Friday, June 10, 2011

Why Is Objective Justification so Important for Lutheran Theology?

This is important because it is Biblical.  God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19).  Through one Man's obedience, justification came to all men (Romans 5:18). 

What we know about the Bible is that it is all centered around Christ, who He is, and what He did.  So practically, all teachings of Scripture tumble down if the Bible's message about Christ's reconciliation of the world to God and His justification for all people is not true.  For one, how can a pastor forgive sins in Christ's stead and pronounce with certainty the grace of God upon a sinner if he cannot see the sinner's faith?  If the pastor says to a sinner who inwardly does not have faith "I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," does the pastor as a result lie or say something untrue?  Of course not!  If that were the case, then God would be a liar.  Sure, the sinner does not personally receive by faith the forgiveness and will be ripe for destruction if he continues in his unbelief, but that does not make God a liar!  Rather, it makes the unbeliever the liar! 

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

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

24 comments:

2138 said...

Here is what I believe.

Christ has paid for the sins of the entire world. This is the atonement.

No one's sins are forgiven at the cross, however. That is why "the forgiveness of sins" is placed in the middle of the 3rd Article of the Apostles Creed, not in the 2nd Article. The forgiveness of sins, and therefore justification, only takes place within the Holy Christian Church, which is made up only of the believers.

So, one's sins are forgiven when one comes to faith in Christ as the atoning sacrifice for his sins. This occurred at my baptism. This was my justification. Prior to that holy washing, I remained in my sins, separated from God, not justified, despite my sins having been paid for.

It is only faith which justifies, as the Confessions state plainly. A supposed justification that was declared of the world, apart from faith, wars with what the Confessors understood about justification.

The quote by President Preus above disparages faith as a condition which man is supposed to fulfill. Rather, faith is a gift of God. "I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel..." While God does require faith, he himself is the one who provides that which he requires.

Kermit said...

You are right that forgiveness of sins is dealt with in the Third Article of the Creed, but it is also dealt with in the Second Article (He has redeemed me..., purchased and won me from SIN... with His holy precious blood and... death). Jesus' objective work on the cross, in which He obediently did His Father's will, brought justification to all people (Romans 5:18). The Bible does not teach that since God has brought Justification to all people (as sin through one man, c.f. Romans 5), that as a result faith is disolved to a mere awareness of the historical fact. Faith is not a mere knowledge of history. Melanchthon's error was in saying that man contributes in conversion by not resisting.

So don't be confused with UOJ. The truth is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and that through Christ's obedience, justification came to all people. But it is also true that every person is born dead in his sins and raging against God's declaration of righteousness that He did not count the world's sins against them. Without faith, no one is justified, but God still justified the whole world of sinners.

We do not separate God's Word from His work. Paul says in Romans 8 that those whom God has predestined He has also called. God calls us by His Word/Gospel (Romans 10:17; Luther's Small Catechism, II, 3). In Baptism, we are united with Christ's very death and resurrection (Romans 6). So His Word is united with His Work. So this is why we can say to anyone, "Christ has brought to you justification." If he does not believe, he is the liar and not God (Rom 3:3).

But I will ask these simple questions so that I don't go on and on: When you were converted, what came first, forgiveness or faith? And if faith came first, how did faith come: by the law or the gospel? What essentially is the gospel? Is it not God's pronouncement on you the forgiveness of your sins?

Daniel Baker said...

Kermit,

You state the following: "Without faith, no one is justified, but God still justified the whole world of sinners."

Supposing I overlook the paradoxical nature of this assertion (which, I grant you, would not be the only paradoxical tenet of our faith!), what exactly is the nature of being "justified?" Does it mean forgiven?

This use of terminology is very confusing to me. If the whole world is justified, then why are there some people in hell?

I would like you to answer these questions before I ramble on.

2138 said...

Thank you for your response, Kermit. Please permit some more comments and questions as I try to understand your points.

I don’t dispute Jesus’ objective work on the cross. He did purchase and win all people from all their sins. That is the atonement. But God does not declare anyone forgiven prior to faith.

The problems I see with an objective justification, a universal forgiveness, are many. What about Abraham, whose faith was credited as righteousness? Was he subjectively justified before he was objectively justified 2000 years later? Or was he objectively justified in view of the fact that Christ would come to forgive him, and so on that basis his faith was subjectively credited as righteousness? And what about me? If I was declared objectively justified at the cross, then my sins were forgiven. That is God’s declaration. He cannot lie. Then why is faith required of me? What need would there be of subjective justification? Does objective justification forgive my sins, but then subjective justification REALLY forgive my sins?

God declaring the entire world forgiven, but then condemning unbelievers to hell—here God is a liar.

God accepting Christ’s payment for the sin of the world, but only justifying those who come to faith—here God does not contradict himself.

When I was baptized and came to faith, then I was forgiven. They were simultaneous events. I would agree with your final sentence as a definition of the Gospel, but only as it is applied to believers. Pronouncing forgiveness to an unbeliever would be a lie; if lightning struck and killed that unbeliever the second after I proclaimed this Gospel comfort to him, he would still go to hell. Would you say that, objectively, his sins were forgiven, but subjectively, they weren’t? Seems pretty dishonest to me. Either sins are forgiven or they aren’t forgiven. When Christ told the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” did the paralytic wonder, “Does he mean objectively or subjectively forgiven?” Christ saw his faith and pronounced forgiveness. Faith receives forgiveness. Faith justifies.

Kermit said...

Daniel,

Yes, to be justified means to be forgiven. It means to not have your tresspasses counted against you. In the atonement, God forgave everyone. This is clear from 2 Corinthians 5 that God reconciled the whole world to Himself in Christ. Jesus bore the sins of everyone (1 John 2:2). So God declares everyone righteous by Christ's righteous act (Romans 5:18). The reason why people are in hell is because they rejected God's righteousness in Christ and instead were judged or will be judged according to the righteousness of the law. God still declared them righteous, but they rejected it. So although God appears to be the unfaithful one, Paul says rather let God be true and every man a liar.

And since we are by nature sinful, our flesh is always rejecting the righteousness which has been given to us, and we therefore can only receive that righteousness by faith given to us by the Spirit through the Word. Why some and not others? Well, some believe and thus receive the promised and pronounced righteousness of Christ, and some reject it. But why do some believe and not others? It's a mystery. The Spirit breaths where it wills, as Jesus tells Nichodemus.

Kermit said...

2138,

You write:
"If I was declared objectively justified at the cross, then my sins were forgiven. That is God’s declaration. He cannot lie. Then why is faith required of me? What need would there be of subjective justification? Does objective justification forgive my sins, but then subjective justification REALLY forgive my sins?"

Faith is not required of you. Faith is given to you by the Holy Spirit through the gospel. Faith is necessary because you and I are sinners whose flesh rages against God's righteous decrees. Subjective Justification and Objective Justification are the same Justification. There is only one Justification which came through one obedience of one Man to the whole world.

So a pastor can only say to someone that his sins are forgiven if he knows that person's faith? How does the pastor know that man confesses with his mouth but doesn't actually believe? Did you know that Jesus gave pastors His authority to forgive sins in His name? Read John 20:23 and Luke 15:10.

Also, why does Paul say that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself? Why does Paul say that through Christ's obedience justification came to all people?

And you have it backwards. You say that God would be a liar if He were to declare all people righteous. But Paul says that the fact that some do not believe makes them liars and not God.

2138 said...

Thank you for continuing this discussion. Contending for “the doctrine by which the church stands or falls” is an important thing to do!

You wrote:
“Faith is not required of you. Faith is given to you by the Holy Spirit through the gospel. Faith is necessary because you and I are sinners whose flesh rages against God's righteous decrees. Subjective Justification and Objective Justification are the same Justification. There is only one Justification which came through one obedience of one Man to the whole world.”

I see no distinction between your contention that “Faith is not required,” but “Faith is necessary.”

Honestly, I read through the Apology IV (Of Justification) and Formula of Concord Epitome and Solid Declaration III (The Righteousness of Faith) last night, really searching for what could be called “objective justification.” I searched in vain. I did find numerous defenses to my statement that faith is required.

I’m trying to understand how objective/subjective justification and the forgiveness of sins are linked. Do you agree with the following statements?

“In objective justification, a person is declared forgiven. In subjective justification, a sinner obtains that forgiveness.”

You wrote:
“So a pastor can only say to someone that his sins are forgiven if he knows that person's faith? How does the pastor know that man confesses with his mouth but doesn't actually believe? Did you know that Jesus gave pastors His authority to forgive sins in His name? Read John 20:23 and Luke 15:10.”

Yes, a pastor should only pronounce absolution on the penitent. Of course, a hypocrite could confess his sins with his mouth, but not with his heart. Despite the pastor’s pronouncing of forgiveness, that person would not be forgiven, for God cannot be mocked. While Jesus did give authority to forgive sins, he also gave the authority to bind the sins of the unrepentant. I would assume a pastor would never use such an unpleasant binding key if he could simply use the loosing key and always tell everyone he met that his sins were forgiven. But that would be a misuse of the Keys as Christ gave them.

I wasn’t sure how the Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:10) fit into the context of our discussion.

You wrote:
“Also, why does Paul say that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself? Why does Paul say that through Christ's obedience justification came to all people?”

I do not argue that Paul wrote those words to the Romans and Corinthians. From the context of the verses and other passages in Scripture, as well as how the Confessors understood those passages, his words point to justification by faith, not a justification with objective/subjective sides.

The apostle James states that a person is saved by what he does, and not by faith alone. (James 2)
In Matthew 25, Jesus seems to indicate that we are saved or condemned by our deeds.

Taking the above sections of Scripture out of context would be foolish. I believe that’s what you do when you use Paul’s passages to construct an objective justification. I believe that in the context of the rest of Scripture, and as explained in our Confessions, only a justification by faith is taught.

I believe that passages such as John 3:36 and John 16:8-9 speak against an objective justification of the world. I’m not sure why the Holy Spirit would need to convict the world of guilt if it has been justified.

You wrote:
“And you have it backwards. You say that God would be a liar if He were to declare all people righteous. But Paul says that the fact that some do not believe makes them liars and not God.”

I agree with your final sentence. Those who reject Christ in favor of their manmade religion of works are liars. But that is true with or without a supposed objective justification of the world. If a person were objectively justified and rejected Christ, he’d be condemned. If a person were not objectively justified and rejected Christ, he’d still be condemned. What is the need for objective justification?

Kermit said...

You said that faith is required of you. Of course faith is necessary, but when you say that it is required, you also add "of you." That is my problem with your statement.

Taking those passages out of context would be to say that we are not saved by faith and that everyone is going to go to heaven despite what they believe. Also (a side note), you mention the quotes from Jesus about works. You just read the Apology, right? It deals with that pretty well.

I could show you plenty of places in the Confession which speak of objective justification, but I will refer you to Dr. Jack Kilcrease's blog (from about a year ago) in which he gives plenty of quotes from Luther in and out of the Confessions wherein he clearly confesses what is known today as Objective Justification.

http://jackkilcrease.blogspot.com/2010/06/relevant-universal-objective.html

Also, concerning Luke 15, my fault. I mis-cited. My memory failed me.

2138 said...

Kermit,

Thank you for your reply. Please forgive the verbosity of my reply.

One of the quotations that Dr. Kilcrease cites comes from Luther’s Galatians Commentary (26:281). From pages 276-291, Dr. Luther discusses a single verse: Galatians 3:13. Here are some quotes which refute the belief that the entire world has been justified:

“To the extent that Christ rules by His grace in the hearts of the faithful, there is no sin or death or curse. But where Christ is not known, there these things remain. And so all who do not believe lack this blessing and this victory. ‘For this,’ as John says, ‘is our victory, faith.’ (1 John 5:4)” (LW 26:282)

“Therefore we are justified by faith alone, because faith alone grasps this victory of Christ. To the extent that you believe this, to that extent you have it.” (LW 26:284)

“Now that Christ reigns, there is in fact no more sin, death, or curse—this we confess every day in the Apostles’ Creed when we say: ‘I believe in the holy church.’ This is plainly nothing else than if we were to say: ‘I believe that there is no sin and no death in the church. For believers in Christ are not sinners and are not sentenced to death but are altogether holy and righteous, lords over sin and death who live eternally.’ But it is faith alone that discerns this, because we say: ‘I believe in this holy church.’” (LW 26:285)

“Therefore wherever there is faith in Christ, there sin has in fact been abolished, put to death, and buried. But where there is no faith in Christ, there sin remains. And although there are still remnants of sin in the saints because they do not believe perfectly, nevertheless these remnants are dead; for on account of faith in Christ they are not imputed.” (LW 26:286)

Looking at the surrounding verses in the Galatians commentary, it was interesting to read this paragraph in reference to Galatians 3:12, immediately prior to his words on Galatians 3:13:

“But we who are justified by faith, as the patriarchs, prophets, and all the saints were, do not rely on works of the Law so far as justification is concerned. To the extent that we are in the flesh and still have remnants of sin in us, we are under the Law (though not under the curse, because for the sake of Christ, in whom we believe, this is [not] imputed to us). … But if the Law is not fulfilled in the saints, but many things happen contrary to the Law …—if this is so, how much more this is true of a man who is not justified, who is opposed to God, and who with all his heart neglects, despises, and hates the Word and the work of God! You see, then, that Paul is speaking here about those who want to fulfill the Law and to be justified without having received faith, not, as Jerome thinks, about the patriarchs and the saints, who had already been justified by faith.” (LW 26:275-276)

(continued in next post)

2138 said...

(continued from previous post)

And oh, how Luther extols faith in Galatians 3:6! (LW 26:226-236) Over and over he emphasizes that faith justifies and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us who believe.

“For, as I have said, these two things make Christian righteousness perfect: The first is faith in the heart, which is a divinely granted gift and which formally believes in Christ; the second is that God reckons this imperfect faith as perfect righteousness for the sake of Christ, His Son, who suffered for the sins of the world and in whom I begin to believe. On account of this faith in Christ God does not see the sin that still remains in me. For so long as I go on living in the flesh, there is certainly sin in me. But meanwhile Christ protects me under the shadow of his wings and spreads over me the wide heaven of the forgiveness of sins, under which I live in safety. This prevents God from seeing the sins that still cling to my flesh. My flesh distrusts God, is angry with Him, does not rejoice in Him, etc. But God overlooks these sins, and in His sight they are as though they were not sins. This is accomplished by imputation on account of the faith by which I begin to take hold of Christ; and on His account God reckons imperfect righteousness as perfect righteousness and sin as not sin, even though it really is sin.” (LW 26:231-232)

“No, here we are in a divine theology, where we hear the Gospel that Christ died for us and that when we believe this we are reckoned as righteous, even though sins, and great ones at that, still remain in us.” (LW 26:234)

That one might be the best of the bunch; it does not read, “Where we hear the Gospel that Christ FORGAVE OUR SINS and that when we believe this….” No; the Gospel is that Christ DIED FOR US. By believing this, we have the forgiveness of sins and are justified.

But here’s one more.

“From this it is clear how faith justifies without works and how the imputation of righteousness is necessary nevertheless. Sins remain in us, and God hates them very much. Because of them it is necessary for us to have the imputation of righteousness, which comes to us on account of Christ, who is given to us and grasped by our faith. …Therefore Paul complains in Rom. 7:23 about the sin that still remains in the saints, and yet he says later on (Rom. 8:1) that ‘there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ Who will reconcile those utterly conflicting statements, that the sin in us is not sin, that he who is damnable will not be damned, that he who is rejected will not be rejected, that he who is worthy of wrath and eternal death will not receive these punishments? Only the Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5). As Paul says, ‘there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’” (LW 26:235-236)

I do agree with Dr. Kilcrease; the Formula of Concord endorses the Galatians Commentary of 1535. I’m not finding objective justification in it, though.

Thank you for your time. I don’t plan to make any more comments, unless you have any direct questions for me, in which case I’ll be happy to try to answer.

Kermit said...

You say faith alone, and you use this to say that Objective Justification is not true. But faith alone does not mean that it is not Christ alone or grace alone or Scripture alone, right? I'm sure you would agree with that. So Objective Justification is what our faith is in. If one rejects it, i.e. rejects the promise, he does not receive it. It's not a matter of God merely making forgiveness available if you only believe. No, rather God has not counted the world's sins against them. That is, He has forgiven them. Those who reject the gift, those who reject the promise, those who reject the non-imputation of sin, remain in their sins, sinning against the Holy Spirit who has already convicted the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

You are only brought to faith by the Word, and faith alone justifies. But I don't pit faith against Christ and His all atoning sacrifice. It all comes from God, but even then, God does not create faith in your heart and then He delivers righteousness to your faith. Rather, He imputes you faith as righteousness. Faith in Christ = righteousness. Why? Because faith in Christ trusts what Christ has done. Christ has already reconciled you to God, even before you believed. So when you believe, God counts that belief as righteousness.

Faith alone is not juxtaposed with Christ alone. Rather, faith alone is juxtaposed with works of the law. Faith does not exist without Christ's declaration of righteousness. And His declaration of righteousness is only revealed in His Word. And so it follows, just as Paul says in Romans 10:17 "Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard is the Word of God."

Stop using faith alone to deny Objective Justification. I don't deny faith alone just like I don't deny Christ alone.

Kermit said...

Also, you have been very respectful, and I appreciate you contributing.

2138 said...

Alright, you got me to write some more. I’m a sucker for compliments. ;)

I have some other things I’d like to comment on, but I had a few short questions first, if you wouldn’t mind answering them. That will better help me to construct a response to your prior comments.

1. Does faith bring forgiveness of sins, or does faith bring the realization that sins were already forgiven?

2. Do you feel that this definition of the Gospel promise is complete? “Christ died for the sins of the world. Whoever believes this will be saved.”

Thank you.

Kermit said...

1. Does faith bring forgiveness of sins, or does faith bring the realization that sins were already forgiven?

Answer: Faith lays claim to the forgiveness of sins. The Word of God brings forgiveness as it also brings faith (Rom 10:17). Faith is reckoned as righteousness because of its object, which is Christ.

2. Do you feel that this definition of the Gospel promise is complete? “Christ died for the sins of the world. Whoever believes this will be saved.”

Answer: Complete? Not exactly. Is it the gospel? Yes, but completely explaining the gospel requires more words than that. You must, for example, emphasize the forgiveness of sins. But it is certainly the gospel that whoever believes this will be saved. It is also the gospel, though, that through Christ's obedience, righteousness came to all men.

Kermit said...

Let me clarify, though. The fact that Christ's obedience unto death brought righteousness to all men does not effect faith. Rather, the Word brings faith. The Word conveys this information, and it also works faith.

So in other words, noone is righteous before God except by faith, yet all were declared righteous for Christ's sake. So those who do not believe have rejected God's truthful declaration, thus proving themselves to be liars and ending up with nothing. And all are by nature liars, and only the Word can turn their hearts. Noone can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.

Daniel Baker said...

Kermit,

I was wondering if you might expound upon two topics which, having followed this conversation between you and 2138 in its entirety, I am still somewhat confused about.

You stated the following:

"No, rather God has not counted the world's sins against them. That is, He has forgiven them. Those who reject the gift, those who reject the promise, those who reject the non-imputation of sin, remain in their sins, sinning against the Holy Spirit who has already convicted the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment."

How can one reject something that they have not heard of? For example, the tens of millions of indigenous people that inhabited the American continents and were quite literally exterminated by epidemic disease before ever encountering the Gospel - how can they be guilty of rejecting what they did not hear? Would it not to be more accurate to say that they are punished for their own sins, because, as St. Paul says in Romans 1, they had a natural knowledge of God and His law but rejected that in lieu of their own sinful nature?

Secondly, I would like to know how the Keys can have any effect if sins are always forgiven. How can the Pastor bind (or, for that matter, forgive) sins if they are already forgiven?
Thank you for answering these questions, particularly the portions which may seem somewhat redundant.

2138 said...

Kermit,

I’m trying to organize all the notes I’ve been jotting down from our discussion. Forgive me, as I forge ahead, if I don’t specifically address one of your statements; there has been much cutting and pasting going on as I’ve been formulating my response.

You and I both agree with justification by faith. From there we part ways. I see the danger of an “extra” objective justification as an unnecessary and confusing, if not false, addition to God’s Word. I guess you would see it the opposite—that I’m subtracting objective justification from God’s Word.

We can’t both be right in that regard. Either it is God’s Word or it isn’t.

Our definitions of “promise” also differ. I believe you view it as “a declaration of forgiveness at the cross.” I view it as “the forgiveness of sins which comes to those who have faith.” Apology IV has my back on that one (http://bocl.org?AP+V, para. 140-143). Earlier in Apology IV, it talks about forgiveness being “freely offered.” To me, that is not the same thing as automatically receiving it. Forgiveness is offered to all through faith in Christ’s sacrifice (the promise), is not received by all (some never hear it, while some hear and reject it), but only received by faith (some hear and believe by the Holy Spirit’s working, and justification, forgiveness, and imputation of righteousness follow).

My personal thoughts are that you are combining Christ’s payment (redemption, atonement, reconciliation) with Christ’s declaration (justification, righteousness, forgiveness). The Large Catechism, Creed (http://bocl.org?LC+II, para. 38) distinguishes between treasure acquired (for all) and treasure appropriated (to believers).

So now I’ll rant, in a loving way, of course.

Why can’t you just allow God, through Water and the Word, to bring me to faith in Jesus as my Savior, and there, at that moment, declare me justified in his sight? Why must there be a prior declaration of justification long ago at the cross/tomb? Is it a consolation prize for those who are eventually condemned? (“Well, I’m consigned to eternal torment, but hey, I got this declaration of righteousness from God. Too bad it didn’t do me a whole lot of good without faith. I guess being only objectively justified makes me the liar, not God.”) Objective justification amounts to a preach-Gospel-before-Law declaration of righteousness. What practical good does objective justification serve? (I know that was the intent of your original post, but I don’t know that it actually shows the practical value of such a doctrine. I don’t deny Christ’s saving work on behalf of man, and I don’t think all of Scripture’s teachings will tumble down if I simply believe this: that Christ lived and died for me, and that by trusting in that sacrifice for me, the promise of forgiveness is appropriated to me, and the merits of Christ are credited to me as righteousness through that faith.)

If I need an object for my faith, I don’t need to look at objective justification, for I already have Christ’s atoning sacrifice for my sins in which to trust.

If I need a basis for forgiving someone’s sins, I don’t need to look at objective justification, for Christ has told me that if I forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven, but if I do not forgive anyone his sins, they are not forgiven.

If I need to know that God has forgiven even my sins, I don’t need to look at objective justification, for my Baptism tells me that my sins have been forgiven.

If I need to know that God has forgiven even my sins, I don’t need to look at objective justification, for in his Holy Supper he has given me his very body and blood for the forgiveness of all my sins.

P.S. Cute new video post, even if I disagree with you. Arrr!

Propter Christum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Propter Christum said...

Daniel,

Let me give you some Bible verses. First Romans 4:5 says: "He who does not work but trusts in Him who justifies the ungodly, that faith is reckoned to him as righteousness."

So your question is how someone can reject something he has not heard. It is not merely a concept which they reject. It is God whom they reject. Paul does not ask in the tenth chapter of Romans, "How can they reject Him in whom they have not heard?" Rather, he asks, "How can they call on Him in whom they have not believed?" and "How can they believe on Him of whom they have not heard?" and "How can they hear without a preacher?" So you see that Paul does not concern himself with the problem of those rejecting Him on whom they have not heard.

Another Bible passage from Romans 1:16,17: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation for all who believe, because in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, the righteous shall live by faith."

So the Gospel operates from faith to faith, but this does not mean that faith is a condition for the Gospel message itself. So when we speak of objective Justification, we speak of what the Gospel itself is. It is not the power of God to salvation if you believe. Rather, it is the power of God to salvation to all who believe.
In other words, it only operates in the heart by means of faith. For example, if I give twenty bucks to you, the gift in and of itself is already there. I am not waiting for you to have a willing heart to receieve it; rather I am giving it to you and declaring the twenty dollars to be yours. So the gift is objective; it is $20, and it is given to you. Now, if you reject it, you don't get it. If you receive it, you reveive it.

Now, going back to your initial question. Like I said, it is not about rejecting information. It is about rejecting the giver of the gift. Remember then that we all by nature reject "the One who justifies the ungodly." Paul says that when the Gentiles do those things which are required in the Law, they become a law to themselves. So they prove to have a knowledge of God's righteousness, but they only have a dim knowledge of that righteousness since they only know that righteousness which is revealed in the law, which their consciences naturally testify of.

Finally, your last question is a great question, and the answer is not as complicated as one would think. Only God can forgive sins, but He gave this authority (the keys) to His Church. So God has already forgiven you your sins propter Christum (on account of Christ). But He still forgives you through His Word. In fact, it is only through His Word that the gospel is revealed. So when a pastor by virtue of his office as Christ's minister forgives you your sins in the stead and command of Christ, he is announcing to you the Word of God. You cannot separate God's work from His Word. Through God's Word, He has called you. Through God's Word, He forgives you. So it is true that God has already forgiven you, but your flesh says otherwise. So your flesh needs to be continually drowned away in the waters of your Baptism through God's Word which includes His preached Word and sacramental Word.

I hope this helps you understand.

Propter Christum said...

2138,

Luther says:
"Even he who does not believe that he is free and his sins forgiven shall also learn, in due time, how assuredly his sins were forgiven, even though he did not believe it... He who does not accept what the keys give receives, of course, nothing. But that is not the key's fault. Many do not believe the gospel, but this does not mean that the gospel is not true or effective. A king gives you a castle. If you do not accept it, then it is not the king's fault, nor is he guilty of a lie. But you have deceived yourself and the fault is yours. The king certainly gave it. (LW 40, 366ff)"

The Apology states:
"The law would seem to be harmful since it has made all men sinners, but when the Lord Jesus came he forgave all men the sin that none could escape. (Apology IV, 103)"

I stand with the Bible, Luther, and the Confessions.

a_lady said...

I liked Kermit's quote, "In Baptism, we are united with Christ's very death and resurrection (Romans 6). So His Word is united with His Work."

This is why Lutherans have always called Baptism, the Holy Supper, and Preaching (and absolution) "means of grace". The justification was always there, but it is recieved individually with these means through faith.

To use a simple illistration, justification is not like a government handout where only those who apply get the money! Rather, it is like a tax deduction. You already have the credit, you already have the right to claim it on your tax return.

This is a fundamental part of our faith! My grandma asked her pastor on her death-bed, is my faith good enough for God? Her good pastor said, "Don't look to your faith, but rather to Christ." See, if Christ's forgiveness is only for believers, then we can lose faith because we could doubt our own faith and election! But when we look to the cross, we have put our faith in that justification!

Daniel Baker said...

I think that these concerns about putting faith in faith are valid; however, they miss a central tenet of Lutheran theology, that being that faith comes not from ourselves, but is a gift of God the Holy Spirit.

Objective Justification is a useful doctrine for folks who think faith generates within human beings, because it attempts to diminish the synergistic elements of "decision theology." However, as Lutherans we know that faith is only created by the Holy Spirit, not by our own choice. Ergo, faith can be a condition of salvation, because it is the work of God, not man. You can trust that your faith in the objective fact of Christ's atonement is "good enough" because it came from the Holy Spirit, not yourself.
That's my take on it, at any rate.

Kermit, thank you for your continued responses. I appreciate the honest debate, as not many are willing to publicly engage on this topic.

Kermit said...

Yes, faith is a gift from God, but that does not mean that it is a condition for salvation. It is that which receives and accepts the free unconditional free gift.

Anonymous said...

Propter Christum, you posted that quotation from LW Vol. 40. I've heard this quote used by many UOJ supporters, and so I looked it up. The portion that you quoted is completely taken out of context. Luther is speaking about the Office of the Keys i.e. a Means of Grace which UOJ tends to circumvent. Luther plainly says on the preceding page that God has no other way to forgive sins than through the spoken Word. The forgiveness to which he is referring is that which the Pastor pronounces. He's testifying to the power of the Keys, not UOJ.