Saturday, October 18, 2008

Doctrine is Life

It is not helpful to say that a sinner is “made righteous,” for he is rather declared righteous. The terminology would infer a progressive reworking of the sinner that he might cooperate with God to be justified. Righteousness is not infused but imputed by the Word of Christ and His sacraments by and through the Holy Spirit. Lutherans confess that men cannot by their free will begin or complete that which pertains to the righteousness of God. They can only be justified for Christ’s sake through faith which is received by the working of the Holy Spirit.

Though the Romanists agree on similar language concerning justification, they intend very different things. They would teach that man is rather spiritually “wounded” and “weak.” Free will in spiritual matters is central for Rome, in which obedience to the righteousness of God makes man an active contributor for justification. Jesus Christ bestows the forgiveness of sins by his atoning sacrifice and the sending of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of men. Jesus, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried to reconcile the world back to Him. Faith is given by God, which is reckoned as righteousness for sinners. This justification is a free gift on account of Christ sake through faith (AC IV).

The crucified and risen Christ is present in His Word and Sacraments through the Office of the Holy Ministry. Justification is by the atoning sacrifice of Christ for the sin of the world. Faith is a gift passively received whereby one trusts in this all-availing sacrifice.

Righteousness before God cannot be achieved by man but must be imputed externally (extra nos) by grace through faith for Christ’s sake. The justification of the lost and condemned sinner is only the work of God (coram Deo). Justification before men (coram hominibus) and the world (coram mundo) would deal only with civic righteousness and not the spiritual righteousness which makes men holy and justified before God.

The Office of the Holy Ministry is for the preaching of the Gospel, remitting or retaining sins, and the administration of the Sacraments. This is the mission of the church. The priest stands in the stead of Christ in which sinners come to meet with the risen Jesus, who teaches, forgives, and feeds His people. This is Christ’s office - for here he gives us His Gospel. Christ calls men through the Holy Spirit to His ministry through the church and the laying on of hands.

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