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§ 42. (2) Justification.

The effect of faith is justification; [1] by which is to be understood that act of God by which He removes the sentence of condemnation, to which man is exposed in consequence of his sins, releases him from his guilt, and ascribes to him the merit of Christ. BR. (574): “Justification denotes that act by which the sinner, who is responsible for guilt and liable to punishment (reus culpae et poenae), but who believes in Christ, is pronounced just by God the judge.” [2] This act occurs at the instant in which the merit of Christ is appropriated by faith, [3] and can properly be designated a forensic or judicial act, since God in it, as if in a civil court, pronounces a judgment upon man, which assigns to him an entirely different position, and entirely different rights. [4] By justification we are, therefore, by no means to understand a moral condition existing in man, or a moral change which he has experienced, but only a judgment pronounced upon man, by which his relation to God is reversed, [5] and indeed in such a manner, that a man can now consider himself one whose sins are blotted out, who is no longer responsible for them before God, who, on the other hand, appears before God as accepted and 425righteous, in whom God finds nothing more to punish, with whom He has no longer any occasion to be displeased. Through this act of justification emanating from God we receive,

1. REMISSION OF SINS (Rom. 4:7; Ps. 32:1, 2; Rom. 3:25; Luke 11:4; 2 Cor. 5:19).

2. THE IMPUTATION OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST[6] (Rom. 5:9; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:6; Phil. 3:9; Rom. 4:5); for God, from the moment in which faith is exercised, regards all that Christ has accomplished, as if it had been done by man, and attributes the merit of Christ to him, as if it were his own. [7] From this can be seen what we are to designate as the ground of our justification, and what is the means by which it is attained. The ground lies alone in the merit of Christ, for by this our sins are blotted out, and God is enabled to receive us again into favor. [8] The means, however, through which we attain justification is faith. [9] In no wise, therefore, is any merit or worthiness on our part demanded as the condition for the impartation of justification, as if upon that our justification should depend. It is not denied, indeed, that a moral change takes place in man, with the entrance of faith, and therefore also with that of justification; yet this is to be regarded as only an attendant to justification and contemporaneous with it, but in no wise as the condition upon which we attain justification; [10] and this the less, as it is only the grace of God which displays itself in justification, that furnishes the ground and possibility of such a change. [11] The moral worthiness of man cannot be made account of in the inquiry concerning the reasons of his being received into the favor of God, [12] and it is highly important to assert this firmly, as we would deprive ourselves of the firm footing on which our justification rests, if we regarded it as in any degree dependent upon anything done by us. [13] Justification is, accordingly, to be regarded throughout as a free gift of grace on the part of God, which is offered to us gratuitously and without requiring any addition to it on our part, and which can be received and accepted only by faith, as it is expressed in the declaration that we are justified, gratuitously, by faith alone, [14] and for Christ’s sake. [15]


This doctrine, according to which, in the act of justification, all man’s works are excluded and the whole is considered as effected by God’s grace, constitutes the central point of the knowledge which we owe to the Reformation; [16] in it there is offered man a sure and firm foundation upon which he may build his hopes of salvation, and a sure way pointed out to him of obtaining it. [17]

[1] QUEN. (IV, 286): “The immediate effect of faith is the remission of sins, adoption, justification, union with Christ, access to God, and peace of conscience. Among these effects of faith, justification is the principal, to which all the rest can be referred.”

[2] QUEN. (III, 526): “Justification is the external, judicial, gracious act of the most Holy Trinity, by which a sinful man, whose sins are forgiven, on account of the merit of Christ apprehended by faith, is accounted just, to the praise of God’s glorious grace and justice and to the salvation of the justified.”

[3] BR. (574): “For with and through faith man is at once justified; so that the act by which faith is conferred upon man, and the act by which man is justified, are simultaneous, although faith is by nature first in order and justification subsequent to it.”

[4] BR. (574): “Justification has a forensic sense, and denotes that act by which God, the judge, pronounces righteous the sinner responsible for guilt and liable to punishment, but who believes in Jesus.”

CHMN. (Loc. c. Th., II, 250): “Paul everywhere describes justification as a judicial process, because the conscience of the sinner accused by the divine Law before the tribunal of God, convicted and lying under the sentence of eternal condemnation, but fleeing to the throne of grace, is restored, acquitted, delivered from the sentence of condemnation, is received into eternal life, on account of the obedience and intercession of the Son of God, the Mediator, which is apprehended and applied by faith.” According to this, justification signifies to pronounce righteous. FORM. CONC. (Sol. Dec., III, 17): “The word justification signifies in this matter to pronounce righteous, to absolve from sins and the eternal punishment of sins on account of Christ’s righteousness, which is imputed to faith by God.” BR. (575): “Although the Latin word justificare is compounded of the adjective justus and the verb facere, it does not denote in general usage, and especially in the Scriptures when sinful man is said to be justified before God, the infusion of an habitual righteousness, but, according to the import of the Hebrew word הִצְדִּיק (2 Sam. 15:4; Deut. 25:1), and the word 427δικαιουν in the Septuagint and Paul (Rom. 3 and 4), the Latin justificare is also transferred from an outward to a spiritual court, at which men are placed as before a divine tribunal, and are acquitted after the case has been heard and sentence has been pronounced.” According to the Catholic doctrine, “justify” is equivalent in import to making righteous; making a righteous person out of a wicked one. In opposition to this, AP. CONF. (III, 131): “Justification signifies not to make a wicked person righteous, but in a forensic sense to pronounce righteous.” QUEN. (III, 515): “These words δικαιουν and הִצְדִּיק, nowhere and never in the whole Scriptures, even when not used in reference to the justification of the sinner before God, signify justification by the infusion of new qualities; but whenever they are used of God justifying the wicked before His tribunal they have a forensic signification.” GRH. (VII, 4 sq.) thus gives the Scripture proof in detail: “The forensic signification (of the word δικαιουν) is proved, (1) because it denotes a judicial act, not only without reference to the doctrine of gratuitous justification before God (Is. 5:23; Deut. 25:1; 2 Sam. 15:4; Ps. 82:3; Is. 43:9), but also in the very article of justification (Ps. 143:2; Job 9:2, 3; Luke 18:14); (2) because it is opposed to condemnation (Deut. 25:1; 1 Kings 8:32; Prov. 17:15; Matt. 12:37; Rom. 5:16; 8:33, 34); (3) because its correlatives are judicial. For a judgment is mentioned, Ps. 143:2; a judge, John 5:27; a tribunal, Rom. 14:10; a criminal, Rom. 3:19; a plaintiff, John 5:45; a witness, Rom. 2:15; an indictment, Col. 2:14; an obligation, Matt. 18:24; an advocate, 1 John 2:1; an acquittal, Ps. 32:1. The Law accuses the sinner before the judgment-seat of God, that he may be subject to the judgment of God. Rom. 3:19. Conscience concurs with this accusation of the Law, Rom. 2:15. Since, in consequence of sin, the whole nature of man and all his works are miserably contaminated, he discovers nothing to oppose to the judgment of God; the Law therefore hurls the thunder of its curse and condemnation upon man convicted of sin, but the Gospel presents Christ the Mediator, who by His most perfect obedience has atoned for our sins. To Him the sinner, terrified and condemned by the Law, flees by true faith, opposes this righteousness of Christ to the sentence of God and the condemnation of the Law, and in view of, and by the imputation of this, he is justified, that is, freed from the sentence of condemnation and pronounced righteous; (4) because the equivalent phrases are judicial. To be justified is to be not called into judgment, Ps. 143:2; to be not condemned, John 3:18; not to come into condemnation, John 5:24; not to be judged, John 3:18. The publican went down to his house justified, 428that is, acquitted of his sins, Luke 18:14. Paul explains justification by ‘imputing for righteousness,’ Rom. 4:3, 5; by ‘covering iniquities’; by ‘not imputing sin,’ 5:7; by ‘remitting sins,’ Rom. 3:25; by ‘forgiving trespasses,’ Col. 2:13. Here belong the phrases: ‘to be reconciled to God,’ Rom. 5:10; ‘to be made righteous,’ 5:19; ‘to partake of the blessing,’ Eph. 1:3; ‘to receive remission of sins,’ Acts 10:43; ‘to be saved,’ Acts 4:12. Comp. the parable, Matt. 18:27.”

[5] BR. (577): “Justification does not mean a real and internal change of man.” HOLL. (928): “Justification is a judicial, and that, too, a gracious act, by which God, reconciled by the satisfaction of Christ, acquits the sinner who believes in Christ of the offenses with which he is charged, and accounts and pronounces him righteous. Since this action takes place apart from man, in God, it cannot intrinsically change man. For, as a debtor for whom another pays his debt, so that he is considered released from the debt, undergoes not an intrinsic but an extrinsic change in regard to his condition, so the sinner who is reputed and pronounced free from his sins, on account of the satisfaction of Christ applied by true faith, is changed, not intrinsically, but extrinsically, with respect to his better condition. The point from which this external change takes place (terminus a quo) is the state of being responsible for guilt and liable to punishment; because thereby the sinner remains in a state of sin and wrath (Rom. 4:7; Eph. 1:7; 2 Cor. 5:19). The point to which it conducts (teminus ad quem) is the state of grace and righteousness; because God, remitting the offenses of the sinner who believes in Christ, receives him into favor, and imputes to him the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 4:5, 6; Gal. 3:6; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9; Rom. 5:19).” To the last, BR. (579) remarks in addition: “Some refer to this place the privileges of the sons of God, and the inheritance of eternal life, which is conferred or adjudged to us in God’s account. Some add the dignity of the reward of righteousness which we obtain in this act of justification. But others, and probably the majority, distinguish the act by which the sonship, or the inheritance, or the privilege of reward is conferred on the faithful from justification, and consider them as its consequences . . . . The Scriptures also frequently distinguish between these two things, viz., freedom from the condemnation of sin, with power to become the sons of God, and the heavenly inheritance, of which the latter implies the former, and is furnished to the justified by a subsequent and new gift, viz., that when the judgment is finished, the sonship or adoption referred to in Rom. 8:15, 23; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5 will take place.”


[6] QUEN. (III, 524): “Our justification before God consists in the remission and non-imputation of sins and the imputation of righteousness of Christ.” The FORM. CONC. sometimes presents both these expressions conjointly, and sometimes it describes the sentence of justification as having reference only to the remission of sins. It says (Epit., III, 4): “We believe that our righteousness before God consists in this, that the Lord forgives us our sins through mere grace . . . . For He gives and imputes to us the righteousness of the obedience of Christ; on account of this righteousness we are received into favor by God, and are accounted just.” And it says (Sol. Dec., III, 9): “Concerning the righteousness of faith, we confess that the sinner is justified before God, i.e., is absolved from all his sins and from the sentence of most righteous condemnation, and adopted into the number of the children of God and regarded as an heir of eternal life.” . . . The same course is adopted by other Dogmaticians. No difference is thereby intended in the matter itself. BR. mentions, as the form of justification, only the forgiveness of sins, because he presupposes the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as that upon which the forgiveness if based. He says (588): “It is certain that, when we call the form of justification the forgiveness or non-imputation of sins, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is not excluded, . . . nor the imputation of this faith itself for righteousness. That is, we mean to say, that the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and of faith itself, is only logically prior to that forensic act of justification by which men are absolved from the guilt of sins; for to the question, Why does God justify man? the a priori explanation is given, Because God imputes to man the righteousness or merit of Christ apprehended by faith, or so judges it to belong to man that he is on this account absolved from the guilt of his sins.” Other Dogmaticians express themselves differently in regard to the relation existing between the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.

QUEN. (ib.): “These parts (so to speak) are not different or distinct essentially (τω ειναι), but merely logically (τω λογω); for the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is essentially nothing else than the remission of sins, and the remission of sins is nothing else than the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, so that either word separately taken expresses the whole nature of justification. Whence the apostle Paul, Rom. 4, interchanges the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of righteousness in his description of justification, which he sometimes defines as the forgiveness of sins, and sometimes as the imputation of righteousness. For, as it can properly be said 430that at one and the same time, and by one and the same action, the expulsion of darkness from the atmosphere is the introduction of light, so one and the same wicked man, at one and the same time, and by the very same act of justification, is both freed from guilt and pronounced righteous.” HOLL. (915): “Remission of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness are inseparable and closely-united acts; but distinct, indeed, in form, as the first is privative, and the other positive, and as the one results immediately from the passive obedience of Christ, the other from His active obedience. We do not deny, meanwhile, that the one may properly be inferred from the other, for there is no sinner, whose sins are pardoned, but has the righteousness of Christ imputed, and the reverse.”

In earlier times, indeed, the definition of renovation or regeneration was also included in that of justification. Thus MEL. says (Loc. Com. Th., II, 207, sq.): “The first (degree) of evangelical liberty is the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, justification, or the imputation of righteousness and acceptance to eternal life, and the inheritance of eternal life, are bestowed upon us freely on account of the Son of God . . . . The second degree is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who enkindles new light in the mind and new emotions in the will and heart, governs us, and begins in us eternal life.” And the AP. CONF., II, 72: “Because to be justified signifies that the wicked are made righteous through regeneration, it signifies also that they are pronounced or reputed as righteous. For the Scripture uses both these methods of speaking.” Ib., III, 40: “Although it is generally admitted that justification signifies not only the beginning of renovation, but the reconciliation by which we are afterwards accepted.” When, afterwards, these phrases were taken separately, and in the definition of justification only the forgiveness of sin and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness were included, no change of doctrine was thereby introduced. MEL. and the AP. meant thereby only to say that as faith, by which one apprehends the merit of Christ, is wrought by the Holy Spirit, regeneration in its beginnings is at the same time implied in it. AP. II, 45: “This special faith, by which any one believes that his sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, and that God is reconciled and rendered propitious for Christ’s sake, attains the forgiveness of sins and justifies us. And because in penitence i.e., in our spiritual distress, He comforts us and encourages our hearts, regenerates us and bestows the Holy Spirit, so that then we can obey the divine Law.” To this statement the later theologians also adhered. See Note 10. They were influenced, however, by the controversies that 431afterwards arose with the Roman Catholics, and also already with some Lutheran theologians (A. Osiander), in the definition of justification, to guard against the appearance of admitting that the renovation thus introduced in its beginnings along with the forgiveness of sins was in any sense a condition of the bestowal of the forgiveness of sins. And with this the APOL. entirely accords.

[7] QUEN. (III, 525): “The form of imputation consists in the gracious reckoning of God, by which the penitent sinner, on account of the most perfect obedience of another, i.e., of Christ, apprehended by faith according to Gospel mercy, is pronounced righteous before the divine tribunal, ‘just as if this obedience had been rendered by the man himself.’” AP. CONF. (III, 184): “To be justified here signifies, according to forensic usage, to absolve a guilty man and pronounce him just, but on account of the righteousness of another, viz., of Christ, which righteousness of another is communicated to us by faith . . . . Because the righteousness of Christ, is given to us through faith, faith is righteousness in us imputatively, i.e., it is that by which we are caused to be accepted of God in consequence of the imputation and ordination of God.” The expression: the righteousness of Christ, is explained as follows in the FORM. CONC. (Sol. Dec., III, 14): “The righteousness (of Christ), which is imputed before God out of pure grace to faith, or to believers, is the obedience, passion, and resurrection of Christ, by which He satisfied the Law for our sake and atoned for our sins.” Synonymous with the expression: “the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us,” is that other: “the merit or obedience of Christ is imputed to us.” And also this one: “faith is imputed to us for righteousness,” Rom. 4:5, which is thus explained: “only in so far as it apprehends and applies to itself the righteousness of Christ.” The righteousness of faith, then, “is nothing else than the forgiveness of sins, the gratuitous acceptance of the sinner solely on account of the obedience and most perfect merit of Christ alone.” (Ib. 54.)

CHMN. (Loc. Th., 274) vindicates the doctrine of imputation, against the Papists, as follows: “There is an imputation which is based upon and has reference to a foundation in the person working, to whom the imputation is made, and this is done not as a matter of grace, but as a matter of debt. But there is another imputation, which neither has nor refers to a foundation, in view of nor by reason of which the imputation is made, but is based upon the grace and mercy of God, who justifies the wicked. And in this, that he says by this imputation the wicked man is justified, he shows that the foundation is altogether different in the believer to whom this imputation is gratuitous; to whom, namely, not 432righteousness but guilt would be imputed, if God wished to enter into judgment. Paul, therefore, distinctly and clearly shows that he wishes this word, imputation, in the doctrine of justification, to be understood not in the former, but in the latter sense. And the same thing he also shows more fully and proves from David, who describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works. Therefore the foundation of this imputation, concerning which Paul speaks, is not in him to whom the imputation is made, for he says, ‘without works.’ And in Eph. 2:8 he more expressly says: ‘not of yourselves.’ But he adds, that sins in this imputation are forgiven, that iniquities are covered, that crimes are not imputed. There is, thus, in those who believe, to whom this gratuitous imputation is made, an altogether different foundation, if God should wish to enter into judgment with them. The imputation of righteousness consists, therefore, in the grace and mercy of God, which, for the sake of Christ, cover up the inherent foundation, viz., sin, so that it may not be imputed, and impute to the believer, through grace, the foundation which is not in him, just as if the righteousness were inherent in that perfection which he owes. These three things, therefore, we now infer from the true premises which belong to the word imputation in this article: 1. There is no basis in believers, in view and by reason of which righteousness is imputed for happiness, not even in Abraham, although adorned by the Holy Spirit with distinguished gifts of renewal. 2. A very different basis is discovered, if God wish to enter into judgment, viz., sin, which is to be covered up, so as not to be imputed. 3. But that imputation is a referring act (relatio) of the divine mind and will, which, through gratuitous mercy for Christ’s sake, does not impute their sins to believers, but imputes to them righteousness, i.e., they are regarded before God, in His judgment, as if they possessed perfect inherent righteousness, and thus salvation and eternal life are bestowed upon them as if they were righteous. But what the fourth point is, which also belongs to imputation, and wherefore it is added, can be understood from what follows. When a judge, by his own referring act (relatio), imputes the sentence of righteousness to a guilty person without any foundation, this is an abomination (Prov. 17:15; Ex. 23:1; Deut. 25:1; Is. 5:23; 1 Chron. 8:32). Some may reply, God is a perfectly free agent, and as such can justify whom He will and as He will. But God has revealed His will in the Law, and this cannot be broken . . . . Therefore, in accordance with that revealed will, God does not wish to justify any one without righteousness, i.e., unless according 433to the Law satisfaction has been made for sin, and the Law has been fulfilled by a perfect obedience. And Paul says, when faith is imputed for righteousness, the Law is not made void, but established; i.e., to use the scholastic terminology, the act of the divine mind imputes to the believer the sentence of righteousness for eternal life, not without a basis. But that basis is not in believers. But God has offered to us His Son as Mediator, made under the Law, to which He rendered satisfaction both by bearing our sins and by perfect obedience . . . . Thus we will obtain a perfect referring act whose foundation is in obedience and redemption, in Christ Jesus our Lord. The referring act (relatio) is the grace and mercy of God; the object of it is the believer, to whom, on Christ’s account, sins are not imputed, but who is through Christ accounted righteous before God unto eternal life, the righteousness of Christ being imputed to him.” . . .

“This exposition explains the whole doctrine and refutes many cavils . . . . The Jesuits say, a referring act (relatio) without a foundation is an empty phantasm and an illusion, as if Crassus, burdened with debt, were saluted as rich. Such, they say, is imputative righteousness, which has no foundation inherent in ourselves. But these cavils are abundantly refuted by what we have already said. For we do not teach that God, through any levity, imputes righteousness to believers without any foundation; but we affirm, from the Word of God, that there needs to be ever so firm a foundation of gratuitous imputation — that the righteousness inherent even in Abraham and David could not be the foundation of that referring act (relatio) and imputation, but there was need that the Son of God should become incarnate . . . . The righteousness of faith is, therefore, not of the least but of the greatest reality, for Christ is our righteousness; nor is it an empty phantasm, for it is the result of the divine thought and judgment.” In regard to the meaning of the word justification, HOLL. further remarks (914): “Imputation, in the doctrine of justification, is not taken in a physical sense, so as to signify to insert, to implant, but in a moral, judicial, and declarative sense, so as to signify to adjudicate, to attribute, to ascribe, to transfer, confer, devolve upon another the effect of a voluntary act by one’s own estimate and decision.”

The reality of imputation BR. shows as follows (581): “It is called imputation, not as an empty or imaginary transfer of the merit of one to another, destitute alike of a basis and fruit; but because it is an act of the intellect and will of him who exercises the judgment, by which he adjudges that the merit of one, which is offered for 434another, and is apprehended by the faith of him for whose benefit it has been offered, can be legitimately accepted as if it were his own merit, and is willing to receive it in such manner as if he had of himself offered it, whatever it is. Paul himself uses this argument in Rom. 4:3-6.” QUEN. (III, 525): “This imputation is most real, whether respect is had to the righteousness which is imputed, or to the act of imputation. The righteousness of Christ, or His obedience, active and passive, which is imputed to us, is most true and real; for it corresponds entirely to the mind and will of God expressed in the Law. The act of imputation, also, or the imputation itself, is real; because its measure is the infallible intellect of God. Whence God cannot repute or consider him just to whom true righteousness has not been appropriated; nor can there proceed from the divine will, the rule of all excellence, approbation of an imaginary or fictitious estimation or righteousness. They, therefore, to whom the righteousness of Christ is imputed, are truly righteous, though not inherently, or by inherence, but imputatively, and by an extrinsic designation at least they are such; for even from that which is external a true designation may be derived. It is, therefore, an idle question, whether, on account of that imputation, we are really righteous, or are merely considered righteous. For the judgment of God is according to truth. Wherefore, he is truly just who, in the judgment of God, is regarded as just.”

[8] The Dogmaticians distinguish (QUEN., III, 517): “The impulsive internal cause of our justification, which is the purely gratuitous grace of God (Rom. 3:24; 11:6; Eph. 2:8, 9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 3:4-6),” and the “impulsive, external, and meritorious cause, which is Christ the Mediator, by virtue of His active and passive obedience (Rom. 3:24; 2 Cor. 5:21),” (BR., 583). “The impulsive external cause does not annul the gratuitous favor of God, in the matter of justification, nor is it excluded from it; since, rather, the fact is due to divine grace, that God sent His Son to make satisfaction for us, so that we could be justified, and that He accepts this merit belonging to another as if it were our own.” Whence it appears in what sense it is said that the ground of justification is exterior to man. MEL. (Loc. c. Th., I, 179): “If they duly consider these (alarms, that accompany true penitence), they would know that thoroughly terrified minds seek consolation outside of themselves, and this consolation is the confidence with which the will acquiesces in the promise of mercy, granted for the sake of the Mediator.” QUEN. (III, 525): “This imputation has a most firm foundation, not in man, who is justified, 435but without him, namely, in God Himself, who imputes, and in Christ the Mediator, who earned the imputation by rendering satisfaction.” The contrary doctrine is that of the Roman Catholic Church, which, by justification, understands, “to make a righteous out of an unrighteous person.” According to this doctrine, the ground of our salvation does not lie in the appropriation of the merit of Christ, but in our moral transformation. It is then said: “That, on account of which man is justified and constituted an heir of eternal life, is an infused habit of righteousness and love, or newness of life, or righteousness inherent in us, by which we observe the Law.” (QUEN., III, 540.) When the Romanists use the phrase, “the righteousness of Christ,” they employ it in a sense entirely different from that in which it is employed in the Lutheran Church; for, while in the latter the righteousness of Christ is understood to mean that righteousness which Christ, by obedience towards the Father, has secured for us, the Romanists understand by the phrase the moral perfection of Christ Himself, the righteousness inherent in Him. This, however, is carefully distinguished, by the Lutheran Dogmaticians, as the essential, from the other, the habitual and meritorious righteousness. Even the Lutheran divine, ANDREW OSIANDER, understood by the righteousness of Christ His essential righteousness, and thus confounded Justification and Sanctification, like the Romanists. He says in his CONF. ET DISP., A.D. 1549: “That the fulfilment of the Law, effected by Christ, and obedience and remission of sins, prepare for righteousness; but the righteousness by which we are accounted righteous before God, is the divine nature of Christ entering into us by faith, and abiding in us, or the essential and eternal righteousness of God, which, dwelling us us, enables us to act righteously.” Hence the decision of the FORM. CONC. (Sol. Dec., III, 55): “As in our churches it is considered beyond controversy by the divines of the Augsburg Confession, that all our righteousness is to be sought outside of ourselves and apart from the merits and works, virtues and dignity of men, and that it exists alone in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is carefully to be considered in what way, in the matter of justification, Christ is said to be our righteousness. For our righteousness does not consist in His divine nature (Osiander), nor in His human nature (Stancarus), but in His entire person, for He, as God and man, in His entire and most perfect obedience, is our righteousness.”

[9] HOLL. (903): “The receptive means, or that on the part of the sinner which receives Christ’s merit, and the grace of God founded upon it, is faith.” Faith is thus, indeed, considered a cause, but 436 an impulsive cause subordinate, or an instrumental cause, organic and receptive; only in the sense, however, that by faith the merit of Christ, justifying grace, etc., must be received, and by no means in the other, that in faith there is an effective cause of justification. This is contained already in the general statement of the APOL. (II, 53, German): “Wherefore, whenever we speak of the faith that justifies, or justifying faith, these three things always concur. First, the divine promise; second, that this offers grace gratuitously, without merit; third, that the blood and merit of Christ constitute the treasure through which sin is paid for. The promise is received through faith. The fact, moreover, that it offers grace without merit utterly excludes all our worthiness and merit, and exalts the great grace and mercy; and the merit of Christ is the treasure, for that must indeed be a treasure and noble security through which the sins of all the world are paid for.” More specifically, FORM. CONC. (Sol. Dec., III, 13): “Faith does not justify because it is so good a work, so illustrious a virtue, but because it apprehends and embraces the merit of Christ in the promise of the Gospel.” HOLL. (903): “Faith justifies not by itself, by its own dignity or value, by moving God to justify the believer, but because, as an instrument or receptive means, it lays hold of the merit of Christ, in view of which and without the least detriment to His justice, God, of His mere grace, is moved to pardon and consider righteous the penitent sinner believing in Christ. For the energy or internal power of justifying faith is the receiving of Christ, of the grace of God based upon Christ, pardoning sin, offered in the Gospel promise, together with the remission of sins dependent on this, John 1:12; Rom. 5:17; Gal. 3:14; Acts 10:43. Faith receives the effects of Christ’s satisfaction, the remission of sins. From these sacred oracles we gather that faith is the receptive means by which the satisfaction of Christ, and the grace of God obtained by it, are received.” QUEN. (III, 518) distinguishes, therefore, “between the causality of faith, which consists in apprehending and receiving, which is nothing else than an organic and instrumental one, and the ground of that causality, or justifying power, which pertains to faith not in itself and in its own nature, or in so far as it is an act of apprehension. It might appropriate its own merits, or imaginary merits, or human righteousness, and yet it would not in this way justify. Justifying power does not pertain to it from the generous estimation or acceptance upon the part of God, as if God considered faith of so much value as to impart to it the dignity and power of justifying; but solely on account of the justifying object apprehended, or on account of the object, viz., so far as it apprehends 437the merit of Christ. Paul expressly mentions this, Rom. 3:25, to wit, that the entire justifying power of faith depends on the object apprehended. As, for example, when the hand of a hungry person takes the offered bread, that taking, as such, does not satisfy the man, for he might receive clay, or a stone, or other things, which could not satisfy him; but the entire satisfaction depends on the object apprehended and eaten, namely, the bread. So the man hungering for righteousness, Matt. 5:6, apprehends indeed by faith, or with the beggar’s hand, the bread that comes from heaven. John 6:50, 51. Yet the apprehending, as such, does not drive away spiritual hunger; but the entire effect of the apprehension depends upon the object apprehended by faith, that is, the redemption and the blood of Jesus Christ.”

[10] FORM. CONC. (Sol. Dec., III, 32): “It is properly said that believers, who are justified by faith in Christ, in this life at first obtain indeed an imputed righteousness of faith, but then also they have an incipient righteousness of new obedience or of good works. But these two things are not to be confounded or intermingled in the doctrine of justification by faith in the sight of God.” CHMN. (Ex. c. Trid., I, 233): “It is certain that the blessing bestowed through the Son of God is twofold, namely, forgiveness of sins and renovation, in which the Holy Spirit enkindles new virtues in believers. For Christ by His passion merited for us not only the remission of sins, but, in addition, this also, that, on account of His merit, the Holy Spirit is given to us and we may be renewed in the spirit of our mind. These benefits of the Son of God we say are so united, that when we are reconciled, at the same time the spirit of renovation is also given us. But we do not on this account confound them, but distinguish them, so as to give to each its place, order, and character; as we have learned from the Scriptures, that reconciliation or remission of sins goes before, and that the beginning of love or of new obedience follows, and especially that faith concludes that it has a reconciled God and the forgiveness of sins, not on account of the subsequent and commenced renovation, but on account of the Son of God, the Mediator.”

[11] FORM. CONC. (Sol. Dec., III, 27): “It is necessary that a person should be righteous before he can perform good works.” AP. CONF. (II, 36): “It is very foolishly asserted by adversaries, that men, deserving of eternal wrath, merit the pardon of sin by an act of love which they put forth, since it is impossible to love God unless beforehand the pardon of sins has been apprehended by faith. For the heart truly perceiving God to be angry, cannot love Him unless He is shown to be appeased; human nature cannot 438raise itself to the love of an angry, condemning and punishing God, while He terrifies and seems to cast us into eternal death. It is easy for the indolent to fancy these dreams of love, that one guilty of mortal sin can love God above all things, because they do not perceive what the anger or judgment of God is; but, in the agony and stings of conscience, the conscience itself perceives the vanity of these philosophical speculations.”

[12] CHMN. (Ex. c. Trid., I, 234): “This is the principal question, this the point, this the matter to be decided: what that is, on account of which God receives the sinner into favor; what can and ought to be opposed to the judgment of God, that we may not be condemned according to the rigid sentence of the Law; what faith ought to seize and present, on what to depend, when it desires to treat with God that it may be pardoned; what should intervene for which God may become appeased and propitious to the sinner who has merited wrath and eternal damnation; what conscience should determine that to be, on account of which adoption is granted us, which affords a sure ground of confidence that we shall be received to eternal life; whether it be the satisfaction, obedience, and merit of the Son of God, the Mediator, or the renovation commenced in us, love, and the other virtues.”

[13] MEL. (I, 192): “As it is of much importance that this exclusive particle (gratis) should be properly understood, I will explain the four reasons on account of which it is necessary to retain and defend it: (1) That due honor be ascribed to Christ; (2) that conscience may retain a sure and firm consolation (if this exclusive particle be ignored, doubt is strengthened, to wit, if you suppose that there is no pardon unless you have a contrition or a love sufficiently worthy, doubt will adhere, which produces at one time contempt of God, at another hatred and despair); (3) that true prayer may be offered; (4) that the difference between the Law and the Gospel may be seen.”

[14] FORM. CONC. (Sol. Dec., III, 36): “Paul means this when he urges with so much diligence and zeal, in the matter of justification by faith, the exclusive particles by which works are excluded from it, such as these: ‘without works,’ ‘without the law,’ ‘without merit,’ ‘by grace alone,’ ‘gratis,’ ‘not of works.’ But all these exclusives are embraced in these words, when we teach, ‘we are justified before God, and saved, by faith alone.’ For in this way our works are excluded, not indeed in the sense that true faith can exist without contrition, or as if good works did not necessarily follow true faith (as its most certain fruits), or as if believers in Christ ought not to perform them; but works are excluded from the 439 doctrine of justification before God, lest they may be introduced and mixed in the matter of the justification of the sinner before God, as if necessary and absolutely pertaining to it. This is the true meaning of the exclusive particles in the doctrine of justification, which must be firmly and sedulously retained and urged in its discussion.” CHMN. (Loc. Th., II, 283): “Should the inquiry be made why we contend so strenuously for the particle ‘alone,’ and are not rather contented with those exclusive particles which are contained in the Scriptures (the terms ‘by grace, freely, without works, imputation’), the reasons are weighty and true. For as the Church, in all its periods, has used freely some modes of speaking that things might be most plainly propounded, explained, defended, and retained against the various artifices of enemies; so, in the article of justification, we give a prominent place to the exclusive particles of Paul. If it be asked for what purpose and on what account we have adopted and desire to retain the particle ‘alone’ we answer, the reasons are true and weighty. This particle ‘alone’ embraces at once, and that very significantly, all the exclusive particles which the Scriptures use.”

In order to specify very particularly the sense in which the phrase, “we are justified by faith alone,” is used, and to guard against misunderstandings, the Dogmaticians append a number of explanations, from which we select the following. QUEN. (III, 552 sq.): “(1) We do not here speak of that energy (ενεργεια) of faith, or of that operation of justifying faith, which manifests itself in various acts of virtues, as love, hope, etc.; but of the operation which is peculiar to it, native and singular, and is entirely incommunicable to all other moral excellencies, namely, the apprehension and application of the merit of Christ. (2) The exclusive particle ‘alone’ does not exclude different kinds of causes, but subordinates them. For it is not opposed (a) to the grace of God, the principal efficient cause of justification; (b) nor to the merit of Christ; (c) nor to the Word and Sacraments, which are the instrumental causes of our justification, on the part of God offering and granting; but (d) to our works, for it is they that are excluded by this proposition, so that the proposition, faith alone justifies, is equivalent to this, faith without works justifies. (3) Distinguish between the exclusion of works with respect to their actual presence, and with respect to the communication of efficiency. Works are excluded not from being present, but from the communication of efficiency; not that they are not present to faith and the justified, but that they have no energy or causation in connection with faith in the justification of man. (4) Distinguish between faith considered in 440 respect to justification itself (and then it is only the instrument apprehending the merit of Christ, and it alone justifies) and considered in the person justified, or after justification (and thus it is never alone, but always attended with other graces, and, indeed, the root and beginning of them all). (5) Distinguish between faith alone and a solitary faith. Faith alone justifies; that is, it is the only organ by which we lay hold of the righteousness of Christ and apply it to ourselves. But it never exists alone, nor is solitary, that is, detached and separated from the other virtues; because true faith is always living, not dead, and therefore it has good works present with itself as its proper effect.”

[15] The most correct and common expression is, “we are justified by faith; that is, through faith.” Synonymous in import are the expressions, “we are justified by grace, by the merit, by the obedience of Christ.” (Comp. FORM. CONC., Sol. Dec., III, 9 and 12.) If the expression be used, “faith alone justifies,” to avoid all misunderstanding, this is explained as follows. MUSAEUS (in HOLL.): “When it is said concerning faith, in the nominative case, that IT justifies, the language seems to be figurative. The meaning is not that faith absolves a man from sins and accounts him righteous; but faith is said to justify, because God, in view of it, regards us righteous, or because faith (not by its own, but by the worth of Christ’s merit) moves God to justify us.” HOLL. (ib.). “Osiander justly remarks: ‘If we wish to speak accurately and according to Scripture, it must be said that God alone justifies (for it is an act of God alone), but by faith man is justified.’ For faith of itself does not justify, because it is merely apprehensive. The mode of speaking, because it has become so common to say, faith alone justifies, can be retained, if the phrase be properly explained in accordance with Scripture usage.”

[16] FORM. CONC. (Sol. Dec., III, 6): “This article in regard to the righteousness of faith is the chief one in the entire Christian doctrine, without which distressed consciences can have no true and firm consolation, or rightly appreciate the riches of Christ’s grace. This is also confirmed by the testimony of Luther, when he says, if this one article remains uncorrupted the Christian Church will remain uncorrupted, in harmony, and without party divisions; but if it is corrupted, it is impossible successfully to oppose a single error or a fanatical spirit.”

CHMN. (Loc. Th., II, 216): “This one point mainly distinguishes the Church from all nations and superstitions, as Augustine says: ‘The Church distinguishes the just from the unjust, not by the law of works but by the law of faith.’ Yea, this article is, as 441it were, the citadel and chief bulwark of the entire Christian doctrine and religion, which being either obscured, or adulterated, or subverted, it is impossible to retain the purity of the doctrine in other points. But, this doctrine remaining untouched, all idolatries, superstitions, and perversions in all the other doctrines destroy themselves.”

[17] The later theologians add further: “The effects and properties of justification.” As effects, QUEN. (III, 526) enumerates: “(1) our mystical union with God, John 15:4-6, 14, 23; Gal. 2:19, 20; 3:27; Eph. 3:17; (2) adoption as sons of God, John 1:12; Rom. 8:14; (3) peace of conscience, Rom. 5:1; (4) certain hearing of prayer, Rom. 8:32; James 1:5-7; (5) sanctification, Rom. 6:12; (7) eternal salvation, Rom. 4:7, 8.” As properties: (1) Immediate efficacy, for it is not gradual and successive, as renovation, but in a moment, an instant, simultaneously and at once. (2) Perfection, because all sins are perfectly pardoned, so that there is need of no satisfaction of our own, 1 John 1:7; Rom. 8:1; Heb. 10:14. (3) Identity in the mode of justification, in respect to all that are to be saved. A common salvation of all presupposes a common faith and a common and the same mode of justification. Acts 4:12; 15:11; Rom. 3:22-26. (4) Assurance in us, not conjectural, but infallible and divine. Rom. 8:25, 38, 39; 5:1, 2; Eph. 3:12; 1 John 3:14. (5) Growth, not as to the act, which is instantaneous, but in regard to faith and the consciousness of justification. 2 Cor. 10:15; Col. 1:10; 2 Pet. 3:18; Eph. 4:14, 15; (6) Constant continuance. For as the forgiveness of sins, so also our justification is renewed daily, and not only in the first beginning, but faith daily is imputed to the believer for righteousness, and thus our justification is continuous, Rev. 22:11; (7) Amissability, Ez. 18:24; Heb. 6:5, 6; John 15:2; (8) Recoverableness, John 6:37; Rom. 5:20. The prodigal son is an example, Luke 15.”

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