Objective Justification: Affirming Sola Fide

One thing I have noticed about the opponents of Objective Justification is that they tend to say that we who hold to it teach justification “apart from faith” or “whether you believe it or not.”  I would like to demonstrate that this is far from the truth.  In fact Objective Justification affirms justification by faith alone.  Distinguishing between Objective and Subjective Justification is like distinguishing between the visible and invisible church.  Quenstedt calls such distinction an equivoque in its equivocate, or a distinction within one substance.  We don’t turn them into two species.  Rather, the concept of God justifying sinners (Objective) affirms justification by faith.

There are three main observations that come to mind.  First, the fact that it is by faith proves that the promise in Christ is unconditional.  Second, the Lutheran understanding of the Lord’s Supper demonstrates both the objectivity of God’s promise as well as the purpose of faith receiving the promises.  Finally, I would like to discuss the purpose of the gospel.  The fact that the gospel is meant for faith shows that its preaching should not hold anything back.  That is to say, its preaching should be personal and unconditional.

Sola Fide proves the unconditional nature of the promise.  Why?  Because faith is a gift.  And we don’t even need to find a proof passage for this. The Lutheran dogmaticians, for example, said that Paul’s words from Ephesians 2:8, “it is a gift of God,” refer specifically to faith, but the demonstrative pronoun (touto) is neuter while faith (pisteos) is feminine. The fact that it is by faith proves that the entire package is a gift. This is how Paul argues.  We can see from his assertions that he understands faith as completely passive. He uses the fact that the promise is by faith to argue that it is a guaranteed promise of grace (Rom 4:16), and he uses the fact that it is a free gift to show that it is by faith (Rom 3:22-24). So when Paul explains that the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, he sets up a major part of his argument by which he combats the involvement in any way of man’s will in justification (Rom 9:16). We could construct the logic as follows:  Major premise: God justifies (Rom 4:5; 8:33).  Minor premise: We are justified by faith (Rom 3:22, 26-28; 4:5; Gal 2:16).  Therefore: The promise is a guarantee as a free gift of grace (Rom 3:22; 4:16).  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off (Acts 2:39).

The Lutheran teaching of the Lord’s Supper is all about faith!  Allow me to discuss what David Hollaz taught concerning the purposes of the Lord’s Supper.  Hollaz gives three purposes: 1) A confession of Christ’s death in faith and thanksgiving, 2) the seal of the grace of the gospel, and 3) the mutual love of the communicants.  I would like to address the first and second purposes.

Hollaz cites the Apostle Paul: “As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we confess the Lord’s death until He returns (1 Cor 11:26).” It is not only the oral eating and drinking that constitutes such a confession of Christ, but also the spiritual eating by faith (John 6:35ff), without which the oral eating does not grasp the salutary benefit or enjoyment (fructum) of the Supper, because “all spiritual benefits (beneficia spiritualia) are received by faith.” Hollaz by no means argues that the oral eating is contingent upon the spiritual eating, as if one does not receive the true substantial body and blood of Christ unless by faith. Rather, he only demonstrates that a true confession and a true faith go together. Unworthy recipients certainly receive the true body and blood.  Luther confessed this against the heresy of people like Martin Bucer that even wicked Christians receive the body and blood of Christ (SA, III, 4, 1).  Nevertheless, Christ’s Supper is still meant to be received with faith just as any other true proclamation of the gospel should be received and any true confession should be accompanied by faith. The Lord’s Supper is a public and corporal confession of Christ, His work, and His promises, which, as Luther taught, “requires all hearts to believe (SC, VI).”

The second point of this article overlaps a bit with the third point, namely that the purpose of the gospel is faith.  Just as with the Lord’s Supper, all promises of God intend a believing heart. Faith is always the goal of the gospel; it was written that we might believe (John 20:31). Forgiveness does not depend upon faith, but faith is still required. The word of promise delivers the goal of faith (Rom 10:17), and this is the central point for both doctrine and practice. Melancthon emphasizes this in AC XV on rites and ceremonies. In the Apology, (XV, 10), he writes: “Therefore the law removed, and traditions removed, [Paul] contends that the remission of sins has been promised not on account of our works, but freely on account of Christ, that we might receive it only by faith.”  The Triglotta translates the latter part, “if only by faith we receive it.” This can possibly be misunderstood, as though the remission of sins is promised on the condition that we only believe it. But the Latin simply reads, “modo ut fide accipiamus eam,” denoting a purpose or consequence of the promise, not a condition. The purpose is faith, and traditions created by men that do not proclaim the gospel cannot possibly intend faith. Pure church practice is an instrument for preserving and increasing faith. Thus, Hollaz contends that the oral eating is a means for promoting the enjoyment and spiritual eating of Christ’s body.

In explaining the second purpose of the Lord’s Supper, Hollaz discusses regenerating grace, justifying grace, and indwelling grace. He explains that through regenerating grace, God promised to give faith to all (Acts 17:31), and in the Lord’s Supper, God confirms, strengthens, and increases faith. Through justifying grace God remits sins, so in the eating and drinking of the body and blood given and shed for the remission of sins, Hollaz says that God imputes the righteousness of Christ to the believing recipient.

So it is all about faith.  I will say it again.  It is all about faith!  But why?  How?  Because it is all about Jesus.  If Christ’s true body and blood given and shed for our forgiveness are not substantially present in, with, and under the bread and the wine — that is to say as Christ says that the bread is His true body and the wine His true blood — then there cannot be any benefits of faith.  We primarily hold to the real presence because the Bible tells us so.  But it follows that such real presence carries with it spiritual benefits received by faith.

So how is it that the inseparable unity to faith necessitates an unconditional preaching of the gospel? Because pastors preach the gospel to those who need it. Walther says that there are those who need to hear the law and those who need to hear the gospel. Those who need to hear the law are hard-hearted self-righteous and secure legalists and antinomeans alike who need the law to crush them and kill them inside. But those who need to hear the gospel are those who have been humbled by the just accusations of the law (Matt 23:12). So when a pastor preaches the forgiveness of sins, he should preach it with the full intent of faith, not bothering himself with the notion that those who are crushed might not be crushed enough. If he has done his job by preaching the law, he should not let the possibility (and probability) that some are still not repentant stop him from preaching the pure and free forgiveness of sins in Christ. This is the only sufficient way to preach faith.

Faith is personal. By faith, the Christian applies the promise of the gospel to himself. This is crucial for the discussion of Objective Justification, because it clearly exhibits the role of Objective Justification in preaching. It isn’t preached merely by stating that Christ died for all and rose for all, so therefore He must have died and risen for you too. That is all fine and good to say! But Objective Justification finds its place most clearly in preaching when the preacher preaches it for you. Your sin is forgiven on account of Christ! Jesus died for you! This promise is for you! It is when preachers apply the unconditional gospel to their hearers when hearers can with confident faith apply the promise to themselves.


Work Cited

J. A. Quenstedt. The church. Translated by Luther Polloet from the 3rd edition, 1696, of Theologia Didactico Polemica, Part IV, Chapter XV: De ecclesia. Molone, TX: Repristination Press. 54. Print.

David Hollaz. Examen Theologicum Acroamaticum. Leipzig: 1707. Part III, Chap V, 1132-1134



ASSOCIATE EDITOR’S NOTE:  The discussion that follows in the comments gets into some very particular points.  This is a discussion that needs to happen for the sake of the Gospel, so we at BJS are letting it happen here.  Please note that some of the commenters are very zealous over this issue and that is sometimes reflected in heated language.  As Lutherans, we have a long history of heated language do to the seriousness of the Faith and great damage that error can due both to the Faith and also the faith of Christians.  Those making comments are reminded to temper their words and deal with the substance of the debate, not the personalities involved.

UPDATED NOTE: I have moderated a lot of comments out of the posting.  The admonition I gave in the above paragraph was not heeded by many commenters, and as a result fruitful discussion around Scripture and Confessions became impossible.  Maybe in the future we may be able to try again.

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 five children: Jacob, Solveig, Kristiana, Robert, and Marian.


Objective Justification: Affirming Sola Fide — 41 Comments

  1. “In fact Objective Justification affirms justification by faith alone. Distinguishing between Objective and Subjective Justification is like distinguishing between the visible and invisible church. Quenstedt calls such distinction an equivoque in its equivocate, or a distinction within one substance. We don’t turn them into two species. Rather, the concept of God justifying sinners (Objective) affirms justification by faith.”

    Thank you for this. It highlights the distinction within one as well as the intellectual dishonesty that was going on elsewhere in misapplying Luther quotes, using equivocal language, etc.

    The clear, unconditional Gospel! Again, thank you.

  2. Andrew, thanks for your article. If I might offer one suggestion, the “particular particles” are very important to pay close attention to and therefore, in this context, I would recommend/suggest we be careful to use the word “through” rather than “by” for it communicates, I believe, more precisely to the modern English speaker that faith is merely the “receiving instrument” through which God pours out the righteousness, forgiveness, justification won by Christ.

    That’s why I always like to say we are saved “BY grace alone, THROUGH faith along, ON ACCOUNT OF Christ, alone.”

    We therefore understand that faith is in no way, shape or form the cause of our salvation, but simply the means by which God gives, by Grace, even the gift of faith itself.

    I would change your phrase: “By faith, the Christian applies the promise of the gospel to himself.” to “By grace, through faith, God gives the Christian forgiveness, life and salvation that Christ won for him.”

    I say a big Amen to what Pr. Kirchner said by way of affirming your article: clear, unconditional, unqualified Gospel is the Gospel, and anything which is not unqualified or unconditional is no Gospel at all, but simply Law.

    We must never be led to have faith in faith, or trust in trust, for that would be to introduce the monster of uncertainty!

    In my opinion, one of the finest clear, brief and powerful explanations of the Lutheran doctrine of justification is the book “Justification and Rome” by Robert Preus, his last work, and perhaps his very finest.

    And, also, I would highly recommend to anyone that they read very carefully the excellent response prepared by both LCMS faculties to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, you can download a PDF file of it here:


  3. An excellent article about justification! Thank you, Mr. Preus.

    The true doctrine of justification is quite comforting to me. When I was caught up in Pentecostalism and the Wesleyan holiness movement, I never heard the gospel. Oh, yes, we heard about Jesus dying for our sins and God’s grace, but God’s favor was always conditioned upon our own action. IF you clean up your life, show God you mean business, THEN He will forgive you of your sins. Worse yet were the crushing statements that IF you have enough faith, THEN God will heal your brokenness and draw you to Himself! Just how much faith did I have to have in order to be forgiven? God had become a monster who seemed to take pleasure in stringing me along, not fully giving me forgiveness unless I met all His conditions perfectly, which included having enough faith! When I look back to those days I now understand it is little wonder I had fallen into despair, ultimately rejecting Christ and becoming an atheist.

    No, the fact that Christ has already forgiven me, even before I knew it!, gives me great comfort and indeed, is what creates faith in me so that I receive His wonderful gift of forgiveness. Justification is not a potentiality, but is a reality offered through Word and Sacrament. I am forgiven and His forgiveness is mine. He gave it to me.

  4. The “whether they believe it or not” terminology comes right from the horse’s mouth: “Strictly speaking, the term objective justification means that a sinner is justified by God whether he believes it or not.” ~ S. W. Becker, “Universal Justification”, p. 1.

    Whether or not you all would state it as such is beside the point. It is the normative teaching in the WELS. If it’s an equivocation of terms…well stop equivocating the terms.

  5. And it is in The LCMS as well, but most importantly, it is the teaching of Sacred Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

    Anyone who denies this true is not a Biblical Christian is certainly no Lutheran.

    The reality of what God in Christ has done; reconciled the world to Himself depends not one little bit on whether or not I have faith in that reality. Faith is simply the receiving hand, that God gives me, and the hand God opens to receive all His benefits and blessings.

    We dare never put our faith in faith, or trust in our trust.

  6. I put my faith in Christ and his work, not in a meaningless justification that applies to all people, thereby necessitating that I look to faith for assurance – since, if all are justified, then the only thing separating the justified-saved and the justified-damned is faith.

  7. While I was spared from actual combat ministry as a chaplain to the Marines, we came close and therefore conducted plenty of exercises. My “evangelical” colleagues practiced encouraging the dying Marine to receive Jesus by faith: “DO YOU BELIEVE, BROTHER!?” I practiced reassuring him in his last moments that God desired everyone (including him) to be saved and loved the world (including him) so much that he gave his Son to die for the sins of the world (including his): “Christ died for your sins; you are forgiven.”

    My colleagues would have the dying man leave this world hoping that he had done the right thing and done it well enough.

    As a Lutheran, I was determined that my Marine would leave this world hearing that God had restored his relationship as a forgiven, dear child of God, that Christ had paid for his sins on the cross, that he was forgiven.

    Hoping he himself had done it… Knowing God had done it for him… Which one do you think came to have faith? Which one went home justified?

  8. Excellent, Ted, very well put, and I notice you didn’t tell him he needed to humble himself and make sure he was sufficiently humble before God

    Your good news actually sounds like good news to me!!!

    : )

  9. @Daniel Baker #7

    Mr. Baker,

    Justification objectively applies to the whole world, because Christ is the expiation of the sins for the whole world. When you reject the objective nature of justification you wind up denying the Scriptural teaching that Christ made satisfaction for ALL sins and for ALL the human race. Christ is the end of the law. He conquered sin and death for the whole world. Christ’s vicarious satisfaction belongs to the article of justification, because Christ satisfied the law and atoned for the sins of the whole world. Or, as Martin Chemnitz puts it in the 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)


    “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).

  10. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #8
    Pr. McCain, please. I recognize that it is the Holy Spirit’s work and acting. “I believe that I cannot, by my own thinking or choosing, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.” I was illustrating a point. A better way of putting it: “I know my faith is founded on Jesus Christ, my God and Lord;” not on a meaningless double-justification that requires my focus to be on whether I believe or not.

    Jim P.,
    “When you reject the objective nature of justification you wind up denying the Scriptural teaching that Christ made satisfaction for ALL sins and for ALL the human race.”
    No, a rejection of UOJ does not “end up denying” what you claim. I know this is the case because I do not deny it, nor have I ever seen anyone on this side of the debate deny Christ’s universal satisfaction and atonement.

  11. @Daniel Baker #12

    I beg to differ with you, Mr. Baker. Right here in this thread on BJS, and elsewhere I have had this discussion, invariably those who reject OJ will claim that not ALL sins have been forgiven in Christ, or that not ALL the sins of the world have been “taken away.”

    Do you believe that the sins of the whole world are forgiven in Christ, Mr. Baker?

  12. @Jim Pierce #13
    I reject the notion that Christ’s universal atonement equates to sins forgiven. Christ surely acquired forgiveness for all, but all are not forgiven apart from God-given faith in His one and only Son. Only those made one with Christ have part in His gifts and Sonship.

  13. @Daniel Baker #14

    Mr. Baker,

    Yes, well, we agree that the atonement is universal and that brings us to the article of justification. Namely, we want to answer from Scriptures the question, “How does the Holy God forgive sinners?” When we talk about the atonement we are talking about Christ reconciling the world to His Father. We are talking about Christ making satisfaction for the sins of the entire world. Yes, we are talking about the sins of the whole human race being “taken away;” our Holy God, for the sake of His Son, doesn’t hold the sins of the world against it (Ro 3:25; 2 Co 5:19; Ro 4:5).

    Atonement means that Christ has paid for the sins of the whole world. Do you agree that the sins of the whole world have been paid for in full by Christ? If so, what does that mean?

  14. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #15

    Wait, was there something wrong Daniel’s confession of faith? Which part? That only those made one with Christ have part in His gifts and Sonship? I bet that grinded your gears. Or was it that the entire world isn’t justified, as the Confessions wholly state. Or was it that not all are forgiven apart from faith?

    Either we are justified by whence we believe (have faith) in Christ as Mediator or we aren’t. There’s no need to say that the entire world has been forgiven, but then you’re REALLY forgiven when you have some personal faith — then you REALLY know you’re forgiven — because you have faith! That’s what sets you apart! But then it raises the question of, wait, I’m justified prior to faith…so then what on earth sets me apart from the heathen? This is a question that can’t be answered by the UOJers. The answer is that NOTHING sets you apart because everyone has been justified anyway. You all insist that the world isn’t justified apart from faith but at the same time you say the ENTIRE WORLD HAS BEEN JUSTIFIED. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It’s pure sophistry and it’s sick.

  15. @Jim Pierce #16
    I unequivocally believe that Christ paid for every sin by His perfect life and innocent death. This means that He acquired forgiveness, life, and salvation for all people. But these are His properties, which He appropriates to those Who are made one with Him through faith. They do not belong to the reprobate and unrepentant, even though they were surely acquired for them.

  16. @Daniel Baker #18

    If I understand you correctly, Mr. Baker, you are saying that Christ paid for all sins, that he “acquired forgiveness,” meaning that forgiveness of sins is a potentiality? Am I reading you correctly? “[T]he reprobate and unrepentant” are not forgiven, but potentially forgiven, since Christ acquired for them that potential?

  17. No, Christ did not acquire potential forgiveness, but the actual forgiveness of sins. He possesses the forgiveness of the entire world. But it’s His possession, not the world’s. He distributes it through faith.

  18. Putting it that way is unhelpful, and it’s not what I said. Rather: Christ acquired forgiveness for all by His meritorious, perfect life and innocent death. He distributes it through faith. But the world’s sins remain on it by virtue of its reprobation. Even though forgiveness exists in Christ, the world’s sins are not forgiven. Forgiveness only belongs to those who are God’s sons by being made one with God’s Son.

  19. @Daniel Baker #23

    I am trying to understand you, Mr. Baker. You say that “forgiveness exists in Christ” but then declare “the world’s sins are not forgiven.” That sounds like forgiveness is not a reality but only a potential, and that contrary to the teachings of the Scriptures I cite above. 1 John 2:2 “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

    The forgiveness of sins is acquired by Christ and is a reality for the whole world, in Christ. It is part and parcel of justification, since we are talking about justification in judicial terms… the Father responds in His court to the redeeming sacrifice of His Son by accepting it and being reconciled to the world through Christ; meaning that the sins of the world are forgiven in Christ. That forgiveness is then distributed through the means of grace. In short, when talking about the objective nature of justification we are using judicial language around the Father’s response to the sacrifice of His Son with regard to the requirements of the law on the whole world.

  20. @Daniel Baker #23
    I want to ask a question that pertains to the topic where the controversy over OJ first started. I know you have probably answered this question before. We all probably answer a lot of questions more than once. So excuse me if I forgot. But in the instance of confession and absolution, can the pastor say “I forgive you your sins in the stead and by the command of Christ.”? And if the one confessing doesn’t believe, did God, through the pastor’s words, still forgive him?

    After all, this is really what Objective Justification is about. It’s about the means of grace.

  21. The Father declared that His Son was righteous: “This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Christ was a holy and pleasing sacrifice to God. But that’s just it: Christ was totally righteous. The world is not. God does not look at the world and see Christ. He sees only evil all the time and the reason for the impending Day of Judgment. Rather, it is those who are made one with Christ – those “clothed with Christ” in Holy Baptism – whom God looks on the same way as He looks at His Son. In other words, as the Apology states: “Faith, therefore, is that thing which God declares to be righteousness.”

    Christ’s righteousness is surely all-sufficient. The forgiveness He won was for all people. But these properties are only His and only apply to those who are also His.

  22. @Andrew Preus #25
    Spirit-worked repentance is part of the equation. It’s why we call it “confession and absolution.” If someone is a reprobate sinner, then no, I don’t believe that his sins are forgiven by a misapplied word of absolution, any more than I believe that someone who hypocritically receives the Sacrament receives forgiveness; rather, they receive condemnation and judgment. I believe in the binding power of the Blessed Keys. As the hymn goes: “And those whose sins you do retain condemned and guilty shall remain.”

  23. @Daniel Baker #27
    I am trying to be as straight-forward as possible, as objective as possible. Did God still speak through the mouth of the pastor: “I forgive you your sins.”

    Or does God only speak through the pastor when the recipient has faith?

    Also, that is interesting that you bring up the Lord’s Supper. Is the body and blood of Christ given for condemnation? I would say no. Even when hypocrites eat and drink to their judgment, it doesn’t change the fact that the body and blood are given for forgiveness. Now don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t give pastors the excuse to commune everyone. I am just talking about the purpose of the Supper.

  24. @Daniel Baker #26

    “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

    From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:13-19).

    The good news is that sinners have been redeemed in Christ. God has reconciled the world to himself, “not counting their trespasses against them.” This is judicial language telling us that the the status of the whole world has changed from one of condemnation to one of justification for the sake of Christ. This is the same language found in Col 1:19, 20 “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” and again, Ro 5:10 “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life….”

    Again, this is what Chemnitz is getting at in the quote I provided above and will provide again….

    “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)

    What Christ has done has made amends, has atoned for, the sins of the whole world. Not just for those who are baptized (which, btw, if that were the case, then we are talking about a form of limited atonement). What you are claiming is simply not true and is not scriptural.

    On another note, you are treating the forgiveness of sins like a property which is part of Christ’s nature. For example, God can forgive the sins of the world, because forgiveness is one of His properties, like omnipotence is one of His properties which means He is all powerful and can do things such as create universes. Such talk smacks of forgiveness being a mere potentiality and not an actuality until the property is expressed. Another way to think about this is that since the forgiveness of sins for the whole world is a property of God, then why did Christ have to die on the cross?

  25. @Andrew Preus #28
    “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

    The Holy Supper was surely instituted FOR forgiveness, but those who go unworthily – without faith – eat and drink condemnation on themselves and forfeit the wondrous gift of forgiveness therein offered. Just as the Blessed Reformer says in the Catechism: “The Words ‘given’ and ‘poured out for you’ require nothing but hearts that believe.”

    It is surely not the eating and drinking or faith that effect the Sacrament; Christ is just as present whether or not we believe it. Nor does our faith make the forgiveness it offers a reality; but without faith, we do not receive said forgiveness.

    It is the same with absolution. Our faith does not create the forgiveness. Christ surely exists – and forgiveness, life, and salvation with Him – whether we believe it or not. But without faith – without being “clothed with Christ,” crucified, and raised with Him in Holy Baptism – we are outside of this forgiveness. So it is not our belief that makes the forgiveness the Pastor offers real; it is the word of God. But I think the Catechism’s form of confession/absolution is telling in this regard: “‘Dost thou believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?’
    Answer. ‘Yes, dear sir.’
    Then let him say: ‘As thou believest, so be it done unto thee. And by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ I forgive thee thy sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Depart in peace.'”

    “As thou believest.” What does that imply for one who does not believe? “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. Whoever does not believe shall be condemned.”

  26. @Jim Pierce #29
    It is interesting that you should cite 2 Corinthians 5, which seems to be along the lines of the passage often cited from Romans 5. I find it telling to note what the Book of Concord has to say about such passages: “It is considered and understood to be the same thing when Paul says that we are justified by faith, or that faith is counted to us for righteousness, and when he says that we are made righteous by the obedience of One, or that by the righteousness of One justification of faith came to all men. For faith justifies” (SD II:26).

    Consider: If God is not holding the world’s trespasses against it, why is He coming to judge it? The Good News is not that the world has been forgiven and justified. If that were the case, there would be no need for judgment. The Good News, rather, is that the world has been given a Substitute, and not only a penal substitute, but one Who imparts His life, righteousness, and eternal Sonship to us. This completely conicides with your quote from Blessed Martin Chemnitz, who says that Christ took on the Law and all sin for the whole world – for the salvation “of everyone who believes.” But that’s just it. If you don’t believe, Christ’s righteousness and forgiveness are not yours. Does this put the onus on man? Not at all! As Mr. Preus testified in the above article: “Sola Fide proves the unconditional nature of the promise. Why? Because faith is a gift.”

    Regarding your terminological quibble, I am not saying that the righteousness and forgiveness Christ acquired are His properties in the sense that they are part of His nature; I am saying these are His properties because He posesses them. He owns them. He won and acquired them. They become ours when we become one with Him. They don’t belong to the reprobate, but not because they’re mere potentials, but rather because they’re not one with Him.

  27. @Daniel Baker #31

    Mr. Baker,

    I am looking at the reference to the Solid Declaration you provide, article two, paragraph twenty-six, and I am missing the text you quote. Are you sure you are quoting from article 2, paragraph 26 of the Solid Declaration?

    Looking at the quote you provide, notice the statement “that by the righteousness of One justification of faith came to all men.” What “came to all men?” Here is the point that is being made, and I am going to leave it at this since it is clear I can’t convince you of anything, there is only one justification. We can Scripturally and from our confessions talk about the forensic nature of justification, i.e. the judicial aspect of it where God declares the world righteous in view of, and in response to, the work of His Son Jesus Christ. Again, this is done because Christ makes satisfaction for, and fulfills, the Law which condemns the whole world. As Chemnitz clearly states, “therefore His satisfaction is the expiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).” Here God’s act, in response to His Son’s sacrifice, is objective. He, for the sake of His Son, does not hold the sins of the human race against it, but forgives it. It is this reality of justification in the courtroom of God that is extended to us through the means of grace to be received by particular individuals. Hence, this “One justification of faith” can come to “all men” since the justification “coming” is a reality for the world, in Christ. There is something real for faith to adhere to and that is the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus. If Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is not for the forgiveness of sins for the whole world, then I don’t know what it is for.

    Have a good night. 🙂

  28. Every time I see one one these discussions with the Jacksonites, here is what I see: The Jacksonites insist that Universal Atonement and Objective Justification are completely different things and that their opponents mean something different by them. The Missourians (to use Lenski’s term rearding this very issue) look around confused and can never figure out what they are being accused of.

    Objective Justification = Universal Atonement. They are the same exact thing.

    Furthermore Justification by has only to do with what we term Subjective Justification: the justification of the individual sinner before God. Objective Justification precedes faith because it happened at the death and resurrection of Christ.

    Why do we use this term anyway? I do agree with Lenski that the terms are poorly chosen, particularly since there is nothing subjective about Subjective Justification. It is an objective fact since it’s source is on God and not in man.

    Why then use the term justification at all to refer to the Universal Atonement? Because Scripture does. Just as Christ was put to death be cause of our offenses, he was raised again for our justification. (Rom. 4:5). Who is the “our”? You can’t change the antecedent of the pronoun half way through a sentence. If Jesus dies for the sins of the world, then that is the “our”.

    So Scripture absolutely does use the word “justify” in a two-fold sense.

    Would it have been nice if we had chosen instead to call it Geneal Justification and Personal Justification? Probably not.

    Honestly, I have been teaching this doctrine to Luthan converts for 16 years. No one ever gets confused as the Jacsksonites claim, into thinking at the faith which justifies is anything else than that faith which believes God’s promises.

  29. Sorry. Typo: “Furthermore Justification by *faith* has only to do with what we term Subjective Justification: the justification of the individual sinner before God. Objective Justification precedes faith because it happened at the death and resurrection of Christ.”

  30. @Pr. Martin Diers #35
    I don’t know about these ambiguous “Jacksonites,” but as for me, if by Universal Justification you mean Universal Atonement, then I have no beef with you. I may think the terminology is unfounded, but that’s semantic. The problem I have is when Universal Justification is taken to mean universal absolution and a universal declaration of righteousness. Those are not the same as universal atonement.

  31. I tended to ignore these debates in seminary, but my curiosity was piqued, so I poked around a bit and found a helpful paper from a WELS conference in 1983.


    When I was a wee lad starting seminary, I was on the fence, leaning in some ways toward a Lutheran-flavored Reformed Modern Reformation kind of theology. At some point I became a boring dead orthodox type. For this reason I have an insider view on part of the dynamic going on here.

    David Beckman confirms what I generally suspected: namely that those who get nervous about “UOJ” have drunk too deeply of the Calvinist kool-aid.

    He writes:

    “Lutheran Misunderstanding
    One would think that heresy which removes the universality and the objectivity of justification would be limited to those who espouse a limited atonement and a conditional Gospel—the Reformed, the Baptists. But oddly enough to our way of thinking, that’s simply not the case. There have also been “Lutherans” who have ripped the heart out of the Gospel and have taught that God has not actually forgiven all the sins of all mankind.
    In Ministers of Christ, Prof. Meyer quotes a statement which came out of the old Ohio Synod, now part of the ALC.

    ‘We believe and confess: Through the reconciliation effected by Christ the holy and gracious God made an approach to us, so that now He can forgive us our sin and justify us; justification itself, however, does not take place until the spark of faith is kindled by God ‘ s grace in the heart of the poor sinner; then God forgives the sinner his sins.’

    This “Lutheran” statement makes God’s forgiveness dependent on man’s faith.”

  32. @Daniel Baker #37
    Daniel…I was once where you are. You may deny your affiliation with Jackson, but your argument is one in the same. Turn your argument upside down and look at it the other way. You say the atonement is universal and we all agree. But what does the atonement accomplish if it does not absolve the world of sin? (In Christ) To say that there is no universal absolution in Christ (since He bore ALL the sins of the world), then neither is the atonement universal and it becomes limited. For God did not so love me (on account of my faith), but God so loved the World…before it believed.

  33. Nathan M. Bickel :
    @Andrew Preus #16
    Christ died for all human sin; past present and future. However, that does not portend that all will be saved….

    “That does not portend that all will be saved…” is an absolutely false claim made against what objective justification actually teaches. Lutherans who teach the Scriptural doctrine of OJ are not Universalists, they reject any notion that all people are saved.

    If you are going to continue to insist that those who teach OJ are univeralists, then at least be kind enough to offer citations to support your claim.

  34. @Brett Meyer #40

    Mr. Meyer,

    One would think that you would have learned from the discussion in this thread linked here to stop misrepresenting what OJ teaches. But, sadly, you are still spouting off the same old, tired, Jackson talking points while ignoring the truth that has been given to you.

    If anyone is interested in plowing through the thread I linked to above, in it you will find where Mr. Meyer, and others from the Jackson sect, were repeatedly corrected for their false representations of the doctrine of objective justification, but to no avail. Furthermore, in that thread you will find Mr. Meyer rejecting the Scriptural view that Christ reconciled the world to His Father, through His death and resurrection.

    My advice is to ignore Mr. Meyer and company. They have been corrected MANY times over and still reject the truth shown to them. There is no sense discussing this with them any further.

  35. Dear BJS readers:
    I have moderated most of the comments away from this posting. I left the honest and civil discussion that begin this thread and showed some promise of actually resolving some of the differences in beliefs on Justification. When the conversation turned to speaking past one another, attacks on persons, and unsubstantiated claims, I and Editor Tim Rossow decided to do some editing. If you want to know the teachings on Justification, read Andrew Preus’ article again. Several commenters have been put on moderated status and I am closing down commenting on this post. In the future, I plan on introducing a more moderated venue for discussion of certain points of this centered on specific definitions of words (since folks here started to make it up as they went on, claiming silly things like universalism). One of these times maybe there might be civil and fruitful discussion on this important topic. Until then, go and read the Confessions on it (see the AC IV, Apology IV specifically).