David Hartman Response to WELS
A RESPONSE TO:
An essaydelivered at the Chicago Pastoral Conference
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Siegbert W. Becker
November 9, 1982
Prepared and written by:
David L. Hartman
7645 W. Co. Rd. 00 N.S.
Kokomo, In. 46901
November 28, 1982
Special thanks to
Rev. Charles Papenfuss of
Faith Lutheran Church
Kokomo, In. 46901
for mailing a copy of
Dr. Becker's essay for
my review and comments.
The basic question Dr. Becker's essay on objective justification
attempts to answer is this: "Has God forgiven the sins of all men?"1 I
believe that Dr. Becker struck at the heart of the issue with this
question. It should be noted that he mentioned up front that his answer
to that question was an unequivocal "yes", and that "If we could all
answer that question with and unequivocal 'yes', the 'four statements'
would cause us little difficulty".2 It was quite easily recognizable
that he also equates forgiveness with reconciliation with justification,
etc. Likewise, he made it clear that he believes that God forgave all
men their sins with the death of Christ on the cross of Calvary, and that
the proof of this is in the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning.
With these observations in mind I offer the following comments.
Dr. Becker wrote, "That Luther believed in objective justification
is, however, very easy to demonstrate. Luther says, for example that
when we baptize someone we must say to the person being baptized, 'All
your sins are remitted by reason of the presence of Christ. Therefore I
baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
This means that I remit all your sins, cleansing you of them right now'
(LW 22, 177)." (underlining added)3. If Luther believed in objective
justification in the sense that Dr. Becker indicated he did, why does
Luther say to the one being baptized "I remit all your sins, cleansing
you of them right now"? In other words, if all sins of all people have
been remitted (past tense), if all people have been cleansed of all sin
(past tense), why would Luther make such an ongoing proclamation to each
person being baptized as he baptized them one by one?
On page 2, Dr. Becker wrote, "It is crystal clear that the
announcement of forgiveness to all the world comes first; then faith
builds on that announcement and finds comfort and assurance in it.4
It is crystal clear that Dr. Becker believes the object of faith to be
"the announcement of forgiveness to all the world." In other words,
announce that the sins of the world have been forgiven and "faith builds
on that announcement and finds comfort and assurance in it."5
It seems to me that the object of faith should be the work of Christ,
that is, His perfect life and sacrificial death, His resurrection on the
third day; which meant that God the Father accepted the work of His Son
as the expiation for the sins of the world. The object of faith would
then be focused on the merits of Christ.
The call to repentance in His name and the remission of sins in His name would then follow. (Lk. 24:46-48),
"And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to
suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and
all nations, things."
remission of sins should be preached in His name among
beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these
As another example, look at Peter's Pentecost Sermon in Acts 2:14-39.
We don't find him announcing that God has forgiven the sins of all men first
believing that faith would build on that announcement. Rather, in verse
21 he said, "that whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be
saved." Then verses 22-36 were devoted to His suffering, His death, and
Hearing this, the peoples' hearts were crushed, and they asked in verse 37: "Men and bretheren, what shall we do?" The answer in verse 38 was, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...".
Even when the people were crushed to their hearts with the knowledge of their sins, Peter
still did not say, "God has forgiven the sins of all men." Rather he said,
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ
for the remission of sins."
He first focused on the work of Christ, then came the call to
repentance, the call to be baptized, and then the announcement " ..for
the remission of sins," that is to say, " so that your sins will be
forgiven". (AAT) Faith was built on the work and merits of Christ and
through such God-worked faith sins were then remitted. This makes
crystal clear what Jesus said in John 8:24,
"For if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins."
Faith must believe as it's object that Jesus is He, the promised Savior,
the Messiah, the One who lived perfectly, died sacrificially, and rose
from the grave victoriously so that all might live eternally through Him.
Through faith the merits fo Christ become the merits of the believer.
However, without faith, the one not believing dies in all their sns.
The object of faith must always be Christ crucified (see 1 Cor. 1:23),
not "the announcement of forgiveness to all the world." The importance
of this Scriptural fact is clearly seen in Rom. 3:26,
"To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might
be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
Luther spoke of this truth when he said in his New Year sermon of
"There are some, especially among the modern, ranking schoolmen, who say:
The forgiveness of sins and justification depend wholly and entirely on
the divine imputation of grace, that is, on God's simply accounting as
just, in spite of our sins. This, they say is all that is required: he
to whom God imputes or does not impute sin is therby justified or not
justified from his sins. So, they imagine, Ps. 32:2 and Rom. 4:7-8
teach. There it is said: "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not
impute sin." Were this view true, the entire New Testament would really
be vain and futile, and Christ would have labored foolishly and uselessly
in suffering for sin. God Himself would have practiced jugglery and
humbug without any need, because He might well have forgiven and imputed
sins without the suffering of Christ. Then some other faith, too,
besides faith in Christ, might justify and save a man; I mean a faith
that would simply rely on the gracious mercy of God, which would not hold
his sins against him. Against this abominable, terrible notion and
falsehood the holy apostle is accustomed always to refer faith to Christ
as to its object and to mention Jesus Christ so frequently that it is
actually amazing to find anybody who is not aware of the need for such
language. Let us, therefore, be on our guard against this hellish poison
and not lose Christ, the consoling Savior. Above all things, Christ must
be kept in this matter of salvation. It certainly is true that as David
says (Ps. 32:2), and Paul (Rom. 4:8): 'Blessed is the man to whom the
Lord will not impute sin.' But St. Paul introduces the thought in order
to show that this divine imputation comes only to him who believes in
Christ." (underlining added).
Also on page 2, Dr. Becker spoke of times "when the pastor speaks
the absolution" saying that he should be able to say,
"I know for certain that I have loosed you before God, whether you
believe it or not."6
I'm not familiar with such an absolution. I haven't seen anything
close to it, either in the Scriptures, the Confessions, or the Lutheran
Hymnal. Perhaps Dr. Becker uses a different Lutheran Hymnal than I am
accustomed to. On page 16 of the Lutheran Hymnal in the "Order of the
Holy Communmion" we find the confession of sins by the Minister and the
congregation, following that the Minister reads the Absolution which
begins with the words "Upon this your confession, etc." Such seems to
eliminate such foolish talk as:
"I know for certain that I have loosed you before God, whether you
believe it or not."
The next portion of Dr. Becker's essay is titled "Objective
Justification in the Confessions." Very little needs to be said here
regarding this. Anyone can read for themselves the context surrounding
the quotes listed by Dr. Becker and easily see that they do not speak of
a "faithless justification." It may be evident to him "that the Lutheran
doctrine of absolution rests on the foundation of the universal
forgiveness of the human race"7, but I shudder at such a thought. The
heart of the doctrine of absolution must always have Christ as its
foundation, and the promise that through faith in Him sins are remitted.
Acts 10:43 says:
"To Him give all the prophets witness that through His name,
whosoever believeth in Him, shall receive remission of sins."
Our fathers wrote, "Thus, therefore, we receive the remission of
sins only through the name of Christ, i.e., for Christ's sake, and not
for the sake of any merits and works of our own. And this occurs when we
believe that sins are remitted to us for Christ's sake."8. And again
they wrote, "For those who dream that without faith in Christ hearts
become pacified, do not understand what the remissions of sins is, or how
it came to us.9
We then look at his section titled "Law and Gospel."
In particular, note what is said in his quote of Ex. 34: 6,7;
"The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious long-suffering and
abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no
means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon
the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and
A very simple question comes to mind. If God has indeed forgiven
all sin of all men, how can He visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the
children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and fourth
generation? If I understand Dr. Becker's thoughts correctly on this
verse as I read them on pages 3 & 4, he views verses 6 and 7 of Ex. 34 as
if they are applied to all people at all times. On the one hand, God is
"merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and
truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression
and sin" to all people of all time. And on the other hand:
God is Him " that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the
iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's
children, unto the third and fourth generation" to all people of
What he fails to see is that those to whom God is merciful are not
the same people to whom He "visits the iniquity of the fathers on the
children... etc." On the one hand you have believers, on the other hand
you have unbelievers. Note these similar words in Ex. 20: 5,6:
"for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of
fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of
that hate Me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love
and keep my commandments."
Those whom God considers as guilty, the ones with whom He visits
the iniquity unto the third and fourth generation are "them that hate
Me," that is unbelievers who are standing in their guilt and remain
therein unless moved to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. And those
who are enjoying the abundant mercy and grace of God, those who bathe
continually in the forgiveness of the Lord thy God are those who love God
and keep His commandments, that is to say, all believers whom God has
declared righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. Two groups of people,
believers who are no longer counted guilty, unbelievers who stand in
their guilt continually. Indeed, this is a stumbling block and an
offense to human reason, but "he that believeth on Him shall not be
confounded," 1 Pet. 2: 6. Dr. Becker maintains that God, from these
verses in Exodus, clears the guilty, declared the guilty to be righteous,
when in fact the verse says God "will by no means clear the guilty."
Prov. 17:15 rings clear when it says:
"He that justifieth the wicked, and he than condemneth the just,
even they both are abomination to the Lord."
On page 4 Dr. Becker writes, "...so the message which lies at the
very heart of the Gospel, namely, that for Jesus' sake God has indeed
forgiven the sins of all men..."10. One would think that if the heart of
the Gospel is indeed that "for Jesus' sake God has indeed forgiven the
sins of all men" Dr. Becker would show us where in the Scirptures such
words are used to describe the "heart of the Gospel." I wonder if he
would be willing to admit that what he considers to be the "heart of the
Gospel" is really a doctrine that he and others have derived from
Scripture, that is, the words are never there as such but must be
I find it strange that the "heart" of God's Word (as Dr.
Becker sees it) is not actually there but must be derived by man before
it can be communicated to others.
I now take up Dr. Becker's remarks concerning II Cor. 5: 19
beginning on p. 4 and going through the top of page 9. Notice the
parallel drawn between verses 18 and 19 on page 5. He said that "v. 18
'God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ' is echoed by v. 19
'God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ"11. Does he mean
that the "us" in verse 18 is equal to the "world" in vs. 19? This seems
to be what he is saying when he shortly writes "In other words, we can
be sure that we have been reconciled because the whole world has been
reconciled..."12. And if it is necessary for Dr. Becker to believe (to
be sure) that the whole world is reconciled (that of course must include
those damned to hell prior to the work of Christ) in order for him to
believe that he has been reconciled, is it also necessary for Dr. Becker
to believe (to be sure) that the whole world is saved eternally in order
for him to also be sure that he is saved eternally? Or, does Dr. Becker
mean to say by this that "the world has been reconciled and since I am
part of the world, then I know that I too have been reconciled.
Therefore, since I BELIEVE, I am saved, and the others are not saved
because THEY DON'T BELIEVE."? In either case, Dr. Becker must deal with
certain problems. On the one hand he talks of universalism, on the other
hand, he speaks of synergism.
In his next paragraph we find these words, "The translation given
above indicates that we have treated (reconciling) as a supplementary
participle and the whole phrase as a periphrastic construction. The
argument that (was...reconciling) cannot be periphrastic because of the
intervening words, (in Christ...world) cannot be maintained."13. Please
note however, that the sainted Prof. Meyer in Ministers of Christ insists
that "reconciling" should not be considered as a periphrastic phrase, for
if it is, one is " making a continued aciton of the reconciling." Prof.
Meyer wrote thusly concerning those who make "reconciling" a periphrastic
phrase (as does Dr. Becker), "They combine (was) with (reconciling) as a
periphrastic imperfect tense, thus emphatically making a continued action
of the (reconciling): God was in the course of history reconciling one
individual after the other in an unbroken succession. If that
combination should stand then it would almost be inevitable that the
meaning of (reconciling) undergo a change; it would come to signify
something like bringing to faith."14. (underlining added). Dr. Becker
has indeed insisted on that combination, the combination that Prof. Meyer
said would signify a "continued action of the (reconciling);
God was in the course of history reconciling one individual after the other in an
unbroken succession". Perhaps Dr. Becker is moving closer to the
Scriptural position than he himself realizes. Or perhaps Prof. Meyer and
Dr. Becker have proven all the more the necessity of interpreting
Scripture with Scripture, the need to let the clear Word of God Speak to
and interpret that which some find unclear.
On page 6 Dr. Becker writes, "The reconciling was going on
throughout the ministry of Jesus, beginning at His birth and reaching its
climax in the resurrection."15. Such a statement brings out another
question. If the reconciling began at the birth of Jesus and reached its
climax at the resurrection, when were the Old Testament saints reconciled
(such as Abraham)? were they unreconciled until the time of Christ? Did
they then suddenly become reconciled? I feel certain that Dr. Becker
would say that such was not the case, that Abraham and the other O.T.
saints were reconciled through faith in the promise that Christ would
come and make satisfaction for their sins, a promise such as Gen. 3:15.
This would coincide perfectly with Gen. 15:6 when it says of Abraham,
"And he believed in the Lord: and He counted it to him for righteousness."
Of Noah, Heb. 11:7 says,
"By faith Noah,being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved
with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the
which is by
condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness
It would seem that Scripture teaches us in no uncertain terms that
the O.T. saints were justified the moment God moved them to trust His
promises of Him which was to come. What else can be said other than
throughout the course of history, beginning with Adam and Eve and
concluding with the last one whom God has chosen, that one by one God is
justifying him which believeth in Jesus. Were the O.T. saints waiting
around somewhere until the time of Christ to be reconciled? Any further
talk of such a possiblility would be nothing short of blasphemy. Again
it says of Abraham, Rom. 4:9:
"for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness."
Not shall be reckoned but "was reckoned to Abraham for
righteousness". Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness the
moment God, by grace worked faith in the ungodly one. Throughout the
course of history, God has been bringing ungodly ones, such as Abraham to
faith, and through such God-worked faith declaring the unrighteous to be
righteous. Rom. 4:23:
"Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to
vs.24, "But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed if we
believe on him
that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead."
A brief comment on Dr. Becker's use of Rom. 5: 10. He wrote, "That
this reconciliation took place in the past and before we came to faith is
surely made clear by Paul's statement that we were reconciled to God
through the death of His Son while we were still enemies (Rm 5:10)."
16. I can't imagine how Dr. Becker overlooked the rest of that verse
which reads, "much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His
life." simply put, the "we" who were reconciled to God by the death of
His Son when we were enemies are the same "we" that being reconciled
shall be saved by His life. If Dr. Becker contends that the "we" who
were reconciled, etc., are in fact all people, then he must also be
saying that being reconciled, "we" that is, no less than all people shall
be saved by His life. I wonder why he is surprised to find that many
hearing or reading of such a position easily see leanings toward
universalism, to say the least? Not only is such a position leaning in
that direction, it has fallen, like the house built on sand it came down
with a big crash.
Dr. Becker then went on to say, "And if Paul can say that God
reconciled all things to Himself through the blood of Christ's cross that
must surely include more than believers unless we want to write a
Calvinistic gloss on that 'all'.17 Dr. Becker is reading more into the
inspired words of St. Paul than are present, and doesn't even mention the
words which follow that would help him to understand more clearly and
correctly the truth hereby presented. Note first the verse quoted
(somewhat quoted) by Dr. Becker, (Col. 1: 20,)
"And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to
reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be
things in earth, or things in heaven."
God did not say "God reconciled all things to Himself through the
blood of Christ's cross." Rather, God says, "having made peace through
the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself..."
Dr. Becker changed the Word from "by Him to reconcile" to " God
reconciled". His change does speak of a one-time action of the past, but
that is not what God says. Clearly God is pointing to the blood of
Christ shed on the cross as that which sinners are to look to for peace.
for peace is "through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself."
who are without Christ have not peace, for God has established the way to
be reconciled as being through Christ. Only those in Christ are
reconciled. Example, Eph. 2:12ff,
"That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the
commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of
promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in
Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the
of Christ. for He is our peace." vs18, "For through Him we
access by one Spirit unto the Father."
And let us not forget vs. 19:
"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow
citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."
The same is said in Rom. 5:1,2:
" Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by
into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the
Notice the way to peace with God, the Lord Jesus Christ - grace -
faith. Dr. Becker insults the Word of God when he leaves out grace and
faith. This is made even more clear when we look at Col. 1:21-23
" And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by
wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of His flesh
through death, to present you holy and unblameable and
in His sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and
settled, and be not
moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye
have heard, and
which was preached to every creature which is under
I Paul am made a minister."
We are reconciled, holy, unblameable, and unreproveable in God's
sight if we continue in the faith, etc. Eliminate faith as Dr. Becker
had done and one would find himself unreconciled, unholy, blameable, and
reproveable in God's sight. Heed this warning from God.
A quick comment on Dr. Becker's words concerning II Cor. 5:18 at
the top of p. 7, "Moreover, when Paul says in Second Corinthians 5:18
that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ, we may grant that the
"us" means believeing children of God without admitting that this
reconciliation is limited to believers or that it took place when they
became believers."18. The fact that only believers are reconciled is
clearly shown in the words, "and hath given to us the ministry of
reconciliation". There would be no need for this ministry if all have
been reconciled whether they believe it or not. As a matter of fact, if
all have been reconciled whether they believe it or not, why give people
the opportunity "to reject" such a reconciliation by doing the work of
the ministry? I'm afraid that Dr. Becker is making God's Word, the
ministry of reconciliation, the scapegoat for anyone being damned through
the rejection of the Holy Spirit.
Going on, Dr. Becker wrote, " He says instead that God reconciled
the world to Himself not by bringing them to faith, but 'by not imputing
their trespasses unto them' "19. He equates the non-imputation of sin
with reconciliation. I wonder if he would also teach that all people
were reconciled from the time of Adam to Moses because of the non-
imputation of sins during that period? Rom. 5:13,14 says:
"For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed
there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses,
over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's
Beyond any doubt, it is clear that Dr. Becker believes that there
are two doctrines of reconciliation. Through paragraph 6 on p. 7 he
spoke of "universal reconciliation". The next paragraph begins, "The
reconciliation that takes place when men come to faith is spoken of in
the following verse. When Paul says, 'We pray you in Christ's stead, be
ye reconciled to God,' he calls upon them to be changed in their
relationship to God. How that takes place is very clear from the wider
biblical context."20. (underlining added). Going on he says, "When men
recognize in faith and through faith that God has forgiven them, as the
word of reconciliation says, they will be changed from men who are
terrified before God's wrath and who hate God to people who see God as
their gracious heavenly Father. God changed them or reconciled them in
relation to Himself by not imputing their trespasses to them. He placed
them into a different relationship to Himself in and through Christ.
When they accept that message in faith they will be changed in the way
they relate to God."21. (underlining added). Reconciliation #1, he seems
to say, is that because of the death of His Son, God is changed in His
relationship to us, and reconciliation #2 is man coming to faith in
reconciliation #1 and changing their relationship to God. I wonder how
Dr. Becker would reconcile his two doctrines of reconciliation with these
words concerning reconciliation from the Confessions?
"But to believe is to trust in the merits of Christ, that for His
sake God certainly wishes to be reconciled to us." (Apology p.
137, par. 57).
Or this similar passage:
"Now we will show that faith (and nothing else) justifies.
in the first place, as it is necesary to maintain this
Christ is Mediator, so it is necessary to defend that
For how will Christ be
Mediator if in
justification we do not use Him as Mediator; if
we do not hold that
for His sake God certainly wishes to be
reconciled with us."
(Apology p. 141, par. 69).
Further on, Dr. Becker writes, "Everyone who wishes to speak as the
oracles of God speak must admit that the Scriptures have much to say
about the fearful wrath of God against all sin. This wrath must somehow
be appeased, and it was appeased throgh the death of Christ."22. Is this
not a denial of the wrath of God after the death of Christ? Since Christ
died for all, and Dr. Becker says that God's wrath was appeased through
the death of Christ, then he must be saying that the wrath of God no
longer exists. But then, if His wrath has been appeased concerning all
poeple, and He no longer sees us as sinners 23, what then damns? God
certainly doesn't because He is no longer angry; unbelief certainly can't
do it because that sin too has already been forgiven if all sin is
forgiven; neither can God be angry with unbelief if His anger has been
appeased. The only thing left is that some don't want to go to heaven so
they jump into hell to escape the mercy of God. But then that doesn't
explain Mt. 25:41 in which Jesus will say to all the ungodly:
"Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire."
Neither does it explain II Thes. 1:7,8,
"...the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty
in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God
knowledge), and that obey not (rejection) the Gospel of our
Lord Jesus Christ."
And we could also present John. 3:36 :
"...and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life;
God abideth on him."
Yes, God's wrath is removed for the believer, it is true He no
longer sees the sin of the believer, this is so because of grace - Jesus
Christ - faith. But for the unbeliever who is without grace, Jesus
Christ, and faith, God sees only his sins, each and every one of them,
and He is angry, and His wrath abideth on him. And if that unbeliever
dies without faith in Jesus Christ lacking the grace of God, he dies in
all his sins and remaineth under the wrath of God eternally (see Jn.
Also on p. 8, Dr. Becker wrote, "in debating the question whether
God is reconciled or not, one should really distinguish between the Greek
word "katallasso" and its common English translation "reconcile." The
English word does not have the very strong basic meaning of "change" that
is found in the Greek word.
It may well be that Paul would never had
said that God was reconciling but that he would still have been willing
to say with the Lutheran confessions that God was reconciled."24. Paul
was willing to say only what God moved him to say, nothing more, and
nothing less. A valuable lesson can always be learned from that great
truth. But as we see, what Paul was unwilling to do, Dr. Becker has
done. He writes, "But the search need not last long. Paul tells us what
the change was that took place when he says that when God reconciled the
world to Himself He did not impute the sins of men to them. Instead He
imputed them to Christ.
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (vs.21).
Isaiah had said it more than seven centuries before Paul when he wrote,
"The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.' And when Christ was
made to be sin for us, we were made 'the righteousness of God in Him'."25
But the Word of God does not say in II Cor. 5:21, "And when Christ
was made to be sin for us, we were made 'the righteousness of God in Him'
". Rather it says:
"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin;
be made the rightousness of God in Him."
I wish I could say that I am shocked to see God's Word changed as
was done by Dr. Becker, but far too often in the past 3 1/2 years similar
changes have appeared. Some have been changes by omission, while others
have been man's word substituted for the Inspired Word. But while no
longer shocked by such, I remain horrified. Deut. 4:2 says,
"Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall
diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the
your God which I command you."
And Prov. 30: 5,6 says:
"Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put
thee, and thou be
in Him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove
found a liar."
We now look at Dr. Becker's comments on Rom. 5: 18,19. Quite
seemingly, Dr. Becker has a very difficult time with this portion of
Scripture. This is evident because of the several changes that he makes
in the text which I shall momentarily show. I believe that much of this
could have been cleared up had he simply began with vs. 17 which says:
"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they
which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness
reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."
This verse sets forth the context for verses 18-21 and should never
be left out in a discussion of verses 18 &19. That those who receive the
"free gift" of vs. 18 and "shall many be made righteous" of vs. 19 should
be viewd by Dr. Becker as "all people" is clearly shown to be incorrect
when one first reads vs. 17 which says "they which receive abundance of
grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus
Christ." This verse identifies those that receive the free gift of
righteousness and the many that shall be made righteous as those which
shall reign in life. Verse 17 makes Dr. Becker's discussion of verses 18
& 19 futile, unless of course, by such a disussion he is attempting to
gather support for "universalism".
Briefly now, let's look at the changes he made in the text. First,
concerning his discussion of vs. 18 we note the following: "If all are
condemned because of the sin of one man (18a) and all are justified
because of the right action of one man (18b) ."26. Again he wrote, "The
righteous act (a collective singular) of Christ results in acquittal for
all men. But it does not result in life for all men."27. Also, "We
need therefore consume little of the time alloted to this paper to
demonstrate that verse 18 teaches a universal justification."28.
Notice what Dr. Becker attributes to vs. 18: " all are justified",
"aquittal for all men", "does not result in life for all men", and
"universal justification". What he has done is to make vs. 18 to teach
two justifications. He attributes the words "by the righteousness of one
the free gift came upon all men" as a justification of all people apart
from faith and the words " unto justification of life" as a justification
of only those which accept God's pardon in faith. The only other
possibility is that what I considered to be his first justification
spoken of, is (in his teaching) the only doctrine of justification, and
the second justification spoken of is not a part of the doctrine of
justfication at all but the doctrine of faith. In either case, the
meaning of the verse has been changed substantially. As I translate it
the verse appears thusly, "So therefore as through one offence to all men
to condemnation, so also through one righteous act to all men to
justification of life." In this verse we see one doctrine of
condemnation and one doctrine of justification to life. The question is,
who is effected by each one and when? First the doctrine of
condemnation. Ps. 51: 5 says:
"Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother
David certainly believed that upon his conception he was in
condemnation. The same can be said of each of us, that is, those who
have already died, those who are yet living, and those who will yet be
born. Each one of us upon our conception are in condemnationn.
all men, as we are conceived inherit the sin of Adam (the one offense
that is to all men) and stand condemned before God (to condemnation).
Needless to say, this is an ongoing process throughut the course of
history. "So also", we are told,
"through one righteous act to all men
to justification of life." Now, when does the "justification to life
come upon men? Remember what vs. 17 taught us,
"they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of
righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."
Clearly, the gift of righteounsess, the justification of life,
comes to them "which receive abundance of grace", "the free gift". Paul
teaches us in Eph. 2: 8, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and
that not of yourselves" it is the gift of God."
Rom. 1: 17 says:
"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to
it is written, the just shall live by faith."
The evidence should be quite clear. When by grace sinful man is
brought to faith (the one righteous act of Christ) the believer is
declared righteous (to justification of life). "The just shall live by
faith." Thus, one by one, as God brings the ungodly to faith in the
righteous act of Christ the believer is justified unto eternal life. The
righteous act of Christ comes upon sinful man through faith and results
in eternal life, "that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might
grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our
Lord", (vs 21). Dr. Becker would not have a problem with this if he
understood that to be acquitted of sin is to be given eternal life, that
the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, that the just
live by faith, etc. Faith cannot be left out of God declaring the
ungodly ones just. What else is it to be acquitted of all sin than to be
declared righteous? And isn't faith counted for righteousness? One by
one, through faith the believers are declared righteous, acquitted of all
sin, and given the gift of eternal life. Dr. Becker ignores the context,
doesn't let Scripture interpret Scripture, thus loses the truths
presented by God. Rom. 5:17 expresses that truth so beautifully when it
"For by one man's offence death reigned by one: much more they
receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness
in life by one, Jesus Christ."
Just a few words on Dr. Becker's discussion concerning "many" and
"all" on page 10. He writes, "If all are condemned because of the sin of
one man (18a), and all are justified because of the right action of one
man (18b), and if all are set down as sinners through one man's
disobedience (19a), then we can certainly expect that all men will be set
down as righteous through one man's obedience (19b).
If the action
described in 19b is something that takes place when a man comes to faith,
then these words are not true because all do not come to faith, and while
many, polus, are called, few, oligos, are chosen. To say that 'all' here
means 'all who come to faith' is to commit the same sin that is committed
by Calvinists when they say that the 'all' for whom Christ died are 'all
who are elect.' The 'all' of 18b are the 'all' of 18a and of verse 12."
Focus in on these words just quoted for a moment, "If the action
described in 19b is something that takes place when a man comes to faith,
then these words are not true because all do not come to faith..."
He would have no trouble with this if he let the Word stand as
written instead of changing the "many" to "all". If God wanted to say
"all" He would have said "all", but He wanted to say exactly what He said
and that is:
"...so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
To be sure, the words that Dr.Becker said could not be true are
indeed not true because they were not the words of God, rather, the words
of man. The same warning about changing the Word of God applies in this
case also that was mentioned previously.
Going on Dr. Becker writes, "The 'all' of 18b are the 'all' of 18a
and of verse 12." He just contradicted himself. Verse 18b contains the
phrase "unto justification of life." Earlier we quoted Dr. Becker as
saying on page 9 "The righteous act (a collective singular) of Christ
results in acquittal for all men. But it does not result in life for all
men. The verdict of acquittal pronounced for Jesus' sake on all men
results in life only if the verdict of pardon is accepted in faith."27.
Here he said that this portion of 18b is not all people, reasoning that
not all come to faith, so to make it an "all people " passage would
naturally lead one to think of universalism. So to avoid that on p. 9 he
stipulated that in effect the "unto justification of life" must be looked
at differently than the rest of that
half of the verse. However, now on
p. 10 he simply says "the 'all' of 18b are the 'all' of 18a and of verse
12." Once again, when one flirts with changing the Word of God, problems
have a way of mounting up, the mole hill soon becomes a mountain. Of
interest here are the words of Jesus in Mt. 17:20:
"If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto
mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove,"
Changing God's Word creates mountains, faith moves mountains.
We now turn to 1 Tim. 3:16. On page 11 Dr. Becker wrote, "He
(Christ) was declared free of the guilt of all the sins that were laid
upon Him. By the resurrection the sins for which He was 'numbered with
the transgressors' were formally declared by the Father to be completely
paid for. Christ was no longer 'guilty' but free from all liability to
punishment."30. Several things are said here that I question. Were we
made children of God through faith in the "guilty one"? 1 Pet. 1:18,19
"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible
things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by
tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ,
as of a
lamb without blemish and without spot."
1 Pet. 3:18 says:
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the
unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the
but quickened by the Spirit."
"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the
feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as
yet without sin."
"And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his
because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in
"And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds:
this man hath done nothing amiss."
"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the
eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your
conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
"Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth."
These verses are very clear, Christ was not guilty of sin, in fact,
He was the perfect Passover Lamb, without blemish and without spot. This
point cannot be emphasized enough, for had Christ been guilty of sin His
sacrifice would have been less than God required for the sins of the
world and we would all still be in our sins. Faith in a sinful sacrifice
would mean nothing for salvation. When Dr. Becker says that "Christ was
no longer 'guilty' but free from all liability to punishment", he is
surely failing to grasp the sinless, holy, innocent, and perfect in every
way Passover Lamb that Christ was when He laid down His life for us all.
The correct way of presenting Christ in His humility when He became the
all-atoning sacrifice for sin is as the sin-bearer, not as the one who
was guilty of sin.
Is. 53:4 begins:
"Surely he hath borne our griefs, an carried our sorrows:" Verse
6 concludes, "and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us
Verse 11 says, "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and
satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant
for he shall bear their iniquities." verse 12 ends with
"and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for
1 Pet. 2:24 says:
"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that
being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose
stripes ye were healed."
With this clear understanding of the work of Christ on earth, i.e.,
that of the One who bore the sins of the world, the meaning of 1 Tim.
3:16 is quite simple. When it says "justified in the spirit" we are
being told that His heavenly Father verified that His Son had made
satisfaction for the sins of all people and that He was accepting that
perfect sacrifice as just that. Nothing more, nothing less should be
said of this verse.
We now turn to Rom. 4:25. Dr. Becker wrote, "When Paul says that
Christ was delivered because of our transgressions the _____ is without
doubt retrospective. He was put to death because our sins had been
imputed to Him. And while it is true that 'our' in this context refers
to believers and only believers can say what Paul says here, yet it is
crystal clear that what Paul asserts here of believers is true of all
men."31. If he really believes that "only believers can say what Paul
says here," how can he go on to say "yet it is crystal clear that what
Paul asserts here of believers is true of all men."? If only believers
can say what Paul said here, how can unbelievers say it also? It would
seem also that the context is very clear as to who this justification is
applying to. Verse 24 says:
"But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, (not retrospective
as Dr. Becker asserts but future), if we believe on him that raised
Jesus our Lord from the dead.".
Also, Rom. 5:12:
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ:" And vs. 2, "By whom also we have
access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in
the glory of God."
Do unbelievers have peace with God?
Do unbelievers stand in His
grace? Do unbelievers rejoice in hope of the glory of God? It should be
self evident to all that this entire section of Scripture is speaking of
believers only. To apply it to unbelievers also is just plain not being
Now for 1 Jn. 2:2. Dr. Becker writes, "We may also say that the
passages that say that Christ died for all, that He took away the sins of
the world, that He gave His life as a ransom for all, and all the other
passages of a similar nature in reality teach universal and objective
justification. How can we possibly say that Christ is the Lamb of God
which took away the sins of the world; without saying that the sins of
the world are forgiven?"32 The last sentence here refers to Jn. 1:29.
To make it say "that Christ is the Lamb of God which took away the sins
of the world..." is inaccurate to say the least. The KJV says "which
taketh away", which is much closer to the original. The Greek here
actually means "to bear up, carry, lift up", etc., which speaks not of a
removal of sin but rather an expiation of sins. John is referring back
to Is. 53:4-12 saying, "Behold, the Lamb of God bearing or carrying the
sin of the world." Here is the one fulfilling prophecy, the sin-bearer
of the world. Dr. Becker seems to have been carried away with the notion
that all sin of the world is gone, removed entirely, etc., which is what
it would mean if the text actually read "took away the sins". Such is
not the case. Dr. Becker then mixes in Ps. 103: 8-12 into the
discussion. Indeed these words speak of forgiveness, indeed they speak
of sin being removed forever, but whose sin?
verse 11 said:
"so great is his mercy toward them that fear him."
verse 13 says:
"so the Lord pitieth them that fear him".
Verse 17 says:
"But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon
that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children".
And vs. 18:
"To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remmber his
commandments to do them."
It's crystal clear, beyond all doubt those whose sins are forgiven
are those who (by grace) fear God, who (by faith) obey Him, etc. When
sins are removed as far as the east is from the west, they are removed
eternally never again to be laid to the charge of him whom God has
forgiven. To apply this to unbelievers and to put those same unbelievers
into hell is to put them there without their sin, and this is totally
opposite the clear teachingof God when He says in Jn. 8:24:
"for if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins."
As far as 1 Jn. 2:2 is concerned, John is saying that Jesus is
the One who has made satisfaction for the sins of the world.. To
attribute it to a forgiveness apart from faith is not correct.
first at 1 Jn. 1:8:
"If we say that we have no sin..." (isn't that what Dr. Becker
says all people can say?), Going on, "we deceive ourselves, and
the truth is not in us."
If all sin of all people has been taken away, then it would be
correct for all people to say (apart from faith) that they have no sin.
But God calls such talk deceiving and not the truth. Now look at 1 Jn.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our
to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Dr. Becker wants us to believe that God has already forgiven the
sins of all people (that their sins have been removed forever), that all
people have already been cleansed from all unrighteousness when they were
declared righteous prior to faith, and that such pronouncement came in
the resurrection of Christ. The text says differently when it says that
God "is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from
all unrighteousness". Not that God "was" faithful to forgive and
cleanse but that He "is" faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us "if
we confess our sins." This text surely speaks of an ongoing declaraton
of righteous and forgiveness upon all who are led to repentance (unless
Dr. Becker believes that all people repented in unison at the
resurrection of Christ), but then, the text still says "is faithful and
just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness".
This text would not even be needed nor could it be true if Dr. Becker's
doctrine is correct. There can only be one choice in this matter. The
Word of God does not err and is completely trustworthy. I shall
subscribe to It and pray that Dr. Becker will also.
At the bottom of page 12 Dr. Becker says, "Thus when the blood was
sprinkled on the mercyseat a 'covering' was made by which the sins of the
people were hidden from the eyes of an angry God."33. If this is applied
to all people, and I believe Dr. Becker means it as such, then God no
longer sees the sins of anyone, which must say that Dr. Becker has people
leaping into hell again to escape the mercy of God. If those in hell
aren't there because God sees all their sins and has nothing but wrath
for the workers of iniquity and thereby has sent them to their eternal
place of torment as their just reward, then why else are they in hell
unless they have leaped into the pit of fire on their own? And if all
sins are hidden from the eyes of God, how is it that Jesus will say on
the Last Day to the "cursed ones" that he is casting into hell:
"For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat:
I was thirsty, and ye
me no drink, etc.", (Mt. 25:41ff),
if He no longer sees their sins? Individual sins of the "cursed ones"
will be publically brought to their attention on that Great and Terrible
Day. Because of their sins, their works done not in faith, they shall be
punished eternally. Dr. Becker's doctrine doesn't even come close to
agreement with the Word of God concerning this matter.
Dr. Becker then refers to Rom. 4:7,8
on page 13. He writes, "But
to cover sins is to forgive sins. That these two phrases are totally
synonymous, and that both terms are synonymous with justification is made
as clear as anything can be when Paul says, that David speaks of the man
to whom God imputes righteousness (whom God justifies) when he writes,
(Rom. 4:7,8)." (the verses are then quoted). But who is it " to whom
God imputes righteousness"? Is it all people? Verse 9 says:
"cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon
uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham
for righteousness." Verse 11 concludes,
"that he might be the
father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised;
righteousness might be imputed unto them also".
The Bible concludes that those "to whom God imputes righteousness"
Dr. Becker now brings in Rom 4:5 which says, "Now to him that
worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith
is counted for righteousness." He misses the mark though when he applies
this as a passage teching universal justification.34. The Greek word
translated "ungodly" in the KJV should be rendered "ungodly one", in the
singular. The context makes the same point clear also when it says, "But
to him that worketh not". To pull the phrase "justifieth the ungodly" as
Dr. Becker has done and then apply it to all people simply will not do.
Who is justified according to this verse? a) him that worketh not b)
him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly one (note that
neither of these apply to all people). What is reckoned for
righteousness? "his faith is counted for righteousness." This passage
doesn't teach a universal justification, it teaches justificaiton through
faith and not of works lest anyone should boast.
Under the section of "The Place of Faith", Dr. Becker writes,
"Faith does nothing more than accept the forgiveness proclaimed in the
Gospel. It is not a condition we must fulfill before we can be forgiven.
It is not a cause of forgiveness on account of which God forgives us.
The forgiveness comes first. faith is merely the response to the
message. God says to us, 'Your sins are forgiven.' This is objective
justification, and God's message to us is true whether we believe it or
not. Faith makes God's message its own and says, 'My sins are forgiven.'
This is subjective justification. The whole doctrine is just as simple
Dr. Becker is confused about the doctrine of faith. Indeed we
don't fulfill the condition of faith before we are forgiven, but God
does. The natural man can't begin to believe on his own, as 1 Cor. 2:14
teaches us. In this paragraph he clearly removes faith from the doctrine
of justification violating the clear Word of God which says in Rom. 5:1,
"Therefore being justified by faith..." Or Rom. 3:22, "Even the
righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ unto all and upon
all them that believe." Many, many more could as easily be cited to show
this point. To be sure, faith is the very work of God that is counted
for righteousness. And I emphasize, faith is a work of God. Eph. 2:4-10
is an excellent example of this point. Verse 5 says, "hath quickened us
together with Christ", vs. 6, "And hath raised us up together, and made
us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." vs.8, "For by grace
are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift
of God." vs. 9, "Not of works." vs.10, "For we are his workmanship
created in Christ Jesus." Also Col.2:12 , "Buried with him in baptism,
wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of
God.." Or Heb. 12:2, "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our
faith;" One last example, Jn. 1:12,13, "But as many as received him, to
them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe
on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the
flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
Apparently Dr. Becker is clinging to the false concept that faith
is a work of man. When he does this, he is attributing man's salvation
partly to man himself, and Scripture never allows for this. One such
condition (worked by God) when man is justified; is that the one being
justified "worketh not" as shown in Rom. 4:5 above. By grace, for the
sake of Christ, God does it all for us. Paul rejoiced in this great
truth when he said in Phil. 3:9:
"And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which
the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the
which is of God by faith."
Dr. Becker goes sadly astray when he makes faith a work of man and
puts it outside God's justifying act. Faith doesn't accept the
forgiveness already given, for by faith sinful man is counted righteous
and forgiven. Faith doesn't precede justification, neither does it come
after justification. Rather the moment God brings the ungodly one to
faith He declares him righteous and gives him the forgiveness of sins and
In "The Importance of Objective Justification" Dr. Becker writes,
"If my sins are forgiven only if I first have faith then I have no solid
foundation on which to rest my hope for eternal life. I must then know
that I have faith before I can know that my sins are forgiven."36. In
these words is Dr. Becker syaing that his solid foundation is the
"universal declaraton of forgiveness: and not the merits of Christ? If
so, he will be disappointed in his hope, there is no such declaration in
which we are to trust. Only Jesus Christ is the solid foundation in
which we find support and life. Act. 4:12:
"Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other
under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
I pray that I misunderstand Dr. Becker's words here and that he
will tell all that the solid foundation of his hope is the merits of
Christ given him freely by grace through faith and not a "declaration of
forgiveness." But his words here surely indicate differently:
"But there is nothing uncertain in the truth that is proclaimed in
Gospel. Your sin is taken away, wiped out, foriven, cancelled,
up in the empty grave in Joseph's garden (this is likely a
error it was not Joseph's garden but rather Joseph's tomb).
that we must cling. To that we can cling. On that we can build a
hope that will not make us ashamed."37.
A hope built on such a foundation will sink in the sand.
Going on Dr. Becker wrote:
"In times of temptation when I am no longer aware of my faith, when
my heart tells me that I am an unbeliever, I have no place to turn
assurance if faith must come before forgiveness. But if
comes first, if it is always there, if it is true
whether I believe it or not, I
faith or not before I can cling to
sins are forgiven whether I feel
iniquity is pardoned whether I
that, then I know also that I am a
do not need to know whether I have
God's promise. I know that my
forgiven or unforgiven. I know that my
believe it or not. And when I know
Such a paragraph is unbecoming of a Christian.
Of Abraham it says
"He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was
strong in faith, giving glory to God;
And being fully persuaded
what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And
therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness."
Are we not children of Abraham through faith?
"That he might be the father of all them that believe..."
"Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the
children of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would
justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto
Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then
which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham."
Like Abraham, the object of our God-given faith must always be the
merits of Christ given to us by grace, given to us who are not working
but are believing in Him who justifieth the ungodly one. Christ must be
kept at the heart of this matter always, then we too "will stagger not at
the promise of God through unbelief."
Gal. 3:26,27,29 says:
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. for
of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
And if ye be
Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according
What does a Christian do when tempted to go astray? Do we turn to
Dr. Becker's doctrine of universal forgiveness for strength? Heb. 2:18
says, "For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to
succour them that are tempted." Heb. 4:16 says, "Let us therefore come
boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace
to help in time of need."
And further, it says in Eph. 6:10ff:
"Finally, my bretheren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of
might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to
against the wiles of the devil.... Stand therefore, having
your loins girt
about with truth, and having on the breastplate of
of peace; Above all,
able to quench all the
your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel
taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be
fiery darts of the wicked. And take the
helmet of salvation, and the
of God: Praying always with all
sword of the Spirit, which is the word
prayer and supplication in the Spirit."
The spiritual armour given us by God is more than enough to fight
off temptation, the tricks of the devil, etc., among such spiritual
armour is the shield of faith which Paul says above all others
"wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the
Yet, in spite of the counsel of God, Dr. Becker tells us that:
"Faith does nothing more than accept the forgiveness proclaimed in
the Gospel." And "Faith is merely the response to the message."
I ask Dr. Becker to consider the following:
Heb. 11:6: "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he
cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of
that diligently seek him." II Cor. 5:7, "For we walk by faith,
Dr. Becker and other advocates of objective justification disregard
these and other verses teaching the same truths. They seem to believe
that God is pleased with all people without faith. They seem to require
an object to look to with their eyes (their doctrine of the declaration
of forgiveness upon all men prior to faith) before they can believe.
But Rom. 8:24,25 says:
"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for
man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that
not, then do we with patience wait for it."
May God help them.
Now concerning Dr. Becker's discussion of the four statements. I
might begin by saying that Dr. Becker has brought into this discussion
many new statements and charges concerning our case that we didn't even
know existed. I shall attempt to point these out as I go along. One
not-so-new charge says this, "They held that Jesus by His vicarious
satisfaction had made it possible for God to forgive sins but that God
forgives men only when and if they believe, so that man's act of
believing always precedes God's verdict of innocence."39. Dr. Becker
should know by now that believing is not "man's act" which "precedes
God's verdict of innocence." We have always held that God works faith in
the ungodly and that through faith pronounces the believing ones
Next he wrote, "The first three statements are taken verbatim from
WELS sources."40. Yet he wrote in the preceding paragraph, "These
statements were not drawn up by anyone in WELS in order to present our
position on universal and objective justification."39. Which are the
readers to believe? He denies they are WELS sources and then he says
they are WELS sources. Faith Church, the Circuit Counselor, the Panel of
Review, and the the District President all ruled them to be the "doctrine
of justificaton as practiced by the WELS".
His statement concerning the fourth statement is new to us. He
seemingly indicates that Dr. Walter A. Maier is somehow responsible for
the fourth statement.
I know for certain that this is not the case.
When Dr. Maier saw the fourth statement for the first time, he was as
shocked and horrified as we were upon first being introduced to this
doctrine in the WELS. What we have always said concerning the fourth
statement is that it was adapted from material given us by a LCMS student
at one of their seminaries and was taken from a paper presenting the
differences between the positions of the Norwegian Synod and the
Augustana Synod concerning objective and subjective justification.
Basically, the Norwegian Synod taught as WELS teaches, that is, the
damned sit and sweat in hell with all their sins forgiven. The Augustana
Synod, for the most part, held as we do that by grace, for the sake of
Christ, believers are justified through faith. The paper, by the way,
was edited by Theodore G. Tappert and is titled Lutheran Confessional
Theology in America 1840-1880.
Perhaps Dr. Becker will share with us
where he obtained his false information.
Dr. Becker went on to write, "However, because the statements were
used to discredit the truth of universal justification and to cause other
laymen to doubt this teaching it is especially necessary to point out
that the statements do not contain false doctrine."41. This is an
amazing statement. On the one hand, he says "the statements were used to
discredit the truth...", and on the other he says, "the statements do not
contain false doctrine." If they are not false doctrine but truth, how
could they discredit the truth?
May I say first of all, there is not
truth to universal justification. That doctrine of man is an instrument
of Satan himself to turn people away from the truths of Christ and to
lead them into a life of sin, after all, "sin is already forgiven", says
the devil, "eat, drink and be merry." Secondly, when we began to
confront this untruth, we did so privately with the Pastor of Faith
Church, and I might add, for several months. Rev. Papenfuss, not us,
brought it to the attention of the Church Council and later on to the
attention of the Voters. We then followed step two of Mt. 18 and
addressed the issue to Rev Papenfuss in front of wintnesses. After he
called an emergency meeting of the Voters Assembly through which we were
given three days to agree with the teaching of the four statements or be
put out from the church, we appealed. First to Rev. Siggelkow, then to
President Boldt. After it was evident that the WELS was continueing in
their false teaching, we followed the third step of Mt. 18 and
church." About two and one half years expired from step one until step
three was encacted. Dr. Becker should know this, he first became
involved through Rev. Papenfuss in October of 1978. At that time he
recommended the use of the Fifth Petition (as well as other portions of
the Confessions) as a basis for universal justification. WELS has held
firmly to his advice ever since, even though we clearly showed his
position to be wrong. It seems as if they have made their bed and now
will lie in it no matter what the consequences. We strongly suggest they
change their linen.
Then on page 16 Dr. Becker proceeds to rally around the four
statemsents. Statement three he likes as a summary of the WELS on
objective justification. Statement one he emphasized "objecitively
speaking" and "status". These key words are used often to over shadow
the false teaching presented. In statement two, these words are not
used, and here is where Dr. Becker shows his true colors. He writes:
"One really becomes a guilt-free saint only through faith, if we
ourselves to the biblical usage of the word."42.
Very clearly we see where WELS and others have failed and why.
They use biblical language, apply an unbiblical meaning to it, and then
use it in a way not used in the Bible, and then expect others to confess
and teach it as the Word of God. When Christians teach and confess
doctrines of the Bible, we make a habit of limiting ourselves to the way
the Bible teaches the doctrine and uses the language therein. But then,
notice how Dr. Becker found a way to justify doing otherwise as they have
attempted to reconcile such actions. He wrote in the same paragraph:
"However, since our holiness, as Augustine says, consists in sin's
remission rather than in life's perfection, we could say that when
God forgave the sins of the whole world He regarded all sinners as
guilt-free, but if they are guilt-free we might also say that they
considered sinless in the sight of God.
person, a saint."
But a sinless person is a
Once again Dr. Becker has holy, sinless, guilt-free saints jumping
into hell to escape the mercy of God, for he has clearly said in these
words that saints are in hell. In the next paragraph, he uses the fourth
statement to promote this false and blasphemous doctrine of man. But
then he warns, "So this fourth statement is a caricature which has a
tendency to make universal justification look ridiculous." The devil
himself knows how ridiculous universal justification is, we Christians
know how "abominable, terrible notion and falsehood" these statements
really are, as Luther said in his 1522 New Year's Sermon referring to
statements which teach that:
"The forgiveness of sins and justification
the divine imputation of grace, that is on
just, in spite of our sins. This they say
to whom God imputes or does not impute sin
depend wholly and entirely on
God's simply accounting as
, is all that is required: he
is thereby justified or not
justified from his sins."
Luther called such, not ridiculous, rather "abominable, terrible
notion, and falsehood." He said, "Let us, therefore, be on our guard
against this hellish poison and not lose Christ, the consoling Savior."
We say, AMEN. I find it strange, I find it sad, that Dr. Becker and the
WELS are supporting a teaching and making it to be the central docrine of
all Scripture, a doctrine which isn't even slightly supported in
Scripture, a doctrine with which Dr. Becker even admits
"It very likely finds its explanation in the divine attribute of
Has God communicated the central doctrine of Scripture that poorly
to mankind that it's explanation isn't clearly within the pages of Divine
Testimony but must be found later in the "divine attribute of eternity"
when it is far too late for the many already sitting and sweating in
hell forgiven of all sin? With a loud voice we protest such a "terrible
notion" even as Luther protested. Ps. 119:130:
"The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding
unto the simple."
The central doctrine of Scripture , Justification by faith, is just
that simple, it giveth light so that even we who are the simple people,
especially we who are the simple people, are given true and saving
understanding, that by grace, for the sake of Christ, through faith we
are justified, forgiven, and given eternal life. Praise God for His
simple plan of salvation that He has so graciously communicated to all
As always, I submit this letter out of love, fear, and trust in the
Lord my God, and pray that it may be received as it was written.
David L. Hartman
Rev. A.T. Kretzmann
Rev. Elmer Boniek
Rev. Vernon Harley
Dr. Walter A. Maier
Rev. Hermon Otten
Par. 2, p.1
par. 2, p.1
par. 6, p.1
par. 2, p.2
par. 2, p.2
par. 5, p.2
par. 6, p.3
page 271, par. 65, Trig.
page 269, par. 65, Trig.
par. 4, p.4
par. 3, p.5
par. 5, p.5
par. 6, p.5
Meyer, Ministers of Christ, p. 110, par. 2
par. 3, p.6
par. 5, p.6
par. 1, p.7
par. 1, p.7
par. 5, p.7
par. 7, p.7
par. 7, p.7
par. 4, p.8
par. 1, p.8
par. 5, p.8
par. 1, p.9
par. 4, p.9, par. 6, p.10
par. 4, p.9
par. 6, p.9
par. 6, p.10
par. 2, p.11
par. 5, p.11
par. 1, p.12