Tag Archives: Formula of Concord

Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ — the Lutheran Edition

The other day I received this fine-looking volume, Concordia: the Lutheran Confessions.  I’ve been browsing through it and becoming more familiar with Lutheran confessional orthodoxy.  There’s an extensive and helpful index at the back.  One of the interesting omissions is the word ‘covenant.’  Maybe it’s used in this volume somewhere, but it’s not important enough to make it into the index.

Another (possibly related) point of interest is the Lutheran confession of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ.  In the explanatory words before article 4 of the Augsburg Confession, the editors write,

“Through his life, Jesus satisfied God’s demand for perfect obedience.  Through his sacrificial death, Jesus took God’s wrath and atoned for the sins of the world.  The Holy Spirit through the means of grace, works in us saving faith, which personally apprehends what Christ has done for us.  Our justification before God, therefore, is brought about by the one who lived, suffered, and died for our salvation.  We cannot merit God’s favour through our obedience; we cannot offer sacrifices to pay for our sins.  But what we cannot do for ourselves, Christ has done for us.  He is the solid Rock on which God builds His Church.  On Him, and Him alone, we stand forgiven”  (32-33).

Except perhaps for hint of a problem with the intent of the atonement, that’s beautifully stated.

Later, the Formula of Concord says the same thing:

“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 (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) is credited to us for righteousness.  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 us 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.  (538)

The remarkable thing is that this doctrine does not seem to be explicitly tied to any particular covenant theology.  Hmm….just like the Belgic Confession in article 22.