Some Clarifications in Articulating Objective Justification

First, Objective Justification and Subjective Justification are not two different justifications, but rather two parts of the act of Justification.   My brother David has put it well:  Objective Justification = God justifies the sinner [through faith].  Subjective Justification = [God justifies the sinner] through faith.


Objective Justification refers to the work of God in Christ as well as the proclamation of the gospel and administration of the sacraments.  Subjective Justification refers to faith, which is created by that proclamation and receives the benefits.  Subjective Justification does not refer to the administration of the means of grace.  While it is true that when we speak of the application of the the accomplished act of Christ we certainly speak of faith, nevertheless the application of the righteousness of Christ  in the means of grace as such is objective.   God, in Christ, reconciles the world to himself… entrusting the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19).  It is all one motion.  This is why the pastor can pronounce absolution on a sinner even though he does not know for sure –outside of the sinner’s confession — if he truly has faith.  

Article three of the Formula of Concord lists the necessary parts of justification (SD III, 25): the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and faith, which receives the righteousness of Christ in the promise of the gospel.  The grace of God, the merit of Christ, and the promise of the gospel are all part of Objective Justification.  Faith receiving the righteousness of Christ refers to Subjective Justification.

Obviously the means of grace are involved when we discuss Subjective Justification, since it is in them that faith receives the righteousness of Christ.  Similarly, the plan and work of our redemption are discussed as well.  After all, they are not two different justifications.    However, when we speak of Objective Justification, we are not only speaking of what God did back then, but also what he declares today in the promise of the gospel.  When we speak of Subjective Justification, we are speaking specifically of faith receiving what is objectively given.  

The discussion of Objective and Subjective Justification is simply a distinction within one act.  God quenches our thirst.  This is one act.  Nevertheless, we can distinguish between God preparing the water and pouring it into our mouths on the one hand, and us receiving it in our mouths on the other.  It doesn’t change the fact that it is one act.  The fact that a sinner can know that he is justified through faith presupposes that the righteousness of Christ is accomplished for all sinners and offered to all sinners.  

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.


Some Clarifications in Articulating Objective Justification — 135 Comments

  1. @John Rixe #50

    I would say it’s important because justification by faith is the chief doctrine by which the Church stands or falls. Any attack against its doctrinal integrity is unacceptable. To be fair, though, I used to think this debate was more or less equivocal too, until people started getting excommunicated over it. Then I realized that there were more nefarious forces at play here.

  2. Perhaps we could think about the OJ/SJ distinction in light of how we were taught to think about predestination, i.e., a doctrine of comfort for those who have been brought to saving faith in Christ. Romans 5 1-2 Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future. J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

  3. Daniel Baker :
    @Sven Wagschal #46
    I don’t claim to be an expert, since I’m not, so I have to defer to actual experts on the topic. So as it pertains to 1 Corinthians 5:19, I think this source adequately demonstrates the fallaciousness of your claims:

    The website is wrong. The author clearly does not understand Frühneuhochdeutsch. The whole verse is past tense (I have this bible directly in front of me), and it has always been past tense from Luther’s times till today. But seeing that it comes from Pastor Rydecki I am not astonished since he is a refuted errorist (see the excellent refutation of his theology by the ACLC).

    Sorry, my arguments still stand. I do not deny the significance of faith in Ro 5, but the whole argument there is clearly from the reconciliation of the world to the reconciliation of the specific sinner. Both verses are clear: the whole world *is* reconciled to God, but only believers profit from this reconciliation.

  4. John Rixe :
    95% of Lutheran laymen have never heard of UOJ.

    I do think, and most sincerely hope, that the vast majority of Lutheran laymen have actually heard of universal objective justification – although they may not have heard of that particular term.
    But I do think, and most sincerely hope, that they have heard their Pastor proclaim a full and complete salvation from God, fully accomplished in Christ, and given to them with His promise and declaration that He has brought all things to completion and made them righteous and right before His judgement – rather than that He will, if and when they believe it.

    And if they have, then they have indeed heard of universal objective justification. For that is what such preaching presupposes, whether those hearing it know it or not – and even whether the one preaching it knows it or not.

    And that which we call a rose, by any other name …

    I do share the sentiment I seem to sense with you, though, that the discussions on this particular topic tend to become tremendously tedious, redundant, and pointless, and more so than so many others …

  5. @Jais H. Tinglund #5

    You may be right, but I don’t personally ever recall a pastor making a point of this distinction.  I just remember the fantastic message of:   “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)  The precise timing of this salvation never seemed to be an issue.

  6. @John Rixe #6
    My point is that it does not have to be specifically pointed out as a topic to be an important element in preaching.
    On the contrary, in fact; like so many other issues this has become a such only because it has been challenged.

  7. When the article of justification by faith alone is spoken of as “objective justification” and “subjective justification,” it is too easy to fall into a way of speaking that there are two doctrines of justification rather than the one doctrine of justification by faith alone. The danger in treating “objective justification” as a stand-alone doctrine is to then downplay the significance of Word and Sacrament as the means by which God delivers forgiveness to us and faith which is the only way to receive forgiveness. The emphasis shifts away from the objective elements of sacramental ministry to effective communication techniques that depend more on making a person feel assured of forgiveness than in actually speaking the Word of forgiveness. With that mindset, for example, Holy Communion becomes just a pledge of forgiveness, not the actual delivery of forgiveness. The answer to the question “where can I find forgiveness of sins” is not “Word and Sacrament” but “a cross and declaration made 2,000 years ago. Just recall and meditate on that past event and that you have no sin because the ‘Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world.'”

    This theologian is an example of that. He calls objective justification – not objective AND subjective justification – THE gospel, the chief article on which the church stands or falls. In both essays there is little mention of the sacraments or the actual reception of forgiveness through faith.

    “The Primary Doctrine in Its Primary Setting: Objective Justification and Lutheran Worship” (1996):

    “Getting The Right Message Out – And Getting It Out The Right Way With Special Emphasis on Public Worship and Classroom Instruction” (Presented in 2003, several sections are word-for-word from “The Primary Doctrine in Its Primary Setting: Objective Justification and Lutheran Worship”):

  8. @Pr. Jim Schulz #8
    Looks like your issue is with the WELS. And I can’t say I blame you. There are pastors who have a funny way of preaching it from my experience as an ex-WELsian. But you should take it up with them and not the LCMS. I believe the LCMS has a firmer grasp and articulation of the doctrine. Your WELS perception of the terminology clouds what has been presented; especially by those of the ilk of Marquart.

  9. @Pr. Jim Schulz #8

    Pr. Schulz,

    What you are claiming is tangential to the problems raised. If you read through the comments in this thread (which are much like those in other threads of the same topic matter), you will see that the problem is not terminological but fundamental to the doctrine on reconciliation. You have several people who reject the OJ/SJ distinction not because it is confusing, but because they reject the Scriptural teaching that God has reconciled the world to Himself. Indeed, we have one person who says that God is only reconciled to believers and another person who claims God is reconciled only to believers and that is also a process.

    The problem seems to be how the vicarious satisfaction of Christ is viewed. Did Christ utterly and completely make satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, past, present, and future? Is it finished as He said so on the cross? Did His sacrifice reconcile God to the whole world, or just to some? These are the real issues, Pr. Schulz.

    And, if those are the real issues, then I hope you can appreciate why dealing with them doesn’t require talking about Word and Sacrament, or even the subjective nature of justification, each time these problems are raised. It is possible, for example, to discuss the atonement without mentioning baptism or the Lord’s supper. Simply because both aren’t mentioned when discussing the atonement, doesn’t mean they have been rejected or are deemphasized in teaching.

  10. @Andrew Preus #4
    I think part of the problem is that, for those not steeped in the entire concept, Objective Justification sounds like universalism at first. Now, understanding it further, I realize that it’s not, but sometimes that clarification is not understood.

  11. @Daniel Baker #1

    Daniel Baker :
    @John Rixe #50
    To be fair, though, I used to think this debate was more or less equivocal too, until people started getting excommunicated over it. Then I realized that there were more nefarious forces at play here.

    That’s a good point, Mr. Baker. What really should have been a healthy theological debate between pastors (and laymen who are interested) blew up due to those nefarious forces who despise debate.

    Mr. Krohn is right in that this modern incarnation of the debate started with The Holy See of Milwaukee, and specifically its Arizona-California District. However, both sides have appealed to the history and authority of several synods and writers, so it’s natural for it to spill over into this blog, LCMS, ELDoNA, and ACLC, etc.

    Justification by grace through faith is the central doctrine of the Church. The question of this debate, then, is: “Are all men justified?” One side answers, “Yes, but in two parts”, the other side answers, “No, only those with faith.” Debate on.

  12. @Andrew Preus #29 You wrote:

    “Christ’s resurrection took place as an actual absolution from sin. As God punished our sins in Christ, upon so He also, by the very act of raising Him from the dead, absolved Him from our sins imputed to Him, ans so He absolved also us in Him.” (Biblia Illustrata ad Rom 4:25; quoted in Pieper II:321).

    Just to clarify, this is what the quote says: “Christ’s resurrection took place as an actual absolution from sin. As God punished our sins in Christ, upon upon whom He laid them and to whom He imputed them, as our Bondsman, so He also, by the very act of raising Him from the dead, absolved Him from our sins imputed to Him, and so He absolved also us in Him.”

  13. That’s a good point, Mr. Baker. What really should have been a healthy theological debate between pastors (and laymen who are interested) blew up due to those nefarious forces who despise debate.

    Good – this is what I’m trying to pin down.  Does God expect a low-information layman to pin down the precise date of his justification – Good Friday, Easter, baptism birthday, date of conversion, etc?   Can reasonable folks of goodwill have different opnions on this without being heretics?

    As HC would say:  “What difference does it make?”

    @J Dusek #13

  14. @John Rixe #15

    Concerning the Bereans: “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

    Go hit the books, John!

    And quoting Hilary Clinton regarding Benghazi. Not good form.

  15. @Jim Pierce #16

    Sorry – Are you saying then God expects me to pin down the date, and if I make a mistake I’m a heretic? 🙂

    Still don’t see the significance of the issue.

  16. Joel A. Dusek :
    @Daniel Baker #1

    Daniel Baker :
    @John Rixe #50
    To be fair, though, I used to think this debate was more or less equivocal too, until people started getting excommunicated over it. Then I realized that there were more nefarious forces at play here.

    That’s a good point, Mr. Baker. What really should have been a healthy theological debate between pastors (and laymen who are interested) blew up due to those nefarious forces who despise debate.
    Mr. Krohn is right in that this modern incarnation of the debate started with The Holy See of Milwaukee, and specifically its Arizona-California District. However, both sides have appealed to the history and authority of several synods and writers, so it’s natural for it to spill over into this blog, LCMS, ELDoNA, and ACLC, etc.
    Justification by grace through faith is the central doctrine of the Church. The question of this debate, then, is: “Are all men justified?” One side answers, “Yes, but in two parts”, the other side answers, “No, only those with faith.” Debate on.

    The one side does not answer, “Yes, but in two parts”.
    There is only ONE justification. It is an objective fact. This fact is either believed by faith, or rejected in unbelief. Those that believe have the benefits of this. Those that do not believe call God a liar, and are condemned – despite having had their sins forgiven in Christ.

  17. I understand the need for clarity in doctrine, but this entire “debate” is rather tiring. Can we just say that Jesus died for everybody and whoever believes this goes to heaven? To me, the entire OJ/SJ terminology and the ensuing debate just confuses me instead of helping me. I apologize if this is too simplistic; after all, I am just a stupid layman.

  18. John Rixe :
    @Jim Pierce #16
    Sorry – Are you saying then God expects me to pin down the date, and if I make a mistake I’m a heretic?
    Still don’t see the significance of the issue.

    I’m just about ready to call you a heretic for the sake of name calling! 😀

  19. John Rixe :
    @Bryan Lidtke #19
    Can we just say that Jesus died for everybody and whoever believes this goes to heaven?
    Thank you, thank you. What more is there to say but Amen.

    I’m down with that too. I just want to stop putting the egg before the chicken with such ridiculous notions that amount to “Everybody is already saved, whoever believes this gets to go to heaven.”

  20. @Bryan Lidtke #19
    I think it was “low-information” layman, Brian! (I’m not sure if Mr. Rixe was accusing people of this or just using it as a general statement.)
    There are low- and high- information laymen, and low- and high-information clergy!

    Jim Pierce :
    Concerning the Bereans: “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
    Go hit the books, John!
    And quoting Hilary Clinton regarding Benghazi. Not good form.

    It certainly does make a difference, and we should debate with a conclusion as the goal. We should all, always, be hittng “The Book”! The debate need not be contentious, though.

    Argh, Hillary, argh!

  21. @Joel A. Dusek #23

    I have found that debate always becomes contentious when not strictly moderated. There is a reason why fist fights broke out before councils. I suppose we can be thankful we aren’t before a council. More so, thank God our sins are forgiven!

  22. (I’m not sure if Mr. Rixe was accusing people of this or just using it as a general statement.)

    Talking only about my low-information self – trying to calculate the date of my justification. 🙂

    “In the Bible it says they asked Jesus how many times you should forgive, and he said 70 times 7. Well, I want you all to know that I’m keeping a chart.” – HC

    @Joel #23

  23. The issue isn’t so much what happened first, although that obviously inevitably becomes part of the discussion. The issue is more so what is based on what. Our faith must be based upon what God did and offers. And what God did and what he offers is an action. And if this action is appropriated through faith, then this action from the beginning pertains to faith. So it isn’t like there is the righteousness for all, but then there is the righteousness of faith. It is always a righteousness of faith because this is always how it is appropriated. This righteousness of faith is offered to all in the gospel, which corresponds to what Christ did. This I believe is an important point.

    What God offers in his gospel must correspond to what he did in Christ. And looking into what Christ did, the benefits of his resurrection must correspond to the benefits of his death. So if Christ bore the sin of all men on the cross, then it follows that his vindication in his resurrection is a vindication or absolution of the sin of all men. It follows then from that the the gospel offers forgiveness to all. This righteousness is always a righteousness of faith because that is how it was always meant to be received.

  24. I am not Lutheran, though I have always been a huge admirer of Luther and have read much by and about him. I have only been seriously reading contemporary Lutheran theology for about a year. Until then, I had never heard of universal objective justification.

    How is Universal Objective Justification differ from Unlimited Atonement? Why is the distinction so critical, as it seems to be?

    I have read some, but not all, the posts in this thread, which is becoming unwieldy, so if my question has been asked and answered, please accept my apologies. Just for the record, I have come to accept Unlimited Atonement.

  25. Pastor Andrew, your post of March 13, 2014 is a perfect definition of the doctrine of justification. You said it the gospel has to be offered to all. And your definition is the traditional definition of the Reformers and I can’t see any lutheran disagreeing with it.

    But this is not how LCMS and WELS understands it officially. I have read officialy statements where it is taught that the sins of all mankind have been forgiven. So everybody is righteous in God’s eyes, their sins forgiven on the cross, and all that needs to happen is for this justification to be received by faith. So sin is no longer a problem for mankind, it’s been atoned for universally, the only obstacle now is unbelief. LCMS pastors are teaching that hell is populated by forgiven sinners that rejected the gift as if God had declared them righteous and forgiven. See this LCMS pastor And I have heard this everywhere.

    And this teaching I believe to be unbiblical. No man is reconciled to God until he’s justified by faith. So objective justification can never be the gospel, we should never preach that the sins of all mankind are fully atoned unconditionally. Because God so much loved the world in John 3:16 is true but it needs to be applied and the application of this salvation is limited to a few men that will come to faith “whosoever believes shall have eternal life”. When we proclaim the gospel to the whole world indiscriminately, when the forgiveness of sin is offered, we need to make sure that this offer is limited to whosoever believes or shall believe in him. We can’t proclaim indiscriminately the forgiveness of sin to the unbeliever unconditionally, because we are betraying God’s word. Not everyone is of the children of the promise, so if justification is to be preached unconditionally that can only be done to the faithful or those that have already been baptized or expressed a desire to be baptized already. Like the absolution, it is only for christians and not for the unbeliever. The same can be said about objective justification, the gospel promises are for those that believe. For the unbeliever the gospel is an aroma of death Paul teaches, only for the believer the gospel is good news and an aroma of life. 2 Corinthians 2:15 and 2 Corinthians 2:16 . So salvation needs to be offered to all when we preach to the world, but it needs to be preached so that it is clearly understood that only those that believe will benefit, so God has put a condition of repentance and faith.

    This is why 2 Corinthians 5:18 can only be interpreted in light of 2 Corinthians 5:19, “Be ye reconciled to God”. So if we want to talk about the world as those that have come or will come to faith in verse 18 is fine as long as it is conditioned on the world believing in Christ as verse 19 teaches. Alternatively we can say that the world does not refer to all men but to those that will come to faith. Either way it is only Christians that have their sins not imputed, and for most people their sins are imputed to and never justified objectively or subjectively. There is no unconditional universal justification in scripture, justification is universally conditioned (upon faith) or unconditional justification for the Saints only. You see the absolution (objective justification) is only applicable to those that have made a confession of faith, and then they are asked to believe this absolution by faith (subjective justification). But under no circumstance is objective justification universal, it is limited to those that have believed the gospel or made a confession of faith. So my point is in scripture there is no objective justification that is universal, all forms of justification (objective and subjective) are limited to the church, the body of believers in Christ in history and those that will come to faith in the future.

    This is why Christ in Luke 13:3 and Paul in Acts 17:30 command all men to repent and believe. And all the promises of the gospel are for those that repent and believe. The promises and benefits of the gospel are not universal, they do not apply to all men, only to those that will receive it. Teaching an unconditional universal gospel is found nowhere in scripture, and is not an orthodox position that can be backed up. The promises apply only to those that will come to Christ and the gospel ought to be preached to the world on this biblical basis. To the rest as Paul says the gospel is an aroma of death and contains no good news but a warning of damnation.

  26. Jim Pierce, you really hit it on the nail when you wrote what the issues are on your March 12, 2014 post:

    ” The problem seems to be how the vicarious satisfaction of Christ is viewed. Did Christ utterly and completely make satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, past, present, and future? Is it finished as He said so on the cross? Did His sacrifice reconcile God to the whole world, or just to some? ”

    And the answer to this is that Christ has fully satisfied as far as the atonement being a perfect sacrifice that is sufficient for the salvation of all men. But Christ has not fully satisfied as far as the application of the atonement, only those that come faith are saved. And I think this is what the UOJ guys are missing, the atonement does not apply to all as far as removing their sin unconditionally, it is sufficient to remove the sin of all men, but it only removes the sin of those that come to faith. And the interesting thing is that what I just said every 16th and 17th century christian affirmed. It didn’t matter whether they were roman catholic, calvinist, arminian, or lutheran. So what changed ? Why are we now saying that the atonement has removed the sin of all men unconditionally (the unregenerate ) and everybody is justified. This was never the teaching of the Church at the time of the Reformation. So where is this universal removal of sin in all men from Judas to Peter coming from ? Because today this is not just a problem that affects lutheranism, universal salvation to the unbaptized and unregenerate has made its way into evangelicalism and roman catholicism as well. So it sounds to me that the problem is that modern theologians like Karl Barth (reformed) and Karl Rahner (catholic) have introduced an unorthodox universalism that the historic christian church has always rejected. Lutherans have not been immune to the influence of these theologians. All of the Reformers would have found this doctrine of UOJ repugnant, and nowhere to be found in scripture. Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, the article of justification was tied to sola fide , i.e. faith alone . And the effectiveness of the atonement is limited to the removal of sin of believers only , those that have come or will come to faith in Christ have their sin not imputed. UOJ also destroys the notion of substitutionary atonement, because Christ can not die as a substitute for every man, he was a substitute for those that will not be punished. He took the punishment of their sin. But the rest that remains in unbelief, remain in sin, and it can not be said that Christ died as their substitute. I think this is what the problem is a confusion in what sense the atonement is universal, and no lutheran ever taught that it was universal as far as Christ being a substitute that provides justification to all. So objective justification is really a misunderstanding of the atoning work of Christ, the atonement is universal as far as being sufficient to atone for the sins of all man kind and sufficient to accomplish the forgiveness of sin for all. As far as the sufficiency to remove sin Christ satisfied for all, his atoning work was for the whole human race. But when we talk about the atonement having actually accomplished salvation, this can only be said of believers, because as far as the application of the atonement Christ did not satisfy for all but only for those that would come to him, his sheep.

  27. It is kind of interesting that even in Wikipedia they understand unlimited atonement better than the UOJ advocates. Unlimited does not mean that Jesus paid the penalty for sin for everybody, Jesus only satisfied for the believer. Unlimited atonement does not mean that Jesus died for all, as if he was a substitute for all, he only died for believers. You can read it here:

    “What it does not state
    Jesus paid the penalty for those who deny faith in Him, and His death was a substitutionary atonement for those who deny Him—Though the term unlimited atonement can easily give the incorrect assumption that Jesus’ payment encompassed all people, unlimited atonement maintains a limit on the legal effect. Jesus’ death was indeed an offer of a substitutionary atonement to all, but this offer was resistible; though salvation is offered to all, not all are saved.”

    “Unlimited atonement has a number of important points in common with traditional formulations of limited atonement. Both positions affirm that:

    The call of salvation can genuinely be made universally
    Jesus paid the penalty only for those who have faith in Him
    Jesus’ death was a substitutionary atonement only for those who accept Him”

    As everybody can see these quotes from Wikipedia clearly show that the authors of UOJ lack a basic understanding of unlimited atonement, and have gone way past the orthodox definition of unlimited atonement and crossed the line into universalism. Something that orthodox christian unlimited atonement denies.

  28. Thanks Andrew for the link. I have great respect for lutherans, and have greatly benefit from lutheran writings. The presentation on justification in the Defense of the Augsburg Confession is the best articulated of any confessional document.

    With that said, we will have to agree to disagree on UOJ. I believe that Christ freely offers salvation (his righteousness, atoning death, objective justification) to all mankind in the preaching of the gospel. From this perspective the atonement is unlimited. However he has not declared anybody righteous nor forgiven anybody’s sin until the holy spirit reveals to the sinner that he is forgiven. The holy spirit alone through the preaching of the gospel creates faith and communicates to the sinner that his sins are forgiven. Only those that are given the gift of faith are forgiven. And Christ bore on the cross the sins of those men only whom the holy spirit speaks the forgiveness of sin to and creates faith in. The forgiveness of sin in Christ’s name is offered universally to all sinners, Christ has procured for all men with his death the forgiveness of sin so that it can be proclaimed in his name to all men without exception. But until such forgiveness is embraced in faith no man is justified. I find this to be what the Reformers taught. The atonement is unlimited in the sense that God offers to all men all that is necessary for salvation. But only those that come to faith benefit. To me universal objective justification obscures this clear teaching of scripture I just explained, and like in the link I provided in my first post a couple of days ago, you get LCMS pastors teaching that there are forgiven sinners in hell. Martin Luther and all 16th century lutherans would have never used that kind of language to describe those in hell, scripture also never teaches that forgiven people are in hell, quite the opposite those that are condemned go to hell, all of the forgiven go to eternal life. Same thing when it is taught that Christ died for Peter and Moses in the same way he died for Pharaoh and Judas, this is not the teaching of scripture, Christ died for as a substitute for the sins of Peter and Moses and bore their sins on the cross and paid the penalty in full, but did not so for Pharaoh and Judas. The gospel offer goes to all (unlimited atonement) is the teaching of scripture, but not all are forgiven (the effects of the atonement are limited to Christ’s sheep who hear his voice). This is a simple summary that can be understood by anyone, it is the plain language of scripture. When a theology concludes that there are forgiven sinners not only in heaven but in hell too, something has gone wrong. And I’ve heard this affirmed in KFUO radio programs such as “Law and Gospel” with Tom Baker sponsored by the LCMS. Interestingly enough pastor Baker is one of my favorite pastors, but when he departs from scripture like in the area of UOJ I will point it out.

    Anyways, thanks for the discussion. We will not agree, but I kind of sympathize with the lutheran brothers that hold to the UOJ doctrine, because I held to the same doctrine until very recently. But realized for the reasons I provided that it is incompatible with scripture, even though I concede that it helped me understand the gospel better more than once.

  29. And Jesus words have been misinterpreted in John 19:30: “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

    “It is finished” means that Christ gave up the ghost and obeyed the father to the point of death. It does not mean that all of mankind has been declared righteous and the sins not imputed. God’s work of salvation was not finished at the cross. Christ’s resurrection and ascension followed. The holy ghost was given at Pentecost. And the holy spirit creates faith in believers through the preaching of the gospel up until today and will continues to do so. Christ will come in glory to judge the living and the dead, and the dead will be resurrected. The new heavens and new earth will be created.

    All I’m saying is that at the cross God revealed his plan of salvation, but the actual accomplishment of salvation of individuals through the preaching of the word and faith is continuing today. And the forgiveness of sin or sinners being declared righteous is a present event and not a past event that happened 2000 years ago. The new birth of sinners into eternal life is by grace through faith, and men are declared righteous as they come to faith. Yes Christ bore the sins of all of mankind on the cross, so that the gospel can be proclaimed to all, to the whole human race. In this sense yes, we can surely say Christ died for all so that the gospel can be proclaimed to all. But as far as the effectiveness of the atonement, Christ died solely for all those that will believe in him.

    We can compare the atonement to let’s say a medicine or a prescription drug for sin. This medicine is powerful to cure the sins of anybody, but unless this medicine is taken (i.e. applied by faith, a sinner comes to faith) nobody is cured. The effectiveness of the atonement as far as removing sin is conditional on faith. Here’s another analogy, let’s imagine a flu epidemic, a flu vaccine that would prevent the flu on anybody that takes the vaccine, even though the vaccine is perfect, it can only prevent the flu in those that it is administered to. So is with the gospel it only removes sin in those that believe it. There is no UOJ or universal removal of sin, Christ is certainly the remedy for sin but unless a sinner believes in his name his sin is not removed. John chapter 1 the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world clearly explains that it is for those that received him, not to those that received him not, Christ took away the sin of those that received him. The rest remained in their sin.

  30. @Bill #89
    Bill, this reminds me of the old question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it does it make a sound?”

    The Word is eternal. It declares what in time was accomplished for eternity (Gal 4:4). This is why God said to Abraham who had no children, “I have made you a father of many nations.” (Gen 17:5; Rom 4:17). 2 Cor 5:18-21 is very clear, and so is John 1:29. Jesus did in fact take away the sin of the world, and this is what the Word declares. In fact, this is the efficacy of the Word. The Word cannot deliver anything more or less than what Christ did. And Christ’s work cannot accomplish anything more or less than what the Word declares. To pit the Word against the work of Christ is not wise. God reconciling the world to himself and entrusting to us his Word of reconciliation are all part of the same act. That is, Christ dying on the cross and him sending his Holy Spirit upon his Ascension are part of the same salvific act. But that doesn’t mean that what Christ did on the cross was incomplete until the Spirit came.

    I think we need to make a distinction between satisfaction and manifestation.

    On the cross Jesus made complete satisfaction for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Rom 5:18-19). He bought even those who would deny him (2 Pet 2:1). But this satisfaction was not made manifest until his resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Spirit.

    So take Joe Heathen. Jesus died for him; he took his sins upon himself. If this is not made manifest to Joe through the Word he won’t receive the benefits personally, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus still “bought him” as St. Peter puts it (2 Pet 2:1). Also, Joe could hear the Word and not believe it. What he heard manifest to him was that Christ has made full satisfaction for his sins. He hears that the deed is done. But if he rejects it he remains in his sins and the wrath of God remains on him; yet this does not mean that Christ has not made satisfaction for his sins. It does mean that those who reject the cross fall on it and are broken in pieces, and those on whom it falls will be ground to powder (Matt 21:44). This is what Paul says, that the Word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18).

  31. Pastor Andrew, I believe the work of Christ was complete when He said it is finished at the cross. But it needs to be understood in what manner was complete for all of mankind and for the elect:

    1) For all of mankind Christ has procured the forgiveness of sin so that it might be proclaimed and offered to the whole world. I am fine saying as well that he paid the penalty for the sins of the whole world and bore the sins of the whole world as long as we add so that the gospel might be proclaimed to everybody. The atonement is all sufficient to justify every sinner that ever lived, not a single more drop of Christ’s blood would be required to justify Pharaoh and Judas, the atonement is of infinite worth to atone for the sins of the whole world.

    2) For the elect Christ obtained salvation, bore their sins, objectively justified, and purchased the gift of faith. Romans 8:30 teaches that predestination is the basis for justification and faith. Lutherans always taught that election causes faith.

    So for all of mankind Christ suffered so that the gospel could be procalimed to all without discrimination. But for the elect Christ suffered so that their salvation was secured. Christ by his death on the cross secured the salvation of the elect alone, even though he died for everyone in order that his grace may appear to all men and the gospel proclaimed to all men.

    You see, In lutheran theology there is a fine balance between election and universal grace (gratia universalis). Justification is related to the article of election and can never be universal. To me this is the traditional understanding of the 16th century Reformers.

    I do love the LCMS and I live in Canada and KFUO radio communicates the gospel amazingly. I am so thankful to them that I can listen to the archived programs on the internet any time. But it does pain me that they have erred on the doctrine of UOJ. Even though the LCMS affirms the doctrine of election in a strong manner, and they would agree with me that election causes faith, they fail to see that election also is the cause of justification as Romans 8:30 teaches “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” So justification is not a doctrine that is universal, just like election is not a doctrine that can ever be universal. The articles of election and justification (both objective and subjective) belong to the elect and not to all of mankind. Election precedes and is the basis for or causes justification (objective and subjective) and faith.

  32. You see Andrew, part of the problem is that the 16th century Reformers as I have mentioned in my last post never saw the death of Christ in the same way for the elect and for those that are not the elect. The word world in 2 Corinthians 5:19 was understood as those that would come to faith. so for those only Christ obtained reconciliation (objective justification). I will quote Gerlach in his theses against Samuel Huber who affirmed a universal objective justification :

    “What pertains to the passage 2 Cor 5, those words, “Not imputing sins to them,” are not to be taken universally about all people without respect to faith, that is, faith foreseen, or faith which has embraced Christ.”

    “Therefore your proposition is dangerous and intolerable, that to
    all people, believing and not believing, Turks and Christians, through Christ’s death sins equally are remitted.”

    Hunnius says the same thing :

    “They are Huber’s dreams that sins were absolved to all equally through the general remission of sins.”
    “Huber professes that sins were remitted to all people equally, even to the Turks, etc, this foul and filthy error, etc.”

    The quotes I provided from Gerlach and Hunnius come from page 21 of this document

    Bottom line is this the Reformers before Quenstedt (you provided a link to an article by Robert Preus where he quotes Quenstedt) rejected the understanding that Christ died in the same way for the elect or the saints as he died for those that will perish eternally. The theses against Huber that I quoted prove this beyond doubt. They interpreted 2 Corinthians 5:19 in a radically different way. the word world referring only to the elect (those that had faith or would come to faith). This teaching of UOJ was completely foreign and unscriptural to Luther and those that wrote the lutheran confessions as they refuted Huber. All I can think of is that the lutherans scholastics like Quenstedt which were more rationalistic came to the conclusion that Christ died equally for all, which was never taught by 16th century lutheranism. Same thing happened in the reformed tradition where rationalism with Theodore Beza departed from the evangelical reformed tradition of the 16th century and introduced an unbiblical doctrine of limited atonement that was never taught by Calvin or the Heidelberg catechism.

    You see all of the 16th century Reformers were very much in agreement that the atonement was universal, but had a dual and different purpose for the Saints and for those that would reject Christ. The commentary on the Heidelberg catechism by Ursinus, which is online by the way, in his commentary on questions 20 and 37 Ursinus affirms unlimited atonement clearly. Question 37 of the catechism says that Christ suffered the wrath of God for the sins of the whole world. The problems with the atonement started when 17th century lutherans affirmed that Christ died the same way for Judas as he did for Peter, an unfortunate theological innovation, as we can learn from Quenstedt’s unfortunate exposition of the atonement. And Beza affirming that Christ died for the elect alone departed from the traditional 16th century reformed tradition. Since then the lutheran and the reformed have never been able to see eye to eye. But it wasn’t so when both held biblical views of the atonement in the 16th century.

  33. You see, a possible solution would be to teach the doctrine of objective justification within the doctrine of election for the comfort of the believer. Then there would be no objections from any lutheran. But when the doctrine is used as universal in order to proclaim the gospel indiscriminately to all men that’s when it can be rightly said that there has been a departure from orthodoxy since the benefit of justification Christ bought on the cross for those that would come to him (the elect).

    This is why the proper preaching of the gospel promises justification, but the gospel should never be proclaimed as Christ died for you, or your sins are forgiven, to everybody but instead proclaimed as a promise to everybody that will come to Christ. See how Peter preaches to Cornelius,

    Acts 10:43
    “To him all the prophets bear witness that EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

    And right after in Acts 10:44
    “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.”

    So if this type of preaching works for Peter it should work for us.

    Sometimes we can be more forceful too and tell them that Christ commands them to repent and believe:

    Acts 17:30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,”

    Acts 2 verses 37 to 42:
    “37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

    You see there is not a single example in scripture where the gospel is preached as objective justification. We should never tell an unbeliever that Christ paid the penalty for their sin, or died for him. Because these are promises for those that receive and we should preach that way. Once they have repented and believed, then we can address them as forgiven. Up until then the most we can do is proclaim to all mankind the promise of the forgiveness of sin to every man that believes, but we can not tell them they are forgiven in Christ until they have repented and believed the promise. Only after the holy spirit has spoken the assurance of salvation to them (they have come to faith) can we tell the unbeliever that Christ died for him, that he is forgiven, which is something he already knows by that time from the witness of the spirit. So the holy spirit speaks first in conversion, until the holy spirit has told a person he is forgiven we should not tell him that they are forgiven (justified). Because we do not know who Christ forgave on the cross (objectively justified) until they make a profession of faith. Objective justification like the election is a doctrine for the comfort of the believer but not to be proclaimed to the unbeliever. We only speak to somebody that they are forgiven upon a confession of faith, the private or public absolution, telling somebody their sins were forgiven in Calvary should only be pronounced to believers. Because the unbelieving world has not had their sins forgiven at Calvary, they will be going to hell, but not as forgiven sinners as objective justification teaches. There are no forgiven sinners in hell, contrary to the doctrine of UOJ that teaches there are. Those that go to hell were never forgiven at Calvary. As I said justification (both objective and subjective) belongs in the article of election and is for the comfort of the believer and can only be found in the promises of the gospel after we have believed.

  34. @Bill #93

    Dear Bill,

    I appreciate your effort to show that neither Luther nor Scripture uses the word “justify” (dikaioo) about the universal work of Christ, but only for the effect on the believer (justification by faith). However, your statement We should never tell an unbeliever that Christ paid the penalty for their sin is to go too far. We must uphold that Christ has paid for the sins of the whole world! Tell the sinner that Christ has paid for all, (everything is accomplished, there is no need for any completion by man!) and that forgivenness now is given for free, believe it and you have it!
    To think that Christ has not paid for all is Calvinism.

  35. Rev. Jacob, we can only tell somebody that their sins are forgiven when faith is assumed. Even to a believer we tell them that their sins are paid for because we assume faith. But there is no forgiveness of sin outside of faith. This is why the absolution when it is given it is said:

    “Upon this your confession” The absolution Dr Luther taught has no value without faith on the part of the believer. This why the absolution even to believers is based on the believers faith. It rests “upon this your confession” (meaning not just a confession of sin but a confession of faith, because faith is assumed). Without faith on the believers part the absolution has no effect.

    Although Paul many times writes to believers in his letters that their sins are forgiven, he only tells them that because faith is assumed. But in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 Paul starts :

    “1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”

    This has nothing to do with calvinism, but everything to do with the forgiveness of sin is so tied to faith that it can not be conceived without it. So even to a believer we have to tell them that their past present and future sins are forgiven provided they continue and persevere in the faith. as 1 Corinthians chapter 15 which I just quoted teaches. Now because in the church it is assumed that professing believing christians are there we can give them the gospel and mention their sins are forgiven without always saying that it depends on their faith, but it is implied every time it is mentioned. Sola Fide. is what the Reformation was all about.

    So to somebody that has not made a profession of faith we should freely offer the forgiveness of sin that is available to every sinner, that God has promised to grant UPON REPENTANCE AND FAITH. i gave examples from the bible about how the gospel was preached by Peter and Paul to unbelievers, and it they never preached Christ died for you. We can say Christ die for you to an unbeliever but we have to make sure that we make it clear that Christ died for whosoever will believe for whosoever will receive him. But the words “Christ died for me” the sinner needs to hear them from the holy spirit first, so he needs to come to faith first, before I can tell him “Christ died for you”. I do not see this as calvinism. but a proper preaching of the gospel

  36. Pastor Jacob,

    Let me clarify a couple of concepts.

    Gratia Universalis is the basis for the free offer of the gospel, by which Christ is offered to all sinners so that they will believe. It is the promise of the forgiveness of sin, justification, and eternal life UPON THE CONDITION OF REPENTANCE AND FAITH, i.e. the promise is to whosoever believes. God sincerely wills the salvation of all men when the gospel is preached and invites sincerely and commands all to repentance and faith. it is God’s grace that is being offered, and those that reject it are trampling on the blood of Christ and denying the master that bought them with their blood. The blood of Christ was shed for the whole world so that Christ can be offered as a propitiation for the sins of all mankind to be received by faith.

    Election is the basis on which the holy spirit grants through the preaching of the word the gift of faith, the gift of the forgiveness of sin, and eternal life to the elect alone.

    So we can not confuse the universal offer of the forgiveness of sin (the gospel) which belongs to the article of gratia universalis, with the granting of the gift of the forgivness of sin (justification) which belongs to the article of election.

    This is where I think things have gone wrong in the doctrine of justification, it is a gift that is partiular to the elect and not universal. Both objective and subjective justification belong in the article of election and not gratia universalis. Justification is offered to all (gratia universalis), but granted to few (election), so only the elect are declared righteous, only the elect are justified.

    This far from being calvinism is a defense of the lutheran doctrine of unconditional election as expressed in the Book of Concord.

  37. And let us not forget that in lutheranism the doctrine of unconditional election is the doctrine of sola gratia. So it is not something that is unimportant.

    And yes, Christ died for you, your sins are forgiven and all those phrases can only be pronounced upon assumption of faith (to believers) or a confession of faith. But to an unbeliever if we tell them Christ died for you we have to make very sure that he understands there is a condition of faith that needs to be met, for example it is much better to say Christ procured the forgiveness of sin at Calvary and offers it as a free gift to everyone that it might be received in faith. Maybe it is not the best wording, but just trying to show the point. Faith is always assumed as a condition either met or to be met when we proclaim the forgiveness of sin. And this is not calvinism. Because the forgiveness of sin is grounded on faith (sola fide).

  38. Rev Jakob. my apologies actually what I said is the same thing you said. In the heat of the moment when I saw your comment about “calvinist” I put up my defenses. But really what you said is perfectly fine, as a gospel presentation because you did indicate that belief is necessary. So my apologies for thinking you and I were not on the same page, we are. So thanks, just wanted to clarify, I agree 100% with what you said and it totally agrees with what I had been saying as well.

  39. Well reverend Jakob, first of all let’s bear in mind this. The Reformed are close brothers of the lutherans. John Calvin was highly influenced by Martin Luther and had an immense respect for Luther. He agreed with Luther pretty much on everything, except some differences on the sacraments, which Melanchthon tried to resolve with the revised Augsburg Confession (the Variata) that Calvin signed. Their differences were as I said limited to the understanding of the sacraments. But Calvin focused more on the doctrine of election, and Luther on the gospel proclamation to the whole world, but this to me is a really minor difference on emphasis because both affirmed God’s sovereignty in matters of salvation and the 5 solas of the Reformation. Calvin was a close friend of Melanchthon and although he was disappointed after Luther’s death when Melanchthong turned synergist, so were the lutherans, he still remained his friend and respected him as a brother in Christ.

    Most reformed hate the acronym TULIP because it does not reflect their view of scripture properly, but only reflects the dispute they had with the arminians who rejected unconditional election and affirmed conditional election (synergism). The reformed opposed the arminians like Augustine opposed the pelagians, they felt that synergism compromises the doctrines of grace. Calvinists prefer to speak about election as the redemption of God’s people that scripture attests to, They prefer to talk about particular redemption, God’s covenant of grace with his chosen people where God keeps his promise to redeem all his people in an infallible manner as Paul so beautifully talks about God’s purpose in saving his remnant and as Paul puts it God will carry his sentence (of grace) fully and without delay – Romans 9:27 – 29 are some of the most beautiful verses in scripture. and then Paul reaffirms this in several passages in Romans 11 . Why do the Reformed start with predestination as the basis of their doctrine? Because as Paul (as I just quoted him from Romans 9), Augustine, and Calvin point out, predestination is not grace, but it is the basis for grace. Paul confirms it in Romans 8:30. The Reformed affirme the gospel as much as lutherans do, there was hardly any difference on the doctrine of justification by grace through faith between Luther and Calvin, but the Reformed sometimes start with the history of redemption first (the promises that started in Genesis 3:15 and through Abraham and all those predestined in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, for the promise is through Sara and not Hagar, through Jacob and not Esau) and then they go into doctrine, justification by grace through faith. This is the Augustinian approach where Augustine in his treatise on the predestination of the Saints, defines predestination as the basis for grace. In chapter 19 of his anti-pelagian treatise on the Predestination of the Saints , Augustine wrote “Further, between grace and predestination there is only this difference, that predestination is the preparation for grace, while grace is the donation itself.” For Augustine (and Calvin and the Reformed) grace is particular (gratia particularis), because he defined grace as the donation of faith, the giving of faith in Christ, and God only teaches his elect how to come to Christ according to Augustine. So this is why the doctrine of predestination precedes the doctrine of faith, it all goes back to Augustine quote I just wrote. The lutheran confessions are in agreement with Augustine on this, in that election is the basis for faith, no man comes to the father unless the Father draws him John 6:44 and many other scriptures support this. Nonetheless lutherans give more emphasis to the gospel. But both agree that the gospel ought to be preached first, and the doctrine of election is a doctrine for the comfort of the christian, and can only be found in the promises of the gospel.

    For the Reformed the bible is the history of redemption by which God in his sovereign grace and mercy calls out of the world a people for himself. The promise of redemption starts in Genesis 3:15, goes through Abraham, David, and culminates with Jesus who would save his people from their sin John 1:21. The bible is the story of God’s redemption for his people Israel (not Israel in the flesh but the children of the promise Romans 9:8). And when Christ said it is finished he accomplished the salvation of all those that would come to him, he laid down his life for his church, Ephesians 5:25 – 26 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and in John 10:11 Christ is the good shepherd and the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

    This is calvinism in its proper way, nothing more, nothing less than the Augustinian doctrine of particular grace (unconditional election is the cause of faith, only those that God adopts come to faith) and Luther’s doctrine of justification by grace through faith put together. These are the doctrines of grace that no lutheran should deny. Both Luther and Calvin had great respect for Augustine, and both reformers agreed on sola gratia and sola fide.

    Nonetheless, and despite the little essential difference between Reformed and lutherans, we are all human, and sinful creatures, and the division of christian brothers is always a tragedy but also a reality. Mistakes were made by both sides, and right now there is above all else ignorance of each other. Some reformed think lutherans are half arminian, some lutherans have so much rage against calvinism that they should be glad that Christ died for their sins or else this hatred of a christian brother would condemn them. Though this hatred is due more to ignorance than maliciousness. Everybody wants to passionately defend the gospel, but at times the old Adam raises its ugly head and christians behave in a self centered manner. As I said this is a fallen world, and the command Christ through the apostle John gave us to love one another, we all break. Not just by slamming other denominations unfairly, by calling somebody a calvinist in a condescending way, but also there are intra-denominational hatred for a brother in the same denomination, as the dispute on objective justification shows, or the multiple disputes within the Reformed church also prove.

    But you know we have to stand up for the truth, and disputes are inevitable in the church. To me believing objective justification (that Christ died equally for the apostle Peter as he did for Judas, and both were forgiven equally at Calvary) is not the gospel and it is in direct violation of the doctrine of election as I have indicated in prior posts. The historic lutheran confessions helped me come to faith in Christ, that Christ atoned for my sin, without ever having to believe the doctrinal statement of objective justification. If some christian wants to privately hold to this doctrine, they are entitled to, though I believe it to be gross error. The doctrine of justification by grace through faith as affirmed by the historic reformed confessions and could be affirmed by any of the Reformed as well, Calvin loved it and Wesley an arminian loved the doctrine of justification by grace through faith of historic lutheranism. It is a sound doctrine that builds the body of Christ and brought so many to faith and originated the Reformation, Wesley (an arminian) and many others came to faith by reading Luther’s preface to the commentary on Romans. The same can not be said by the doctrine of objective justification, it is a divisive doctrine that arminians reject, calvinists reject, and many lutherans reject as well. The lutheran doctrine of justification by faith of the lutheran confessions was a symbol of unity that all Reformers affirmed, the doctrine that Christ died for Peter in the same way he died for Judas (objective justification) is a false doctrine that only a few confused lutherans accept. As I said before, if somebody wants to hold to this doctrine in private, this is fine, but please do not make it a part of the official doctrine of justification of the church. It ruins the article of justification that inspired the 16th century Reformation.

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