Summer, 1963 No. 2
THE SPRINGFIELDER is published quarterly by the faculty of Con-
cordia Theological Seminary, Sprinfield, Illinois, of the Lutheran
ERICH H. HEINTZEN, Editor (on leave)
HEINO 0. KADAI, Acting Editor
RICHARD P. JUNGKUNTZ, Book R m i n v Editor
EUGENE F. KLUG, Associate Editor
MARK J . STEEGE, Associate Editor
PRESIDENT J . A. 0. PREUS, ex oficio
................................................ Lutheranism-Whither? 3
.................................................... The Use of the Laity 5
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ................... The Church on the Campus :... 6
'THE FUTURE REUNITED CHURCH" AND "THE
.................... ANCIENT UNDIVIDED CHURCH" 8
Hennann Sasse, Immanuel Theological Seminary,
North Adelaide, Australia
THE COURSE OF CHRISTIAN HUMANISM .................... 22
Lewis W. Spitz, Stanford University
THE TERM "JUSTIFY" IN THE EPISTLE
.............................................. TO THE ROMANS 36
Lorman Petersen, Department of Exegetical Theology
................................................................ BOOKS REVIEWS 4 9
.............................................................. BOOKS RECEIVED 59
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Address communications to the Editor. Erich H. Heintzen, Concordia Theo-
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logical Seminary, Springfield, Illinois.
The Term "Justify" in the Epistle
to the Romans
T HE doctrine of justification will be the topic of theological dis- cussion at the Lutheran World Federation Assembl this
summer in Helsinki, July 3 0 to August 1 1, 19 6 3. A speci J study
document, "On Justification," written by Dr. Warren Quanbeck, has
been distributed for discussion by the Commission on Theology of
LiVF. No attempt is made here to review Dr. Quanbeck's efforts.
The study document is mentioned merely to point up the relevance
of the subject. The pamphlet brings forth certain questions and
propositions which need answers. In the present discussion the
issue is not only what justification is but what the doctrine means
for the Christian and for the churches in the modem world.
The over-all theme of the meeting is: Christ Yesterday, Today,
Forever. 'The emphasis is on TODAY," says the pamphlet. "Justi-
fication is always, like Christ, a present event happening to us now.
It is not gone by, not only hoped for in the future, but it is actual
fact now." Just what is meant by this statement will occupy a
major share of the discussion at Helsinki. Stewart Herman writes
in the Introduction of the pamphlet: "Normative for man's true
relation to his fellowman is his relation to God. Therefore, Hel-
sinki asks, what does 'justification by grace through faith' mean to
us today? Professor Quanbeck, of Luther Seminary at St. Paul,
Minnesota, attempts to bring the fundamental concept of the 16th
century Reformation up to date."
Quanbeck leads off with a statement about the difficulties of
understanding and communicating this doctrine in our day. He
intimates that four difficulties, in particular, make it dijlicult to
comprehend justification and make it relevant today. First, "the
continuing theological debate with the church of Rome," i.e., what
is the righteousness of God and the function of faith. Secondly, a
set of difficulties has been raised for us by the development of liter-
ary and historical study of the Bible, "that is, while the Reformers
believed that Justitication is the theme that dominated the Bible,
research has shown that Justiiication is but one image used by the
biblical writers." Quanbeck then asks, "Is it not possible that in-
sistence upon the centrality of Justification is an example of the
way controversy shapes and perhaps warps the theological thinking?
Can me continue to assert that the article of justification is the arti-
culus stuntis aut cadentis eccbsiue, when in the earliest eriod of
the church's life it was possible to proclaim the Gospe without
reference to it?"'
"A third difficulty is that caused by the erosion of theological
terms in our time. . . . Our theological expressions are like coins
which have been circulated so long that they have been worn smooth
Term " l r r j t i t i " in the Euistle to the Romatrs 37
and can hardly be recognized. This leads to confusion, for it is
very difficult to distinguish genuine from counterfeit coins. . . .
Words like faith, justification, righteousness, sin, vocation, have
all undergone this process of reduction or inflation. Substitutes can
be found for some of them, but others have no replacements." Then
he states sigrhcantly, 'The only alternative is the rehabilitation
of theological terminology, a process which is slow, difticult and
unpredictable." With this sentiment one must agree. Bible trans-
lators and modern interpreters have often created a counterfeit
coin of questionable value when attempting to substitute or re-
phrase key biblical concepts. It is easier and less confusing to
rehabilitate an old term than to substitute a new one, particularly
from a pedagogical vie Tbt . A third dii5culty to which Quan- beck alludes is closely re ated o this erosion of language, namely,
the change in the climate of our culture. " . . . The change of spirit-
ual climate leaves many of us strangers to the thought and conflic-
tions of the Reformation.""
A review of Paul's use of the term "justify" in the Epistle to
the Romans is in order. One of the prime objectives of the church
today is to re-load the ancient term "justify" with the powerful
powder and power St. Paul placed into the term. Regardless of
the way anyone, ancient or modem, has used the term "justify,"
it should be given the meaning it has in the Scriptures if the
church's proclamation is to be biblical. We may have to pause to
explain our terms at times in our communication of the Gospel even
if St. P a d seems not have had this difficulty in the ancient world
or the Reformers in theirs.
Use of the Word 'Yustify" Today
Winston's Dictionarv gives the first meaning of justify: "to
show or prove to be right; warrant; vindicate; make right." The
word is derived from Latin justus, just, and facere, do. The second
meaning given is "to pronounce free from blame; exonerate: Theol.,
to declare blameless of sin on the ground of Christ's righteousness.
In printing the word is used to form an even surface or true line."
The noun "justification" is "the act of justifying or state of being
justified." Second meaning: "an acceptable excuse; defense." All
will agree that in America today the latter use is most common.
People say, "he was justified in making this decision." This mean-
ing can also be found in the New Testament. The young lawyer,
Luke writes, desired "to justify himself" (Luke 10:29). We say,
"the teacher certainly was justified in punishing this boy because
he deserved it for a long time."
Using Werner Elert as his source, Schultz claims that during
the days of the Reformers the term "justify" meant to "punish" or
even "execute." In those days, he says,
the very phrase 'justification by faith' was itself an explanation
and not something ~vhich required further explanation . . .
The modem meaning of justification as excusing or vindicating
or proving innocence does not appear in the legal terminology
of the 16th century . . . 'Justification' means that a criminal
has been brought to justice . . . Luther carries this picture
of courtroom justification over into his description of the
justification of the sinner before God. The criminal is put
to death; the sinner is not put to death himself, for he has
been just&ed in Christ. . . . The substitutionary atonement
of Christ under the Law becomes our jusi6cation without Law
. . . it is common in our time to think of Christ's death as the
cause of our justification; as a legal penalty which makes God's
judgment of forgiveness over us possible. Christ's death and
our justification thus stand in a cause-and-effect relation . . .
That is, in itself, not objectionable but when it is accompanied
by a reduction of the sixteenth century concept of forensic
justification to the narrow limits of declaratory justification,
it has cut us off from some of the central analogies of the
Christian faith. Luther could preach sermon after sermon, he
could explain the second article of the creed without once
referring to justification.
As me shall see later, the last point is well taken but the teaching
that God saves in Christ is central, no matter what picture Paul,
Luther, or the theologian today decides to use. Paul, however,
chooses to use "justify" as his main concept, and it is our task to
explain what he means in our day. Here we should imitate the Re-
formers. "The Reformers did not take their understanding of justi-
fication from the law books but from the New Testament."
The Concept "Justify" in Rollzans
It is he1 ful for the understanding of the term "justify" to
learn that F'ad uses the word on both sides of the argument in his
greatest epistle, the Epistle to the R ~ m a n s . ~ He speaks of "justifi-
cation by faith" and of "justification by works" in the letter. "Not
the hearers of the Law but the doers of the Law shall be justified,"
he says, in a context of Law (cf. 2: 7-1 On the other hand,
he says, "therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith with-
out the deeds of the law" (Rom. 3:28). In both statements the
word "justify" taken by itself means the same-a verdict of approval
or a favorable judgment is pronounced upon the person involved.
Of course, justification by works is always hypothetical and never
possible in human life, but it remains theoretically true.:
The idea of rendering judgment becomes thematic throughout
Paul's entire discussion of Law and Gospel in Romans. hlan judges
God when he did not see fit to acknowledge God, and God judged
man when He gave him over (paredooken) to his sinful passions.
God judges all men according to their works (Rom. 2:6). God
renders a judgment on man's life, something of a "justification" of
every man-eternal life for those who have done well, wrath to
those who have not (Rom. 2:7-8). Then follows the significant
statement: "It is not the hearers of the lam who are righteous be-
Term ' fu i t ih ' ' in the Epistle to the Rot~mns 3 9
fore God, but the doers of the law shall be justified (Rom. 2 : 13).
This first appearance of "justify" in Romans occurs in a discussion
of judgment and law. Let us assume for a moment that a man
could actually fuIfill the law unto complete holiness before God.
In what sense would he be righteous? Does he become more right-
eous work by work as he walks the treadmill of works until his
holiness is complete': Can a man ever become or make himself
righteous? Even if he completed the last find work for glory, would
he be holy before God? Must not someone determine whether he
is righteous or not': If God is the Judge he would not be righteous
bejme Him until God Himself said so, until He rendered His per-
fect judgment or divine opinion. Paul is not teaching salvation by
works here, as it may appear on the surface, but is maintaining the
basic principle of judgment and law which is the basic, fundamental
common denominator of either "justification by works" or "justifica-
tion by faith." "To justify," then, basically means to render a judg-
ment of guilty or not guilty.
This idea is clear from Rom. 2 :26: "So, if a man who is un-
circumcized keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircum-
cision be regarded as circumcision?" The term Paul uses is closely
related to "justify," namely, Iogizomai, "to reckon," or "regard or
count as." Paul is speaking of the true Israelite in God's sight. If
a non-Jew does the tvill of God through faith, he is really a true son
of Abraham even though he is not a son of Abraham. In other
words, he is accorded something he does not possess, he is regarded
as someone he really is not. For this reason, we believe, Paul uses
the term dikaioo, "justify," instead of krinoo, "to judge," in order to
bring out this nicety of Christian theology. Ordinarily we think of judgment as a negative concept; it is a decision against a man,
especially if we speak of divine judgment. But properly speaking,
judgment may be "not guilty" as well as "guilty." Thus dikaioo
(instead of k7-inoo) indicates that in justification God the Judge al-
ways judges a man not guilty or acquits the guilty rather than the
innocent. This is exactly what Paul means by justification-ac-
quittal of a sinner, because only sinners are justdied. God cannot
acquit a holy man because there is no such person. A righteous
man can only live by faith (Rom. 5 : 18; Rom. 1 : 17).
AIa~r Not Justified by Wwks
Paul's use of the term "justify," therefore, makes it impossible
for a man to justify himself, or be justified by works. This would
be a misuse of the biblical term. This is the grand deception of
being justified by works, that a man renders his own judgment of
his own merit and worth before God only to discover at the end that
God does not render such a verdict of acquital on the man's life.
First, because justdication always has God as its subject. It is al-
ways a verdict rendered independent of man. Paul says it is "God
who justifies the ungodly" (Rorn. 4:s). And in his concluding
arguments in Romans, chapter eight, Paul asks: "It is God who
justifies; who is to cmdemn?" (Rom, 8 ; 3 3 ) . Even in the falr0rite
quote from Paul, "therefore we conclude that a man is justified by
faith without the deeds of the law," the verb is passive-man is
always acted upon.s Secondly, when Paul surreys all the possibili-
ties of man saving himself both among the Jews and Gentiles (which
comprises his argument in the h t three chapters of Romans), he
must conclude that no man can be justified by works for the simple
fact that no man has sdicient works. If the Jew could not do it
with all his advantages and his lengthy head start, who can? Thus
he says that the verdict in God's universal courtroam is, '%very
mouth is stopped (that is, if anyone op ses God's verdict) and the
whole world is held accountable m C h f ) For no human being will
be justified in his sight by works of the law" (Rom. 3: 19-20).
Justification and the Righeousness of. God
Some have expressed surprise that in a letter which is sup
posed to be about justification, Paul does not use the word in its two
thematic statements, but uses the term "righteousness of God" in-
stead. In Rom. 1 : 17 he writes: 'Tor in i t the righteousness of God
is revealed through faith for faith," and in 3 :2 1, where he switches
in the discussion from the Law to the Gospel: "But now the right-
eousness of God has been manifested apart from law . . . the
righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who be-
lieve." But this is not so surprising when one remembers that the
Greek word for righteouness is dhiosynee which is from the root
verb dikaiooo, to j~stify."~ It is only in English that the two words
seem farther apart.
Furthermore, "righteousness of God" is basically an Old Testa-
ment term. It refers to God's act of saving sinners through justifi-
cation by faith in Christ. Paul says this righteousness is witnessed
by the lam and the prophets ( R m . 3: 21). For example, Psalm
98:2 says, 'The Lord hath made known his salvation; his righteous-
ness hath he openly showed in the sight of the heathen." Murray
says in his new commentary that all four important concepts of
Rom. 1 : 16-1 7 are in this verse from Psalm 98 : "Power, righteous-
ness, salvation, re~elation."'~ In Romans Paul says that in both
Testaments when this righteousness was revealed to a person he
mas justified. Three times Paul emphasizes this fact and one sees
the connection between righteousness and justify: "He who through
faith is righteous shall live7' (Rom. 1 : 17);" "the righteousness
through faith in Jesus Christ7' (3:22); and, 'Whom God hath set
forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his
righteousness" (3 : 25). Thus to have this righteousness of God is
to be saved by God, to be justified in His sight.
Justify and the Cross
Paul speaks of Justification and the Cross in the same breath.
The Cross of Christ answers the question how a righteous and holy
God can acquit a sinner, especially when we see also that the justi-
fied man still has a sinful nature after he is justified (Rom. 7:21-
34). \%en God justifies the sinner, he does not overlook sin; he
Trrni "Jzistih" in the Epistle to the Ron~ans 4 1
deals with it. He does not act as if man were not a sinner. Those
who regard God as an old "grandfather" who winks at aU his chil-
dren's sins and graciously turns his face the other way are denying
the integrity of God, especially his holiness. It is a sort of a new
idolatry. No, in justification God formdated a method which in-
volves both his essential holiness and his love for sinners. By rnak-
ing Christ our Substitute in the Atonement He at the same time
satisfies His justice and saves the sinner. Therefore if one would
let God be God it is out of the question to speculate whether or not
God, in either the Old or New Testament, can or does forgive sins
without the Cross.
In this connection a Christian is also thankful for God's holi-
ness and iustice. He knows from Scripture that God placed his
and e v q man's sin on Christ and judged Christ for every sin; no
sin is excluded-past, present or future. He knows God would
not have raised Christ from the dead if full salvation had not been
complete, for PauI says: "It will be reckoned to us who believe
in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to
death for our trespasses and raised for our justification7' (Rom.
The Apostle states the position of the Cross in the mighty,
majestic section, Rom. 3 :21-28, where he ties all these concepts
together. Key statements are: 'They are justified by his grace as a
gift"; "through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus"; "whom
God put forward as an expiation by his blood." I t culminates in
4:26: "Who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our
justification" where the Resurrection is brought into the picture
(cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). Leon Moms says, "The Scripture is clear that
the wrath of God is visited upon sinners or else that the Son of
God dies for them. . . . Either we die or He dies. But God 'com-
mendeth His own love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners.
Christ died for us,' Rom. 5 : Jn all this Paul's use of "justify"
retains its usual meaning-God renders a judgment of acquittal or
freedom on the sinner. Because of the Cross and the Resurrection,
the word "justify" can have no other meaning.
rustihing the Ungodly
In chapter five of Romans P a d makes the astounding state-
ment, "Christ died for the ungodly" (v.6). He also says it an-
other way: "While me were yet sinners Christ died for us" (v.7).
Then he uses the word "reconciled" in a similar sentence: ''\VhiIe
we were yet sinners (enemies) we were reconciled to God by the
death of his Son" (v. 10). But the most pointed expression of this
concept is found in Rom. 4:5, where the Apostle specifically says
that God justiiies ungodly men: "And to him who does not work
but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his Eaith is reckoned as
righteousness." This means that justification is universal, because
all men are by nature ungodly. But God has pronounced absolu-
tion upon the entire human race (1 John 2:2). Salvation is pres-
ent for all men; God has acquitted them all in Christ, even though
not all men will accept and many more may never hear the Good
News (Rorn. 10: 14-1 7). "As one man's trespass led to condemna-
tion for all men, so one man's act (Christ's) of righteousness leads
to acquittal and life for all men" (Rom. 5 : 12,18).
The fact that God justifies the ungodly must mean that man
cannot be justified by works, and that "justify" means to acquit a
sinner, a guilty man. Or to reverse the thought, if God did not
justify the ungodly the alternative logically would be that man justi-
fies himself by works and then there would be no justification by
This uni~ersal or objective justijication is realized in a man
&hen he comes to faith. Then it becomes personal justification.
Universal justification, the pronouncement of all men righteous in
Christ, is of utmost importance for personal or subjective justiiica-
tion. If God had not justified all men, that is, the ungodly (there
is no other type of person for God to justify), the individual sin-
ner might doubt that he is included among the "all men." This
does not mean that universal and subjective justification are two
separate acts of God-one is simply the application of the other to
God Justijks Through Baptisr~z
Sinners appropriate by faith their justification or salvation
through Baptism. Listen to the Apostle in Romans, chapter 6:
"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ
Jesus were baptized into his death?" (6: 3). When Paul speaks
of man's receiving God's act of justification, he introduces Baptism,
very easily and naturally, without explanation. He speaks of re-
ceiving faith through the Word later in chapter ten. To misunder-
stand justification is to misunderstand Baptism and to misconstrue
Baptism is to misconstrue jusGcation. God justifies through B a p
tism. Have we ever noted how Paul ties Christ, salvation, justifi-
cation and Baptism together in the familiar passage in Titus, c h a p
ter 3? He says: "He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in
righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the n-ashing of
regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit which he poured out
upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we mi ht
be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal li f! e."
It is significant, then, that our Lord has commissioned us
Christians to "teach all nations, baptizin them." Universal justi-
fication and Baptism furnish us with i e greatest of motives to
preach the Gospel to all men. All of God's love, all of God's saving
work in Christ is of no avail to the individual sinner if he does not
hear the Gospel or is not baptized and through its power brought
to faith. Unless the Gospel is given to aU men in Word and Sacra-
ment, the Gospel is just as vain as if Christ had not risen (1 Cor.
15: 17). It is never enough just to possess the Gospel. To pos-
sess it is not only to cherish it but to preach it (Rorn. 10-14-1 7).
Ternz ' lustif!" in the Epistk to the Ronra~zs 4 3
To Justify Is to Forgive
Justification is nothing else than forgiveness. St. P a d uotes
the familiar psalm of David, saying, So David pronounces a%less-
ing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from
works." Again: "Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered (Rom. 4:6-7). Justification, then, is
also the act of imputation of righteousness. In fact, here P a d speaks
of forgiveness both negatively and positively-the non-imputation
of sin and the imputation of righteousness. The merits of Christ
are imputed to the sinner, that is, an alien righteousness is given
him, just as his sins are not imputed or counted a ainst him (cf.
2 Cor. 5: 19). The Lutheran Confessions use just$cation and for-
The second matter in a mediator is, that his merits have
been presented as those which make satisfaction for others,
which are bestowed by divine imputation on others, in order
that through these, just as by their own merits, the may be
accounted righteous. As when any friend pays a i ebt for a
friend, the debtor is freed by the merit of another, as though
it were by his own. Thus the merits of Christ are bestowed
Fustification by Faith
\%'hen Paul the Apostle states that a man is justified by faith
he is by this term faith also describing "justify." The concept "by
faith" is just as vital to the understanding of the doctrine of justi-
fication as the term "justify." Even learned theologians teach van-
ous views of justification by faith because of the way they understand
the concept "faith." Paul places the two terms together and one
is meaningless without the other. If one is understood in the wrong
way, both are wrong. One of the most ancient Christians, Abraham,
was justified by faith. I t is written, "Abraham believed," and his
faith is immediateIy bound by the words, "it was reckoned to him
as righteousness" (Rom. 4: 3).
What exactly did the Apostle mean by the phrase, by faith?
In Romans the phrase means one of two things, if not at times both.
First, that justification is without works. He says this so often, it
hardly needs documentation. The cIassic statement of the genera1
principle is Rom. 3 : 2 7-2 8.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On
what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the
principle of faith. For we hold that a man is justified by
faith apart from works of Imv.
Secondly, faith for Paul is mainly the instrument or means
by which the sinner accepts Gods forgiveness or justifying act.
Rom. 1 : 16-17: "It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone
who believes"; it is revealed "through faith for faith." Rorn. 3 : 2 2 .
25: 'me righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for d l
who believe"; "whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood,
to be received by faith."
Faith is also faith in Christ and appropriates Christ's work on
the cross, the basis of justification or forgiveness. The righteous-
ness of Christ is always intended for faith. All those, but only
those, who believe receive it. This is what the Reformers meant
when they stressed sola fide-not that good works are unwanted by
God, but that they must be excluded entirely from influencing God's
act of justifying the sinner. If God justifies sinners before they
believe or even exist, and if justification is without works, as God
justified Abraham before he was circumcised, then the only role
faith can possibly play in justification is to receive the forgiveness
God offers through Gospel and Sacrament.
Quanbeck scorns three counterfeits of faith in the Helsinki
The first counterfeit suggests that faith is essentially an
act of the intellect . . . faith is here transformed into dialetics.
. . . A second counterfeit of faith sees it as man's concentra-
tion on the good life . . . it makes the best of both worlds,
acknowledging the triumph of Pauline Christianity and at
the same time satisfying the instincts of the natural man who
has suspected all along that God does not give something for
nothing. . . . A third counterfeit of faith calls for a focusing
of man's dynamic powers on some object. Faith is man's
ability to concentrate his psychic powers and thus bring the
spiritual and material world under his control . . . peace of
mind, the healing of disease, the mastery of fellows, success
None of these views is what Paul means by faith. While
Quanbeck's later statement on faith, "Faith is ma~z's response to the
God who speaks to him in Jesus Christ,"16 is a questionable formu-
lation, other words of his cover the lapse: "It is trust in God's
mercy and faithfulness as He makes them known to us in the cross.
. . . Faith is saving not because it is possessed of inherent powers,
but because it is the hand out-stretched to receive tke gift of life."I7
This view of jus&cation does not lend credence to those mod-
ern formulations which say that justification is peripheral (another
name for sanctification), or which disregard the Atonement and
the wrath of God and simply express the teaching in an individual's
own philosophical or anthropological presuppositions. This is mak-
ing this classic doctrine "relevant to our modern world in reverse.l8
All these considerations help us to a proper understanding of
the term "justify" in Romans. It is a declarative act of God, inde-
pendent of man, by which He renders a decision of forgiveness on
an evildoer. I t is a judicial term, a forensic act. The word
"forensic" gets its meaning from the ancient Roman forzrm where
Term "lustify" in the Epistle to the Runlaas 45
much debate and discussion took place, particularly in the courts
of law. The term thus always involves the mental process of judg-
ment. Through this act the sinner stands righteous in God's sight.
St. Paul has a whole series of terms in the opening chapters of
Romans which have this common denominator: "righteous before
God," (dikaioi para Theoo, 2 : 12); "uncircumcision reckoned for
circumcision," (logimai, 2 : 2 6 ) ; "whose sins are forgiven,"
(aphiemi, 2 : 7); "whose sins are covered," (apokalyptoo, 2 : 7) ;
"whose sin is not counted," (bgizomai, 2 : 8 ) ; "saved from wrath,"
(SWSOO, 5:9); "reconciled to God," (katulsssoo, 5 : 10); and the
numerous uses of dikaiooo, "to justify." "Justify" never means "to
make righteous" or "to become righteous" in the usual sense of these
words.lS Leon Morris says, "The verb is essentially a forensic one
in its biblical usage, and it denotes basically a sentence of acquit-
tal."20 Rudolf Bultmann says that Paul teaches a forensic justifica-
tion and that the word "justrfy" e resses relationship rather than
quality. He also speaks of the old g g l i s h term iirightwisetJ (Anglo-
Saxon, riht~uis and rihtwisness) as forerunners of "justify" and
"righteo~sness."~~ Dr. Henry Hamann of Australia speaks of "jus-
t i fy as follows:
If the forgiveness of sins is justification, then justifica-
tion is &st and foremost a declaring ri fmom As little as
the pronouncement of forgiveness is su lec~vely in the one
forgiven, so little is justification a process in the one justified.
As forgiveness comes to a man from one outside of himself,
so justification takes place outside of man. If outside of man,
then in God. So jusacation is as actus forensis. This is the
conclusion to which the identification of jusrification with
Quanbeck also says, "Justification is indeed a declarative act
of God by which the sinner is forgiven."53 The Lutheran Confes-
sions repeat the statement again and again. Justification by faith,
then, is the righteous and loving God's pronouncement of forgive-
ness upon the sinner for Christ's sake and man's acceptance of this
forgiveness by faith, by believin the promises of the Gospel. The
Lutheran Small Catechism spe d s out the term vev simplr: "We
confess that we receive forgiveness of sins and are justiiied before
God, not by our works, but by grace, for Christ's sake, through
faith." This definition does not omit the justified life which fol-
lows but rather implies it. Here we may think of the way both
Paul and James treat the same doctrine of jusacation. There is
always the danger that in our eagerness to define justification by
faith without works that one may separate justification from what
we usually call sanctification. To avoid this we believe that any
definition of justification by faith according to the Scriptures (and
the Lutheran Confessions) must include these seven items: I ) God
2) justifies 3) sinners 4) by grace 5) for Christ's sake 6) through
faith alone 7 ) for a new life here on earth and in heaven.
Many people have misunderstood justification, so it appears,
when they cease to remember that God declares not a holy inno-
cent person righteous but a guilty sinner righteous. He says to
the sinner because of Christ, 'mot guilty as charged." At this
point one hears objections of "unethical," "unjust," "unworthy
of God," "mechanical," etc. But this is God's doing-it is not
unjust because God Himself does it (Rom. 3 : 2 6 ) . This is not
just a Lutheran doctrine but a Scriptural doctrine. It is justifica-
tion according to Romans.
Two things, however, should be kept in mind when defming
"justify" and "justification," in Romans. First, it is not just "pious
fiction," or a mere theory. Justification of the sinner does not
occur in a vacuum; it gets into the sinner. In a sense justification
is also regeneration.=* Paul ties the idea of justification to other
great terms. For example, in Romans 8:30 he writes: 'Those
whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he
also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified." In
1 Cor. 6: 11 he says, 'You were mashed, you were sanctified, you
were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit
of our God." In Romans 5: 9 he connects salvation with justifica-
tion: "Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much
more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God." In Rom.
6:3 he places Baptism and justification together: "Do you h o w
not that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus mere
baptized into his death?" (Cf. Titus 3:s-7).
Secondly, this doctrine is a marvelous comfort and power in
modern man's life as in former ages. Modern man knows that his
predicament of sin is real and condemning. He realizes after two
wars that he cannot escape the evils of his environment and have
peace of mind except through rescue from without. Justification
means not only forgiveness but the gift of the Holy Spirit (Rom.
15: 13). It means power at the draw-bar of Christian life when
and where man needs it most. Justification by faith makes a man
a member of the Body of Christ. Not only is he in union with
Christ who rules all things in the interest of His churcha5 but also
in fellowship with all of Christ's own who supply untold strength
in this Christian fellowship. Because the justified person knows
the true and living God he does not worship the presentdav gods
of materialism and nationalism. He can live in the world, and
overcome it, rather than submit to it. Above all, he can face the
future with head up and heart full of comfort and confidence. He
is not afraid of God's judgment because he has already faced it and
has received a verdict of acquittal. He has met the
and has found only love and deliverance as Israel rt id o Pdge old.
Although he is in this world simul justus et peccator he knows that
ultimate deliverance, even of the bodv (Rom. 8 :23), is certain.
He is beset on every hand by both crass and subtle temptations
such as generations in the past have not faced, and he is more than
a conqueror through Christ. He can sar as the Apostle did in his
day in a world much like our own:
Terl~z 7ust ih" in the Epistk to the Ronra~rr
Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. . . .
There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are
in Christ Jesus. . . . Who shall bring any charge against
God's elect? It is God who iust&es. . . . Who shall separate
us from the love of Christ? . . . For I am sure that neither
death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things pres-
ent, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to sesparate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 5:20 ;
8 : 1,33-39).
In this full sense, justification is always. It is not only in
the past, nor only hoped for, but it is also an event continually
taking place in our lives and reforming them for Christ.
Warren A. Quanbeck, Christ Yesterday, Today, Forerer; A Study Docu-
ment on Justification. Prepared under the auspices of the Commission
on Theology for the Lutheran World Federation Assembly in Hekbki,
July 30-August 11, 1963. New York: National Lutheran Council, 1962,
Robert Schultz, "Justification in the 16th and the 20th Centuries,"
The Cresset (October, 1957), pp. 8-10 passim.
Ibid., p. 9. See my study "Justification the Leitmotif of the Apolw
of the Augsburg Confession," Bachelor's Thesis, Concordia Seminary,
St. Louis, 1940.
It is instructive to note that for understanding jus&cation in Romans
Paul uses a series of terms all with the root dik- in Greek; d i h i o s
(righteous, or righteous person); diWsynee (righteousness); dikaiosis
(jndifkation); +kPiooma (judgment, also decree, law); dikoioos (ad-
verb, m e w g righteously ) ; dtkaiokzisia (righteous judgment) ; adikia
(unholiness, unrighteousness); besides dikuiooo (to justify).
Cf. Ram. 3:20: "For no human being will be justified in his sight by
works of the law." In Gal. 2:16 the two phrases "justify by works"
and "justify by faith" stand side by side.
Is this what our Lord meant by His statement to the wealthy questioner:
"If you would be perfect, go, sell what you p o s s s and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heavenJ' (Matt. 19 : 2 1 ) ?
Even in the everyday use of the term today the verb is generally used
in the passive sense. We may say, "Thy, general in these circumstances
was ju&ed in withdrawing his troops. This statement is our judg-
ment rendered on the general's actions. Aso, if we speak of self-
justification the passive idea is apparent.
Note how Paul uses the compound dikniokn'sia, "righteous judgment,"
in Rom. 2:5, revealing how closely related the terms judgment and
justify are for him.
John Murray, The Epistk to the Romans, The New Internan'onal Com-
mentmy m the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdrnans, 1959),
Vol. I, pp. 29-30.
This rendering of Rom. 1: 17 in RSV is very acceptable but perhaps
when one considers the context of Hab. 2:4 in the OId Testament and
Paul's purpose (to teach that salvation is "faith all the way," i.e., &
pistams eis pistin) in introducing this quotation in his thematic verse,
the better rendering would be the general "the righteous man lives by
12. The phrase "for our j&ation" (both KJV and RSV) is really
"becmcse of our j d c a t i o n " in Greek. We understand Paul's greatly
condensed statement in this way: Our Lord's Atonement was perfect;
it was an allsufFicient sacrifice. Because of this the righteous God
pronounced all men's sins forgiven. To substantiate and proclaim this
fact, God raised Christ from the dead. Here we see the close relation-
ship between justification and other basic doctrines like the Pason of
Christ and the Resurrection. This is also why the Resurrection was
thematic for Apostolic preaching. Another thought: God also rendered
here a verdict on Christ's Atonement. In a sense our Lord was judged
or "just&ed" through the Resurrection. Cf. Rom. 3:4, "That thou
mayest be justified in thy words."
13. Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1955), p. 185. This is truly a worthwhile volume on the
atonement and justilkation, one of the best eeatments of the subject
in the form of study of key words to appear for many years.
14. Triglot Concordia, Apology, Art. XXI, p. 347. Cf. AC, Art. IV, p. 45;
FC, Art. 111, pp. 4, 7.
15. Quanbeck, op. cit., pp. 27f. passim.
16. Ibid., p. 28 (section 60).
17. Ibid., p. 29 (section 62).
18. For example C. H. Dodd, who believes that "justify" means to "vindi-
cate" or "give redress to" a person who has been wronged. "God's
righteousness is revealed in 'iusti6cation' of those who are the victims
oFevil." He says a God an& with sin is "foreign to biblical usage,"
and interprets faith in terms of regeneration without having Christ's
Atonement as its object. The term "vindicate" may be used to describe justification but not the way Dodd uses it. Cf. C. H. Dodd, The Epistk
of Paul to the Rumans, The Moffuf New Testament Commentary (New
Tork: Harper and Brothers, 1938), pp. 10-13.
19. The expression which has come mto our religious vocabulary in recent
years "to be right with God" expresses the concept of justification
appropriately. The expression includes the forensic act of God as well
as the righteous life which follows. But unless this is understood or
stated when using the expression, it can also be misleading. Godet says
in his Commentary on Romans, "as to dikaim, there is not an example
in the whole of classic literature where it signifies to make just," p. 157.
20. Morris, op. cit., pp. 226, 260.
21. Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, Vol. I, Translated
bv Kendrick Grobel [New York: Charles Scribners Sons. 1951 ). DD. . - -
253, 272, 274.
22. Henry P. Hamann, Justij%atiorr by Faith in M o d m Theology ( S t .
Louis: School for Graduate Studies, Concordia Seminary, 1957), p. 5.
23. Quanbeck, op. cit., p. 34