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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Synodical Conference–1872, Part 15: The Justification of a poor Sinner; Judicial (Forensic) action

This concludes the series of blog posts (Table of Contents is in Part 1) publishing my translation of the essay from the inaugural meeting of the Synodical Conference in 1872.  This covers pages 67-68 of the original German essay (pages 20-68).  In this section, Theses 10, 11, and 12 are covered.
    In the discussion following Thesis 12, Walther writes perhaps the longest sentence in the whole essay.  In it he shows that he does not throw out the language of the church of all ages that speaks of the individual, the personal side of faith.  But it is his teaching of Universal Justification, and Objective Justification (i.e. UOJ) that is actually the foundation of this personal, individual faith.  This is the foundation, the Rock (Psalm 18:2) upon which all true faith is built. (More will be said in my later comments.)

Final installment, December 31, 2013 – Soli Deo Gloria!

Part 15
===============  Synodical Conference–1872  ===============
"Over the Doctrine of Justification."
by C.F.W. Walther
(cont'd from Part 14)
...a meritorious work of righteousness [SCR 67] and of obedience towards God's Word, but because the treasure of the merit of Christ, which even the weakest faith grasps in the promise of the Gospel, embraces in itself truly a perfect satisfaction for all guilt and punishment of sin, as well as a perfect obedience towards all requirements of the Law of God."
This Thesis has been added to the previous one because beside the false doctrine that faith is such a high, meritorious work, still there is to be rejected yet a further false doctrine of the Arminians, who say: The grace of God consists precisely in this, that He is willing to regard faith of such value as to save man on its account.  Against this it must be held fast that even the weakest faith, even were it only a small spark insofar as it is only faith, has Christ with His entire merit, just because it seizes Christ, who indeed has rendered such a complete obedience and has through Himself accomplished so complete a Redemption, that whoever has Him is also altogether saved.  Now it remains, however, no matter whether someone is holding a gemstone with the strong hand of a man or with the weak fingers of a sick child, if he only holds it.
Thesis 11: "The faith of the individual also does not cause by its power that the evangelical promise of grace, which God pronounces in the Word of the Gospel or Absolution, to become really valid, effectual, and true, but it simply adheres to the promise of grace and forgiveness as divinely true and [KM 41] effectual, and by thus accepting the promise of God, it thereby at the same time grasps the gift of righteousness and salvation, and has what the words say and what they are."
The subject which is expressed here, we have already discussed in detail in the previous thesis, namely that faith does not give content to the Gospel and Absolution. The office of faith is not to give content, but rather to take out the content which God has placed in the means of grace.  Therefore we never find in Scripture the language, "on because of, or for the sake of faith", but always: "through or out of faith."  Here belong also all the passages of the Book of Concord in which it is said that the Gospel profits nothing without faith, although the treasure is all-surpassing.  For it is one thing that the treasure is there, and another that he profits something.
Thesis 12: "When an individual sinner through faith seizes the promise of the Gospel in Word or Sacrament, and to himself thus appropriates the treasure of the merits of Christ for his justification and salvation,  it is so the same from God as in a judicial (forensic) action before the judgment seat of God for one such regarded, accounted and declared that now for his own person partakes of the merit and righteousness of Christ for his salvation, and also through the personal possession of the benefits of Christ is personally justified and an heir of everlasting life.”  [SCR 68]
The intention of this thesis is to show that, although we teach that forgiveness of sins has been acquired for all men and the acquirement according righteousness and salvation is present for all people, and although we also teach, for another thing, that this treasure is also offered and presented to all in the Word and Sacrament, nevertheless we do not deny, that God regards the individual, if he only accepts this treasure and holds it in Christ and through Christ, as having this righteousness and that he in the same hour, so to speak, is written into the Book of Life, and that this is the Justification which in church usage is plainly called the Justification of a poor sinner, because there every individual stands before God in judgment and is declared free for his person by Him.  This actus forensis, i.e. legal/judicial action, continues throughout the whole life of man, for God is always again and again declaring man free from sin, death, and judgment.  So we teach: when the individual believer shares in the treasure which Christ has acquired, then God also holds this in His court, since he has come unto Christ, as the Apostle says: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus"; now he has part in the redemption acquired by Christ.  Before faith the sinner is righteous before God only according to the acquisition and the divine intention, but actually (actu) righteous, for his person righteous, indeed righteous when first he believes.  It is analogous with the reconciliation.  God is reconciled with us before we believe, [LS XXXII/2, 11-4] while we are yet enemies; but when we come to faith, we also are reconciled with God. So for example Quenstedt says: As Christ reconciled us with God through his dying, so he reconciled us with God by virtue of his death while converting us through the Word of the Cross.  For a man's conversion consists just in this that he is brought to faith.  Thereby we with God are reconciled, after God with us is reconciled through Christ's death.  In the Formula of Concord it therefore says: "'The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all [KM 42] sin' (1 John 1:7), not only according to the merit [of the blood of Christ] which was once attained on the cross; but in this place John speaks of this, that in the work or act of justification not only the divine nature in Christ, but also His blood per modum efficaciae, that is, actually, cleanses us from all sins." (Formula of Concord, Solid/Thorough Declaration VIII, 59, Triglotta, pgs 1034-1035; Tappert, p. 602).
= = = = = =  end of essay  = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
I will have further concluding remarks in the next Part 16.

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