We Receive Everything
Johannes von Staupitz, Luther's Father Confessor
8 November 2017
Justification has many faces. The doctrine of justification is like the diamond young men desire to slip onto the finger of the woman of their dreams. After he has given her that diamond, she will consider its nuances in the light, by watching the sparkling brilliances bounce off the various facets of the one diamond. By moving it only slightly she will notice that shining color and then this glint of light. When she shows it off to her friends, the diamond never looks the same as changing light and aspect dance across its crystalline face. So it is for the doctrine of justification. One time it tells us of the bloody death of God's Son to atone for the transgressions of poor sinners like us. Another time it raises us to newness of life through our resurrection with Christ from the waters of baptism. The Bible's picture of the redemptive work of Christ has many gracious aspects.
The Bible's richly varied expressions of the gospel offer the same thing, the doctrine of justification. The Formula of Concord puts a finer point on this when it confesses that justification by faith, faith accounted as righteousness, Christ's obedience makes many righteous, and gives justification and life to all men, are all understood to be the same thing. They are significantly different in their aspects but each extols the gospel message of the forgiveness of sins.
This also means that faith justifies only because faith receives what God proffers in the gospel message. This faith is not meritorious in itself. It is only to be praised because of what it receives; the righteousness of Christ, which God Himself has credited to us. Without the work of Christ dying for us sinners, there would be nothing to credit, nor anything to trust. And indeed the Christian is purely passive in receiving the gifts of righteousness that come from God and which He credits to us. Justification means that God does everything and that we receive everything.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Formula of Concord
"A poor sinful person is justified before God, that is, absolved and declared free and exempt from all his sins and from the sentence of well deserved condemnation, and is adopted into sonship and inheritance of eternal life, without any merit or worth of his own. This happens without any preceding, present, or subsequent works, out of pure grace, because of the sole merit, complete obedience, bitter suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Christ alone. His obedience is reckoned to us as righteousness.
"These treasures are brought to us by the Holy Spirit in the promise of the holy gospel. Faith alone is the only means by which we lay hold on, accept, apply, and take them for ourselves. This faith is God's gift (Eph 2:8-9), by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the word of the gospel and trust in Him. We trust that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the Father, and are eternally saved. Therefore, it is considered and understood to be the same thing when Paul says (a) we are 'justified by faith' (Rm 3:28) or (b) 'Faith is counted as righteousness' (Rm 4:5) and when he says (c) 'by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous' (Rm 5:19) or (d) 'so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men' (Rm 5:18).
"Faith justifies not because it is such a good work or because it is so lovely a virtue. It justifies because it lays hold of and accepts Christ's merit in the promise of the holy gospel. For this merit must be applied and become ours through faith, if we are to be justified by it. Therefore, the righteousness that is credited to faith or to the believer out of pure grace is Christ's obedience, suffering, and resurrection, since He has made satisfaction for us to the law and paid for (expiated) our sins. Christ is not man alone but God and man in one undivided person. Therefore he was hardly subject to the law (because He is the Lord of the law), just as He didn't have to suffer and die for his own sake. For this reason, then, His obedience is credited to us for righteousness. And this not only in His suffering and dying, but also because He was voluntarily made under the law in our place and fulfilled the law by this obedience. So, because of this complete obedience which he rendered to his heavenly Father for us by doing and suffering and in living and dying, God forgives our sins. He regards this as godly and righteous, and He eternally saves us. This righteousness is brought to us by the Holy Spirit through the gospel and in the sacraments. It is applied, taken, and received through faith. Therefore, believers have reconciliation with God, forgiveness of sins, God's grace, sonship, and are heirs of eternal life." 

Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, 3.9-16
Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (ESV)
Lord God, bespeak me righteous in Your Son. Amen.
For Vicar Kyle Richardson, that he would be kept in the gracious care of his heavenly Father
For all those traveling to Houston for the Making the Case Conference at Memorial Lutheran Church, that they would be kept safe in their travels
For the family and friends of Millie Johnston, whom our Lord Jesus Christ has taken to Himself in heaven, that they would mourn with confidence in the resurrection of the flesh and life of the world to come
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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