Christ's Work For Us... But Not Within Us?

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During the 16th Century a debate arose on the doctrine of justification.  Andreas Osiander taught "that a person is declared righteous by God because the divine nature of Christ takes up residence within his or her heart, and for that reason, God declares that person righteous."[1]  There are some serious doctrinal problems with Andreas’ teaching but the most notable is that justification was defined as Christ dwelling in the believer.  In other words, Osiander taught that the way in which we know that we are made right with God and the way in which God justifies us is Christ’s inward indwelling.  This is a gross confusion of justification and sanctification. 

Now, just in case you are worked up at this point… let me reassure you!  The scriptures do teach of the Triune God dwelling in the believer.  The scriptures do testify that the blessing and fruit of salvation is God at work in the life of the believer.  However, this inward working is sanctification, not justification.  You see, “the danger of saying that justification is something happening inside of a human being is that people will be looking always within themselves, instead of looking to Christ’s objective work.”[2]

When Osiander and his associates taught their view of justification as, “what was going on inside of a person, instead of Christ’s external, objective work and God’s gift, they were in fact reverting back to the errors of the Roman view of justification.  The Roman theologians taught justification as an ongoing process that is only completed by what happens within a person.  This turns the Gospel into a Law and throws out certainty in Christ by replacing it with dependence on a person’s internal response, reactions and attitudes about Christ.”[3]

Simply put, our justification is outside of us not inside.   This means that we don’t look inward, but we look outward to Christ's objective work on the cross as the basis of our justification.[4]  Furthermore, in the realm of sanctification we are blessed with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us so as to mold and shape.  Sanctification is something that happens inwardly to us by the Holy Spirit through the Word.  

Loosely stated, justification happens outwardly and sanctification happens inwardly.  Another way of stating this is that, “our justification is entirely a consequence of Christ’s work for us, on our behalf, but not in us.”[5]  

Praise Be to God! Extra Nos... Our Justification is outside of us.

[1] Paul McCain, General Editor. Concordia, The Lutheran Confessions, The Editor’s Notes on the Formula of Concord (CPH, 2006), 465.
[2] Ibid, 466.
[3] Ibid, 466.
[4] The salvation that was achieved by Christ is also delivered to us personally.  All the benefits of Calvary come to us through the Word and Sacraments.  We don’t turn inward for assurance, but we also turn outward to gifts that are delivered to us.
[5] Ibid, 466.