Objective & Subjective Justification

In my reading the other day, I came across what I thought was a great explanation of the relationship between what Lutheran theologians have called objective and subjective (or, if you prefer, universal and personal) justification. This book is written by a Baptist minister, believe it or not, who occasionally lets his limited atonement colors show through, but this snippet I thought quite accurately explains objective and subjective justification:

Only Christ’s work on the cross satisfies God’s just wrath, and only faith in Christ’s propitiatory work justifies the sinner (225).

Objective justification, therefore, has to do with God in Christ cancelling the debts of the whole world, or, as Mark Dever puts it, “satisfies God’s just wrath.” This is quite apart from the sinner, and true regardless of whether anyone repents or not and believes. Subjective justification has to do with what Dever says in the second part of this statement, where faith comes in and takes hold of God’s mercy in Christ’s “propitiatory work” and “justifies the sinner.” Just some thoughts for a Friday morning.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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2 Responses to Objective & Subjective Justification

  1. Andy. R says:

    Great way of explaining things, I am 14 and I am very glad you can explain it to me

  2. That’s helpful for highlighting that there’s a distinction between the two, but it misrepresents Universal Justification: All have sinned, and In Christ, all are justified:

    “there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus …” (Romans 3:22-24).

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