LCMS Pastor Vernon H. Harley -
Exegetical Study Of Scripture Passages Generally Used To Teach “Objective” Or “Universal ” Justification
It was requested that this study should deal primarily with the exegesis of Bible passages used within our Synod (The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) and others to teach “Objective” or Universal Justification.
The passages most commonly referred to as the sedes doctrinae for this teaching are:
- Romans 4: 28; Romans 5: 9-10; Romans 5: 18-19
- 2 Corinthians 5: 19
- John 1: 29
- 1 John 2: 2
There were various reasons for undertaking this study.
1. On October 24, 1980, Dr. J. A. O. Preus, President of the LCMS, mailed a letter to all congregations of the Synod in which he brought a “complaint... about the classroom teaching of Dr. Walter A. Maier, pertinent to his position on the doctrine of Objective Justification.” In this letter he raised the questions without filing formal charges whether this was merely a “matter of semantics,” or whether it was a denial of orthodox doctrine. Ten of eighteen questions which he had previously addressed to his brother Robert, President of the Fort Wayne Seminary, were cited with their answers in this letter. In No. 18 he stated: “Maier, Harley, and others have stated both to me and to others that they believe this is entirely a matter of semantics. Is this your belief?” Dr. R. Preus’ answer was: “No.” Upon this Dr. J.A. O. Preus commented: “This seems to be the nub of the question. It seems to me that a man who holds a position such as Robert describes has an error regarding the doctrine of sola scriptura. How do we arrive at doctrine if not by exegesis? I do not believe we can allow a situation to continue in which it can be said that a man accepts orthodox doctrine but does not accept the sedes doctrinae (scriptural basis for the doctrine....”
Actually, I had not expressed my personal opinion to the President of Synod, but in February of 1979 I had written that it was being unofficially reported that the matter at the Fort Wayne Seminary had been settled by the Seminary and the Board of Control as a matter of semantics. I had recently taken a course Under Dr. Robert Preus (summer of 1979) on “Justification in the Lutheran Confessions” and one under Dr. W.A. Maier (summer of 1980) based on the Book of Romans, so I felt I knew quite well why no one was willing to bring “formal charges” against Dr. Maier. Nevertheless, it seemed only right to determine for myself whether merely semantics or actual doctrine was involved, especially to find out whether the so-called sedes doctrinae for “Objective Justification” actually do teach a universal justification of the all mankind.
2. Additional impetus for such study came about the same time when it was brought to my attention that two couples at Kokomo, Indiana had been expelled from their congregation in The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod for refusing to accept the following four propositions:
1. Objectively speaking, without any reference to an individual sinner’s attitude toward Christ’s sacrifice, purely on the of God’s verdict, every sinner, whether he knows it or basis not, whether he believes it or not, has received the status of saint.
2. After Christ’s intervention and through Christ’s intervention God regards all sinners as guilt-free saints.
3. When God reconciled the world to Himself through Christ, He individually pronounced forgiveness to each individual sinner whether that sinner ever comes to faith or not.
4. At the time of the resurrection of Christ, God looked down in hell and declared Judas, the people destroyed in the flood, all the ungodly, innocent, not guilty, and forgiven of all sin and and gave unto them the status of saints.
3. In May, 1983, the Commission On Theology And Church Relations of the LCMS, by request of the synodical convention, issued the document for study and discussion within the Synod entitled Theses on Justification. This appeared not only, as stated, in commemoration of Martin Luther’s 500 birthday, but as an effort to resolve differences in the synod on Justification, particularly also on those aspects called objective and subjective justification.
Other reasons could be given for this study, but suffice it to say that during the past six years I have spent many hundreds of hours in this study and in discussions with pastors, professors and others and have found a confusing array of opinions as to what is really involved under the terms “objective” and “subjective” justification. But rather than to introduce those at this point, we shall proceed to the study of the alleged sedes doctrinae for “objective” or universal justification.
ROMANS 4: 25 & ROMANS 5
Before proceeding it would seem appropriate to reiterate one principle of interpretation that appears to be sadly neglected in almost every case by those who insist that these passages teach “that God has already declared the whole world to be righteous in Christ.” It is the principle that any Scripture passage needs to be understood and interpreted in its context, not apart from or contrary to it. Therefore, we shall concern ourselves both with the broader and the more immediate contexts as well as with the specific passages or even portions of a sentence in which a doctrine allegedly is to be found.
The entire Epistle of Romans actually furnishes the wider context of Romans 4 : 25, 5: 19 and 5: 9-10. Briefly stated, the basic thrust of this entire Epistle is summarized by St. Paul with a quotation from Habakkuk 2: 4 : “The just shall live by faith” (1: 17). The question is: Who are the just? Immediately St. Paul proceeds (Ch. 1:18- 3: 20) to show that no man by nature is just in the eyes of God, that therefore the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” From there Paul proceeds to show that this is not only true of the Gentiles who against their conscience and better judgment are slaves of sin (18-32), but also of the Jewish people, even those who sit in judgment over others and think that while they do the same evil things, they shall escape the wrath of God (2: 1 ff.). Throughout this first section of Romans, God is presented as “righteous” and being filled with righteous indignation against all unrighteousness of men (1: 18, 1: 29, etc.), while men, both Gentile and Jew are treasuring up for themselves the “wrath of God against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God”. Therefore if the “uncircumcised” (heathen) were able to and did keep the “righteousness of the law” and “fulfilled the law,” they would be acceptable to God, just as though they were “circumcised.” 3 On the other hand, if the “circumcised” transgress the law and their circumcision is not of the “the heart,” no mere circumcision of the flesh, nor claim of being a Jew can make them righteous and acceptable to God (2: 17- 29).
Chapter three therefore proceeds to show that only God is righteous, that His truthfulness makes every man a liar (v. 4), that He is “justified,” i.e., shown to be righteous by the very fact that men try to justify themselves by judging Him (v. 4), and that this very activity of sinful men (here called “unrighteousness”) actually “commends the righteousness of God” (v. 5). God therefore cannot be accused of being unrighteous because He takes vengeance on sinners; rather, the more men try to justify themselves by judging God, the more “God’s truth abounds” (v. 7) and the more evident God’s written judgment upon them becomes -- “There is none righteous, no not one.” Thus, every mouth must be stopped, and all the world becomes guilty before God (v. 19). Paul then draws the conclusion: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
From the above we should note that God is described as being righteous (dikaios). Righteousness (dikaiosune) is a basic attribute of God which calls for righteousness on the part of man if he is to be acceptable to God. But no man can satisfy that righteous demand of God. Therefore God’s wrath continues to be vented upon all “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
Now, beginning with V. 21 of Ch. 3, Paul introduces a new concept regarding the “righteousness of God.” It is the same righteousness (dikaiosune) of God spoken of in Chapter 1: 17 which “is revealed from faith to faith ,” as contrasted to the righteousness of the law of which he had been speaking since chapter 1: 18, namely, of man’s doings. Righteousness, of course, remains the same quality or attribute, i.e., perfection and holiness, the standard by which God describes Himself, by which He judges and which He expects of His human creatures. Sinful mankind, however, lacking this quality and unable to supply it, stands under God’s condemnation. BUT, and that is “BUT now” (Nuni de) with which Paul picks up the thought he had touched upon in Ch. 1:16-17, GOD HIMSELF PROVIDES FOR MANKIND THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH NO SINNER COULD SUPPLY FOR HIMSELF. It is “the righteousness of God without the law” (dikaiosune), not of man’s performances, but which “is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all (eis pantas kai epi pantas) them that believe.” (The Textus Receptus, KJV, Luther’s translation, etc. have both”unto” and “upon.” This is a righteousness that comes to and upon all who believe in Jesus . It’s 4 God’s righteousness. But as our Lutheran Confessions explain, it is not the basic attribute of God, but as Paul now goes on to show, it is the righteousness worked out, merited and acquired for all mankind by Jesus Christ.
That now is the thrust of the next section. In V. 22 Paul had described this “righteousness of God” as that which is “unto and upon all the believing ones.” Now he explains that there is “no difference.” No difference between whom? Obviously between those whom he had previously spoken of who try to justify themselves by their own works and the believers “upon whom and to whom” the righteousness of God comes. Believers, the same as unbelievers, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, that is, they fail to meet what God demands if they are to have His praise. But believers do have a righteousness ; they are the “ones being justified (dikaioumenoi) freely by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Notice here especially that “being justified” (dikaioumenoi) is a present passive participle . It is not “having been justified,” but “being justified.” In other words, this is an on-going activity, not one that has once and for all time been accomplished. However, the motivating cause of their “being justified” is “the redemption which is in Christ Jesus .” It is this Jesus “Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation (hilasterion dia pisteos) through faith in His blood.” The hilasterion was THE LID ON THE ARK OF THE COVENANT in the Old Testament upon which the hilasmos (the payment) was made, or upon which the blood was sprinkled on the great day of atonement. In graphic imagery this hilasterion represented the place where satisfaction was made for men, where mercy was obtained from God as the O.T. worshipping believers in faith looked through the imagery and saw Christ whose blood alone can obtain mercy for lost sinners. Luther therefore translates hilasterion as “Gnadenstuhl” (mercy seat). Here then we see Christ as the One and the Place where God and men meet and through faith in Him obtain mercy from God. “Propitiation through faith” (hilasterion dia pisteos) needs to be taken note of. While Christ Himself is the true Mercy Seat where God and sinners are brought together and in Whom alone and by Whom the righteousness of God is satisfied, it is through faith in His blood that mercy is obtained and we are freed from the wrath of God and come under His mercy.
This was as true in the Old Testament as it is for us today. Paul now states that in all this God has the purpose “to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forebearance of God, to declare, I say, His righteousness.” In sending Christ to be the real Mercy Seat depicted in the O.T. by blood sprinkled on the lid of the Ark to “hide” the Law from the eyes of God sin was forgiven in and Old Testament even though the promise of 5 Christ’s redeeming sacrifice had not yet been fulfilled. Hence the “forbearance of God” is spoken of , namely, of God patiently putting up with the sinfulness of His believers and forgiving their sins - which He really did for Christ’s sake - even though the real payment had not yet been made. God did this by means of the promise of the coming Redeemer which brought about faith and made the merits and righteousness of Christ their own. By faith in “the blood” yet to be shed by Christ O.T. believers escaped from the wrath of God and came under His mercy.
Now why was all this necessary? Paul’s answer immediately follows: “To declare I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” The text here is very clear. “To declare” (eis endeixin ) expresses purpose. It’s that of making known “His righteousness,” the same righteousness obtained and provided for men by Christ, the righteousness sinners could not supply for themselves. “To declare” (eis endeixin ) in the NKJV is translated “to demonstrate,” which more properly indicates God’s will to show Himself as a just and righteous God at all times, not only in the Old Testament, but “at the present time” (en to nun kairo ), whenever He forgives sinners. Such demonstration or declaring takes place whenever sinners are brought to faith in Christ crucified. Through proclamation of what God in the Old Testament promised to do and has now fulfilled in Christ, God’s righteousness is manifested when sinners are brought to faith and such believers in Jesus are justified or forgiven. God Himself would be unjust, yea, even a liar, if He declared or accepted as righteous those who have no personal righteousness. But God’s believers do possess a perfect righteousness, namely that of Christ. This is an all-sufficient righteousness which God imputes to faith, and so God’s believers become righteous in His sight . It is therefore no lie when God calls believers His saints, when He justifies, that is, declares and accepts, forgives those who believe in Jesus. As Luther expressed it, this righteousness of God which Christ merited for us and becomes ours by faith is “die Gerechtigkeit die vor Gott gilt” (the righteousness that counts with God). In our Lutheran Confessions, Proverb 17: 15 and Isaiah 5:20 are cited to show that in justifying the sinner God does not commit the abomination which He abhors, i.e., of declaring someone righteous who possesses no righteousness. See Formula of Concord , S. D. III, 16.17.
Note here especially that God nowhere demonstrates or declares Himself to be One who justifies all men. He justifies only the ones “who believe in Jesus.” The implication of V. 23 is that if God were to justify or forgive non- believers who do not have Christ’s righteousness by faith, God Himself would 6 not remain just. Such justification indeed would put God into the same category with sinners who try to justify themselves pretending to be just when they are liars and hypocrites. Notice here also that “the Justifier” in the Greek is dikaiounta (justifying). This is an active present tense participle which expresses an on-going activity of God. It is not a past tense, perfect or pluperfect, which might express a once-for-all completed act. We noticed also in V. 24 that “being justified freely” is an on-going happening worked by God and taking place continually with faith. Justification is God’s act, totally objective , but it is justification of believing ones (ton ek pisteos Iesou).
All this therefore completely excludes boasting on the part of those who are “being justified.” Their justification is God’s gracious act which excludes the works of the law and is received by faith which itself is God’s creation. St. Paul’s conclusion in view of this is “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law” (V. 28). Luther was so impressed by this that he translated this “only through faith” for which he was severely criticized by the Romanists.
From here in chapter 4 Paul proceeds to demonstrate, primarily with the example of Abraham, how this works out. If Abraham had been justified in any other way than through faith in the coming Christ, he could have boasted about his own personal righteousness. But “Abraham believed God and it (his faith) was counted to him for righteousness” (4: 3). Believing (faith) therefore is presented here as the opposite of works. Abraham’s case is presented in the aorist tense (elogizthe auto eis dikaiosunen) because Abraham was long ago dead when Paul wrote, but as Paul makes the next general statement about how Justification of sinners takes place, he again uses the present tenses. This is the case with every verb in verses 4 & 5. “ Ungodly” are continuously being justified without their own works; their faith is being counted to them for righteousness. Justification takes place when the ungodly are brought to faith, and as long as we, ungodly ones that we are, approach the Mercy Seat (Christ and His shed blood) in faith, such faith is “counted for righteousness.”
Some have insisted that Chapter 4: 5 teaches “objective” or universal justification. Their reasoning is that since all men are ungodly and the passage states that “to him that believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness,” therefore all men have been justified. They insist therefore that the very heart and object of our faith is that God has justified all men. However, such interpretation would demand an entirely different wording. Both “pisteuonti” (believing one) and “dikaiounta” (justifieth) are present tense 7 active participles. “Pisteuonti” would have to be dropped out entirely, since justification took place prior to and apart from faith, and “dikaiounta” would have to be made over into an aorist or other past tense, namely, one that indicated completed past performance rather than on-going activity. The passage should then read: “To him that worketh not, whether he believes or not, his ungodliness has been counted for righteousness.” According to that line of reasoning, all men, whether they believe it or not, are already counted righteous, justified. Such interpretation is eisagesis. There is no universal justification in this passage.
The next verses (6 - 8) bear this out further. David’s words from Psalm 32: 1-2 are quoted, not to show that all men are blessed b y having had the righteousness of God (Christ) imputed to them, but to describe the blessedness of particular individuals as distinguished from the rest. The blessed are the believers who are justified, forgiven.
Abraham furnishes the example again for the rest of Chapter IV. verse 9 tells us that such blessedness comes upon those, circumcised or uncircumcised, whose faith like that of Abraham’s is reckoned to them for righteousness. In Abraham’s case, because he believed, he was counted righteous long before he was circumcised, and his circumcision was simply a “seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had being yet uncircumcised” (V. 11). And this was all part of God’s design -- “that he might be the father of all them that believe , though they be not circumcised, that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.” Note again, nothing is said about any alleged design of God to justify or impute righteousness to all men regardless of faith. The opposite is stated, namely, that this imputation is to them “who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham” (V. 12).
God’s promise to Abraham, of course, included more than the direct decendents of Abraham. That promise made in Genesis 12:3 took in all nations, here designated “the world” (V. 13). But it was a promise that those would be his heirs in the true sense who would become heirs “through the righteousness of faith.” If it had been otherwise, then righteousness would have been by works. But faith rules out works. Faith and works are exclusives. It must be of faith “that it might be by grace, to the end that the promise might be sure to all the seed.” The seed, as seen before, is not merely the physical descendants of Abraham, but believers of all nations, regardless of their physical ancestorship. Of such believers who are Abraham’s descendants, not according to the law, but “through the righteousness of faith” (V. 13) it is stated in V. 16 8 that Abraham is the father of us all.
Abraham’s faith, therefore, is held up for us as a most marvelous activity worked by God in him through the promise. The God who works faith with His promise is the one “who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” The promise which worked such faith was that concerning his “seed” which should include many nations (V. 18). It involved creating new life in both Abraham and Sarah whose dying bodies were past the age of engendering and bearing children (18 - 19), but instead of being “weak in faith” (19), he didn’t “stagger at the promise (ou diekrithe te apistia) in unbelief, but he was made strong in faith” (all’ enedunamothee te pistei). Here his being strengthened in faith, too, is spoken of in the passive voice. Abraham neither created his own faith, nor did he make it strong. God’s promise did that. Yet Abraham believed; and his faith is not presented here as an inactive, passive, lifeless thing. It is a marvelous creation of God, a fruit of God’s wonderful proclamation. In Abraham’s case, it was faith in the coming Savior; in our case, it is the promise fulfilled in Christ whose righteousness is imputed to faith. Abraham’s faith moved him to give glory to God. Actually that very faith - that God would perform what He had promised - glorified God. There is no higher glory that we mortals can give to God than simply to believe His promises. Faith is a glorious work; it is something we do. WE believe; God doesn’t believe for us. But it is God who both brings about faith and who causes faith to be strong and active. And He does that through His promises. With faith it is as Jesus once told the Jews who asked, “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?” Jesus’ response was: “This is the work of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (Jn. 6: 29). We ought, therefore, not sell faith short. It is as our Confessions state, one of the “necessary elements” of justification, the creation of God which enables us to take hold of the promises of God and the righteousness of Christ. See F.C., S. D. III, 25. It is not the cause of our salvation, but it is a fruit of the work of Christ, a product of the Holy Spirit, and the very beginning of our salvation or new life in Christ.
“Therefore” (dio), St. Paul continues without hesitation, namely, because of what faith is and does (the creation of God which enabled Abraham to take hold of Christ’s righteousness), this faith “was imputed to him for righteousness” (dio kai elogisthe auto eis dikaiosunen).
But God didn’t just have Abraham in mind. He had this recorded in Holy Scriptures for our sakes. “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was 9 imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” Vv. 23-25.
Of whom is Paul specifically speaking? In other words, to whom does God impute the righteousness of Christ as He did to Abraham? The text leaves no doubt about this. It is “for us also, to whom it shall be imputed , if we believe” (v. 24). Actually the Greek does not have an “if” here; instead it has “tois pisteuousin” (to the believing ones). This text simply and clearly tells us that God imputes the righteousness of Christ to all who believe that God raised up Jesus Christ from the dead. Verse 25 is a continuation of the same sentence and proceeds with a relative pronoun, “who was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification.” Just as the resurrection of Christ is an essential part of our (the Christian’s belief), so also is this, that He “was delivered for our offenses,” namely, that He died to make amends for our sins, to redeem us, as previously explained in Ch. 3:25, and that “He was raised for our justification” (dia ten dikaiosin hemon). While it is true that “Christ died for all”, and that God wants all men to be saved, the text here is talking about believers . No new antecedent has been introduced; and V. 25 dare not be torn apart from V. 24 as proponents of “objective” (universal) justification invariably do. It is justification by faith that Paul is speaking of, not a universal justification of all mankind prior to and apart from faith. This is borne out further by the next verse (Ch. 5:1) which builds upon or forms a conclusion upon V. 23 - 25. “THEREFORE, having been justified by faith we have peace...”(Dikaiothentes oun ek pisteos). This is God’s own interpretation of what is meant with the last phrase in V. 25 “dia ten dikaiosin” (for our justification).
There is considerable discussion among exegetes as to whether the dia ta paraptomata (for our offenses) and the dia ten dikaiosin (for our justification) should be understood retroactively or prospectively. Those who find “objective” (universal) justification here understand it retrospectively. Dia with the accusative simply means “on account of” or “for the sake of.” Understood retrospectively, the verse would be translated: “Who was delivered because we had sinned and was raised again because we had been justified.” This is the thought they take from this verse and argue that since Christ was delivered because all men had sinned, now the parallel construction of dia with the accusative puts justification into the past as a completed act, and so just as Christ died for all, so also he was raised because all had been justified. Dr. Stoeckhardt argues that through Christ’s death the righteousness of Christ had 10 been obtained for all, therefore justification of all men was also completed.
The problem with this interpretation, however, is that the justification Paul had been talking about is justification by faith, about a decree of God upon faith by which He pronounces the BELIEVER righteous for Christ’s sake. Stoeckhardt and all others do admit, as they must, that the whole context has to do with believers; but he makes a glaring mistake in confusing dikaiosune with dikaiosis -- the first meaning righteousness and the second justification . The word Paul uses at the end of verse 25 is dikaiosis. We readily admit that Christ’s righteousness was obtained for all, that this work of Christ was completed once-for-all when Christ died and rose again. But that is not justification, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to men (rather to believers) of which Paul had been speaking all along. That’s redemption! That’s the vicarious satisfaction which is the meritorious cause for which God justifies. But “dikaiosis” (justification), as Paul so amply shows takes place in connection with faith which God brings forth, as He did with Abraham, through the promises. Besides, it can hardly be maintained that Christ died because all had already sinned. This would apply only to the Old Testament people, unless we jump ahead into Chapter 5: 12 and think of their having sinned in Adam and therefore also conclude that all have been justified in Christ. But then we’re introducing a double justification -- one prior to and apart from faith which applies to all men, the other that of which Paul speaks namely, justification of believers by faith. But then we still have other problems. If Christ was raised because all had been justified, then all sins were already forgiven prior to the resurrection, and the resurrection wasn’t necessary at all for our justification. It would then serve only as God’s proclamation that all are already right with God, justified even without believing as Abraham did. The unbeliever could then rightly conclude that there is no need for faith or that God’s declaration was a lie, if on the one had He declared them right with Him but on the other hand ultimately condemns them to hell because of their unbelief. Then God becomes the justifier of them which believe not instead of believers, contrary to what Paul so clearly states in Chapter 3: 26.
No, Justification is by faith. It is to faith that God imputes Christ’s righteousness. This passage is simply stated: Christ was put to death on account of our sins, namely to save us from our sins. He was raised again on account of (or for the sake of ) our justification, namely, so that we could be justified. If Christ had not been put to death, our sins would not have been atoned for; if He had not been raised, there would have been no reason to believe, and there could have been no justification by faith, i.e., no 11 righteousness of Christ to be imputed to believers, and no faith to which Christ’s righteousness is imputed. Paul brings this out in 1 Corinthians 15: 17: “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” Clearly, Christ was both put to death and raised again to make our full salvation possible, or as Christ Himself stated: “Thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.”
Here another argument needs to be considered. Dr. Stoeckhardt and others insist that forgiveness of sins (justification) is a completed act and that faith can only believe and take that which is already existent. They hold that faith has nothing to accept if forgiveness is not already there prior to faith.
That, however, is totally out of accord with everything Paul had been saying about Abraham who is set forth as the father and example of all believers. Abraham believed what was not yet existent. He simply believed God’s promise of a seed to be and of a Savior to come. He believed God “who quickens the dead and calls those things which be not as though they were.” He “against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations” (4: 17-18). Forgiveness of sins and justification (which are indeed the same) ought not be treated like commodities. They are the on-going activity of God, based indeed upon the now completed work of Christ; but forgiveness takes place in connection with faith which is also the fruit of Christ’s death and resurrection and which clings to the promises of God. Indeed, the “righteousness of Christ which is by faith” (Rom. 3: 22) which God imputes to believers, is the sum total of all the works and merits of Christ, namely, the vicarious satisfaction accomplished for all men. It is the object of faith; but as St. Paul says, this was written “not for his sake alone ... but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed , if we believe” (Rom. 4: 23-25). This, what God has already accomplished for all in Christ (the vicarious satisfaction, the righteousness of Christ) is what is set forth in the Gospel, proclaimed to men, and that which moves us to believe His promises to accept as righteous (to justify) all who believe as Abraham did.
Another argument often raised at this point is: Unless we place justification prior to and apart from faith and make it universal we have only a “potential” justification and no real justification at all. Stoeckhardt also (and many others) insists that justification prior to and apart from faith, i.e., objective, universal justification, must be held as a safeguard against synergism. They argue that since faith is a subjective activity of man, therefore if it is 12 included in the actual process of justification, man is justified by his own activity, i.e., by works. This is basically why they contend so strongly for “objective” justification and go a step further than our Lutheran confessions insisting that Objective Justification is the Chief Article of the Christian Faith, while our Confessions give that honor to Justification by grace through faith (Formula of Concord , S.D. III, 6, P. 540 in Tappert). Note: See Concordia Theological Quarterly , April 1978, of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN, article of Dr. Stoeckhardt translated by Dr. Otto F. Stahlke. See also the series of article by Dr. Theodore Engelder, July, August, September, 1933, in Concordia Theological Monthly , re-issued by Concordia Seminary Printshop, Fort Wayne, in 1981.
This argument, however, simply does not hold water. First of all, justification is no more “potential” than is the creation of faith in an individual by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. Justification is the forensic decree of God by which the sinner who believes is declared righteous. It is motivated solely by the merits of Christ and takes place in connection with faith which according to Scripture is also the creation of God resulting from the death and resurrection of Christ. Passages like these make that certain: “Even when we were dead in sins, hath he quickened us together with Christ.... For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works...” (Eph. 2: 5 - 10). “...According to his abundant mercy he hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...” (1Pet. 1: 3). Is faith, or the creation of faith, merely “potential” because it is not universal or because it is the result of the vicarious atonement rather than identical with it?
And as for synergism, we would ask: Did the decaying corpse of Lazarus synergize or cooperate with Jesus when Jesus raised it from the grave and when it began to live at Jesus’ command? Of course not! It was brought about by the command, “Come forth.” So too, as our Confessions say, faith is our new life in Christ, worked by the Spirit of God through the Gospel proclamation. Or as Jesus says, “As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will” (John 5:21, see also John 10: 10).
But notice, few if any at all of those who try to keep faith out of justification hold that a sinner can be saved without faith. Therefore, somewhere along the line, faith must be added -- the very work of man which they first thought they had to rule out to avoid synergism. So now, because of their view of faith as a subjective activity of man, they actually themselves become synergists. That faith they excluded becomes the sine qua non which 13 determines whether a person spends an eternity in heaven or hell, despite the fact that allegedly all alike were justified. Yet few, if any of the proponents of universal justification seem to recognize the illogical sequence of their argumentation.
It should be pointed out that there is much in some of our literature (LCMS, WELS, etc.) which can properly be called “faithless justification.” Justification, according to this view, took place once-and-for-all. Faith only receives , accepts, takes hold of an already accomplished justification. Some have actually gone so far as to indicate that faith is not needed at all in justification; it is only needed for the personal assurance of the individual that he is or has been justified. All such arguments fail to recognize that Justification is by faith or through faith and that IT is GOD’s activity, God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness to faith. Justification by faith, therefore, is truly objective , the forensic act of God. There is no need to separate justification from faith to make it objective and certainly no reason to make it universal.
ROMANS 5: 19
Romans 5:19 is the first passage listed in the Brief Statement in support of the teaching “that God has already declared the whole world to be righteous in Christ...”. Usually both verses 18 and 19 are taken together. They read: “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men to justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” A cursory look at the above translation from the KJV, as also many other translations, might lead one immediately to say, “Well, there you have it -- universal justification.” However, even in these translations there’s a problem, namely, in the “shall be made righteous.” That seemingly puts justification into the future rather than into the past as a one-time completed act. Proponents of “objective” justification, however, explain this future to be “logical” rather than “historical,” namely, as pointing to the logical consequence of the obedience of Christ rather than as referring to historical consequence. Dr. John P. Meyer (Quarterly, Vol 37, 1940 of the Wisconsin Ev. Luth. Synod) takes strong issue with Dr. R. C. H. Lenski who understands “ shall be made righteous” in its natural historical sense. 14
It soon becomes obvious, however, not only by reading Lenski and Meyer, but from the text itself that the problem does not lie only in the understanding on one word, but in the interpretation of the entire Chapter V. In passing, it should be noted that it was J. P. Meyer’s book on 2nd Corinthians, Ministers of Christ, that the congregation at Kokomo, Indiana took the words: “Objectively speaking, without any reference to an individual sinner’s attitude toward Christ’s sacrifice, purely on the basis of God’s verdict, every sinner, whether he knows about it or not, whether he believes it or not, has received the status of saint” (Pp. 103-104). In the following section we shall refer repeatedly to Dr. Meyer’s position, especially as he presents it in the above mentioned Quarterly , primarily because his argumentation generally represents the thinking of those who find universal justification in this chapter. The quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from that essay.
Meyer states that Lenski is right in making “very much of the future tense” of the word Paul employs (katastathesontai). He continues, “All we have to do is to find a standpoint from which to reckon the future!” Then he states, “In this very thing Dr. Lenski fails his readers.” Lenski, he says, admits that it is not on the last day that all men will be “set down as righteous, but Lenski does not specify a time when this future is to begin.” He continues, “Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans in the year 58 A. D.. If the future he uses is to be understood as a real future, then the justification he is speaking of must be considered as not having begun before 58, since then it was still a matter of the future. If anyone rejects this interpretation, he may have reasons to do so, but then he has clearly abandoned the literal sense of the future tense. He is no longer in a position to charge those who accept the future as logical with falsifying the tense.”
In the above assertion however, Meyer makes a glaring mistake. Neither Lenski nor St. Paul refer to the time Paul wrote Romans as being the point of departure from which the future is to begin. The text itself determines that, namely, on the one hand, from Adam’s point in time the aorist is employed, and from Christ, on the other hand, from whose time in history the future tense is used. Paul sets the disobedience (parakoe ) of Adam in juxtaposition with the obedience (hypokoe ) of Christ. From the one point of departure many were constituted sinners; from the other many shall be constituted righteous.
No wonder Meyer says he has difficulty understanding Lenski’s statement: “The many with the aorist are determined by that aorist, the many with the 15 future tense by that tense. These tenses decide.” Lenski is simply reiterating what Paul had said previously in Romans 5: 12 and 17. What happened after Adam sinned tells who were made sinners -- death passed upon all, constituted righteous, is determined in the future. Paul had indicated this already in V. 16, by specifying them as the ones “who receive the free gift out of many offenses unto justification,” and again in V. 17 as “those receiving the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness who shall reign through the One, Jesus Christ,”: and then again in V. 18 as those “upon whom the righteous act (dikaiomatos) of Christ is unto all (eis pantas) unto justification of life” (eis dikaiosin zoes).
Those who see “objective” (universal) justification in this verse would agree with Meyer’s statement: “The natural assumption is that the many refers to the same people in both instances, especially since they are so emphatically limited by the use of the definite article.” Yet Meyer admits that Lenski could be right if Paul had previously defined two different groups. But that, Meyer says, “would seem an idle comparison...since Paul consistently contrasted the one (Adam on the one hand, and Christ on the other) with the many .” Therefore, he concludes “the many cannot well be understood of anything but the same entity.”
Here again, we believe, Meyer is mistaken. Greek usage of the definite article is not necessarily the same as in English or German. Neither Luther nor the KJV use the article in translating verses 15 and 19. The KJV has “many”, nothing more. Luther has “viele,” not “die Vielen.” While it is rather common in Greek usage to use the article in referring to various classes, it is purely an assumption to insist that the use of the definite article (hoi polloi) necessitates understanding “many” in both instances as being the same group. This is particularly so when we notice how Paul does not follow through with “all” (pantas), but instead he employs a different word, namely, “many” (hoi polloi).
But when Meyer implies that Paul had not previously defined two different groups it appears as though he has lost sight of the context completely. The entire context sets believers in Christ , who were previously enemies (echthroi) but who had now received the atonement (V. 10) and shall be saved, in contrast over against the entire human race which had sinned (v. 12) and which must die. Or if we go all the way back to V. 1, the contrast is between the status of those who “having been justified by faith now have peace with God” and their former status when they were yet unjustified (vv. 7-9) and 16 unreconciled to God (10).
Again Meyer is mistaken when he says Paul contrasts “the one with the many.” Paul’s contrast is clearly between Adam and Christ, and between those who die because of Adam and are headed for eternal destruction and those who, justified and reconciled through Christ, are headed for eternal salvation (v. 10, also vv. 17-19).
Dr. Meyer properly concludes that in order to “understand the many and future of V. 18, it is imperative to survey the entire passage beginning with V. 12” (p. 110). It would seem as though the even broader context needs to be taken into consideration, going all the way back to V. 1ff. But before we do so, let’s note that verse 18 has no verbs. “judgement came” in the first clause, and “the free gift came” are both supplied by the translators of the KJV, as well as in most translations. These additions, in many cases, help to mislead the reader so that he loses the parallelism involved in the entire section from 17 to19. In each of those verses the first clause is in the past tense. v. 17: “If by one man’s offense death reigned by one...” V. 19: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made (katestathesan) sinners...” In the second clause of each verse the future tense employed: V. 17: “much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ..” V. 19: “so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Here in V. 17 “receive” is a present active participle (gerund) -- the receiving ones. “Shall be made righteous” (katastathesontai) is future passive. This would indicate that where the verbs are lacking in V. 18, they should also follow the same pattern rather than both be made into past tenses. The verse would then more properly read: “Therefore as by the offense of one it was upon all to condemnation/ even so by the righteousness of one it shall be unto (eis) all men unto (eis) justification of life.” V. 18, then, in no way serves to bolster up a contention for a logical future in V. 19.
But now to get the wider context, let us go back to V. 1 of this chapter. “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God...” Actually dikaiothentes is an aorist passive participle and should be better translated as the new KJV does “having been justified.” Paul is referring back to 4: 25 in which he had used the term “dikaiosis” (justification). He indicates here that he is speaking about believers who have been justified by faith. “Therefore” makes this a statement based upon the previous verse. Paul now assures believers who have been justified by faith that in spite of tribulation they can “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” They can live with “patience, experience ... and 17 hope” (v. 4). Their hope will not disappoint them because the Holy Ghost has been given to them (V. 5). As believers they have special reason to rejoice in hope because if God gave His son, if Christ died, for them while they were yet ungodly, i.e., before they were justified (v. 6), something we ordinary humans would hardly do even for a good man, but if God does that for us while we who were at that time yet sinners ( unrighteous, unjustified), much more then having been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. Notice here the obvious contrast between the previous state of believers, who like the rest of humanity were once “weak” (asthenon) V. 6, “sinners” (hamartolon onton) v. 8, and “enemies” (echthroi), v. 10, and their present state of “being now justified by his blood” (dikaiothentes nun en to haimati (v. 9)) and their having been “reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (katallagentes (10)). In this entire section Paul is writing to and about believers who have “received the atonement” (katallagen elabomen) v. 11). Here he assures these believers that they, having been not only redeemed while they were yet unrighteous sinners, now having been justified (declared righteous by God on account of Christ’s death) and having been reconciled to God (made acceptable to God or made friends with God), they (we) “shall be saved from wrath through him...., and having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” He’s telling believers that they can count on their final salvation. They shall escape the final condemning wrath of God and be saved eternally. Any other understanding of this section, particularly of verses 9 and 10, would teach universal , final salvation, for these verses specifically and clearly state that those who have been justified and reconciled unto God shall be saved . Yet both verses 9 and 10 are used by many in support of “objective’ universal justification. However, in order to do so, they use only a fraction of each verse and separate “having been justified by his blood” and “we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” from the rest of each verse which assures all who are justified and reconciled of their final eternal salvation. This kind of “exegesis” ignores the whole point of each verse, contradicts the point of the verse, and also sets itself against the clear statement of Paul in Rom. 8: 30: “Whom He justified, them he also glorified.”
As we proceed to V. 12, we find considerable debate about the translation of “wherefore” (dia touto). Lenski translates it “because of this” and connects V. 12 with the above context. Meyer wants the following section to be understood as evidential rather than causative and therefore prefers the KJV “wherefore” and Luther’s “derhalben.” We do not find the difference to be all that great and have no objection to Meyer’s understanding. It does seem to strengthen Meyer’s point, with which Lenski also agrees, that “Paul is building 18 up a great parallel...” P. 111). But it seems Meyer loses much of his point by not referring back to the previous section and by not noting the basis upon which the parallels are constructed. It would seem as though Meyer’s suggested translation of hosper kai (“even...so” or “exactly ...so”) following “wherefore” would force him to relate verses 1-11 to 12-17.
However, Meyer considers the section 12-17 to be a sort of anacolouthon in thought “because Paul does not carry his thought through with grammatical regularity.” He says this “adds to its vigor.” However, Paul’s thought and grammatical construction fit beautifully with this section when one keeps the first part of the chapter in mind, for which Paul now proceeds to provide the evidence. In vv. 12-14, Paul builds up the situation as it applied prior to justification by faith when we were yet enemies, under God’s wrath and doomed to death and condemnation. Then beginning with V. 15, he contrasts the situation as it applies for those who have been and are justified by faith.
Meyer is content to operate with Lenski’s translation, although he prefers the KJV and Luther’s translation and suggests that we compare Lenski with these versions (p. 112), which we intend to do.
Verses 12 and 13 need little comment. They simply state that “as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Sin and its consequence (death) did not come upon men, at least not upon all men, by an imputation of sin to them, but by reason of their own transgressions and their own sinful nature inherited from Adam. This is supported by the parenthetical statement (vv. 13- 17). Meyer correctly states that death “was simply the result of Adam’s sin.” The judgement, therefore, is upon the sinner because of his own sins, as V. 14 makes unmistakably clear. “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” There was no imputation of sin at all during the period of Adam to Moses because during that period men did not sin against any specific commandment of God. Nevertheless, they died. Luther’s translation reads: “Der Tod is zu allen Menschen durchgedrungen, dieweil sie alle gesuendigt haben.”
This text certainly nowhere states that Adam’s sin was imputed to all men -- a point some insist on making who then later also insist that Christ’s righteousness was imputed to all men. rather, the text says that there was a long period of time during which no sin, either Adam’s nor their own, was imputed to men. Nevertheless, judgment and condemnation came upon all men, 19 because all had sinned. By inheriting Adam’s sinful nature, by being born sinners, they fell under the condemnation: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
V. 14 brings out a contrast that should be noted. “ Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” Adam’s sin was charged to him in a special way, because he disobeyed the specific command to which a threat had been attached, “The day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die.” Between Adam and Moses men were governed by the moral law written in their hearts, the same as the heathen today (Rom. 2: 14-15), not by specific written commandments. So there was a difference in the nature of the sinning of Adam and of his descendants until Moses at least, but they still all died and still do.
Nevertheless, Adam is picked up here by Paul as “the figure of him that was to come.” Upon this Paul now builds the section from 15-19, after which he again picks up God’s reason for giving the written law (vv. 20-21), which, if we wish to jump ahead, was “that the offence might abound,” that men might be convicted of their sins and that they might see the need of grace more clearly, turn from sin and its accompanying death, and so “grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Going back now to V. 15, we note that thought Adam and Christ are compared, Adam as a figure of Christ, Paul strongly points out that the similarity has to be seen in its great contrast as well as in any likeness. “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift.” In exegeting this and the following verses Meyer insists that “hoi poloi” (the many) in both instances must be understood to be all mankind. His thought runs like this: “For if through the offence of one many, i.e., all mankind , be dead, much more the grace of God, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many, i.e., all mankind.” In this particularly verse, this understanding would not change things much, if by “grace of God” we understand that love which motivated God to redeem all men by sending His Son to die for all, and if by “the gift” we think of God offering and intending the gift of His Son to be for all men. But the simple fact is that Paul does not use “all” (pantas) here, but “many” (hoi polloi), and that he had previously and again later defined what he means by “gift,” namely, v. 5: the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. V. 11 “by whom we have now received the atonement” (katallagen elabomen). V. 17: “the gift of righteousness shall reign in life.” Paul also states: “The gift of grace ... hath abounded unto many,” which according to the previous context would direct believers to think of themselves and others 20 upon whom this super-abundant grace was manifested when they were justified (V. 9) where pollo mallon (much more) is used twice.
Meyer now supports his argument by referring to V. 18 where it is stated: “Therefore as by the offence of one upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one upon all men unto justification of life,” which is then followed by “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” He then insists that the hoi polloi should be translated “the many” with the meaning ‘the all’ who died in Adam.
Here Meyer apparently forgot to compare with KJV or with Luther. Neither translate the article. He also takes no note of the fact that Paul changes terms. Where he had used “all men” (pantas anthropous) he now switches to hoi polloi (many - KJV, vielen - Luther). Certainly one cannot ignore this change. As everyone knows ALL are indeed many, but MANY are not necessarily or always all. To insist that many must be all in both instances is eisegesis rather than exegesis. It ignores an essential difference of terms.
Continuing with v. 15, the text specifically states that as in Adam’s transgression “many died,” “much more did the grace of God and the gift in connection with grace (Luther: durch die Gnade) of one Man Jesus Christ abound for many.” What gift does Paul have in mind? As already stated, he is speaking to Christians who have “received the atonement,” who though they were once enemies, under wrath, etc., “much more now having been justified (pollo mallon dikaiothentes) shall be saved from wrath” (v. 9) and who now “glory in God having received the atonement” (v. 11). The “much more” (pollo mallon) of verse 15 is part of the parallel Paul is building up, but which Meyer loses by not considering the context prior to V. 12. He also pays little attention to the double all’ oux hoos (“but not as”) in V. 15 and the kai oux hoos (“and not as”) of V. 16 which bring out the strong contrast between what happens as a result of Adam’s transgression and Christ’s obedience. In the case of being sinners by inheritance from Adam, they sinned. In the case with Christ, it is not something sinners do , but it is the gift bestowed upon them that makes it so superabundant. Much of this contrast is lost if one, like Meyer, is thinking in terms of imputation of Adam’s sin to all men and of Christ’s righteousness upon all men .
Verse 16: “And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but he free gift is of many offenses 21 unto justification.” Literally: “And not as through the one having sinned the gift.” The emphasis is on the ONE who brought many to death and the condemnation. The judgment (krima) which came through the one (Adam) was heading toward the condemnation (eis katakrima). In contrast, the gift (Xarisma) leads in the other direction, taking out of many transgressions (ek pollon paraptomaton eis dikaioma) unto a righteous judgment. Paul uses paraptoma to bring out the contrast with dikaioma. Both are acts, the one a sinful act, the other a righteous act. He could have used hamartia (sin), but paraptoma brings out the active rebellious nature of sin even stronger; whereas the gift, in contrast, takes out of those rebellious acts and their consequences into or unto a righteous judgment . The KJV has “of many offenses unto justification.” Luther has “hilft auch aus vielen Suenden zur Gerechtigkeit.” Justification is dikaiosis; righteousness = dikaiosune . But dikaoma used here is, according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, 1) “that which is deemed right so as to have the force of law. 2) what has been established by law an ordinance.” Notice the direction of the action in both cases. First, there is a judgment of or from one unto condemnation (ek...eis); then, not a judgment, but a gift which brings out of or from many rebellious actions into or unto that which is deemed right. Again the ek...eis . Both Luther and the KJV supply past and present tenses where there are no verbs in the Greek. KJV has “was...is,” Luther has “ist kommen...hilft.” This clearly shows their understanding namely, that the first judgment (krima) is a matter of the past which followed through and has already determined the condemnation (katakrima) of Adam’s descendants; the second, the gift, is the on-going activity which leads to a righteous judgment upon all on whom it is bestowed.
At this point Meyer pays no attention to the “for” (gar) in v. 17 which makes this verse a basis for the previous statement. he also mistranslates lambanontes as “granted” and so completely reverses the meaning of the text. “lambanein” means to receive , and the present active participle lambanontes indicates on-going activity. Luther has “emphangen;” the KJV has “receive.” No wonder Meyer, with such mistranslation, misses what Paul is saying, namely, “those receiving the abundance of the grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” “Granted” might indeed serve better to promote universal justification rather than justification by faith, but with such interpretation one could not escape teaching also universal final salvation of all mankind. Definitely “those receiving the abundance of the grace and of the gift of righteousness” are the believers. It is only of them that Scripture teaches as here that they “shall reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” 22
Now we come to verse 18 which again has no verbs. Here Meyer enumerates “three factors which Paul wishes to compare in his parallel: One man’s transgression - to all men - unto condemnation. One man’s righteousness - to all men - unto justification of life.” Meyer properly also calls attention to the “to all men” which is the same in both clauses. He properly indicates that there is direction of movement expressed when he rephrases the parallel: “one man’s transgression leading to condemnation, and the second man’s righteousness leading to justification of life.” (underlining mine). That gives due emphasis to the double preposition (eis...eis - “unto...unto”) in both phrases with the accusative. However, he seems to lose sight of the continued movement in the structure, for as it stands, the transgression of one man is toward all men and the righteousness of one was toward all men; but the text does not go on to say “unto condemnation unto all men,” or “unto justification of life unto all men.” That’s the direction both were headed, but the previous verses had already shown that the condemnation (katakrima) toward which the judgment (krima) was leading for all is interrupted by the gift of righteousness which super-abounded to life for those receiving it. The ara oun (accordingly then) which connects v. 18 with the preceding indicates that this is further elaboration on the preceding. Thus, only those upon whom the krima (judgment) continues to rest end up under or in katakrima (condemnation), and only those end up with justification unto life (or: of life) who receive the gift, although Christ’s righteousness was indeed obtained for and intended for all. To insist that the final member in this parallel structure also applies to all is to lose sight of the intervention of the superabundant grace which arrested the direction of Adam’s transgression. Here we see clearly that those who receive the gift are saved from condemnation (katakrima). This would also be losing sight of the fact that the righteousness of Christ, though directed toward all and intended for all, and more than sufficient for all, results in justification of life only for believers or those receiving the gift . Note that Paul here uses the word “dikaiosis” (justification).
Here let me quote Luther on these verses:
St. Paul also speaks thus in Romans 5: 17.18 as he compares Adam and Christ. Adam, he says, has also become a fountain which by his disobedience in paradise has filled the world with sin and death so that through his one sin condemnation has come upon all men. But again, Christ with His obedience and righteousness has also been a fountain and fulness for us 23 so that we out of it might become righteous and obedient . And with this fulness it is so done that it is richer and far more abundant than the other. For although sin and death came upon all men through the sin of one man, and on top of that the law through which sin has become stronger and more powerful, in contrast the grace and gift in christ has become so super-rich and powerful that they overflood and blot out not just one sin of Adam (which previously had immersed all men into death) but all sins, provided the fulness of grace and the gift are received and reign in life through the one Jesus Christ. - Luther’s Works (Saemmtliche Schriften, St. Louis Ed., XII, 850, 32.) Paul also speaks in this manner, Romans 5: 18: “As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Thus, though not all men are justified through Christ, nevertheless, He is the Light from which all enlightenment comes. - L.W. XI: 186 For Paul compares (Romans 5: 18) Adam and Christ and says that Adam has become a type of Christ, although Adam has caused sin an death to come upon us by inheritance, while Christ, life and righteousness. But the comparison does not lie in the heir but in the results following the heir . For just as sin and death cling to and follow by inheritance all those who are born of Adam, so life and righteousness cling to and follow by inheritance all who are born of Christ . Just as a person might present an unchaste woman who adorns herself before the world out of love for sin as an example of a Christian soul that adorns itself before God, but not for sin as the former. -- L.W., P. 510, Par. 3 (Translation and underlining of the above are mine. VHH)
Now concerning the crucial verse (19), as Meyer calls it. He writes: “Instead of saying all men , Paul now stresses their great number, calling them the many .” We dealt with this above in connection with V. 15. Here we only repeat that there would be little purpose for Paul to switch twice from all (pantas ) to many (hoi polloi ) if he really wanted to say that the many are the same as the all. All are many in this case, but many are not all. We hold with Luther that “the comparison...lies in the results following the heir.” The final effect in neither case is all. condemnation comes only to those remaining in sin! And the righteousness of life comes only to those who receive the gift , who are born of Christ.
Meyer states, “The greatest change in v. 19 is the substitution of explanatory terms for condemnation and justification of life .” He does not elaborate. Instead he turns to the verb kathistemi . One would expect some elaboration, for after all the importance of the verb lies in the fact that those headed for condemnation are so headed because they are sinners (hamartoloi), and those headed for justification of life are so headed because “they shall be 24 made righteous” (katastathesontai dikaioi). Paul, consistent with what he had stated in verse 10, is saying that those whom God justifies He also saves; those whom He declares righteous by faith he also makes righteous in his sight (Or: He declares only those righteous whom He makes righteous in His sight by bestowing the gift of Christ’s righteousness upon them).
On this verse Meyer again departs from both Luther and the KJV. Instead of interpreting kathistemi , as Meyer does, to be an “act of imputing, or regarding someone, or counting someone in a certain class,” and saying, “It is an imputative, declaratory act,” the KJV says “...were made sinners... shall be made righteous.” Luther has: “...Suender geworden sind...werden viele gerechte.” Both understand kathistemi to mean actually being made or becoming . The thought, of course , in both is “being made” or “becoming” righteous in God’s sight by having the righteousness of Christ bestowed upon them, or their receiving the gift of righteousness through faith.
Meyer now asks, “When will that be?” He claims to have a “disturbing question” here for those who take the future “shall be made” (katastathesontai) to be a literal future, made more vexing to them because “Nowhere did the element enter as a factor into the argument.” Meyer, however, can say this only because he had disregarded the aorists and the future tenses previously used in this chapter, particularly in V. 17, as well as the thought running through the entire chapter, namely, that of Paul comforting believers who, though justified by faith, must still face a future of tribulation and death. The future is all over the place. These believers who have been justified by faith are to know that “being justified, they shall be saved by Christ’s life” (V. 10). When Meyer therefore says, “Now Paul suddenly introduces the future,” he is ignoring Vv. 10, 17 & 18. Verse 18 has no verbs but it according to his own explanation showed all this was “leading to” a future.
By referring to the following verses (20 & 21) Meyer tries to support his argument that “time is no consideration here.” He is correct in saying that Paul is stressing the super-abundance of grace; but he is wrong when he says, “The future seems to be forgotten....” In Vv. 13 & 14 Paul had stated that all men became sinners by Adam’s fall and came under the condemnation of death even though there was no law before Moses. It would seem then that there is no need at all for law. But in v. 20 we are told, “The law entered that the offence might abound.” In that way grace abounded even much more. Men were more powerfully convicted of sin; the need for grace as the only nope for the future became more evident; and grace abounds that much more when it overcomes 25 sin and so assures the believer of its power on into the future to reign through righteousness unto everlasting life. Both the subjunctive “might reign” and “everlasting life” point to a real, literal future, not to a logical future, although indeed Paul’s argument is totally logical.
With this we have covered the basic texts in Romans used for the so- called “objective” justification by which actually universal justification is meant. We contend that to define justification as Meyer and most of the proponents of an alleged universal justification do is to use the term in a strange, unusual way, and it certainly is not the justification presented in Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions. That which took place prior to and apart from faith is the Vicarious Satisfaction of Christ, the Redemption. Justification, according to Scriptures and our Confessions, is by grace through faith. Truly Objective Justification is the forensic activity of God by which He through the Gospel creates faith in Christ’s redemptive work, clothes the sinner in Christ’s righteousness and so makes the sinner righteous in His sight and in His forum accounts this righteousness of Christ to faith as He did with Abraham. God declares His believers to be what He Himself has made them to be in His sight -- righteous and holy for Christ’s sake. These are the ones He has given “the status of saints.” Justification belongs where our Lutheran Catechism has it in the Third Article of the Creed. –
Vernon H. Harley 511 Tilden Fairmont, MN 56031 January, 1986 26