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1. Judicial act of God which consists of non-imputation of sin and imputation of Christ's righteousness.

2. The Luth. Confessions (Ap, esp. the Ger. version, IV 2, 3; FC SD III 6) and renowned teachers, e.g., M. Luther* (WA 30 II, 650; 43, 178; 40 III, 739), M. Chemnitz,* B. Meisner,* and C. F. W. Walther* call the doctrine of justification the most important teaching of divine revelation. The apprehension of this doctrine by Luther made him the divinely equipped Reformer of the ch.

3. The doctrine of justification presupposes that man, through his natural condition and his thoughts, words, and deeds, is a transgressor of God's Law, subject to His wrath, condemned to eternal death, Ec 7:20; Is 64:6; Mt 25:41; Ro 1–3. See also Sin; Sin, Original.

4. The doctrine includes, as one of its chief elements, that God is moved to justify us by grace,* a special kind of love, directed toward those who are undeserving or unworthy, Jn 3:16; Ro 3:23; 5:20.

5. God's grace accomplished its purpose through the redemption of Christ. God sent His holy, innocent Son to become man and made Him man's Substitute. This Substitute fulfilled all requirements of the Law in our place (active obedience). He also suffered the pangs and woes which we had deserved (passive obedience). Divine justice is satisfied and love triumphs. Through Christ God reconciled the world unto Himself, 2 Co 5:19. This act of God is called objective justification; it is not the same as redemption, justification being judicial, redemption sacrificial. See also Priest, Christ as.

6. The righteousness of Christ is given us by God in the Gospel and sacraments. These means of grace (see Grace, Means of) offer, give, and seal to us God's forgiveness, Jn 15:3; Ro 1:16; Gl 3:27. We receive this righteousness through faith.* The moment we accept the righteousness which Christ won, God pronounces us justified, free from sin, acquitted (subjective justification, Gn 15:6; Lk 15; Gl 2:16). “ … the forgiveness of sins is a thing promised for Christ's sake. Therefore it can be accepted only by faith, since a promise can be accepted only on faith. In Rom. 4:16 Paul says, 'That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed,' as though he were to say, 'If it depended on our merits, the promise would be uncertain and useless inasmuch as we could never determine whether we had merited enough.' Experienced consciences can readily understand this. Therefore Paul says (Gal. 3:22), 'God consigned all things to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.' Here he denies us any merit, for he says that all are guilty and consigned to sin. Then he adds that the promise of the forgiveness of sins and justification is a gift, and further that the promise can be accepted by faith. Based upon the nature of a promise, this is Paul's chief argument, which he often repeats (Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:18). Nothing one can devise or imagine will refute Paul's argument. So pious men should not let themselves be diverted from this declaration, that we receive the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake only by faith; here they have a certain and firm consolation against the terrors of sin, against eternal death, and against all the gates of hell (Matt. 16:18).” (Ap IV 84–85).

7. Since justification is brought about by God's grace through the sacrifice of Christ and we become possessors of it through faith, all human merit is excluded, Ro 3:27–31. Faith is not merit, since we are not justified on account of, but through, faith (J. Gerhard,* Locus XVII. De justificatione per fidem, CLXXX). Justification takes place outside of us, at the tribunal of God, Ro 8:33–39.

8. When a sinner is justified, he has peace with God, enjoys Christian liberty, does good works, and is filled with hope of eternal life, Jn 8:36; Ro 7:25; 8:1–2, 17.

9. Justification is not a long-drawn-out process, but occurs in a moment; it is never partial, but always perfect and complete; it is alike in all who are justified; it puts one into a state of righteousness which continues as long as one believes; it can be lost; it can be obtained anew when it has been lost. WA

10. Council of Trent,* Sess. VI, Canon P. “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.”

See also Anathema; Atonement; Canon; Material Principle.

See bibliography under Dogmatics; T. Engelder, “Objective Justification,” CTM, IV, Nos. 7–9 (July–September 1933), 507–517, 564–577, 664–675; W. Arndt, “The Doctrine of Justification,” The Abiding Word, II (St. Louis, 1947), 235–257; T. Hoyer, “Through Justification unto Sanctification,” CTM, XIII, No. 2 (February 1942), 81–111; E. W. A. Koehler, “Objective Justification,” CTM, XVI, No. 4 (April 1945), 217–235; W. Elert, Morphologic des Luthertums, I (Munich, 1931; improved print. 1952), 64–123, tr. W. A. Hansen, The Structure of Lutheranism, I (St. Louis, 1962), 73–140; A. Köberle, The Quest for Holiness, tr. J. C. Mattes (New York, 1936); F. R. E. Preuss, Die Rechtfertigung des Sünders vor Gott, 2d ed. (Berlin, 1871); C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (Philadelphia, 1871); G. Aulén, Christus Victor, tr. A. G. Hebert (London, 1931); E. L. Lueker, “Justification in the Theology of Walther,” CTM, XXXII, No. 10 (October 1961), 598–605.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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