righteousness which is objective for the world and imputed through faith. But justification is most often used in the Bible in the context of faith. Where you see the word justification; especially in the NT, you find the word faith in close proximity.

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