The President’s Column – Every Pastor in the Concordia Lutheran Conference Preaches Objective and Subjective Justification
From the September / October 1996 issue of The Concordia Lutheran
The President’s Column
EVERY PASTOR IN THE CONCORDIA LUTHERAN CONFERENCE PREACHES OBJECTIVE AND SUBJECTIVE JUSTIFICATION
The Bible plainly teaches God’s Universal Will of Grace, namely, that God earnestly desires the salvation of all people. With an oath, the Lord God declares that He has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live,” Ezekiel 33:11. Scripture says that the Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” II Peter 3:9, and that God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth,” I Timothy 2:4. His earnest desire to save all people is demonstrated by sending His only-begotten Son into this world as a true man, born of the virgin Mary, “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” Romans 8:3, to keep the Holy Law of God perfectly for all people (which no one by nature can possibly do, for “there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not,” Eccl. 7:20), and to suffer, as man’s Substitute, the torments of hell (which all people deserve because of their sins, for God’s Word declares, “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them,” Galatians 3:10). And all this “that all who believe in Him might not perish but have everlasting life,” John 3:16.
In harmony, therefore, with God’s Universal Will of Grace the Bible also teaches the Universal Atonement of Christ, namely, that Christ Jesus has redeemed ALL people, having taken away all our guilt by his active obedience (“by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous,” Romans 5:19) and having suffered our punishment by His passive obedience (“being made a curse for us,” Galatians 3:13). He even atoned for the sins of those who deny and reject Him and “who bring upon themselves swift destruction,” II Peter 2:1.
Such Universal Atonement and God’s Universal Will of Grace is denied by all those thousands of so-called Christians in sectarian Protestant churches who have swallowed Calvin’s false teaching of Predestination to Damnation, namely, that God has predestinated the majority of people to Hell. How could God predestine anyone to Hell and at the same time want ALL people to be saved; how could He predestine anyone to Hell and at the same time send His Son into this world to suffer and die for ALL people?! Calvinists therefore teach that God did not and does not want to save all people and that Christ did not atone for the sins of the whole world. They teach that God wants to save ONLY the elect, and that Christ atoned ONLY for the sins of the elect. This, of course, is man’s wisdom and the devil’s mask by which the prospect of heaven and eternal life becomes absolutely uncertain.
Now, in spite of the fact that in all Christian denominations (except those who have been misled by the false teaching of Calvin) we still hear, at least periodically, that God wants to save all people and that Christ atoned for the sins of the whole world, yet, the Doctrine of Justification (the Forgiveness of Sins) which is the Chief Doctrine of the Christian Religion, is garbled — even in so-called Lutheran denominations in which, as the expressed heirs of the Reformation, we should expect to hear this great teaching of Scripture confessed, preached, and taught in its full truth and purity. In external Lutheranism today, except in the WELS, ELS, and other smaller bodies, the trumpet gives an uncertain sound in the area of Justification.
The Bible teaches and, therefore, every pastor in the Concordia Lutheran Conference preaches OBJECTIVE and SUBJECTIVE Justification. These terms do not refer to two different kinds of justification but rather to two different ways in which the Bible speaks of the Forgiveness of Sins. Every pastor in our Conference teaches and every congregation has heard and continues to hear that God who wants all people to be saved and who, in Christ, has atoned for the sins of all people has also, by judicial pronouncement, declared all people (from Adam to the last person ever to be born in this sin-cursed world) righteous and has forgiven the sins of all people by His GRACE (undeserved kindness) ALONE in Christ Jesus our Savior. This is known as Objective or General Justification! It is set forth, as clear as the noon-day sun, in such plain Bible passages as: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them,” II Cor. 5:19. “There is no difference for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” Romans 3:22-24. “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace,” Ephesians 1:7
Some may ask, “Why then are not all people saved–since God has, in Christ, declared all people righteous and has forgiven the sins of all mankind?” Remember that what is taught in Scripture about God’s Universal Will of Grace, about the Universal Atonement of Christ, and also about Objective Justification IS PURE GOSPEL and nothing but PURE GOSPEL! Because of Original Sin, no one has a free will in spiritual matters (being spiritually blind, I Cor. 2:14, spiritually dead, Eph. 2:1, and an enemy of God, Rom. 8:7) and the sweet message of the Gospel is “foolishness” to him, “neither can he know them,” I Cor 2:14. As he is born into this world since the Fall of Adam, not one person is therefore able to apply God’s Universal Will of Grace or the Universal Atonement of Christ or Objective Justification to himself except by the power of the Holy Ghost whose power is in that very Gospel. The Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation,” Romans 1:16, through which “incorruptible Seed,” saving faith is created and nurtured in the human heart, I Peter 1:23. It is through this Gospel that “faith cometh,” Rom. 10:17, and that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe,” I Cor. 1:21.
As every Christian, then, in the light of God’s Universal Will of Grace, should be able to say with certainty by the power of the Holy Ghost, “If God wants to save all people, He obviously wants to save ME also,” and as every Christian, in the light of the Universal Atonement of Christ, should be able to say with certainty by the power of the Holy Ghost, “If Christ has atoned for the sins of all people, He has also atoned for MY sins,” so also, in the light of those passages (cited above) which teach that the Lord God has, in Christ, declared the whole world righteous and has forgiven the sins of all people, every Christian should be able to say with certainty by the power of the Holy Ghost, “God has also forgiven MY sins!” This is SUBJECTIVE Justification! A man is therefore “justified by FAITH without the deeds of the Law,” Romans 3:28. His FAITH in Him who objectively “justifieth the ungodly” is “counted for righteousness,” Romans 4:5. Whoever therefore BELIEVES in Christ to whom all the Prophets give witness, “shall receive remission of sins,” Acts 10:43. They are personally or subjectively justified. This is “being justified by FAITH,” by which alone we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1.
Now, there can be no Personal or Subjective Justification without Objective or General Justification. Those who teach Subjective Justification without teaching Objective Justification, or, those who teach justification by faith without teaching that God, in Christ, has already forgiven the sins of the whole world, make faith, rather than Christ’s Redemptive work, the determining factor in the forgiveness of sins. Saving or justifying faith simply receives what God objectively pronounces upon all men because of Christ’s Universal Atonement, namely, the forgiveness of sins. Without Objective Justification, faith in Christ would become a work on account of which the Lord God would forgive the sins of the believers. This would contradict salvation by grace alone (sola gratia) and would interject faith as a work of the Law because of which God would pronounce the forgiveness of sins upon a person. The Bible says, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8. Again the Bible says, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace,” Galatians 5:4.
The denial of Objective Justification is also a devil’s mask by which souls are led into uncertainty regarding the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. Years ago an elderly lady was dying of cancer in her home in a small town in Minnesota. Her ALC (American Lutheran Church) pastor had not been visiting her as she lived out the last months of her life. Some of my members who were related to this woman asked her whether she would be happy to have me come to visit her. At her positive response, I made my first visit to her home where she was living by herself. I told her that I knew she had not long to live and asked her whether she was certain that she would go to heaven when she would breathe her last breath in this world. To my amazement, she declared that she did not expect to go to heaven when she died. When I asked her why she was uncertain of her salvation, she replied, “Because I don’t have enough faith!” It was not difficult to perceive that this poor woman was the victim of the false teachings of the ALC in their distinction between natural and willful resistance in conversion, in their false doctrine of “in view of faith” in predestination, and in their rejection of Objective Justification. Because she assured me that she believed the Bible with all her heart, I proceeded, for the remaining three months of her life, to bring her again and again those precious passages which speak of God, for Christ’s sake, declaring the whole world righteous and forgiving the sins of all people, so that by the week of her death she was able to confess that she was indeed 100% certain of her salvation — that because God has forgiven the sins of all people for whom Christ shed His holy, precious blood, and that, in Christ, God has reconciled the whole world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, He has also forgiven all of her sins for Jesus’ sake which truth of Scripture she simply believed or received by faith. Faith had become for her merely a hand which, by God’s grace, received all the blessings earned for her by Christ’s work of Redemption. No longer did she have to be concerned about whether or not she had enough faith to be saved. Shortly thereafter this dear woman fell asleep in Jesus with the full Scriptural assurance of God’s forensic declaration of the forgiveness of sins upon all lost and condemned mankind by His grace alone, for Christ’s sake, and could commend her soul into the hand of her merciful Father in heaven with the certainty that He has indeed forgiven all her sins AND that where there is forgiveness of sins there is also LIFE and SALVATION! No longer did she vainly try to find her salvation in her faith BUT in Christ alone who earned for her the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, and because of whose Universal Atonement, God has forgiven the sins of all people and therefore also her sins. Now she could rest in joy and peace eternal. The ALC pastor buried her mortal remains — not knowing of my many visits with her during those few remaining days of her life. One soul had escaped the devil’s ploy to make us uncertain of our salvation to our eternal ruin.
Oh, may the pastors of our little Conference continue to preach Objective and Subjective Justification from their pulpits for generations to come!