Justification (1 of 4) Confessional Lutheran - Dawn K

This post is from Dawn K who blogs at http://www.realrealityzone.com and can be found on twitter @rumor99
Read this before reading on, just to see what is going on here.  Note: these posts are guest posts and may or may not reflect my views.  -Jay

How is the Lutheran understanding of justification different from that of other Christian traditions?

Lutherans believe that we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone.  We are declared to be righteous in God’s sight because of the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not because of anything inside of us – not because of our human will and not even because of anything that God works in us, whether good works or faith. Christ died for all people, and because of Christ’s perfect life, death and resurrection, all people are forgiven and declared righteous in God’s sight. This is known as the doctrine of objective justification.

Unlike the Calvinists and the Wesleyans, who teach that we are only forgiven and justified when we believe in Christ, Lutherans teach that all are forgiven and justified at the cross but that this forgiveness and justification only benefits those who believe.  When God grants a person repentance and faith in Christ, they receive the benefits of the forgiveness that is already theirs through the death of Christ on the cross.  This is known as the doctrine of subjective justification.  Through the Word of God and through the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) faith in Christ is created and sustained.

The doctrines of objective and subjective justification might be illustrated in this way: Someone transfers a million dollars into your bank account.  The money is yours.  But if you refuse to believe that it is there, you do not use it and it does not benefit you in any way.  In the same way Christ’s death on the cross led to justification and life for all people.  But those who do not believe this do not benefit from it.

This is in contrast to the Calvinist view, which teaches that Christ did not die for all people but only for those who would believe in Him.  It is also in contrast to the Wesleyan view, which teaches that the death of Christ only made justification possible for all men through prevenient grace, whereby all are enabled to freely choose to believe.  And it is in contrast to the Catholic view which sees justification not as God crediting His righteousness to our account but as God infusing righteousness into us to enable us to cooperate with His grace.

Because of the reality of objective justification, Lutherans are not compelled to look inside themselves – whether to their heart or to the quality of their good works – to determine whether their faith is genuine.  Faith itself is created by the external word of Christ to the individual – that Christ died for me, that His life, death and resurrection saved me, that He baptized me into His family and that He gives me His body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of my sins.

Lutherans do not merely believe a promise that is conditioned upon our faith.  And we certainly do not believe a promise that is conditioned upon our sincere decision or good works.  We believe the promise that has already been given to us.  Christ forgave us at the cross, and that forgiveness was delivered to us (and continues to be delivered) through the Word, water, bread and wine.  We constantly look to these objective, external realities in our daily lives as Christians as we fight against the Old Adam that is within us and seek to live our lives in service to our neighbor. We look not inwardly to our faith but outwardly to Christ who was crucified for us and who even now delivers to us the benefits of His perfect life, death and resurrection.


Chuck Wiese said...

Good post. Some Calvinists do believe in objective justification but they believe it is only for the elect. Some such as Herman Hoeksema even believe in a justification in eternity but that also only applies to the elect.

Jay Miklovic said...

Thanks for the post dawn. The greatest part of what your articulate here in my mind is the objective nature of justification. As the previous commenter stated many calvinists would argue objective justification conditioned upon election. Even the Wesleyan like matt l believe would appeal to an objective work of Christ as his only hope of salvation.

I am having a hard time coming to grips with this universal justification you speak of. You essentially say there will be justified sinners in hell... Correct me if I am wrong here.

Dawn K said...

So a Calvinist version of objective justification would be that the elect are justified at the cross while the non-elect aren't?

It seems to me as though limited atonement negates the comfort of objective justification, because then I no longer know if Christ's death applies to me personally.

Yes, there will be justified sinners in hell...objectively justified, but not subjectively justified. Kind of like a millionaire dying in poverty because they refused to believe they were a millionaire.

Steve Martin said...

I think Dawn and Lutheranism are correct (as opposed to Calvinism)with respect to justification. Forgiveness was for "the whole world". That is what the Bible tells us. "Father forgive them..."

Just because all are forgiven does not mean all will come to faith. But that is not God's fault but ours.

So, when we come to faith, God gets all the credit, and when we don't, we get all the blame. That's Lutheran doctrine and I believe it lines up with Holy Scripture.


Morris Priddy said...

Great. I have recently moved from a Calvinist view to a Lutheran view on justification and sanctification.

One thing I have said to my wife is with Luther, this world, our lives matter. God works through means, through and in our lives with tangible elements. This is His world. He saves me and preserves me; it's not just a shadow of something that occured in eternity. I can't exactly describe the difference, but I know it's real and it has come to make a lot of Biblical sense to me.

I also came to see a lot of faults with limited atonement or - "Jesus possibly died for you, but we'll have to wait and see...." I think the Bible is clear that Jesus died for all - it says so in several places. I don't know how I missed them for so long.

Jay Miklovic said...

Dawn has watched me wrestle a little bit with Lutheran distinctions, and she is probably just patiently waiting for the day when I give up the fight and enter into the LCMS ordination process (and she isn't the only one).

I will say this the more I read of Luther, the more I minister to real people with real pain, the more essential I see an objective theology of the cross to be. Moreover the Lutheran view as expressed in this post is the only view that allows me as a preacher to pronounce forgiveness of sin, and offer ALL people hope with a clear conscience.

Over the last year I have found myself gradually coming to grips with a lot of this. Still struggling with Lutheran view of sacraments, yet I even find myself serving communion in a Lutheran way pronouncing essentially 'Real Presence' FOR YOU.

I am very much a logical guy, I was an engineer, so the paradox at the heart of Lutheran theology is something that I come to grips with very slowly. However in the context of ministering to people I find that what they need is Christ, not my by ability to logically assemble a Christ that makes perfect sense.

That's my .02 cents.

Good comments everyone, great post Dawn.