The Plan of Salvation

Rev. Dr. Lane Tipton walks us through the soteriological taxonomy offered by B.B. Warfield in his book The Plan of Salvation. In the book, Warfield asks a series of questions designed to distinguish biblically-consistent Christianity from other accounts of salvation. Who saves? How? And on what basis? As Dr. Tipton rehearses and adds to Warfield’s argument, we come to see how Calvinism is distinguished from paganism, Catholicism, Lutheranism, and all forms of Arminianism.

Dr. Tipton is Associate Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.


Participants: ,

Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program and learn how to subscribe.

119 Responses

  1. Keith

    I am a layman and love your podcasts. Can you (or Dr Gaffin?) direct me to a book or a couple of books which exegete the Scriptures that speak to the Ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer in the Old Covenant of Grace? I don’t have access to WTJ or Rev. Dr. Scott R. Wright’s PhD thesis. I was recently reading Dr Gaffin’s Resurrection and Redemption and listening to his WTS lectures on Salvation on ITunesU. While all very interesting and helpful it did not seem to speak to it specifically. Incidentally – if you could pass along a message to Dr Gaffin – his chapter and his responses in Five Views of Biblical Hermenutics was super helpful for me.
    Thanks, Keith

  2. I really enjoy this program, but just about every time Lane Tipton is on it seems that there is some sort of misrepresentation of Lutheran theology. This happened again here on the topic of election. Lutherans do not believe that non resistance is a cause of election. It is unfortunate that you won’t have a Lutheran on the program, since we have been misrepresented very often. I will be responding to this on my own program next week.

    1. He didn’t say it was a cause, but a condition. It’s an important distinction, I think. I’m curious to see how you’ll treat this. Do you plan to interact with Warfield? Tipton is basically rehearsing Warfield’s argument here.

      1. I do understand that he is taking this from Warfield, but Warfield is representing part of the Lutheran scholastic tradition which departed from the teachings of the Confessions themselves. The major Confessional Lutheran bodies in America explicitly reject any notion of conditional election such as LCMS, WELS, and the AALC. I’ll post something when the podcast is recorded.

    2. Philip Walker

      Adding to Camden’s comment, I would be really interested to hear what you have to say. I had a discussion with a Lutheran friend about the Lutheran doctrine of objective justification a number of years ago, which reminds me of this current discussion. That exchange left me feeling, for an afternoon, as though I was dangling over an abyss of morbid introspection: that if justification was universal, then the distinction between the saved and the unsaved lay in the creature themselves, and that if this was so then my hope had to be placed in my own faith and not in God’s promise.

      It was only by turning again to Christ’s promise to save his people that I could find assurance.

      I say all that not be pugilistic, but to make it clear that what Warfield was talking about (really — I just read the relevant section) worked itself out in my own experience.

      1. Bill

        Lutheran theology focuses on Christ’s promises way more than Reformed theology does. For lutheranism justification by grace through faith is the most important doctrine. For the Reformed it is the sovereignty of God. Objective justification is Christ’s promise, it is the good news that your sins have been forgiven! Can’t make sense how objective justification would make you focus on yourself, when it does the opposite it’s all about the work of Christ outside you.

      2. Mark G

        I wouldn’t say that for the “Reformed” the sovereignty of God is more important than salvation by grace through faith. I would say that for the Reformed grace is sovereign grace and cannot be separated from God’s sovereignty. I think Calvin’s concern for grace is what drives his understanding of God’s sovereignty

      3. Bill

        Mark, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I know Calvin’s goal in emphasizing God’s sovereignty was to emphasize grace, a lofty objective. But I agree with the great swiss Reformer Heinrich Bullinger told Calvin, Sir you’ve gone too far, you did not need to say God predestines people to hell in order to defend grace. Calvin not only offended many christians but put his own reasoning ahead of scripture by doing so. Bullinger did tell this to Calvin and he was right.

  3. Bill

    Lutherans teach unconditional election. I am going to be blunt here, I find both calvinist and arminian views of election nothing more than man’s philosophy, that’s why many lutherans believe the calvinist – arminian debate will never be resolved. Calvinists and arminians talk about a decree of God and how some one are elected to salvation (election) and others to damnation (reprobation|). This is totally unbiblical man’s philosophy, plain and simple And that’s why we lutherans will have none of this. With that said lutherans teach unconditional election, not sure what Dr. Tipton is talking about non-resistance and where he’s getting this. Let it be plain God elects at his good pleasure with no regard to any merit or good works on the part of man, this is taught in the lutheran confessions. How are lutherans different from calvinists? There is a sea of difference for lutherans election is in a way what calvinists call the effectual call. Lutherans teach that election is the cause of faith, as you can see this is unconditional election, election in lutheranism is the sole cause of faith. It is an election of grace and should only be preached to believers that already trusted in Christ for salvation so that they know they’ve been saved by grace, just like when Paul tells the ephesians by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not of yourselves so that nobody should boast. If election in lutheranism is defined as the cause of faith, it is radically different from the calvinist and arminian decree that focuses on God’s hidden counsel. Unlike the calvinist and arminian, the lutheran does not probe into God’s hidden counsel, neither does lutheran theology ever mention a decree as the calvinist and the arminian do. Do lutherans believe in reprobation? Of course not, lutherans teach that God’s election is the cause of faith, and man’s sin (not God’s decree of reprobation) is the cause of unbelief. As a lutheran is very frustrating how calvinists misrepresent us all the time, we don’t want any part in the calvinist – arminian debate because it’s a debate on God’s decree of election and reprobation and there is no place for such a decree in lutheran theology. You want to understand what election is in lutheran theology, well election is in Christ and can only be understood in light of the gospel, and not as decree. God creates a faith in the elect, they become a new creation. Lutheranism doesn’t teach non-resistance, this calvinistic view of lutheranism is rubbish, lutheranism teaches that God creates faith the same way God created the world. When God created the world in Genesis was there any non-resistance? No. When God creates faith in man and man is born again and becomes a new creation is there non-resistance? No. The fact of the matter is that the lutheran view of election is the only biblical view of election, both calvinism and arminianism are vain philosophies that distract us from the Gospel. For lutherans election helps us focus on the gospel by emphasizing that God is the sole creator and sustainer of persevering faith in man. This is the biblical view of election. So tired of calvinist and arminian philosophy that probes into the secret counsel of God that is nor revealed in the bible and takes our focus away from the gospel. Election in lutheranism is about God’s promises in the gospel, his promise of salvation and his promise to grant perseverance to all his children, election is for the comfort of the believer not to get into arguments on how the mind of God works as the calvinist and arminians do. Lutherans teach unconditional election in that God saves man by creating faith without human cooperation and sustaining that faith all the way to glorification, but this election is radically different from the calvinist unconditional election of a hidden counsel of God in a decree that instead of comforting the believer delves into how God’s mind operates not only in election but in reprobation. Lutherans flat out deny reprobation because God does not create unbelief in man, man is already born in unbelief, God creates faith in man (election). So there’s only election in lutheranism and no reprobation, lutheran theology teaches single predestination which is the biblical teaching.

  4. Bill

    As I said, if you calvinists want to understand election think about what you guys define as the effectual call in your confessions. This is basically the doctrine of election in lutheranism. God causes the conversion of sinners effectually, this is what lutheran theology calls election.

  5. Patrick

    Hi Bill,

    You stated that “Lutherans flat out deny reprobation because God does not create unbelief in man, man is already born in unbelief, God creates faith in man (election)”.

    Calvinist don’t believe that God creates unbelief in the reprobate, rather He chooses to keep saving belief from them. The reprobate doesn’t believe because of their sinfulness, Romans 1.

  6. Bill

    Good point Patrick. First off I consider calvinists men of God and have high respect for them. With that said I believe lutheran theology to better articulate biblical doctrine. But let’s get to your point. You see you say that God chooses to keep saving belief from the reprobate. Lutheranism teaches universal grace, God doesn’t keep saving belief from anybody, he wills the salvation of all men equally in the call of the gospel. Those that don’t believe is because they reject God’s grace sincerely offered to them, in the same way God offered it to the unbeliever. This can be backed up easily by Matthew 11:21 where Christ tells those that reject him that if the same miracles had been performed in Tyre and Siddon they would have been converted. So man rejects God’s grace, God doesn’t pass by the unbeliever, the unbeliever rejects the holy spirit that is powerful to convert and save. Matthew 11:21 and 11:23 clearly teach that if the holy spirit working through the preached word would have saved Tyre and Siddon and Sodom and Gomorra and they would have been converted, but the same holy spirit working through the gospel preached in Chorazin!, Bethsaida!, and Capernaum was rejected by man. So God did not withhold his grace from Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, but it was man that rejected God’s grace. Let me make a comparison for calvinists of different terms that we lutherans use compared to you guys:

    What the calvinist calls irresistible grace and the effectual call the lutheran calls election (or the election of grace). What lutherans call God’s grace (which is universal and resistible as shown by Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum that I just quoted) the calvinist calls common grace. And finally lutherans don’t have reprobation in their theology as calvinists do. I believe lutheran theology to be far superior to reformed theology, but then again because calvinists believe in salvation by grace through faith we consider them christian brothers. With regard to limited atonement, well 2 Peter 2:1 teaches that the unbeliever denies Christ who bought them with his blood! The blood of Christ bought the unbeliever, it paid for the sins of all men, both believer and unbeliever as 2 Peter 2:1 teaches.

  7. Patrick


    It seems to me that you think that it is wrong for God to pass over some. You have to remember that everyone from birth deserves death, no one deserves any opportunity to come to Christ. It is only by God’s gracious will that He chooses some to show mercy upon (Rom 9). It is perfectly just for Him to do so. The difference also is that you limit God in power (is He able to save all that He desires to save or not?), whereas a Calvinist retains God’s sovereignty and Power (He saves all He predestined to save). I find much more confidence in a God who can accomplish all He desires to do. If Christ’s blood paid for the sins of all men, then all men will necessarily be saved. Furthermore that would include the sin of unbelief. If all sins, including unbelief, are forgiven then no one has anything to worry come judgement day because their sins will have been paid for. A just judge cannot exact payment twice (double jeopardy). I will be gone for a week so I won’t be able to continue this until then.

  8. Bill

    Patrick, you see we lutherans believe that God’s saving grace is universal. Christ died for the sins of all men and has redeemed all of mankind with his blood. We go further and we teach objective justification. Every man born on earth has been declared righteous in Jesus Christ, the only difference between a believer and an unbeliever, is that the believer knows it and the unbeliever does not know it.
    Lutherans believe in both universal grace (unlimited atonement and objective justification) and in salvation by grace (unconditional election). We don’t try to harmonize these two biblical truths as calvinists do.

    Universal grace is paramount in lutheranism and the doctrine of objective justification (every single human being has been justified and declared righteous by God) is the cornerstone of lutheranism. Here’s a couple of lutheran links on objective justification and you will see the difference between calvinism and lutheranism. Lutheranism supports universal grace in a much stronger way than arminianism, for the arminian Christ made salvation possible on condition that man believe (faith), lutherans go further and articulate the biblical view that Christ has objectively accomplished the salvation of all men. But by the same token not all men go to heaven. Though this may seem as a contradiction, lutherans are very comfortable with biblical paradox. Here are three lutheran links that explain the lutheran doctrine of objective justification, the salvation (every man God has declared righteous on account of Christ regardless whether they know it or not) of all men accomplished at the cross by Jesus Christ


    This is the position of modern confessional lutheranism, both Missouri Synod and Wisconsin in the US, believe and confess that universal justification happened 2000 years ago at the cross of Calvary.. To preach the gospel is to preach to all the corners of the world that every man has been justified and declared righteous by God. Those that believe will be saved and those that don’t will be damned.

    Now in addition to objective justification lutherans also teach that a man is justified by faith when he believes that Christ died for his sins. This is subjective justification. However subjective justification which follows faith, is rooted on objective justification which precedes faith. And election is the cause of faith.

    1. Mark G

      I guess then that union with Christ would have to follow from justification and all saving graces could not be benefits of union.

    2. Patrick

      Im sitting here in my hotel as my kids are getting ready to nod off.

      I am really taken aback at your response. If everyone has been declared justified and righteous why does the unbeliever go to hell? It sounds like in your version God sends righteous and justified people to hell which would make Him unjust. How can somebody be declared righteous and at the same time made to serve a penalty he has been cleared of. Unless of course you view unbelief as sin in which case it means that his unbelief was Never justified. I admit I am not real familliar with Luthern theology, but the way you present your case sounds like Universalism with a slight twist.

      1. Bill


        Universal justification is clearly taught in the bible. It’s basically the forgiveness of sins that took place at the atonement. Visualize it as unlimited atonement where the forgiveness of sins is the main benefit that Christ won for all sinners.

        2 Corinthians chapter 5 verses 18 and 19:
        18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

        All of Romans 5 clearly speaks that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (for all sinners). Romans 5 verses 18 and 19 further shows that the extent of the atonement is as wide (encompasses all men) as the extent of Adam’s sin that affected all men. So Christ’s forgiveness extends to all men in his atoning death and resurrection.

        Romans 5
        18 So then as through one transgression [m]there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

      2. Bill

        Patrick, Romans 5:18 is plain and you can’t argue with scripture. It says verbatim that in Christ there is justification of life to all men, no sinner is excluded from this justification.

        Romans 5:18 So then as through one transgression [m]there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

      3. Bill

        OK, and since I didn’t answer your logic. Though as a lutheran I don’t have the trust in logic that a calvinist would. But let’s get to your point. You say Christ died for every sin, including unbelief. My answer is yes he did. Otherwise I wouldn’t be going to heaven. My faith is weak and is not worthy of earning eternal life, faith is not a work that I can boast or claim for myself. It is a gift of God. Even as a christian my faith is weak and feeble, not meeting the standard of perfection God expects. Faith is not the cause of my salvation, it is Christ’s life of perfect obedience, his death, and resurrection that I can attribute my salvation to. This is objective justification that saves all sinners. The truth of Jesus Christ is received by faith, but faith does not save, Christ does. Of course Christ died for the sin of unbelief. He died for all the sins of all sinners. And those that trust in this gospel promise will be saved. Yes it may seem contradictory that Jesus atoned for the sins of the whole world and purchased with this blood the salvation of all men, and yet not all men are saved. But this is what scripture teaches and the word of God goes beyond human logic. There is no logic, we have to believe it by faith.

      4. Patrick


        I can’t argue with scripture but I can definitely disagree with your interpretation which does not appear to take into account all of scripture. What about all the texts that say Christ only died for the many which naturally excludes some, otherwise “all” would have been used instead. Matt. 20:28, 26:28, Heb. 9:28,, or where Christ prayer in John 17. The list goes on and when we take the whole of scripture we can be certain that Christ died only for His elect. Otherwise God is sending people to hell UNJUSTLY and that we know cannot be.

  9. Bill

    Mark, good point. Let me clarify a few things for calvinists.

    1) Those that are familiar with John Murray’s book on redemption accomplished and redemption applied, our difference is that we lutherans believe that redemption was accomplished for every sinner (not for the elect but for all of mankind, all of mankind has been reconciled to God, grace has to abound more than sin if sin pervaded all humanity grace pervaded it even more, Romans chapter 5 and 1 Corinthians chapter 5). So redemption accomplished is universal. Now with regard to redemption applied it is only for the elect, and God creates faith in the elect at his good pleasure with no regard to merit or good works, slection is not universal but particular to the elect, and is the cause of faith. There is no doubt that unconditional election is a lutheran doctrine.

    2) Justification is the central doctrine of lutheranism. All benefits flow from justification. Objective or universal justification (this would fall under John Murray’s redemption accomplished) and subjective justification (this would fall under redemption applied) is our core doctrine of the gospel. Everything else flows these two doctrines. Martin Luther in one of his most important sermons identified justification with the alien or imputed righteousness of Christ and sanctification with the inherent righteousnes. in the sinner. In what we lutherans consider one of Martin Luther’s greatest writings “Two Kinds of Righteousness” http://www.mcm.edu/~eppleyd/luther.html the great german Reformer wrote:

    “For alien righteousness is not instilled all at once, but it begins, makes progress, and is finally perfected at the end through death.”

    This goes to show that Luther believed that christians can grow in their justification. Justification, Luther goes onto explain is the cause and source of sanctification. So for a christian to grow in his sanctification (progressive sanctification) the only way he can do that is by an increase in the alien righteousness of Christ (justification) which will result in increased sanctification as Luther wonderfully explains. You need to read “Two Kinds of Righteousness” by Martin Luther http://www.mcm.edu/~eppleyd/luther.html to understand that justification is everything in lutheranism and every benefit is derived from justification. Sanctification has its sole origin and cause in justification as Martin Luther correctly taught.

    3) There is as much paradox in lutheranism as there is in Karl Barth. Karl Barth taught universal election but not everybody goes to heaven because man rejects his own election and chooses damnation when he rejects the gospel. Lutheranism teaches both universal grace (universal or objective justification) and election (justification by grace through faith in the elect only as a gift of God to his elect). Lutheranism has a very strong theology of both universal grace and election (the irresistible grace of calvinism for the elect only). Reformed theology in this sense is very weak compared to lutheranism. Lutheranism has synthesized in a masterful way the doctrines of universal grace (objective justification and unlimited atonement) and special grace for the elect only (unconditional election). , Calvinism is strong in its doctrine of special grace for the elect but it completely lacks the doctrine of universal saving grace, while Karl Barth is very strong in his doctrine of universal grace but lacks in the doctrine of special grace for the elect only. Lutheranism is in a way a synthesis of Calvin and Barth in that it’s strong in both universal (Barth) and particular grace for the elect (Calvin).

    4) Lutheran theology can in a way be compared to the doctrine of Augustine’s pupil Prosper of Aquitaine who wrote masterfully (The Call of all Nations (book 2 chapter 1 page 89 on the PDF that can be found here http://archive.org/details/stprosperofaquit027573mbp )

    “Three points are certain in this matter: God wills all men to be saved, the knowledge of truth and salvation is due to grace, and God’s judgments are inscrutable. If we give up completely all wrangling that springs up in the heat of immoderate disputes, it will be clear that we must hold for certain three points concerning the problem on which we begin our Second Book. First, we must confess that God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth. Secondly, there can be no doubt that all who actually come to the knowledge of the truth and to salvation, do so not in virtue of their own merits but of the efficacious help of divine grace. Thirdly, we must admit that human understanding is unable to fathom the depths of God’s judgments, and we ought not to inquire why He who wishes all men to be saved does not in fact save all. For if we do not search into what we cannot know, then we shall have no difficulty in reconciling the first point with the second, but we shall be able to preach and to believe them both with the security of an undisturbed faith. God indeed in whom there is no injustice and all of whose ways are mercy and truth, is the beneficent Creator of all men and their just Ruler. He condemns no one without guilt and saves no one for his merits. When He chastises the guilty, He punishes our demerits, and when He makes us just, He bestows of His own gifts. Thus the mouth is stopped of them that speak wicked things and God is justified in His words and overcomes when He is judged. The condemned cannot complain in justice that they did not deserve punishment, nor can the justified truthfully claim that they have merited grace.”

    1. Bill,

      Bringing up Prosper is a good point. An article of mine on his view of election is going to be published later this year in LOGIA. The Reformed claim to be “Augustinian” but the Augustinian tradition more often follows the model of both sola gratia and the gratia universalis.

      1. Bill

        Sola gratia (election) and gratia universalis were taught by both Prosper and lutherans through history. Both teach that the two doctrines of grace are biblical and we should not try to harmonize them as calvinists do.

        Now I have to admit that whether Augustine taught gratia universalis or not is more debatable, and it’s not as easy to determine it from his writings. And calvinists may be right that Augustine did not teach universal grace. Even though his disciple Prosper of Acquitaine no doubt did teach universal grace.

    2. Jonathan Brack

      I am confused so just a few clarifying question, By “subjective justification” do you mean that a person comes to know that they have been justified but they were already objectively justified before they came to be subjectively justified? What is it that causes subjective justification here?

      Also was there ever a point in history where people were not objectively justified? Was Adam objectively justified when he was created, and was he subjectively justified at Gen 3?

      Also, at the time point of the solidaric event of Christ’s death and resurrection, are Men no longer in Adam? But only in Christ, objectively justified? Your Romans 5 reference seems to say this since the “All” in romans 5 refers to all mankind, then no one is born “in Adam” anymore, but we are now “all” born “in Christ.” as justified. If this is true then is the shift from wrath to grace a fiction, for people were justified in Christ before Christ was raised for our justification (Abraham and Moses etc.)? Or to ask it another way, was everyone born “in Christ” objectively justified since the creation or fall? Is and was everyone born both in Adam and in Christ?

      If everyone is condemned in Adam, is this objective and subjective condemnation? In other words is there a corollary to subjective justification like “subjective condemnation?” Is everyone by nature subjectively and objectively condemned?

      Does objective justification start only at the time of the event of Christ’s resurrection? Just confused on how all of this related to the “plan” of salvation for the Lutherans…

      One last question I am dying to ask a Lutheran: I might be off topic so please bear me out. The Formula of Concord speaks of “the incomprehensible, spiritual mode of presence according to which he neither occupies nor yields space but passes through everything created as he wills….He employed this mode of presence when he left the closed grave and came through closed doors, in the bread and wine in the Supper.”

      If Christ’s resurrection into glory is the basis for his bodily presence with the Lord’s Supper then how was Christ bodily present with the elements when the supper was first instituted? Was his body already glorified before it was gloried? Also, how were the people drinking the same Spiritual drink in 1 Cor.10 while they were in the wilderness if Christ had not yet been raised bodily in history?

      I am not trying to strike up a debate, these are genuine questions I would probably ask if I were at a Lutheran seminary. If you want to point me to resources as well, that is fine. I am genuinely curious.

      1. Bill

        Jonathan, you are making it too complicated. As I indicated earlier if you’ve read John Murray’s book (maybe you didn’t but most on this forum have) on Redemption Accomplished and Applied you would realize that calvinists teach objective justification as well. The only difference is that calvinists teach it’s for the elect only instead of for all sinners as lutherans do. Objective justification happened at the atonement or what John Murray calls redemption accomplished. Objective justification is nothing else than Christ’s vicotory in Calvary that won the forgiveness of sin for all sinners. Calvinists teach that it’s only for the elect, while lutherans teach a universal objective justification. So basicall all your questions about objective justification are easily answered and apply to both reformed and lutheran theology, since both tehologies teach objective justification, for the lutheran this justification is universal (unlimited atonement) and for the reformed is only for the elect (limited atonement).

        Now let’s look at the difference between lutheranism and calvinism. We preach the forgiveness of sins to all the world (the great commission) in Christ. Calvinists do the same, the proclamation of the gospel is to all people. But in order for me to preach the forgiveness of sins (objective justification in the atonement) to every sinner the forgiveness of sin needs to have been accomplished for all sinners so that whosoever believes will be saved. As a calvinist I would have a hard time preaching a forgiveness of sin that is only for some people and not for others, how do I know who is the elect and who isn’t so that I can preach it to them? It would be impossible to know. And as a calvinist if I preach the gospel to everybody and tell them Christ has won the forgiveness of sins at Calvary, I’m a liar because I can only tell this to the elect! And how will I know who the elect are? It would be impossible to know.

        Beside this practical problems calvinism faces there’s a bigger one. God is love, he is just, he is merciful. His justice , love, and mercy are best shown in Jesus Christ, in his atoning death. God’s justice, love, and mercy are the essence of God, God is not just to some and unjust to others, loving to some and hating others, merciful to some and unmerciful to others as the calvinist teach. God is loving, just, and merciful always, and this means he’s all this to every man and the universal grace of the atoning sacrifice of Christ is the best example of God’s love, justice, and mercy for all the world.

  10. Jonathan Brack

    Yes, I have read everything Murray has written.
    Sorry to complicate things…
    Was everyone crucified and raised with Christ 2000 years ago?

  11. Bill

    Yes, this is the good news as well! Believers are dead to sin and alive with Christ! You have to believe by faith that you died with Christ. You were crucified with him. It’s all over in Romans 6. And specifically the old man has died at the cross with Jesus Christ.

    Romans 6:6
    “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin”
    Galatians 5:24
    “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

    Colossians chapters 2 and 3 is all about our death in Christ and having been made anew in his resurrection. It’s pure gospel, pure good news.

    Why is it so important that I believe this gospel? Because when Romans 8 gives us law and teaches us that if we don’t mortify the deeds of the flesh we shall die, we answer with the gospel it is done, the deeds of the flesh have been mortified already at the cross of Calvary! We died to sin! You see for every command in scripture there is a gospel passage of good news that tells you it’s been fulfilled. In Christ the whole law has been fullfilled, this is what Christ came for.

    John Murray teaches this as well when he deals with the atonement and redemption accomplished. The difference between Murray and Luther though is that if you read Murray he would include our death to sin accomplished at the cross by Jesus Christ as sanctification. Martin Luther would include it under justification, if you read the link on two kinds of righteousness that I provided earlier, Luther includes everything related to an alien or imputed righteousness as justification. For the reformed justification is a declaration by God, for lutherans though everything that relates to Christ outside of us is covered under the doctrine of justification.

    Regardless I hoped I answered your question, but yes our sinful nature, the old Adam is gone, crucified at the cross with Christ! This is part of the gospel!

  12. Mark G

    Hi Bill, you lost me. I thought when Jonatha asked you “was EVERYONE crucified and raised with Christ” he was asking you about all people regardless of belief. However, although you answered “yes” you go on to say “Believers are dead to sin and alive with Christ!” I don’t know any “Calvinists” who would disagree with that statement.

    1. Bill

      OK Mark and Jonathan, as much as I (the logic of the flesh) would love to say that the unbeliever is dead to sin and was crucified with Christ I can not do it. I love calvinists, you guys are sharp. Honestly I do love calvinists or I wouldn’t be on this forum! If I were to follow logic I would have to say yes, every sinner has died with Christ. After all this is part of justification (at least for lutherans), however one thing that differentiates lutheranism from calvinism is that the calvinist always looks for logical consistency and the lutheran does not. The lutheran always looks at scripture. Scripture teaches that I’ve been buried with Christ through baptism, so it is clear from scripture that only believers have died to sin and are alive in Christ.

      1. Mark G


        Thanks for all the love. I don’t think you will find any group of Christians more concerned about a proper understanding of Scripture than Reformed/Calvinist types (See WCF Chapter I). Your “lutheran always looks at scripture” and dismissive rhetoric shows some lack of epistemological conciousness. The logic versus Scripture claim is a red herring.

      2. Bill

        Of course Jesus was raised for our justification. Romans 4:25 “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”

      3. Bill

        Hi Mark, I can see that you perceive my logic vs scripture argument a red herring. I just think that you overestimate our intellectual capacity to understand God. I am content to look at the cross and all the wisdom of God is there. With regard to logic, well due to the fall our intellect can’t comprehend God. But beside we are the creature, he is the creator. With Paul I answer:

        Romans 11:33 – 34
        33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?

      4. Mark G

        On the contrary Bill, I don’t believe anyone ultimately knows God by human reason and logic apart from revelation, but by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit who has transferred us from this present evil age into the kingdom of His Son, a la Paul in Colossians 1. Also, apart from God condescending to man in special and general revelation, especially through the person and work of Christ, God is unknowable by human reason and logic. Again, refer to the WCF Chapter 1. Oddly enough, contrary to your claims, it is your view that puts too much faith in the ability of man.

    1. Bill

      Jordan, I read through your blog and is one of the best. I mean some of what you write there. First time I checked it out. You are one of the best theologians of the day! I will listen to to the podcast once I fix my computer, now I have to run it on safe mode with no audio. But in the next few days I’m planning to listen to it.

  13. Jonathan Brack

    Help me out if I am missing something. So Christ was crucified resulting in everyone’s justification but he was only raised for believers justification? Are there then two objective justifications happening: the death justification and the resurrection justification? Or is the death and resurrection of Christ one single solidaric event of justification – objectively. This would mean the hitoria saultis starts universal but then ends limited, right? Or is the death and resurrection of Christ one single act resulting in one declaration of justification which means that Everyone has been justified not only in Christ’s death but also his resurrection. So then everyone is objectively dead and raised with Christ. Correct?

    1. Objective justification occurs through the death and resurrection of Christ as one event. The concept is really pretty simple; God did something universal for the salvation of the human race. This was an objective act accomplished by him in Christ. This objective act has benefits which must then be received subjectively through faith. Anyone who argues for a universal atonement believes in objective justification in some sense.

      1. Bill

        Jonathan, let me say this objectively yes all of mankind is justified, righteous before God. So all of mankind is dead and raised with Christ. Objective justification is the strongest form of universal grace, every sinner is righteous before God. His sins atoned for and paid for. And this is something objective that does not require anything from man, Christ accomplished it 2000 years ago at Calvary. Universal grace in the atonement is best expressed in objective justification and it’s universal, it applies to all mankind every sinner. This is gratia universalis and is a fundamental doctrine of lutheranism. Now we have to also emphasize that there is a subjective justification. This justification does not apply to all mankind. This is justification by grace through faith. Sola gratia is the principle that applies here and is related to unconditional election. Election causes faith, we are saved by grace alone, and unconditional election assigns to God all the credit for our salvation.

        Lutheranism strongly believes in both gratia universalis (objective justification) and sola gratia (unconditional election).

      2. Bill,

        If everyone’s sins are “atoned for and paid for,” what justice is it for God to keep some under eternal punishment? This is either injustice, universalism or an insufficient atonement.

  14. Bill

    For those that want to understand better the lutheran doctrine of grace I will recommend you read “The Meaning of Grace” by John Theodore Mueller. This has been extracted from his book “Christian Dogmatics” published by Concordia Publishing House. Here is the link http://www.presenttruthmag.com/archive/XXVI/26-3.htm This renowned lutheran dogmatician whose book “Christian Dogmatics” is a summary of John Pieper’s dogmatics demolishes calvinism and after you have read this article I just linked you will realize that only reformed theology pales in comparison to lutheranism when it comes to the understanding of biblical grace.

  15. Bill

    The calvinist by denying gratia universalis and the arminian by denying sola gratia are both incomplete theologies with serious lacking in the doctrines of grace. This lutheran author as I just mentioned in my last post shows both the calvinist and arminian understanding of grace as thoroughly unbiblical. Here’s the link again http://www.presenttruthmag.com/archive/XXVI/26-3.htm Those that want to understand what lutherans mean by universal grace and election is a must that they read this.

  16. Bill

    Camden, I do sympathise with what you are saying but the greatest lutheran Church Dogmatics written by Francis Pieper says otherwise and so does scripture. In addition to all the scripture that Pieper quotes let me add one more 1 Timothy 4:10 “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” But let us see what the greatest lutheran dogmatician Francis Pieper wrote and the scripture he used to back it up http://cyberbrethren.com/2005/11/01/universal-grace-the-teaching-of-scripture/

    Francis Pieper:
    Universal Grace. God’s gracious disposition in Christ is not limited to a part of mankind, but extends over all men without exception. Saving grace is universal grace (Gratia Dei erga homines lapsos non particularis, sed universalis est). Scripture rejects particularism when it expressly declares, first, that the object of God’s grace (love, mercy, etc.) in Christ are all men. Titus 2:11: “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” 1 Tim. 2:4: “Who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” John 3:16: “God so loved the world,” the whole world. 1 John 2:2: “And He is the Propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Scripture forbids the limiting of κόσμος, John 3:16, to “the world of the elect,” for according to v. 18 also the unbelievers belong to the “world.” Second, Scripture expressly states that the gratia universalis is for each and every individual. 2 Pet. 3:9: “The Lord is … not willing that any should perish.” And when the Lord swears: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek. 33:11), He declares that His saving will extends to every individual who is “wicked.” And, in the third place, Scripture testifies in many places that God’s saving grace embraces also all those who ultimately perish. The merit of Christ covered their sins, too. 1 Cor. 8:11: The weak brother, “for whom Christ died,” will perish. Rom. 14:15: “Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died.”42 2 Pet. 2:1: The false teachers who “bring upon themselves swift destruction” are denying “the Lord that bought them.” The Lord is minded to convert those who ultimately are lost. Matt. 23:37: “How often would I have gathered thy children [Vol. 2, Page 22] together … and ye would not.”43 Gerhard says that Scripture attests the universality of grace in words, Christ with tears, and God Himself with an oath.44

    The gratia universalis is the doctrine of the Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Confessions maintain the universality of saving grace in its full extent. They teach the threefold universalism of the love of the Father, of the merit of Christ, and of the efficacious operation of the Holy Ghost, through the means of grace, on all hearers of the Word.45 Limited grace is definitely rejected in the Lutheran Confessions. “Therefore we reject the following errors: 1) As when it is taught that God is unwilling that all men repent and believe the Gospel. 2) Also, that when God calls us to Himself, He is not in earnest that all men should come unto Him. 3) Also, that God is unwilling that everyone should be saved, but that some, without regard to their sins, from the mere counsel, purpose, and will of God, are ordained to condemnation, so that they cannot be saved.” (Trigl. 837, 17 ff.)

  17. Bill

    Camden, I actually would recommend you read all that Pieper wrote on unversal grace. An excerpt from his book Church Dogmatics, who I understand was until recently the chief dogomatics book used in Missouri Synod lutheran seminaries. Here’s the link again, I only quoted very little in my previous post, just copy pasted the first two paragraphs. But Pieper goes onto to dismantle reformed theology in a way that is a must read for any calvinist that wants to understand where lutherans come from. Here’s the link again http://cyberbrethren.com/2005/11/01/universal-grace-the-teaching-of-scripture/
    Make no mistake lutheransm has a doctrine of universal grace that is every bit as strong as Karl Barth, and we have a doctrine of particular grace that is every bit as strong as John Calvin’s. And both graces are monergistic. We are actually more monergist than calvinist, but this is for another time.

    1. Patrick


      You said “[Lutherans] are actually more monergist than calvinist”. The problem with what you believe is that it is completely synergist. If God has done all that He can for the world- including all mankind past and present- and the only thing that keeps them from eternal life is for them to believe, then the final work or action lies with man making your system synergistic. Calvinist believe that even the faith we have is given by God, so that it is all God’s work and not of our doing.

  18. Bill

    Actually to really answer Camden’s question and concern, we need to realize that the unbeliever resists God’s saving grace. Although Christ bought him with his blood he tramples on Christ’s blood and is condemned on that account. God is still just, his sins were atoned by Christ (when Christ said it is finished, he took upon himself the sins of all mankind), and there is no universalism. These were the 3 concerns Camden raised but they are easily addressed as I have just shown.

    Now leaving this aside, we’re brothers in Christ and everybody that has trusted in Christ for salvation will be saved. So I just want to make sure that nobody here thinks I don’t consider him a christian brother because he / she has a different understanding of the atonement. I want to make this very clear, we are all christians first, the Church is the body of believers. I want to make sure that those that have a calvinist understanding of scripture realize that I view you as christian brothers.

  19. Bruce

    This entire discussion began because Warfield misunderstood a point of Lutheran theology which was then repeated by Lane Tipton. Can’t we just get Tipton to address why he believed Warfield rather than, say, CFW Walther, who was his contemporary?

  20. Jonathan Brack

    Ok so all of mankind is objectively raised with Christ and is seated in the heavenly places with him – objectively. Correct?
    Also, we are talking about ALL Mankind right? This includes OT and NT people. So that all men are born both in Adam and in Christ – objectively.
    So that in one way no one was ever separated from Christ- objectively. Right?

  21. Bill

    Patrick, you don’t understand. And yes lutherans are much more monergistic than calvinists. I didn’t want to get into this one, as I said this was for another day. But now you are bringing it up and I have to reply. For lutherans election causes faith, faith is created by God in the believer. Just like God created the world in Genesis, guess what he makes us anew. The believe does nothing. This is pure lutheranism. There is zero synergism, zero. Now let’s good at calvinism and I will prove to you that it is not even close to lutheranism when it comes to monergism. Calvinism requires man to act, and not only that but it also teaches an infused grace that is required for man to believe! Wow, so much for calvinist monergism. This is why the calvinist makes a big deal that regeneration precedes faith. Why? Because here it goes the calvinist thinking since man is dead in his trespasses he is unable to believe, so God needs to regenerate him so that man can believe. Wow! How monergistic is that? God needs to infuse grace in man (regenerate him) so that man then can believe! It’s all about man, it’s all about infused grace (regeneration). Faith (believing) becomes a work that the regenerate performs, and follows regeneration. Guess what lutherans teach that God came to save sinners, not regenerated man, and God creates faith in sinners without the sinner having to do anything, that’s why we don’t make a big deal about regeneration having to precede faith, man does nothing in conversion so he doesn’t need to be regenerated before he can believe.

    Let’s look at the atonment now lutherans teach that Christ paid for the penalty for sin for all men. He bought everybody with his blood. Man doesn’t need to do anything, faith is not part of objective justification or the atonement. This is the most powerful form of atonement where grace shines purely. Compare it to arminians that say that Christ died on the cross but Christ made salvation possible, lutherans don’t teach salvation was possible but it was accomplished. Calvinists also teach salvation was accomplished at Calvary but they limit it to the elect only, while lutherans teach that Christ grace overcame the sin of the whole world, reconciled the whole creation to himself (2 Corinthians chapter 5), atoned for all the sins of all of mankind. And all this Christ did by himself alone.

    This is radical grace, this true monergism, this is lutheranism.

    But anyhow, I want to tone this down a bit. Because this is not a competition of who is more monergistic, but I certainly believe that lutheran theology is more monergistic than calvinist theology and I have just given my reasons for it. However this is going to sidetrack us and go off topic, that’s why I did not want to bring this up. And by the way when lutherans teach that man resists God’s grace this does not detract one bit from their monergism. Because when it comes to conversion man contributes nothing, there is no such thing as non-resistance, as I have said man does nothing God does it all in conversion. This is why we don’t even make a big deal that man needs to be regenerated prior to faith because he needs to do nothing, so no need for regeneration prior, faith is a gift not a work. For us lutherans is like when parents adopt a baby, what does the baby do, nothing. So yes we are way more monergistic than calvinists are. And we don’t talk about infused grace (regeneration) prior to faith as calvinists do so that man can do something because man does nothing in conversion.

  22. Bill

    Jonathan, of course there was separation from God by Adam’s sin. Otherwise there would have been no need for Christ! Christ restored that separation. This is the Ministry of Reconciliation that Paul teaches us we ought to preach in 2 Corinthians chapter 5.

    1. Jonathan Brack

      Ok I am confused, so people were separated from God until Christ’s death and resurrection. So OT saints were not objectively justified, but they were subjectively justified? Or both? So the “universal” in universalism includes or excludes those who came before Christ? What I mean is my same question before … was Adam both justified and raised at the same time he fell ?
      Also, is “resistance” to the Gospel a sin? Or is it just nothing …
      Also, do unbelievers go to Hell for the sins that Jesus paid for? Or do they just go to Hell for resisting. Also, what makes subjective justification different than objective justification? Does anything about the declaration change when it become justified. Does “You are not guilty” become more true or just realized cognitively?
      Also, are unbelievers objectively sanctified as well? Is there subjective sanctification. Also, what is it in justification that causes sanctification? Dose justification harbor a way to effect renovation. Does the blood and body of Jesus only justify universally but sanctify in a limited way? I am thinking of Heb 10:10 “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”
      If Jesus was raised for our justification, but we were sanctified through the offering of blood were we simultaneously justified and sanctified objectively in the death and resurrection of Christ? If you are separated from Christ do you still have justification sanctification and adoption. Is anyone separated from Christ when they are born? Is everyone born subjectively dead but simultaneously alive with Christ?

  23. Bill

    You see what’s happening here. What the Reformed miss about lutherans is this. Our monergism is a monergism of salvation and grace. Remember election in lutheranism is about God’s special grace, it’s the cause of faith as I’ve said earlier. There is no monergism in lutheranism for damnation, we only confess single predestination and not double predestination as the calvinist does. That’s why calvinists don’t think we are monergist or some do but they think lutherans are half arminians. No we are not, it’s just that we don’t teach monergism when man is lost as calvinism does. Man is responsible for damnation not God, This is why even Camden Bucey got confused when he wrote to me:

    “Bill, If everyone’s sins are “atoned for and paid for,” what justice is it for God to keep some under eternal punishment? This is either injustice, universalism or an insufficient atonement.”

    I’m sorry but we blame man always when he’s condemned by a just God. And we hold man accountanble because he resists God’s grace. If God’s grace was irresistible as in calvinism then Camden is right, lutheran theology would lead to injustice on the part of God, universalism or insufficient atonement. And although we teach man resists grace, we also teach election, which means in conversion God creates faith and man does nothing so all the credit goes to God in salvation and man in damnation.

    1. Patrick


      I don’t think anyone is confused on this side of the discussion. It is rather simple if all of man’s sins were atoned for then God CANNOT justly hold them accountable any longer. You cannot say that man is held responsible for resisting God’s grace and at the same time say that all of his sins were paid for. You need to either say that all sins, EXCEPT that of unbelief are paid for, or admit that God is unjust in sending those who have been forgiven to hell. You cannot have it both ways. And to fall back and say that this particular belief is a paradox, much in the same way the Trinity is, is a cop out when God has provided a clear logical answer in His word.

      1. Bill

        Patrick, we have to be careful when you talk about the sin of unbelief and whether Christ died for it or no. If by unbelief we understand the first half of the table of the law don’t you think all christians commit that sin as well? So we are all unbelievers if we define unbelief as disobedience to God’s command, tell me any of the 10 commandments that you obey perfectly. None, not a single one. So Christ had to die for unbelief if we define unbelief as a violation of the first table of the law. But I don’t like to define unbelief this way because then we christians would be unbelievers as well if we define unbelief as disobedience to God’s law.

        Because of this I’d rather say unbelief is the condition of not knowing Christ as a result of rejecting God’s general revelation in nature (which we all do and it leaves us without excuse, nobody is saved by natural revelation, we need to hear the gospel) and his special revelation in the gospel. Did Christ die for the sin of unbelief? He did not otherwise the unbeliever would go to heaven. Unbelief is trampling on God’s saving grace and Christ could have never died for this sin. Unbelief is the unforgivable sin of First John and the sin against the holy spirit that Christ spoke against.

        You are pushing me Patrick, calvinists go way too deep into the mind of God. I don’t mind answering for now, but I’d rather you accepted by faith John 1:29 “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

        I have scripture on my side so I don’t mind having a dialogue with calvinists. Nevertheless some of my answers are going to surprise you but I will back them up with scripture. And I will go further and tell you that John Calvin taught that Christ did not die for the sin of unbelief. I hope you don’t challenge on this because let me tell you that I will pull Calvin’s commentary and throw it at you. I don’t want to do this, but let’s say that I had this conversation a few months ago with another calvinist on the unforgivable sin or sin that leads unto death of first John and on the sin against the holy spirit that Christ speaks about that won’t be forgiven and Calvin teaches that this sin is unbelief (the willful rejection of God’s revelation) that is persisted until death, a deliberatge rejection of the holy spirit revealed in Christ. So unbelief persisted until death or final apostacy is the only sin Christ did not die for.

        So this utterly destroys your argument when you tell me that for my theology to work Christ would not have died for the sin of unbelief. And he did not die for the sin of unbelief persisted until death. I hate to do this to you, I shouldn’t need to use logic to prove you wrong, it should suffice that you accept by faith John 1:29 but you reject the teaching of scripture that Christ atoned for the sins of the whole world, all of mankind.

  24. Bill

    Patrick, you wrote:
    “You need to either say that all sins, EXCEPT that of unbelief are paid for”

    I have just said that, though reluctantly and posted it a minute ago just above this post. But as I said you are pushing the limits here, you should content yourself with believing by faith that Christ atoned and paid for the sins of all mankind rather than wanting it proved by logic.

  25. Bruce

    Now, how would the Reformed like it if Lutherans misrepresented their positions? Would you like it if they said that you believe something like this, “I am (hopefully) predestined, and for that reason I believe?” One could easily gather that from the kind of linear and causal thinking so common among the Reformed.

    If Lutherans hold views that proceed from different criteria, why should they be misrepresented? This is a matter of honesty and decency, more than theological distinction.

  26. Bill

    Thank you Bruce. I love my christian brothers (and I mean those that hold to calvinist view of scripture) but to a point I am upset how lutheranism is misrepresented. I would appreciate calvinists read a bit about lutheranism before passing judgment. I am not reformed but I have read Calvin’s Institutes from cover to cover as well as the reformed confessions.

    I am also disappointed at some of the question I got here questioning the logic of basic lutheran tenets. In a way I am glad because I had never thought before whether the sin of unbelief has been atoned for until I got asked this question in this forum. Initially I was got off guard and I was unaware of this calvinist trap that they use in order to prove limited atonement.

    I have boldly stated and will say once more.Christ did not die for the sin of unbelief. This sin can’t possibly be atoned for because scripture speaks loud and clear,

    Mark 16:16
    He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

    Unbelief is the unforgivable sin that Christ spoke about. Unbelief is also the sin of apostacy those that leave the faith, the sin unto death that First John speaks about and that tells believers we should not pray for this sin to be forgiven because it can not.

    Christ died for all sins but he did not die for the sin of unbelief. And if any calvinist disagrees I challenge them to tell me what is the unforgivable sin Christ spoke about? What is the sin unto death for which there is no forgiveness of First John? it is unbelief and it can not be any other sin. For this sin there is no atonement. Also Hebrews 10:26 to 10:29 refer to unbelief after receiving the knowledge of the truth, this is those that resist god’s saving grace, fall from the faith and commit final apostacy. The atonement did not cover this sin either, Christ’s sacrifice did not atone for the sin of unbelief.

    Hebrews 10 verses 26 to 29
    26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

    And there you go the whole calvinist argument falls to pieces, the calvinist argument crumbles under the power of the word of almighty God.

  27. Bruce

    Bill, one of the things that limited atonement does is to leave one in the middle of a large lake on a canoe with no paddle. Once they have deconstructed all the bible passages that would inform them that Jesus has died and risen for them, they are left with either wishful thinking or must find a non biblical source from which to grasp faith. Typically, and according to their confessions, they look inward for fruits of faith and good works. If they have them they must be atoned for. One wonders how Paul prior to conversaion would have applied the same logic, “Well, I keep the commandments, my persecution of Christians is going swimmingly, and I’m rising in the ranks of Phariseeism. I MUST be elect.” Of course he became a Lutheran when Jesus spoke to him ‘extra nos’ on the Damascus road, and when his sins were washed away in baptism.

  28. Bill

    Bruce I agree. Also limited atonement creates a God of partiality that treats the elect and non elect in a different way. God loves everybody, he’s not a God of partiality. Partiality is a sin and God can never sin.

    James 2:9
    But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

    Also Christ promised that all sins will be forgiven to every man in Calvary, this forgiveness promised was not for the elect but for all men. Christ was speaking to the pharisees that were sinning against the holy spirit that all their sins will be forgiven. The promise was not for the elect when Christ said in Matthew 12:31 what he delivered at Calvary, the sins of all mankind will be forgiven.

    Matthew 12:31
    Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.

    There you go, all men have been equally forgiven at Calvary, this is unlimited atonement. This is the only biblical teaching. This is why you hear lutherans so many times saying that we are condemned because of unbelief, not because of theft, murder (anybody that gets angry can be charged with this sin), adultery (anybody that looks at a woman with a lustful eye has transgressed), otherwise not a single soul would saved. Calvinists say that God passes by the reprobate, and he is just in doing so. Both of these calvinists claims are wrong. God does not pass the reprobate and he would be unfaithful to his promise in Matthew 12:31 that all sins will be forgiven in every man. Also Acts 10:34 teaches that God is not a respecter of persons, he treats everybody the same. God is love,justice, and merciful with everybody.

    As to the charge of calvinists that if all sins are forgiven then God would have to send everybody to heaven. This calvinist rationalism wants to prove the atonement has to be limited somehow. So there are three ways of doing this:

    1) The atonement only applies to some people, this is calvinism.
    2) Christ made salvation possible for man but in the atonement didn’t save anybody, this is arminianism

    Both the arminian and calvinist teaching is unbiblical. There is a third way and it’s the only biblical way.

    3) Christ died and paid in full for the sins of all of mankind. However there is one sin and one sin only that has not been atoned for anybody. And this is the sin of rejecting the holy spirit, to willfully reject God’s revelation. This sin can not be atoned. Christ calls it the sin against the holy spirit, first John the sin unto death, and Hebrews the sin of those that trample on Christ’s sacrifice.

    This is not the way I wanted this to end. But if calvinism wants logic I’m going to give them what they want and speak on their terms so they can see their mistake.

  29. Bill

    Just to be clear the only sin not covered at the atonement is unbelief persisted till death, those that die in a condition of unbelief, it’s a sin condition that has not been atoned for. We are not talking here about unbelief prior to conversion, this is not the sin unto death scripture speaks about and this is not the blasphemy against the holy spirit that Christ says it’s unforgivable. The sin that has not been atoned for is willful unbelief persisted till death, a rejection of either God’s general revelation through nature that leaves us without excuse (Romans 1) and / or a rejection of the gospel news that is persisted for the whole life and man dies in unbelief. For this sin and this sin only, due to its nature, there is no atonement. The sin of not knowing God as a result of rejecting his general and special revelation condemns us and hasn’t been atoned for by Christ. The sin of unbelief as Luther correctly taught is also the cause of all other sins, so when this sin is imputed all other sins are imputed as well.
    That there is one sin that is not atoned for Scripture teaches in Matthew 12, Hebrews, and 1 John as I have pointed out earlier. So this is not for debate.

  30. Bill

    The sin of dying in Adam (unbelief) could not have possibly been atoned for, else everybody that tramples on the blood of Christ and rejects his grace would go to heaven.

    This explained how Christ took upon himself the sins of all mankind and yet not all men are saved. Christ paid in full the penalty for sin for both the apostle John and Judas, for Israel and for Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet one is saved and the other one is not. This is due to the fact that one dies in Christ and the other one in Adam. But it has nothing to do with the extent of the atonement to the elect only, in the atonement Christ took upon himself the sins of all mankind. Grace abounded for every human being equally at the cross, just like sin had spread to every human being equally through Adam’s fall.

    1. Jonathan Brack

      Do Lutherans believe that people who never heard of their objective justification are saved because they never have the chance “not to believe?” or the “blasphemy of the spirit….?

  31. Patrick

    You sound pretty condescending, repeatedly stating things like “I have scripture on my side so I don’t mind having a dialogue with calvinists.” That is funny because I hear the same thing coming from those on TBN and word of faith movement in backing their false beliefs. The point is we need to interpret scripture right, which it seems you are struggling with. You want to continue to deny the contradictions in your belief system so this conversation is pointless.

    1. Bill

      I plead guilty in that I have very little knowledge.

      1 Corinthians 13 verses 8,, 9, and 10
      “if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

      Also I was taken aback with some of the comments here but later on I realized you guys were basically repeating the mistake of John Owen who wrote what most of you were repeating. As I wrote before i was caught off guard, had I been familiar with John Owen’s writing I would have reacted in a more calm manner. Here is John Owen who thought somehow that he could irrefutably prove with logic unlimited atonement. This is John Owen’s most disgraceful writing, from his book “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”. I just found this writing from Owen here http://www.blogos.org/compellingtruth/limited-atonement.html which the Reformed accept as gospel, and I have already solidly refuted the folly of Owen who failed to realized that one type of sin was never atoned for as I have expressed at length.

      John Owen:
      “God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved . . . If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, ‘Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.’ But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will” (page 61).”

  32. Bill

    Jonathan, no, you are saved by grace through faith. You either have Christ or you don’t. With that said you bring up a good point, in that the sin of those that reject the holy spirit (saving grace) increases judgment. Again it’s not me saying this, it is scripture. John 15:22 is the clearest scripture proving this.

    John 15:22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.

    I don’t interpret John 15:22 as if those that don’t hear about Christ have no sin. Rather they have not trampled on the blood of Christ, his atoning sacrifice, but they still have other sins as Romans 1 leaves everybody without excuse through natural revelation. So even those that never hear Christ because they haven’t heard the gospel are still in Adam.

    Luke 11:49 and 11:50 is also clear proof that rejecting Christ increases condemnation:
    49 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation.

    This is why the reformed doctrine of irresistible grace pretty much leaves the sinner off the hook in that it doesn’t acknowledge the most grievous sin of rejecting the holy spirit. Since for calvinism the holy spirit only works in the elect, nobody recjects the holy spirit. This is contrary to Acts 7:51 that clearly teaches that God’s grace is resistible Acts 7:51 “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.”

    1. Jonathan Brack

      Ok, in your previous post you spoke of “all sin being covered except the sin of unbelief – the kind of unbelief that tramples the son of God under foot.” Yet the unbelief that we are speaking of (not the blasphemous kind) is also not covered in the atonement… right? Is it all unbelief that is not covered in the atonement or is it just the “unforgivable sin?”

    2. Bill

      I am going to take back what I said about calvinism in the post above. Although the reformed confessions teach that God passes by the reprobate and leaves in their sin, they do teach that there is a “common operation of the spirit”, so I will concede that calvinism acknowledges the sin of the holy spirit. My apologies to the Reformed for misrepresenting them.

      Also I will go further and reaffirm the positive that unites us. I know lutherans criticize calvinists for separating an effectual call from the general call of the gospel. But I will go further and say this, I would be very comfortable worshipping in Reformed Church (and have done it in the past). I do deeply regret though their misunderstanding of lutheranism. But I also deeply regret the misunderstanding that the lutherans have of the Reformed. Because I’m now going to say something most lutherans would disagree with. I’ve said this at the beginning and it got lost. When the reformed teach the effectual call or irresistible grace, they are teaching what we lutherans teach as election. We teach exactly the same thing. And there is a misunderstanding on both sides about this, having read both confessions extensively I can say that when lutherans attack the Reformed for having an internal call (effectual call) and an outward call of the gospel, they don’t realize that the the effectual call is the same as what lutherans teach as election. Also the outward call of the gospel that the reformed teach, they do teach that the holy spirit is present in that call and grace is sincerely offered that man rejects. I know most lutherans would disagree with me on this, but I know that the differences between reformed and lutheran are way smaller than most think and there is a deep misunderstanding between the two traditions. I would happily and I mean happily worship in a Reformed Church with my christian brothers. And I say that honestly.

      Even on predestination, although the Reformed attribute everything to God including the damnation of men. The Westminster confession clearly maintains that secondary causes are maintained (so God is not blamed).

      Westminster Confession:
      I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;[1] yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,[2] nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

      So let it be clear I do think lutheranism theology to better represent scripture, but in the end all theology and confessions do is an attempt to best explain what’s in the word of God. And although the lutheran exegesis I consider superior to the reformed, I do consider the reformed exegesis to be outstanding as well.

  33. James

    I was disappointed that the Catholic perspective was accurately presented. The Catholic Church certainly believes that the sacraments are guaranteed ways of receiving grace, but not the only way. To say that there is no salvation outside of the Church is to acknowledge that all salvation comes through Christ who is the head of the Church (CCC 846). Vatican II also makes clear that saving grace is available to those who, through no fault of their own, do not know that entrance into the Church or reception of the sacraments is necessary to salvation. This is a long standing Tradition of the Church. It can be found in St. Thomas Aquinas where he identifies three types of baptism: water, blood, and spirit (ST III q66, a11).

  34. Bill

    Jonathan, only the unforgivable sin is not covered in the atonement. All other sins Christ said will be forgiven to all men, and he told this to the pharisees.

    If we were to teach that all unbelief is not included in the atonement we run into serious problems. As I said earlier if we define unbelief as a violation of the same table of the law, nobody would be saved if this unbelief were not covered in the atonement. Think about what Paul tells the gentiles, they were all unbelievers before coming to Christ and dead in trespasses and sins. Of course the atonement covers all unbelief prior to conversion. Also what about after conversion? We still obey the first table of the law very imperfectly every day. Our faith is also very weak. We are just and sinners at the same time as Luther taught. So if Christ had not atoned for all our sins (including unbelief) prior to and after conversion we would all be damned.

    Now the unforgivable sin is the only one that has not been atoned for. And Christ clearly said that it is the only sin that will not be forgiven man, all other sins Christ paid the penalty for at Calvary. I believe this sin to be willful and final rejection of Christ by man persisted until death, for this type of sin Christ never atoned for. Christ did not come into the world to atone for the unforgivable sin he spoke about.

  35. Bill

    Jonathan, you asked too many things in one question and I didn’t reply, not because you were ignoring me but because it would take me forever. I’d have to write a book. But there is one question that you ask that is very important and I want to answer with a resounding yes. You wrote:

    “Is there subjective sanctification. Also, what is it in justification that causes sanctification? Dose justification harbor a way to effect renovation.”

    Yes, yes, and a resounding yes. Christ’s alien righteousness (not any renovation inside us) is the sole remedy for our sin. He is the propitiation of our sins. Hebrews is all about the forgiveness of sins and all the sacrifices of the old testament that pointed to Jesus, not a single one was for renovation. So justification is the doctrine on which the church (the gospel) stands of falls. Renovation is not part of the gospel, justification is. Renovation is the fruit of justification or justifying faith.

    Now Calvin taught that both justification and renovation (sanctification or what he called repentance in his institutes) both are the benefits of faith in Christ (faith union with Christ). Though Michael Horton is correct in asserting that Calvin did give prominence to justification over sanctification, for example Calvin talked that all our works are justified (its sin pardoned). He spoke about a justification of works.

    Now John Murray in Redemption Accomplished made a fatal mistake and departed from both reformed and lutheran theology. He put regeneration (the new birth) above everything else, including faith which is one of the many fruits of regeneration according to Murray. When dealing with sanctification John Murray teaches that the main driver of sanctification is the effectual call (which precedes regeneration in Murray’s book) and regeneration. This is a clear departure from John Calvin who would have put faith as the cause of sanctification. Luther would have attributed to justification, or justifying faith. Regardless by teaching that regeneration is infused righteousness before faith, we are born again before having faith, and compounding this error with teaching that sanctification flows from primarily from regeneration John Murray opened the door to legalism. Norman Shepherd is the fruit of John Murray’s doctrine, where infused righteousness (regeneraion) that happens prior to coming to faith is main cause of sanctification.

    In lutheranism the christian life starts after faith and justification. God justifies the ungodly is the biblical teaching. For John Murray we are born again, he calls the new birth regeneration, before having faith. The new birth is infused or imparted righteousnes for John Murray. Our sanctification as well as our faith follows this new birth. This is clearly unbiblical. The lutheran and the biblcial teaching is that there is no infused righteousness (regeneration) that precedes faith, God creates faith in the ungodly, in sinners, God does not make a sinner righteous (infuse grace through regeneration) before he declares him righteous. Quite the contrary, God justifies sinners on the account of Christ’s righteousness, the ungodly, unregenerated man on account of Christ is declared righteous. So imputed righteousness always precedes infused righteousness. John Murray teaches the opposite. And not only that it teaches that this infused righteousness that precedes faith is the main cause of sanctification.

    It is this false unbiblical teaching of John Murray that cause the controversy between Michael Horton and Lane Tippton with Michael Horton defending the classic doctrine of imputation against Lane Tippton’s doctrine of infused grace in regeneration which he borrowed from John Murray.

  36. Bill

    Had John Murray taught that regeneration precedes faith and sanctification follows faith or is the fruit of faith as Calvin taught, it would not have led to legalism. But by making sanctification the product of regeneration (preceding faith) he opened the floodgates of legalism.

    Although Luther’s teaching where justification precedes sanctification is more precise than Calvin’s, still Calvin’s teaching will not lead to legalism, John Murray’s clearly does because he puts regeneration above faith as the cause of sanctification.

  37. Bill

    This emphasis on infused righteousness (regeneration) as the cause of all benefits, i.e. faith, sanctification etc. by John Murray is reminiscent of the catholica church’s emphasis that Luther and the Reformers so vehmently opposed.

  38. Bill

    With regard to single predestination (unconditional election) God causes the salvation of his elect. However with regard to the lost, God foreknows that they will be disobedient and resist his grace.
    This way God always gest all the credit and man all the blame. Like calvinism, lutheranism is monergistic in the salvation of men but unlike calvinism monergism does not extend to the damnation of men as calvinism does. God doesn’t reprobate anybody in lutheran theology, man resists God’s saving grace that wills his salvation.

    From chapter on election from the Solide Declaration of the Formula of Concord http://www.bookofconcord.org/sd-election.php
    4] First, the distinction between the eternal foreknowledge of God and the eternal election of His children to eternal salvation, is carefully to be observed. For praescientia vel praevisio (foreknowledge or prevision), that is, that God sees and knows everything before it happens, which is called God’s foreknowledge [prescience], extends over all creatures, good and bad; namely, that He foresees and foreknows everything that is or will be, that is occurring or will occur, whether it be good or bad, since before God all things, whether they be past or future, are manifest and present. Thus it is written, Matt. 10:29: Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. And Ps. 139:16: Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there were none of them. Also Is. 37:28: I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against Me.

    5] The eternal election of God, however, vel praedestinatio (or predestination), that is, God’s ordination to salvation, does not extend at once over the godly and the wicked, but only over the children of God, who were elected and ordained to eternal life before the foundation of the world was laid, as Paul says, Eph. 1:4. 5: He hath chosen us in Him, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.

    6] The foreknowledge of God (praescientia) foresees and foreknows also that which is evil; however, not in such a manner as though it were God’s gracious will that it should happen; but all that the perverse, wicked will of the devil and of men wills and desires to undertake and do, God sees and knows before; and His praescientia, that is, foreknowledge, observes its order also in wicked acts or works, inasmuch as a limit and measure is fixed by God to the evil which God does not will, how far it should go, and how long it should last, when and how He will hinder and punish it; for all of this God the Lord so overrules that it must redound to the glory of the divine name and to the salvation of His elect, and the godless, on that account, must be put to confusion.

  39. Bill

    And also so that people understand the the reason the Reformed teach regeneration before faith is entirely related to the denial of universal grace. For lutherans the word of God has the power to convert sinners, all sinners. The holy ghost is contained within the word and works any time the word is preached. That some men are not converted is entire due to their rejection of saving grace. in calvinism the holy spirit works alongside the preached word in the elect only that are regenerated, so that they are now able to believe the word. For lutherans the means of grace, both the preached and baptism, are powerful to regenerate every single sinner on earth. This is true universal grace. That sinnes are not regenerated is because they reject God’s means of grace, and not because the spirit did not regenerate them, as calvinism teaches. The calvinist denies the power of the mean of grace to convert sinners. What calvinists will tell you is that unregenerated men can’t believe the gospel, lutherans affirm that the holy spirit always works when the gospel is preached and it is so powerful that it converts unregenerated man. A calvinist denies the power of the means of grace to convert sinners, unless God regenerates a sinner first. Let it be clear we don’t preach the gospel to regenerated men, Christ did not come to save regenerated men, the gospel is not God’s message for regenerated men, but God’s message to rotten sinners that are dead in trespasses and made alive by the preached word. The gospel when preached is powerful to convert everybody, it is a universal means of grace, it’s not for the elect but for all sinners. When I preach the gospel I don’t need the holy spirit to come in and regenerate anybody, the holy spirit is always present when God’s word is preached and always willing to regenerate every hearer of the word of God. This is universal grace. What a nonsense to teach that without regeneration from the spirit in the elect the word of God can not be believed by man. Even Sodom and Gomorah would have believed had the word of God been preached there

    Matthew 11:23
    And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

    If Sodom would have believed Christ preached, so can every man on earth. This has nothing to do with pelagianism or semi-pelagianism but with the power of the holy spirit working through the preached word to convert every sinner on earth. This is universal grace as taugh in lutheranism. The reason man doesn’t believe has nothing to do with the holy spirit regenerating them or withholding regeneration. Zero. The holy spirit works in every sinner the same way, when the word is preached the holy spirit always works to convert sinners. If the Sodomites can believe Christ as Matthew 11:23 teaches so can everybody else. The teaching that only a few men (the elect) are regenerated through the effectual call so that they can believe the gospel and all others are passed by is unbiblical and I have proven it from scripture. God justifies the ungodly, he does not justify regenerated men. The new birth (regeneration) follows faith, we are saved by grace through faith, we are regenerated by grace through faith, we are born again by grace through faith. Before faith we are all dead in trespasses and sins, there are no born again or regenerated men. We receive the promise through faith and our new life commences then.

    1. Bill

      Patrick, sorry but for me it’s a big issue when John Murray teaches that we are born again before we have faith. And he means by regeneration the new birth that Jesus taught Nicodemus. We are united to Christ by faith, this Lane Tipton and Camden Bucey agree with Calvin. Yet we are born again before we are unisted to Christ and have faith? This is a 20th century innovation by John Murray that departs from traditional calvinism. And then Murray specifically teaches that regeneration and not faith is the main cause of sanctification. This is why we had a Norman Shepherd when your sanctification is based on imparted righteousness prior to faith human transformation and good works take priority over the work of Christ an legalism is born.

    2. Bill

      And just to show that John Calvin put faith before regeneration let me quote directly from his commentary on John 1:13 where the great Reformer wrote:

      “It may be thought that the Evangelist reverses the natural order by making regeneration to precede faith, whereas, on the contrary, it is an effect of faith, and therefore ought to be placed later.”

  40. Jonthan

    Ok thanks. I am not convinced, and I am still confused. I am not really looking for long winded answers. just short and to the point will do.

    You said “That some men are not converted is entire due to their rejection of saving grace”
    Is rejection and resistance the same thing? Is resistance the reason God condemns people? so the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of all men when the gospel is preached….all men have to do is not resist, not reject? Right? The Spirit does Zero work as you said. So do dead men have the power to not resist the Gospel without the help of the Holy Spirit?
    Can a natural man dead in his sins, believe in the gospel without the work of the Spirit? Does the Spirit go where he pleases or is he forced to work whenever people preach?
    I am thinking of how you might interact with “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

    You answered yes to the idea that justification produces sanctification. So imputation causes renovation? Does Christ’s alien righteousness have renovative benefits when it is imputed? So imputation harbors renovation? So does imputation also infuses?

    You said that there is subjective sanctification… does this mean that there is also objective sanctification?

    I am still wondering if all men since Gen 3 have been objectively justified and thereby objectively sanctified, and thereby objectively adopted, and thereby objectively gloried… and thereby objectively risen and thereby objectively seated with Christ in the heavenly places, and thereby … are all the benefits of the gospel both objective and subjective?

  41. Bill

    Jonathan, in lutheranism the spirit is in the word. So whenever the gospel is preached the holy spirit works in the conversion of all hearers. In Calvinism the spirit works alongside the word. Calvinism distinguishes between an outward call that goes to the whole world and an inward call (effectual call) that goes to the elect only. In lutheranism there are no two calls, the call of the gospel is universal and its grace is universal. So the preached word contains the holy spirit for lutheranism, it is a true universal means of grace, for calvinism the preached word does not contain the holy spirit but the holy spirit works alongside the word preached and the holy spirit works effectually (in an irresistible manner) on the elect only.

    With regard to conversion both lutherans and calvinists teach that the natural man is totally incapable to believe the gospel without the work of the spirit. He is dead in trespasses and sins. However the holy spirit works very differently in lutheranism and calvinism as I explained in the previous paragraph. In lutheranism it is always in the word preached, and always tries to convert everybody, In calvinism it works only irresisitibly on the elect through the effectual call.

    To show the mistake of calvinism I quoted Matthew 11:23. God did not pass by and left Capernaum in it sisn. Capernaum was condemned for resisting the holy spirit or rejecting the grace given in the gospel. Capernaum received so much saving grace that it would have sufficed to convert Sodom. So when it comes to damnation it’s not up to God, it’s up to man. Man can resist God (the holy spirit) even when God wants to save man and gives so much grace that would even convert the whole city of Sodom. Calvinist theology would argue that Capernaum was passed by, lutheranism would correctly argue that Capernaum received actual saving grace and it resisted it. And this can be proven in that the amount of grace received by Capernaum would have sufficed to convert Sodom as taught in Matthew 11:23.

    Your question about objective and subjective justification and sanctification i think Karl Barth certainly taught both doctrines. Lutherans do teach objective justification. Haven’t heard of a doctrine of objective sanctification in lutheranism, mainly because if you read the two kinds of righteousness that writing from Martin Luther that I linked earlier, everything related to Christ’s work that we apprehend by faith, it relates to an alien righteousness and it’s the object of faith and the article on justification. So justification is much broader in lutheranism than it is in calvinism or Karl Barth where it’s merely a forensic declaration. Now everything that relates to imparted righteousness (sanctification) is caused by the alien righteousness of Christ apprehended by faith (justification). This is what Luther teaches in his writing on the two kinds of righteousness which I provided a linke earlier and recommend everybody read. Now I have heard lutherans talk about objective sanctification, but in a different way, such as when scripture teaches that God sets us apart, being holy means being set apart in various parts of scripture, also scripture teaches that Christ is our sanctification. So these are two examples of objective sanctification that I heard lutherans mention.

  42. Bill

    This is Jonathan Fisk, a young lutheran pastor that was sometimes blogged by the White Horse Inn in the past. This is a brilliant 10 minute comparison between lutheranism and calvinism. Take your time and watch it, what it comes down to is calvinism is magisterial and lutheranism ministerial. But this pastor also compares the two systems and the 5 points. But the end of the day it’s the paradox of lutheranism versus the logic of calvinism. The scripture of lutheranism vs reason in calvinism. Please listen to this young lutheran christian superstar compare lutheranism and calvinism, yes lutherans have superstar pastors, and this young guy is awesome. And he does say on the video that the White Horse Inn is the best thing that could have happened to North America! There you go he credits calvinism with advancing the gospel. Here’s the link:


  43. Bill

    Jonathan, how justification causes sanctification this I’m going to put the link again for you. I’d rather you learn it from the man himself, Martin Luther, than from me. Although Luther was the man that coined the phrase that the christian life is getting used to being justified, he goes further here. He asserts with confidence that the alien righteousness of Christ apprehended by faith (justification) is the cause of our imparted righteousness. Imparted righteousness comes from alien righteousness. So in order to growin our imparted righteousness it’s imperative that we grow in our alien righteousness, which as Luther says is not given all at once. So in a sense we not only have to get used to being justified we have to grow in our justification or in our justifying faith. Here it is Martin Luther in his own words on how justification produces sanctification or imparted righteousness.


    I have provided great links so people here can understand lutheranism. And this is the best Luther ever wrote.

  44. Bill

    Actually Calvin’s commentary on the new birth is so important that I will copy / paste all of Calvin’s commentary on John1:13. The Reformers (both lutherans and calvinists) in that we are born again through faith and the new birth begins after faith. Faith produces the new birth as Calvin correctly teaches and not the other way around as John Murray teaches. Here’s the great Reformer considered by many the greatest theologian to ever live commentary on John 1:13. He states verbatim that regeneration is the effect of faith, and yet he acknowledges that faith is a gift of God. He proves that we can safely teach that the new birth follows faith without being called semi-pelagian, unless somebody dared insinuate John Calvin was semi-pelagian. Here it is the biblical teaching of conversion straight from John Calvin’s commentary on John 1:13


    The will of the flesh and the will of man appear to me to mean the same thing; for I see no reason why flesh should be supposed to signify woman, as Augustine and many others explain it. On the contrary, the Evangelist repeats the same thing in a variety of words, in order to explain it more fully, and impress it more deeply on the minds of men. Though he refers directly to the Jews, who gloried in the flesh, yet from this passage a general doctrine may be obtained: that our being reckoned the sons of God does not belong to our nature, and does not proceed from us, but because God begat us willingly, (James 1:18,) that is, from undeserved love. Hence it follows, first, that faith does not proceed from ourselves, but is the fruit of spiritual regeneration; for the Evangelist affirms that no man can believe, unless he be begotten of God; and therefore faith is a heavenly gift. It follows, secondly, that faith is not bare or cold knowledge, since no man can believe who has not been renewed by the Spirit of God.

    It may be thought that the Evangelist reverses the natural order by making regeneration to precede faith, whereas, on the contrary, it is an effect of faith, and therefore ought to be placed later. I reply, that both statements perfectly agree; because by faith we receive the incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23,) by which we are born again to a new and divine life. And yet faith itself is a work of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in none but the children of God. So then, in various respects, faith is a part of our regeneration, and an entrance into the kingdom of God, that he may reckon us among his children. The illumination of our minds by the Holy Spirit belongs to our renewal, and thus faith flows from regeneration as from its source; but since it is by the same faith that we receive Christ, who sanctifies us by his Spirit, on that account it is said to be the beginning of our adoption.

    Another solution, still more plain and easy, may be offered; for when the Lord breathes faith into us, he regenerates us by some method that is hidden and unknown to us; but after we have received faith, we perceive, by a lively feeling of conscience, not only the grace of adoption, but also newness of life and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. For since faith, as we have said, receives Christ, it puts us in possession, so to speak, of all his blessings. Thus so far as respects our sense, it is only after having believed — that we begin to be the sons of God. But if the inheritance of eternal life is the fruit of adoption, we see how the Evangelist ascribes the whole of our salvation to the grace of Christ alone; and, indeed, how closely soever men examine themselves, they will find nothing that is worthy of the children of God, except what Christ has bestowed on them.

  45. Bill

    Jonathan, one biblical passage that will allow you to understand how resistance to God’s grace works is the parable of the sower. There are different types of ground. Now if there is no seed (preaching of God’s word) all those grounds won’t produce fruit, they’ll be barren. This is the equivalent to say that all men are dead in treaspasses and sins. Now when the sower sows the seed some types of ground (rocky ground, ground by the side of a road etc.) will reject the seed and it’ll ultimately die. Sometimes the seed falls among weeds come and it kills life, this is those that commit apostacy, the believe the gospel but then abandon the faith. Finally there is the good, fertile ground where the seed falls and grows and produces fruit. As you see there are types of ground that don’t allow a good seed to grow. They resist it or reject it. Now what about the good ground? It is impossible for good fertile ground to resist the good seed. And so is with grace although it’s resistible, it is impossible for the elect to resist God’s grace. They can not. Just like good ground can not reject a seed that falls there. This is what the lutheran paston on the youtube video I linked yesterday pretty much was saying. Calvinists fail to understand that although grace is resistible it can not be resisted (by the elect). It may seem like paradox at first but when you look at the parable of the sower you can see that it’s not.

    Well, we beat this one to death. Hopefully people have learned a bit and next time will be more careful what they say about lutheranism. If you guys listen to the March 17 program of the White Horse Inn Mike Horton asked Rod Rosenbladt to explain unconditional election in lutheranism and how it differs from calvinism. But Mike Horton the first thing he told Rod is I know you guys are not synergist. And Rod thanked the hosts of the White Horse Inn and said thank you for not accusing us (lutherans) of synergism. I want to ensure that after this long series of posts that I hope Lane Tipton has read or will read lutherans never again are called synergists by a guest speaker at the Reformed Forum.

  46. Patrick

    I probably shouldn’t do this, but I just have to ask. According to your scheme that everyone’s sins have been atoned for except the sin of unbelief, does that mean then that everyone who is condemned to hell will get the exact same punishment? Will the kind old lady who rejected Christ be punished as harshly as Hitler will be punished? If their punishments are different why is that?

  47. Bill

    Patrick, there are different levels of punishment in hell. Christ taught that Capernaum will be punished harsher than Sodom because they resisted Christ preached evidenced in the miracles he performed. Matthew 11:23. But there is something more important than your question that I will address in my next post below, so that all christian brothers here can understand where the difference is. How John Murray destroyed the whole work of the great Reformers, Luther and Calvin. What Murray understands by faith is not Luther and Calvin taught, neither is what he teaches as justification. Once I’ve written my next post then hopefully others will comment and we can unpack this.

  48. Bill

    Actually Patrick Matthew 11:21 and 11:24 teach the different levels of punishment in hell.

    Matthew 11
    21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[e] For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

    But let’s get to John Murray’s definitions that will help everybody how radically different his teaching on faith and justification was from the Reformers.

  49. Bill

    Let’s start by saying that John Murray is a christian that made some incredible mistakes. His book Redemption Applied and Accomplished comes up with some strange definitions that are an 20th century innovation and depart from traditional lutheran and reformed theology.Let’s comment on his key three chapters on Regeneration, Faith and Repentance, and Justification.

    Regeneration: Murray teaches that in regeneration God imparts new affections in our heart, he gives us a new heart and the first evidence of this new affections is faith. We are regenerated and we respond to the gospel call, we believe and then we have faith. Regeneration happens in a mysterious way. John Murray, why did you say this? Don’t you think that you would have saved us all a lot of pain if you would have taught that in regeneration God creates faith in our hearts? God writes in our hearts the knowledge of Christ. This imparted righteousness that happens in regeneration is nothing more but nothing less than faith. This is the proper definition of the new birth, God does it by creating faith in our hearts, and we are united with Christ at this exact point. The New Birth, faith, and union with Christ can not be separated from each other.

    Faith and Repentance: Murray teaches that faith is something we do. Regeneration is something God does but faith is something we do, God does not the believing for us. We believe. This is the most awful theology I’ve ever read about or heard about. First of all faith is not a work. God commands to repent and believe, however no man can repent and believe. We are dead in trespasses and sins, period. For any man to repent and believe God needs to create faith first, and every man that has faith will repent and believe. Repenting and believing are evidence that we already have faith (are born again). Faith is not something we do, but something God creates in us. Faith belongs in the new birth as I have explained when I dealt with regeneration and the new birth. But faith is not a work as Murray teaches, faith is not obeying the command of repent and believe. Faith is not something we do, but it is the knowledge of Christ imparted by God in our hearts. That we believe and confess Christ is evidence of a faith already given by God. We believe because we have faith, but faith is not something man does as Murray teaches (we do the believing solely, God doesn’t do the believing Murray teaches) otherwise faith would be a work. And no man is capable of repenting and believing, God has to create faith first in the New Birth. .

    Justification: It’s something God does Muurray teaches. God declares us and constitute us as righteous. He constitutes us righteous by imputing Christ righteousness to us. Even though Abraham believed and it was counted to him as righteousness, Murray God doesn’t justify on account of our faith because faith even if it was obtained by grace is ours. And justification is something God does and he does it solely on account of Christ. Really John? From a lutheran perspective this is the most awful definition of justification I’ve ever heard of. Lutherans teach that objective justification is something God does on account of Christ, but when it comes down to subjective justification where the christian receives God’s salvation by faith, we agree that the object of faith is Christ and in him only is the forgiveness of sins. Nevertheless the difference between objective and subjective justification in lutheranism is that subjective justification includes faith. Faith is a part of justification. This why justification produces sanctification in lutheranism, because faith is included in justification. If justification was a mere dead declaration as Murray teaches it has no power to produce sanctification. You can’t separate justification from faith like you can’t separate heat from boiling water. Lutheran theology recognizes 4 ingredients in justification as follows (this is explained on one of the three links on objective justification I provided at the beginning): 1) The grace of God, 2)The merit of Christ
    3) The promise of the Gospel 4) Faith. The first 3 components are part of objective justification that happened at Calvary, the fourth component is the critical component in subjective justification which really receives by faith objective justification accomplished at Calvary.

    John Murray’s ordo salutus is awful. He defines regeneration as a mysterious change in our nature or in our heart that God produces. It’s like the wind Murray says. It sure is John Murray, but the gospel of John doesn’t stop in what Christ told Nicodemus? Christ may not have told Nicodemus how the new birth happened but he did tell his disciples and he told even the pharisees, The gospel of John does not stop with what Christ told Nicodemus. Why did the apostle Paul write extensively about salvation so that we would say that it’s mystic event that happens like the wind? No, it’s not. I’m going to tell you John Murray how the new birth happens, it happens when God creates faith in man. Is it that difficult to get that? And yes the feeling is like the wind, I had that feeling too when God created faith in me, he wrote in my heart the knowledge of Christ, he created trust in Christ. I couldn’t trust Christ on my own so God did it for me, he created that trust. No John Murray you are dead wrong when you teach that faith or trust in Christ is something I do, anything I do is evidence of God’s work in me, when I trusted Christ is because God created the trust. Trust in Christ is not a work, faith is not a work, faith is not the believing I do as you teach. I believe because God gave me faith, because he made me born again. Now this is biblical teaching, not what John Murray teaches. Faith is not my response to the gospel, my response to the gospel is evidence that I already have faith. I have faith before I believe. Faith is the instrument that God uses to accompliah the new birth. And from faith all other types of righteousness are derived from . We all need to go back to Luther and read the freedom of a christian where faith is extolled, how sad it is to see Murray debase faith to something we do instead of being a gift of God imparted in our very nature by God by which he cleanses our hearts and makes us new creations. How sad it is to see John Murray debase justification to an empty declaration of righteousness that has no meaning in the christian life, when Luther taught that faith is contained within justification and is inseparable, but Murray has debased justification to the point it has no practical use in the christian life. Luther taught justification is the sole source our sanctification and of all imparted righteousness, because faith is a part of justification, included in, and it is the source of any and all other virtues in man.

    Here it is the man that started it all, his letter to Pope Leo X on the Freedom of a christian. Martin Luther extolling faith and justification. This is what we need to get back to http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/lutherantheology.marquartjustification.html Martin Luther started the Reformation, John Murray killed it by burying faith and justification in the ordo salutis defining faith as a work (something we do) and stripping faith from the article of justification.

  50. Bill

    Patrick,also with regard to rejecting Christ increasing our condemnation beside Matthew 11 I had previously quoted:

    John 15:22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin

    I hope my last post about John Murray is clear enough, but it’s hard to do it here in a short post. Let me say his definition of the new birth (which he calls regeneration) is awful because he omits faith the instrument God uses to produce the new birth, his definition of faith is worse because he teaches it follows the new birth and because he teaches faith is something that we do (God can not do the believing for us according to Murray). On the contrary as I explained believing is evidence we already have faith. And finally justification although it comes after faith it excludes faith (because faith is something imparted in man) so it is a legal declaration. This is an awful definition of justification which completely disconnects it to sanctification. Although justification and sanctification are different, they are not disconnected. Justification (is inclusive of faith) and produces sanctification.

    Ok guys I hope I helped a bit clarifying what I consider serious errors and a departure from the Reformers in John Murray’s ordo salutis.

  51. Bill

    This so critical people understand in his chapter on faith and repentance, John Murray defines faith as obedience to the command repent and believe. Faith Murray teaches is something we do.

    I answer, No Sir. Faith is a gift of God, has nothing to do with anything that I do. It’s not a work (obedience to a command), it’s not something I do. Faith is the knowledge of Jesus Christ written on my heart by the power of almighty God. God creates faith out of nothing through the preaching of his precious word. Just like he created the world out of nothing, he created faith. I am now a new creation, His creation in Christ Jesus. The believing I do, is the evidence that I have faith. But faith is not something I do, is not an action from man as Murray teaches.

  52. Bill

    And one last word on justification. Murray teaches it’s objective outside us, like judge issuing a verdict. It has no subjective component, it’s only objective. We lutherans flat out reject this heresy, justification has a subjective component called faith. Justification although has also many subjective benefits that are derived from it. Murray teaches it is like when a judge acquits a criminal, it has no effect on the criminal’s conduct, it only pronounces him not guilty. Well, this isn’t so in lutheranism. Justification produces the renewal of the whole man, sanctification. Although justification is separate from sanctification there is a cause and effect relationship.

  53. Patrick

    So in your scheme people are only judged by how much unbelief they have not the sins they actually commit. That means Hitler might get off pretty easy compared to the Old lady then.

    1. Bill

      Only God knows the heart. So I can’t answer your question about the old lady. Maybe she’s in heaven or maybe she will be in a deeper pit in hell than Hitler. All i know is that God will be just. There will be surprises though when we get heaven, no doubt and find out. Man judges by outward appearance but God judges the heart, that only He knows. Some pretty bad people will be in heaven, listen to Rod Rosenbladt lutheran professor and co-host of the White Horse Inn who in less than 4 minutes tells you who will be in heave and who won’t.


    2. Bill

      Think about David. He killed Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. A loyal israeli soldier that all he had was Bathsheba, who God gave him as his wife. David had all the women in the world and all the blessings from God, as Nathan told him. And yet he decided to take the life of Uriah and take Bathsheba for himself, the woman God gave Uriah. And yet David is a Saint that will be in heaven clothed with Christ’s righteousness. Here’s the thing though it’s easy for us to say that there is a nice old lady out there that never committed a crime like David, and yet God is just and knows the heart. His sin was not imputed to him. David was a man after God’s own heart as the bible teaches. God judges according to the heart, man judges according to appearance. What looks good on the eyes of man is not good in the eyes of God. The theology of the cross of Martin Luther explains this perfectly. Here’s Jonathan Fisk one of my favorite lutheran pastors explaining the theology of the cross:


    3. Bill

      Patrick, theology of the cross vs theology of glory are the thesis that Luther outlined on the Heidelberg disputations. Here are the full 28 Heidelberg disputations that Martin Luther wrote:


      Here you can read all the thesis written by Luther. The video of Jonathan Fisk is awesome, but reading this 28 thesis is key to understand how the theology of glory (what appears good in the eyes of man) is opposite to the theology of the cross (what God values, faith alone in Christ alone)

  54. Bill

    Sometimes Murray also says faith is our response to the gospel, it is our answering the gospel call. It is believing, something I do Murray clearly states. God doesn’t do anything in faith, I do it all. This is John Murray saying this. Well, this is so wrong. I am able to respond to the gospel call because I already have faith! This is the biblical teaching of scripture. God gives me faith. Anything I do when I answer the gospel call is evidence that i already have faith. And my faith will grow further during my christian life as God further reveals his truth and writes it in my heart. We grow in the knowledge of Christ (written in our hearts by the God, the trust component that only God can provide), this is faith. It is crazy to define faith as human action as Murray, whether response or obedience, this is nothing other than making faith a work of man. Faith is given to us by God. This is also why faith justifies because it is not a human work, it is of grace.

  55. Bill

    Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. So God creates faith through his word. That said when we believe or trust in Christ, it’s evidence that God has already created faith. The trust or belief or faith or knowledge of Christ is written in our hearts by God. It’s not our doing, faith is not a work. is not my response, my response is evidence of faith God gave me. Man in his natural state can not believe if by believe we understand a human doing, unless God creates faith in his heart first. Human response flows from faith, but faith is not a human doing as John Murray teaches.

  56. Bill

    And with regard to justification Murray considers only the objective aspects. There is no subjective aspect in Murray’s doctrine of justification and he says so verbatim, so it is an incomplete justification. And this justification comes after faith Murray teaches. Lutherans would disagree on both of John Murray’s statements”

    1) The objective aspects of justification precede faith (not follow faith as Murray teaches). They happened at Calvary and they are communicated to sinners in the preached word.
    2) There is a subjective aspect in justification and this is faith which receives the forgiveness of sins (objective justification). Faith is an essential part of justification.

    Anyhow I’m done unless somebody else chimes in.

  57. Jonathan

    Ok, So you can be objectively justified, but still lack objective sanctification… Got it. So God objectively dealt with the problem of sin at the cross, but the cross failed to correct the problem of corruption. For if he did, then everyone would be objectively sanctified. Thanks, now I see where you are coming from.

    Everyone has been united in a death like his, but not everyone has been united to a resurrection like his. Or else everyone will be resurrected and saved! Thanks for all you help.

  58. Patrick

    “Only God knows the heart. So I can’t answer your question about the old lady. Maybe she’s in heaven or maybe she will be in a deeper pit in hell than Hitler.”

    Remember Bill the heart shouldn’t come into play here as you have repeatedly stated that all sin has been paid for. Now it just boils down to unbelief. So when one is in hell for eternity how does that work out in terms of the state of their heart? They can’t be eternally unbelievers so what does the final state confirm them in if all their sins have been paid for and they have been declared just.

    1. Bill

      I see what you mean and you are right, all people in hell have been judged by their works. God looks at the heart and by that all it means is that for example some people can hide their anger (which is a violation of the commandment you shall not murder) better than others. So it’s not just outward works that the unbeliever will be judged upon but their heart (intent).

      Nevertheless despite the fact that all people in hell have their sins forgiven as lutherans teach, the bottom line is they are in hell. And there are different levels of punishment in hell. Just like there are different levels of reward in heaven. Everybody in heaven is clothed with Christ but both lutheran and reformed confessions acknowledge different levels of reward in heaven. Same thing in hell there are different levels of punishment in hell.

      Why is unbelief persisted unto death the only sin that hasn’t been atoned for? First off we have to realize that there is an unforgivable sin that Christ taught exists. Also Hebrews talks about those that despise the blood of the atonement, there is no further sacrifice for those people.

      Actually lutheran theology has some explanations on how it is possible that all people in hell have their sins atoned for. Let me copy paste a Q&A from confessional Wisconsin lutherans. Because folks the question comes to this. Are the sins of the people in hell forgiven. Lutherans answer with a resounding yes. We teach universal objective justification which means the universal forgiveness of sins. So why are forgiven people in hell? Here’s the answer:

      From a WELS (Wisconsin lutherans) Q&A:

      If Jesus died for ALL the sins of ALL the people, then does not ALL the people in hell have ALL their sins atoned for?

      The short answer is “Yes.” All the sins of all of the people in hell have been atoned for. That is exactly what the passages cited above say. People end up in hell, not because Christ did not pay for their sins, but because they threw that payment away. If I give you money to pay your debts, it is really yours. But if you throw the money away, you will never benefit from it. If a peace treaty is signed between warring nations, but some of the soldiers out in the field do not believe the announcement and keep on fighting, they don’t benefit from the peace.
      Our teaching is not based on what is practical or comforting. It is based on what Scripture says: Christ died for everyone and God credited his death to everyone.

  59. Bill

    You see Patrick now that I explained the logic. And I quoted WELS because I am not an ordained pastor and can’t officially speak for the lutheran church, so I chose to copy paste their official position and answer to the question why do forgiven people go to hell. And the answer is as I explained in the post I just wrote that they throw away Christ’s payment for their sin when they reject the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Because of this the unbeliever ends up being judged by their works. So Hitler will suffer harsher punishment than the old nice lady. But the reason both go to hell is their unbelief, they rejected Christ’s payment for their sin. So although their sins were forgiven by Christ at the cross, their rejection condemns them, and when they enter hell all their sin is imputed to them (not just their unbelief). But they are condemned on account of all sins. But as Martin Luther taught, unbelief is the root cause of every other sin as I just explained. Because it throws away Christ universal atoning work that would have otherwise benefited this people that end up condemned in hell. Again this is classic lutheran theology, the unbeliever is solely to blame for their condemnation, Christ can never be blamed in lutheranism. Because Christ treated every man the same at the cross, and forgave the sins of every man in his atoning work.

  60. Bill

    Did Christ at Calvary pay for Hitler’s sins? You got the answer, yes he did. Hitler was forgiven at Calvary just like the apostle John was, and all humanity that is born in Adam is forgiven at Calvary.

  61. Bill

    Two things, the universal objective forgiveness of sins at Calvary (objective justification) is a key of lutheran doctrine. But so is justification by grace through faith (subjective justification). If we reject Christ’s payment through unbelief then we throw away the objective forgiveness. Again read the official position of the Wisconsin lutheran church:

    If Jesus died for ALL the sins of ALL the people, then does not ALL the people in hell have ALL their sins atoned for?
    The short answer is “Yes.” All the sins of all of the people in hell have been atoned for. That is exactly what the passages cited above say. People end up in hell, not because Christ did not pay for their sins, but because they threw that payment away. If I give you money to pay your debts, it is really yours. But if you throw the money away, you will never benefit from it. If a peace treaty is signed between warring nations, but some of the soldiers out in the field do not believe the announcement and keep on fighting, they don’t benefit from the peace.
    Our teaching is not based on what is practical or comforting. It is based on what Scripture says: Christ died for everyone and God credited his death to everyone.

  62. Bill

    Here it is from lutheran pastor Jonathan Fisk’s own website. Becasue I still don’t believe people understand the lutheran doctrine of objective justification. As I said before because I am not a pastor I’d rather have a lutheran pastor explain this to you. 1) All sins of all human beings have been forgiven at Calvary 2000 years ago. The forgiveness of sins does not take place at conversion, all men have had al their sins forgiven way before they were born. 2) Hell is populated with forgiven sinners. Let’s have a lutheran pastor unpack this biblical doctrine for you with scripture to prove it. Here it is from now a lutheran the words of lutheran pastor Charles Lehmann


    From a Lutheran perspective , Is the world including you and I already forgiven and it is simply a matter of individually grasping that gift by faith ..Or is it that we are not forgiven until the moment of our conversion ..I heard a Lutheran Pastor state that both heaven and hell are populated with forgiven people the difference is that those in hell rejected the gift .Can you give me any scripture that might help me ..thanks .. A

    Dear A,

    You’re giving me a chance to have my very own Greek Tuesday. 🙂

    The idea that you’re thinking of is called objective justification. The quick
    answer is that the pastor that you mentioned is absolutely right. Hell is full
    of forgiven sinners. The reason that he’s right is that the Scriptures tell us
    that all sinners have been justified by Christ’s suffering and death for them on
    the cross. This teaching is found in Romans 3:21-25a. In particular we see it
    in verses 23 and 24:

    πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ Θεοῦ, δικαιούμενοι
    δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ

    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God being justified freely
    by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

    As is often the case, the key to understanding the doctrine is in the grammar of
    God’s Word. Saint Paul writes that all (πάντες) have sinned. “All” is the
    subject of the sentence. In Greek, the form of “all” is masculine plural. If we
    jump to verse 24, we find a participle (verbal adjective), “being justified”
    (δικαιούμενοι), which is also masculine plural. In Greek, a masculine plural
    adjective must modify a masculine plural noun. In Romans 3:23-24, there is only
    one option. “Being justified” (δικαιούμενοι) must modify “all” (πάντες).

    What does this mean? It means that Saint Paul is being very careful to teach us
    this biblical truth: The “all” who have sinned and the “all” who are justified
    are the same “all.” The teaching of objective justification comforts us by
    saying that if you are a sinner, Jesus has forgiven all of your sins on the
    cross. There is no wondering whether or not your sins have been answered for.
    They have. You are part of the “all” who has sinned. For that reason you are
    also part of the “all” that is justified. The grammar of Romans 3 leaves no
    other possibility.

    You also ask, “Or is it that we are not forgiven until the moment of our
    conversion?” The short answer is no. You were forgiven on the cross. What
    happens at the moment that God creates faith in our heart is that we receive the
    benefits of the forgiveness that we already have. This is often called
    subjective or individual justification.

    Subjective justification is the biblical teaching that the forgiveness Christ
    won for all people on the cross is received only in faith. This teaching
    Scripture is also in Romans 3. Particularly, Romans 3:23-25a:

    πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ Θεοῦ, δικαιούμενοι
    δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ,
    ὃν προέθετο ὁ Θεὸς ἱλαστήριον διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι

    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a
    gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put
    forward as a propitiation by His blood, through faith.”

    Saint Paul writes that our justification is received “as a gift by His grace
    through faith.” That phrase needs a bit of unpacking. Our justification is a
    gift (δωρεὰν). That means it is not earned. This fact is emphasized by the
    phrase “by His grace” (τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι). Grace is undeserved favor. The
    gift of justification is not given because we deserve it in any way. Finally, the
    gift is receved “through faith” (διὰ τῆς πίστεως).

    To say that something is received through faith is to say that our justification
    (=the forgiveness of our sins) cannot be delivered unless faith is there to
    receive it. You can’t get mail without a mailbox. You can’t see without an
    eye. You can’t hear without an ear. You can’t withdraw cash from a bank unless
    you have a withdrawal slip. Faith is that gift of God by which all other gifts
    are received. It’s the “mailbox” into which all the other gifts–forgiveness of
    sins, life, and salvation–are delivered. It is the eye which sees the light.
    It is the ear which hears the sound. It is the deposit slip which gets what’s
    in your bank account.

    In objective justification you might say that God has made a deposit of a
    million dollars into every sinner’s bank account. Some who are told about this
    fact ignore it. They do not believe it. They lack faith. Because of that,
    they will never benefit from the money that actually is in their account. Those
    who do believe it will have every benefit of the million dollars that is already
    theirs. Of course this metaphor can fall down, and it does whenever we think,
    “Well, you have to make the withdrawal” or “You have to open your eye,” etc.
    That’s not the point. The point is that you receive the benefits of what
    Christ has really done for you on the cross (objective justification) in and
    through faith. That is the teaching of subjective justification.

    I hope this helps!

    Rev. Charles R. Lehmann
    Pastor, Saint John’s Lutheran Church, Accident, MD

  63. I came on here to see if anyone had responded to the program I did on this discussion. I didn’t see anything so I’m not sure if anyone got around to listening to it. Anyway, while I was on here I noticed that there was a huge discussion on objective justification. I was just talking about this issue, and here is what I wrote. I think it might help, especially for Jonathan:

    Ok, here are my two cents for what its worth, since I was asked. There are certain terms that are used in Scripture multiple ways. Sanctification for example can be used to refer to a past event in Christ, or an ongoing action performed by the Spirit. A failure to acknowledge this had caused this whole controversy over sanctification and good works in the first place. The word Law is used at times to refer to the Old Testament, other times it is used to refer to commands.

    Justification is the same. Most of the time, the term refers to what the sinner receives through faith alone, but other times it can refer to a past event (the resurrection) or a future event (eschatological vindication). N.T. Wright has often spoken about this; justification is a past, present, and future reality. For all of my disagreements, I think he is right on this point.

    Christ’s resurrection is his vindication by God. It is the vindication of who he is, of his sinless life, victory on the cross, and accomplishment of salvation. Through humanity’s solidarity with Christ, humanity itself is vindicated. I would place this in Irenaeus’ framework of the Adam/Christ parallel, wherein Christ serves not only as a representative of the new humanity, but a solitary person in which the new humanity begins and realizes itself. Thus, by participation in humanity, all in a sense participate in what Christ did to humanity through his life, death, and resurrection.

    Reformed scholar Richard B. Gaffin has done some work on this, connecting Christ’s vindication in 1 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 5. Paul speaks of Christ’s resurrection as our justification (Rom 4:25). Through humanity’s solidarity with Christ, his vindication becomes the vindication of humanity, or the justification of humanity. Gaffin of course connects this only to the elect, believing in limited atonement. Since I don’t agree with that, but think his exegesis is spot on regarding this, this would mean that all of humanity has been justified through Christ’s resurrection.

    I would then point to Romans 5:18, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” The most obvious way to read this text is to take the Adam/Christ parallel at face value. Adam brought sin and death to all. Christ, encompassing all of humanity in himself, brought justification (vindication) and life to all men. I take this “one act of righteousness” to be his resurrection which is identified with justification in 4:25.

    I think theologians are right to recognize that Paul utilizes the term justification in at least two different senses. It can refer to what happened to all men in Christ at the resurrection (objective justification) and what happens to those who have faith (subjective justification). And as I pointed out previously, it can also refer to one’s eschatological vindication, though that isn’t part of this particular dispute.

    Personally, I don’t see this as a Confessional issue. I think Lutherans can have genuine disagreement here so long as both sides agree that Christ’s death and resurrection were done on behalf of all people, and that the benefits of Christ’s work must be received by faith. I think that people are too quick to throw condemnations around in this debate, which is why I have largely avoided it. But, since I was asked, these are my thoughts.

Leave a Reply