Why We Are Not Declared Righteous By Christ Dwelling In Our Hearts

Andreas Osiander

During the 16th Century a debate arose on the doctrine of justification. Andreas Osiander taught “…that a person is declared righteous by God because the divine nature of Christ takes up residence within his or her heart, and for that reason, God declares that person righteous.“[1] There are some serious doctrinal problems with Andreas’ teaching but the most notable is that justification was defined as Christ dwelling in the believer. In other words, Osiander taught that the way in which we know that we are made right with God and the way in which God justifies us is Christ’s inward indwelling. This is a gross confusion of justification and sanctification.

Now, just in case you are worked up at this point, let me reassure you! The scriptures do teach of the Triune God dwelling in the believer. The scriptures do testify that the blessing and fruit of salvation are God at work in the life of the believer. However, this inward working is sanctification, not justification. You see, “…the danger of saying that justification is something happening inside of a human being is that people will be looking always within themselves, instead of looking to Christ’s objective work.”[2]

When Osiander and his associates taught their view of justification as,

“…what was going on inside of a person, instead of Christ’s external, objective work and God’s gift, they were in fact reverting back to the errors of the Roman view of justification. The Roman theologians taught justification as an ongoing process that is only completed by what happens within a person. This turns the Gospel into a Law and throws out certainty in Christ by replacing it with dependence on a person’s internal response, reactions and attitudes about Christ.”[3]

Simply put, our justification is outside of us not inside. This means that we don’t look inward, but we look outward to Christ’s objective work on the cross as the basis of our justification.[4] Furthermore, in the realm of sanctification we are blessed with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us so as to mold and shape. Sanctification is something that happens inwardly to us by the Holy Spirit through the Word.

Loosely stated, justification happens outwardly and sanctification happens inwardly. Another way of stating this is that, “…our justification is entirely a consequence of Christ’s work for us, on our behalf, but not in us.”[5]

Praise Be to God! Extra Nos… Our Justification is outside of us.

[1] Paul McCain, General Editor. Concordia, The Lutheran Confessions, The Editor’s Notes on the Formula of Concord (CPH, 2006), 465.
[2] Ibid, 466.
[3] Ibid, 466.
[4] The salvation that was achieved by Christ is also delivered to us personally. All the benefits of Calvary come to us through the Word and Sacraments. We don’t turn inward for assurance, but we also are turned outward to gifts that are delivered to us.
[5] Ibid, 466.

About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.


Why We Are Not Declared Righteous By Christ Dwelling In Our Hearts — 6 Comments

  1. What joy there is in knowing our salvation is secured by the alien act of Christ. Trust in this outside of me action gives great assurance. When I look inward everything disappears.

  2. I believe I’ve read that Osiander married a daughter of Cranmer and that they lived in the important Imperial city of Nuremburg. This just might be another chink in the Lutheran FAIL with the English. Osiander, no doubt, passed on his grumblings to his English wife’s family. I wonder if Osiander played any part in running off Pirkheimer as well.

  3. “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 Which law? The law that was added to the law after Jesus’ crucifixion. See Heb. 7:12

  4. “Justification of life?” “Acquittal of life?” What is Paul talking about?

    Could the following verse shed some light?

    For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law” (Gal. 3:21)

    Now at this point, I must simply ask, “If being rendered righteous before God (justified) is by legal imputation, why does Paul declare in this verse that it is the impartation of life which is necessary to be rendered righteous in God’s sight?”

    In addition to these initial two hiccups mentioned from Romans 5:20 and Galatians 3:21, let me mention a few more hiccups in Romans.

    #1 How can my being rendered righteous in God’s sight be imputation, when it is said that Abraham, by faith, received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had (Rom. 4:11) – that sign/seal representing the Spirit (Rom. 2:28, 29)?

    #2 How can the righteousness of God by which I am rendered righteous in God’s sight be imputation when we find that the righteousness of God displayed in His Son being given to die (Rom. 3:22-25), is equated with the love of God displayed in His Son’s death (Rom. 5:8), this very same love/righteousness of God in Christ also being that which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit of God (Rom. 5:5)?

    #3 IF I am rendered righteous in God’s sight by an imputation called justification, how can it be that when Paul speaks of justification as a gift (Rom. 3:24; 5:15a & b, 16a & b, 17), that this gift of justification supposedly by imputation, is defined by Paul as the gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23) and also referred to by Paul as justification of/by life (Rom. 5:18)?

    #4 If justification is being rendered righteous in God’s sight by imputation, why does Paul speak of a righteousness to eternal life (Rom 5:21) in parallel to the language of Jesus who spoke of the indwelling Spirit welling up to eternal life (John 7:37, 38; John 4:10ff).

    Let me now move from Romans to mentioning a few more hiccups in Galatians.

    #5 IF Paul enjoyed justification as the imputation of the character and perfect living of Jesus, why does Paul testify that upon being called by God’s grace, God was pleased, not to impute Christ’s character and perfect living to his account, but that God was pleased to reveal His actual Son inside of Paul (Gal. 1:15, 16).

    #6 IF Paul’s righteousness is a justification of a second imputation in addition to the death of Christ, why does Paul testify that on the foundation of being crucified with Christ, he lives by virtue of Christ indwelling him and that this new life is his righteousness apart from the Law (Gal. 2:20, 21)

    #7 IF justification is imputation, why does Paul equate justification by faith with the gift of the Spirit by faith (Gal. 2:16 with 3:2).

    #8 IF justification is imputation, why does Paul equate the righteousness credited to Abraham with the gift of the Spirit (Gal. 3:5 with 3:6)

    #9 IF justification is imputation, why does Paul equate the justification of the Gentiles with the blessing promised to all nations – that blessing being identified as the Spirit (Gal. 3:8, 9 with 3:14).

    #10 IF Paul teaches justification as imputation by faith, why does Paul teach that justification by faith is to be equated with life by faith? (Gal. 3:11; Rom. 1:17).

    #11 IF Paul teaches justification by faith as an imputation which gives us a right standing before God, why does Paul emphatically declare that nothing matters for a right standing with God except “a new creation” (Gal. 6:15) by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25; Phil. 3:3) as our righteousness (Phil. 3:3ff).

    In addition to these hiccups found within both Romans and Galatians, could I mention a few more hiccups outside of Romans and Galatians?

    #12 IF justification by faith is imputation by faith, why does Paul equate justification with being washed which is also equated to being sanctified – all being accomplished “by the Spirit of our God?” (1 Cor. 6:11)

    #13 IF justification is imputation, why does Paul define the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit as “being justified” (Titus 3:5-7)?

    #14 IF my hope of glory is a justification of imputed righteousness, why does Paul teach that my hope of glory is the indwelling Christ (Col. 1:27)?

    So I hope with these hiccups being mentioned, the reader will begin to entertain the idea that maybe it is possible that Paul’s does not teach our righteous standing in God’s sight as that which is a legal accounting of Christ’s perfect obedience to our account.

    Added to these hiccups is the nagging cough of the “embarrassing lack” of Scripture teaching Christ’s perfect obedience imputed to us. Certainly, the Scripture teaches the historical imputation of Christ’s death 2000 years ago. Let me list a small tip of the iceberg of this solid doctrine.

    …Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures… (1 Corinthians 15:3)

    “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross…” (1 Peter 2:24)

    He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us… (2 Cor. 5:21a)

    Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us… (Gal. 3:13)

    …while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

    …who gave Himself as a ransom for all… (1 Tim. 2:6)

    …for Thou wast slain and did purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Rev. 5:9)

    …Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. (Eph. 5:25)

    …the good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15)

    Yes, just as Adam’s representative transgression resulted in an imputation of guilt to all his posterity 6000 years ago before they were ever born, so also there are an “embarrassing” number of Scriptures teaching that there was a representative death by the second Adam which was imputed to all His posterity 2000 years ago. But in contrast to such a heavy list of Scriptures teaching a finished redemption, what some should find truly embarrassing is the lack of Scriptures teaching a second imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience. Where does the Bible teach that the perfect obedience of Christ is put to the account of the person who has faith? And how can we possibly trust Christ for such if Scripture does not reveal such as a promise to trust Christ for? And if we are trying to trust Christ for a non-existent supposed second imputation as our righteousness which gives us the hope of heaven and glory, can such be called anything but a “false hope?”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are only three or four Scripture passages (to my knowledge), which can weakly be brought forward in support of a second imputation.

    Romans 5:19
    The first passage that supposedly teaches a second imputation in addition to the death of Christ is Romans 5:19: “…through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”

    Context quickly eliminates this passage as support for a second imputation. For context demands that “the obedience of Christ” in Romans 5:19 is Christ’s one act of dying for sinners on the cross – a two thousand year old imputation (5:6, 7, 8, 18; 6:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11; more to be said about this later.)

    2 Corinthians 5:21
    The second passage which supposedly teaches double imputation is 2 Cor. 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

    In this verse, the believer is said to be “in Christ.” What does it mean to be “in Christ?” Paul explains in the immediate context. For in the immediate context, Paul defines “in Christ” as being a “…a new creature…” (5:17). Being a new creature, we know from the larger context (2 Cor. 3ff) and the rest of the New Testament, is the “new birth gift” wrought by the indwelling Spirit (3:1ff; 4:3-7)! Therefore, we must conclude that in 1 Corinthians 5:21, Paul is teaching that it is by virtue of being a new creature in Christ by the gift of the Spirit that we are the righteousness of God in Christ – God Himself being in Christ Himself reconciling the world to Himself (5:19). Yes, Christ Himself IS the righteousness of God first revealed TO us in His death SO THAT he might be revealed IN us by His Spirit. This is all Paul is saying in 2 Cor. 5:21. In other words, the sinless Christ became sin for us (2000 year old single imputation to His sheep), SO THAT now through faith, we might be born again by the Spirit as new creatures. For when we are by this Spirit placed into Christ Himself who Himself is the righteousness of God, this is how we become the righteousness of God in Christ (John 14:20; 17:21, 23; Col. 3:3, 4; more to be said about this passage later; read from 2 Cor. 3:1 all the way to 2 Cor. 5:21 to avoid errantly concluding Paul is talking about double imputation in 5:21.)

    1 Corinthians 1:30
    The third passage which supposedly teaches double imputation is 1 Corinthians 1:30 where it is said that Christ became to us wisdom from God and righteousness from God and sanctification from God and redemption from God.

    Again, the “righteousness from God” in this verse isn’t talking about a second imputation. We know this from the first part of the verse that says, “But by His doing your are in Christ Jesus.” To be in Christ Jesus is to be “…a new creature…” (2 Cor. 5:17). Being “in Christ” is not imputation, it is actualization. In the context, Paul is talking about actually being called by the word and Spirit (1:24, 26) as evidencing election (1:27). This same evidence of election via a calling by the word and Spirit unto an evident new birth transformation by the Spirit is also described in 1 Thess. 1:4-10. All this to say, it is only by the actual indwelling Spirit that we are in Christ and Christ Himself in us, Christ Himself IN us being our wisdom from God, our righteousness from God, our sanctification from God, and our redemption from God.

    Philippians 3:9
    The fourth passage which some say supposedly teaches some sort of imputation of the righteousness of Christ to our account as a forensic imputed righteousness, is Philippians 3:9: “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ: the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (3:9).

    Once again the simple prepositional phrase “in Him” obliterates the idea of our righteousness being an imputed righteousness. “In Him” is “new creature” language – only possible by the gift of the indwelling Spirit. Also, if we would pay more careful attention to Paul’s nutshell context thesis in 3:3 we would never conclude Paul is talking about the imputation of righteousness: “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Here Paul’s tells us that the only way we can worship rightly (with a righteousness acceptable to God) is in the Spirit of Christ. In this passage, Paul teaches that the Spirit of Christ indwelling us is our alien “Righteousness” which comes from God on the basis of faith (3:9). All other supposed righteousness – which would include any supposed legal imputation of the perfect lawkeeping of Christ – is to be counted as worthless loss (3:8). (Compare also Rom. 2:28, 29; 4:11).

    So none of these Scriptures, properly understood, teach a second imputation as found in the Reformed creeds. What we find instead, is that they teach an imparted “new creation in righteousness” by the Spirit Who is bestowed through faith in Christ on the foundation of a 2000 year old finished redemption.

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