Luther and Two Kinds of Righteousness

Martin Luther provides us with some important theological clues when it comes to justification and righteousness.  Oddly enough we live in a world where the Protestants need a reformation while the Vatican  is leading the way in reform.  What we have by and large in the church today is Protestantism without the Reformation.

Now, here is Martin Luther:


“This is our theology, by which we teach a precise distinction between these two kinds of righteousness, the active and the passive” (Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians 1535). There are “two kinds of righteousness” because human beings live in two kinds of relationships: 1) creature with Creator and 2) creature with creature. Before God (coram Deo), people are passive, receiving righteousness by grace through faith on account of Christ (Rom 3:21-24; 5:17; 10:6; Phil 3:9; cf. Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16). Before the world (coram mundo), people are active, serving their neighbor in love (Rom 13:8-19; Gal 5:13-14). This distinction is essential because, as Luther put it, it ensures that “morality and faith, works and grace … are not confused. Both are necessary, but both must be kept within their limits” (Lectures on Galatians 1535). To be human is to be two-dimensional: passive (i.e. receptive) before God and active (i.e. loving) before the world. These two kinds of righteousness are distinct, but they are inseparable: passive righteousness from God precedes and produces active righteousness for the neighbor. In Paul’s words, what “matters is faith [in God] working through love [for others]” (Gal 5:6). This “double-definition” of righteousness avoids the twin errors of one-dimensional definitions: either supposing that human activity (love) is the basis of the Creator-creature relationship or, conversely, imaging that because justification is by faith works of love are irrelevant. To say there are two kinds of righteousness is to affirm the importance of faith and love while also identifying the proper place for faith and love. As Luther describes the Christian, “he lives not in himself, but in Christ and the neighbor. He lives in Christ through faith and in his neighbor through love” (Freedom of the Christian 1520).

The Atonement of Christ

The Atonement of Christ for us!


“God demonstrated His love for us, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. How much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. . . now being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. . . by Whom we have now received the atonement.” (Romans 5:8-11)


There are at least 8 keys to understanding the atonement of Christ. By studying the revelation of Paul the Apostle in his letters to the churches that we can gain a real understanding of the finished work of Christ on the cross.


#1. Sacrificial


When we say that the atonement was “sacrificial,” we mean that Christ was our sacrifice. When Christ died on the cross, it was for you and me. He became our passover. If you had been the only person on the planet, Christ would have died on the cross for you. He loves you that much! The Bible says that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.


“Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)


“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him.” (Romans 5:9)


“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)


You are justified by faith in the blood of Christ. Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us. (Romans 5:9; Ephesians 5:2)


#2. Vicarious


By vicarious atonement we simply mean that Christ died on our behalf. He was our representative and we are identified with Him in his death, burial, and resurrection. I am crucified with Christ and now Christ lives His life through me in my identification with Him and in His atonement.


“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:6)


“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)


“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)


#3. Substitutionary


By the term “Substitutionary Atonement” we simply mean that He took your place on the cross. The gospel song that says “I should have been crucified” expresses this idea of the substitutionary work of Christ.


Christ took our place. I should have gone to the cross, but instead, Jesus went there for me. He bore our sins in His own body on the cross.


In the words of Saint Augustine, “But Christ without guilt . . . took upon Himself our punishment, in order that He might thus expiate our guilt and do away with our punishment.”


“He (Christ) died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)


Martin Luther said, “This is the mystery of the riches of divine grace for sinners, for by a wonderful exchange our sins are now not ours but Christ’s and Christ’s righteousness is not Christ’s but ours.”


#4. Penal


Penal atonement is where Christ took our curse and bore our death and our penalty for us. Christ bore the penalty for our sins. He (Christ)Who knew no sin, was made to be sin on our behalf; in order that we might become the righteousness of God in him.


“For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)


“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse forus; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)


#5. Propitiatory


By the term propitiatory atonement we simply mean the truth that Christ is our mercy seat. His blood appeases the wrath of a just and holy God. We can commune with God in the secret place because of, and only because of, the blood of Christ that is sprinkled on the mercy seat in heaven. The just wrath of God has been satisfied by the atonement of Christ on the cross.


“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood,to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season:that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:24-26)


“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him.” (Romans 5:9)


“Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:9)


#6. Expiatory


When we call the atonement “expiatory”, we mean that our sins are covered with the blood. The Greek literally means that our sins are done away with or obliterated. As far as the east is from the west . . . Though are sins be as scarlet, we shall be made white as snow . . . by the expiatory work of Christ and His blood on the cross.


#7 Redemptive


The redemptive aspect of the atonement is where we are ransomed, or purchased, by the blood of Christ. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price. Acts 20:28 says that the Church was “purchased with his (Christ’s) own blood.” (Acts 20:28)


#8. Triumphant


The atonement of Christ is a Triumphant Atonement. Because of the atonement, we are triumphant over Satan. Jesus spoiled principalities and powers, and now God has raised us up and made us sit together with Christ in the heavenly places.


“Having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:15)


“But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:4-10)


It is only by virtue of the blood of Christ sacrificed for us on the cross that we can approach the Throne of GRACE with boldness and obtain Mercy.


Suggested Affirmation of Faith:


Through the blood of Jesus, I am redeemed out of the hand of the devil.


Through the blood of Jesus, I am delivered from the powers of darkness.


Through the blood of Jesus, I am translated into the Kingdom of God.


The precious blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, continually cleanses me from all sin. I boldly declare that my body is a temple for the Holy Spirit of God. I am redeemed, cleansed, delivered and totally set free from all the bondage of the devil, by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ.

The law and the gospel

The Churches of the Reformation from the very beginning distinguished between the law and the gospel as the two parts of the Word of God. This distinction was not understood to be identical with that between the Old and the New Testament, but was regarded as a distinction that applies to both Testaments. There is law and gospel in the Old Testament, and there is law and gospel in the New. The law comprises everything in Scripture which is a revelation of God’s will in the form of command or prohibition, while the gospel embraces everything, whether it be in the Old Testament or in the New, that pertains to the work of reconciliation and that proclaims the seeking and redeeming love of God in Christ Jesus. – Louis Berkhof

The Tenses of Salvation

The Tenses of Salvation

1Co 1:17  For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

1Co 1:18  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The bible says that the word of the cross is the power of God.  Paul told the Romans that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.



You see, I believe that Jesus Christ has the power to save, I mean really save.  The power of the gospel changes lives by the new birth, we are made new creations in Christ when God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit come to make their permanent residence on the inside of us, the New Testament believer.  This is who Christ is, in us.  This is what Christ has done for us.  This is who we are and what we possess in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Salvation is described by Paul as a thing done in the past, “we were saved” (Rom_8:24), as a present state, “ye have been saved” (Eph_2:5), as a process, “ye are being saved” (1Co_15:2), as a future result, “thou shalt be saved” (Rom_10:9).  ~ A. T. Robertson



For by hope were we saved

Rom 8:24  For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth?

First aorist passive indicative of “SOZO”


“We were saved in hope, by hope, for hope” (of the redemption of the body). ~ A. T. Robertson


Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes


Since then the gospel invites all to partake of salvation without any difference, it is rightly called the doctrine of salvation: for Christ is there offered, whose peculiar office is to save that which was lost; and those who refuse to be saved by him, shall find him a Judge. But everywhere in Scripture the word salvation is simply set in opposition to the word destruction: and hence we must observe, when it is mentioned, what the subject of the discourse is. Since then the gospel delivers from ruin and the curse of endless death, its salvation is eternal life. ~ John Calvin



The Hebrew, and (Greek, “sōtēria”, meaning “safety”, “preservation”, “healing”, and “soundness”). Salvation is the great inclusive word of the Gospel, gathering into itself all the redemptive acts and processes: as justification, redemption, grace, propitiation, imputation, forgiveness, sanctification, and glorification. Salvation is in three tenses:

(1) The believer has been saved from the guilt and penalty of sin Luk_7:50; 1Co_1:18; 2Co_2:15; Eph_2:5; Eph_2:8; 2Ti_1:9 and is safe.

(2) the believer is being saved from the habit and dominion of sin Rom_6:14; Phi_1:19; Phi_2:12; Phi_2:13; 2Th_2:13; Rom_8:2; Gal_2:19; Gal_2:20; 2Co_3:18.

(3) The believer is to be saved in the sense of entire conformity to Christ. Rom_13:11; Heb_10:36; 1Pe_1:5; 1Jo_3:2.

Salvation is by grace through faith, is a free gift, and wholly without works; Rom_3:27; Rom_3:28; Rom_4:1-8; Rom_6:23; Eph_2:8.

The divine order is:

first, salvation,

then, works; Eph_2:9; Eph_2:10; Tit_3:5-8. ~ Scofield



We Have Eternal Life

1Jn 5:11  And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

1Jn 5:12  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1Jn 5:13  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

1Jn 5:14  And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.


1 Peter 1:5


From Peter’s use of  Present tense one can see that in context (see also discussion of context) he is referring to born again ones, describing them as those who are “continually being protected by the power (dunamis) of God”. God’s protection of His children isn’t fickle, present one day and absent the next. You can see how even the most basic understanding of verb tense can add so much to the meaning.