Vol. 1, Issue 1
Simul Justus et Peccator The Journal of St. Paul Lutheran Seminary
Volume 1, Issue 1, Fall 2021
Simul Justus et Peccator EDITOR
Rev. Dr. Dennis R. Di Mauro firstname.lastname@example.org ADMINSTRATOR Rev. Jon Jensen email@example.com
SIMUL is the journal of St. Paul Lutheran Seminary. Cover Photo
This issue’s cover photo is Lucas Cranach the Elder’s “Head of Christ Crowned with Thorns” (1510) Disclaimer The views expressed in the articles reflect the author(s) opinions and are not necessarily the views of the publisher and editor. SIMUL cannot guarantee and accepts no liability for any loss or damage of any kind caused by the errors and for the accuracy of claims made by the authors. All rights reserved and nothing can be partially or in whole be reprinted or reproduced without written consent from the editor.
Administrative Address: St. Paul Lutheran Seminary P.O. Box 251 Midland, GA 31820 ACADEMIC DEAN Rev. Julie Smith firstname.lastname@example.org Academics/Student Affairs Address: St. Paul Lutheran Seminary P.O. Box 112 Springfield, MN 56087 BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chair: Rev. Dr. Erwin Spruth Rev. Greg Brandvold Rev. Jon Jensen Rev. Dr. Mark Menacher Steve Paula Rev. Julie Smith Charles Hunsaker Rev. Dr. James Cavanah Rev. Jeff Teeples TEACHING FACULTY Dr. James A. Nestingen Rev. Dr. Marney Fritts Rev. Dr. Dennis DiMauro Rev. Julie Smith Rev. Virgil Thompson Rev. Dr. Keith Less Rev. Brad Hales Rev. Dr. Erwin Spruth Rev. Steven King Rev. Dr. Orrey McFarland Rev. Horacio Castillo (Intl) Rev. Amanda Olson de Castillo (Intl)
Magazine | Page 2
SIMUL Volume 1, Issue 1, Fall 2021
Simul Justus et Peccator
Contents Welcome to SIMUL
Rev. Dr. Dennis R. Di Mauro
Simul Iustus et Maleficent? Reading Luther’s Doctrine for Contemporary Proclamation
Rev. Dr. Steve Turnbull
Eschatology of the Simul
Rev. Dr. Marney Fritts
Simul Justus et Peccator:
Both Saint and Sinner at the Same Time The Touchstone of the Reformation
Rev. Dr. Erwin L. Spruth
Welcome to SIMUL Introduction You are about to enjoy the first-ever issue of SIMUL, the journal of St. Paul Lutheran Seminary. This original historic copy will tackle our journal’s name, SIMUL, or more fully, simul justus et peccator, the Lutheran doctrine which explains that we Christians are simultaneously justified saints, and yet still remain ordinary sinners. In this issue, Steve Turnbull explores the doctrine in light of the contemporary artists and audiences of popular media. Marney Fritts examines what the simul means for us theologically, today and at the end of days. And Erwin Spruth looks at the simul considering the biblical witness, the Reformation, and its meaning for us as Christians who are saved by grace and not works. I thank all our contributors for their thoughtful and well-researched articles.
Just because our articles are written by academics, that doesn’t mean you have to be an academic to understand them.
Why a New Journal? When one looks at the landscape of Lutheran publications in the United States, there are many fine journals to choose from, including Lutheran Forum, ProEcclesia, Lutheran
Quarterly, and Logia, just to name a few. So what makes SIMUL different? 1) It’s free. Our readers pay nothing to read the articles or share them with friends. The last thing our pastors and laity need right now is to write another check to a theological journal. And so, we are quite proud of SIMUL’s availability without charge. But quite honestly, it does cost money to produce. So, if you would like to contribute to the production of SIMUL, you can do so by going to our website at https://semlc.org/support-stpaul-lutheran-seminary/ But pleased do not feel obliged to give, because just like the gospel, SIMUL is a free gift. 2) It’s online. To keep SIMUL free, we offer it online only. SIMUL can be accessed on our website at www.semlc.org, and on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/St-Paul-Lutheran-Seminary139019069505467. It is also accessible through our email list. If you would like to be added to that list, send me your email address at email@example.com. 3) It’s readable. Let’s face it - you probably subscribe to a few print journals and actually read only one or two articles from every issue. Then you throw that copy out, feeling a little guilty. No more! SIMUL is a quarterly journal, and we plan on including just four articles per issue. Therefore, SIMUL is a journal you will actually read from cover to cover every three months, and when you are done, there is no need to walk to the recycling bin.
4) It’s academic, but it’s written for the church. SIMUL is an academic journal, and it is written by academics. All four articles in this first issue are written by Lutheran scholars who hold PhDs. The articles you will read in SIMUL are going to adhere to the highest academic standards, and they will include endnotes so you can reference where the authors are getting their information. But just because our articles are written by academics that doesn’t mean you have to be an academic to understand them. SIMUL is going to be readable, but not just by academics, and not just by pastors, but also by our laity, the disciples who move the church forward. And that is our goal – not to simply look smart in front of other academics, but rather, to edify the church. 5) It is going to introduce you to St. Paul Lutheran Seminary. The summer of 2021 marked the tenth anniversary of St. Paul Lutheran Seminary. Now I know I am a little biased, but I think that our seminary offers something very special to the church: an affordable education, available online, from a Lutheran perspective, by professors who also serve the church as pastors. So let’s take a look at the history of the seminary:1 Our Seminary St. Paul Lutheran Seminary (SPLS) began with a simple premise in the summer of 2011: to provide churches with an easily accessible, high-quality confessional Lutheran education and resources for mission, with a goal of
equipping servant leaders. SPLS uses a “Paul-Timothy” model for preparing ministry candidates. We utilize pastor/academics to educate and mentor men and women for Word and Sacrament ministry. And SPLS allows students to complete their studies online or at one of our residential locations. We offer an MDiv, DMin, and certificate programs, as well as our Kairos program in association with Sioux Falls Seminary. We currently have 39 students studying domestically and another 33 studying at our overseas location in Ethiopia and India, as well as in Mexico and Nicaragua (both of which are offered entirely in Spanish). In addition, another 580 students are enrolled in a weekly lectionary study led by one of our founders and our provost, Dr. J Jim Nestingen, and 27 others participate in Our program a short preaching course for those includes a 6interested in providing pulpit supply. Along with Dr. Nestingen, we have some wonderful professors: Dr. Marney Fritts, who teaches theology, as well as Drs. Bud Thompson, and Orrey McFarland who head up our biblical studies classes, and so many other dedicated pastor/theologians.
course series called “Being a Pastor,” which is taught by experienced pastors who love parish ministry.
So academics are our strength, but we have made the curriculum practical as well. Our program includes a 6course series called “Being a Pastor,” which is taught by experienced pastors who love parish ministry. The classes feature open discussion on such topics as “how to enter a 7
community,” “maintaining healthy boundaries,” “parish administration,” and other areas of concern to aspiring pastors and church workers. We are also blessed with a talented board of directors who lead us financially and administratively, one of whom, Dr. Erwin Spruth, offers an edifying article in this issue. The directors govern the seminary. The result is a seminary which is orthodox, Lutheran, confessional, and ready to prepare students for ministry. To quote our dean of students, Rev. Julie Smith, “All of this theology is for the sake of faithful preaching, for the sake of setting sinners free.”2 What’s Ahead? We are so excited about this coming year. The Winter 2022 issue will tackle the subject of gnosticism, both in the early centuries of the church as well as today. Spring 2022 will explore Luther’s two kingdoms and ponder the implications for today’s church and state conflicts. Summer 2022’s topic will be the “Uses of the Law - 2 or 3?” (we will attempt to remain civil and avoid any further schisms). And finally, our Fall 2022 issue will cover the subject of the sacraments, a topic which has come under much discussion during the COVID-19 shutdowns. 8
I also would like to remind everyone about our 2022 annual theological conference at the historic Jekyll Island Club in Georgia on April 19th and 20th, 2022 - always a fun event in a beautiful place, with so many talented speakers. I hope you can join us. You can register at https://semlc.org/conference-registration/ So I hope you enjoy our first-ever issue of SIMUL. And if you have any questions about the journal or about St. Paul Lutheran Seminary, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Warrenton, VA. He teaches at St. Paul Lutheran Seminary and is the editor of SIMUL. Endnotes 1A
more detailed history of St. Paul Lutheran Seminary can be found on our website at https://semlc.org/about/ 2Julie Smith, “Address to the Augustana District Conference in 2018,” https://semlc.org/about/ (accessed Sept. 29, 2021).
SIMUL IUSTUS et MALEFICENT? READING LUTHER’S DOCTRINE for CONTEMPORARY PROCLAMATION Introduction Lutherans are notoriously good at slogans: justification by faith, real presence, the priesthood of all believers, simultaneously saint and sinner. But too often theological slogans such as these have come to wield an influence wider than their comprehension. The aim of this short essay is to expand both the comprehension and, then and therefore, the usefulness of the last of these listed slogans. Shorthanded among the cognoscenti simply as “the simul,” the fuller phrase is simul iustus et peccator, rendered most frequently into English as “simultaneously saint and sinner” (even though the semantic domain of iustus would more frequently lead to translations like “justified,” “just,” or “righteous,” meanings which predominate in Luther’s relevant discussions). In pursuit of this aim, we will proceed in three steps. First, we will read and summarize three passages from Luther where this formulation is articulated in his expositions of Romans and Galatians. Second, we
will listen sympathetically to a contemporary artistic narrative that offers its own exploration of moral complexity and hope for redemption. Finally, in light of these parallel readings, we will offer some very brief suggestions to enhance our telling of the good news of Jesus in the contemporary contexts in which such artistic narratives find their home. Expositions of Romans and Galatians In the Romans lectures of 1515, Luther formulated the simul in his explanation of verse 4:7, which quotes the words of Psalm 31:1, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven.”1 Luther begins with an emphasis on the self-awareness of the saints. They know their own sin clearly. Luther explains, “The saints are always sinners in their own sight.” They confess the words of Psalm 51, “‘My sin is ever before me,’ that is, I always have it in my mind that I am a sinner.”2 In Luther’s view, this is no delusion, no unfortunate failure of self-esteem. “Thus in their own sight and in truth they are unrighteous…They are actually sinners.”3 But this is only half the picture. Even while they are sinners “actually” and “in truth,” they are also righteous. God reckons them as righteous because of their confession. “They are actually sinners, but they are righteous by the imputation of a merciful God…they are sinners in fact but righteous in hope.” God does not impute their sins to them, but rather, graciously and in response to their faith in Christ, he imputes the status of
righteousness. This is news both wonderful and familiar to any who have read Luther before. Luther also explains that this gift of righteousness by God’s imputation is the beginning of a life of struggle against sin. “For we believe in Him who promises to free us, and in the meantime we strive that sin may not rule over us but that we may withstand it until He takes it from us.”4 The justified Christian sinner is like a sick man “who believes the doctor who promises him a sure recovery and in the meantime obeys the doctor’s order in the hope of the promised recovery and abstains from those things which have been forbidden him, so that he may in no way hinder the promised return to health or increase his sickness until the doctor can fulfill his promise to him.”5 “The sinner “is still Making the analogy clear, Luther explains a sinner, but he that the sinner “is still a sinner, but he has has the beginning the beginning of righteousness, so that of righteousness, he continues more and more always to so that he seek it.” continues more
and more always to seek it.”
Luther is aware that sin is more than outward acts of disobedience and interprets Paul similarly. Sin is a power or active agent at work in us, a tinder which sparks the flame of transgression. “It is no longer I that do it but sin which dwells in me,” Luther quotes from Rom 7:20. So every “act of sin (as it is called by the theologians) is more correctly sin in the sense of the work and fruit of sin, but sin itself is the passion, the tinder, and the concupiscence, or the inclination, toward evil…”6 This passion or inclination to evil brings forth sinful action, 12
which is more properly understood as the fruit of sin at work within us.7 Righteousness works by the same logic in the opposite direction. So also “…our righteousness from God is the very turning toward the good and the avoiding of evil which is given to us inwardly through grace,” so that our good works become “the fruits of righteousness.” But the Christian should not expect to experience the entire removal of sin in this life, except only by imputation. “Experience bears witness that in whatever good work we perform, this concupiscence toward evil remains and no one is ever cleansed of it.” Luther is not shy to describe this kind of striving against sin as obedience to God, always remembering that it merits nothing. It is the result of God’s imputation of righteousness, not the cause of it. “The mercy of God is that this (sin) does remain and yet is not imputed as sin to those who call upon Him and cry out for deliverance.”8 There is an energy in Luther’s simul that is sometimes missing in contemporary uses of the doctrine. The description of Christians as sinners to whom righteousness is reckoned may seem at first to represent a kind of stasis, a settled condition in the present age. But Luther imagines this reckoning of righteousness to be the beginning of something more dynamic. There is direction and movement in his fuller explanations of the simul. Christians are on their way to health and the cure of their disease. This agrees with Paul’s own rhetoric and suggests that we should think of the simul not so much as ontological stasis as eschatological dynamism, as an example of the dawning new creation. Thus, Paul writes to 13
the still imperfect yet now righteous-by-faith Roman Christians and exhorts them in the eschatological direction of obedience to God and away from the power of sin. “Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness” (Rom 6:12-13). Luther again articulates and explains the simul in his 1519 Galatians commentary with his comments on Gal 2:18, “But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor.” Luther’s comments in this context agree with and expand his views from the Romans lectures. Whereas the Romans lectures put more focus on the experience of the saints who know their own sinfulness, now Luther’s conviction about the dual experience of the Christian – both righteous and sinner – is expanded by being more directly grounded in the ambivalent testimony of Scripture. “Scripture establishes both facts.”9 The first epistle of John will say, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8),” and also “We know that everyone who is born of God does not sin” (1 John 5:18). Similarly Job is, on the one hand, a righteous and innocent man who, on the other hand, prays for the removal of his iniquity.10 Luther explains the seeming contradiction by describing Job as simul iustus, simul peccator.11 Neither simple claim of Scripture is true to the exclusion of the other. Both are true at the same
time, and the tension between them is truer than either pole could be on its own. Perhaps unsurprisingly this same description of the complexity of the person of God leads again to similar reflections on the struggle against the sin that remains. Luther twice uses the noteworthy phrase “what is left of sin.” First, he explains that “what is left of sin and falls short of fulfilling the law is not imputed” to the Christian because they believe in Christ. Then he explains that the task of faith is “to drive what is left of sin out of the flesh” and that faith accomplishes this task “by means of various afflictions, hardships, and mortifications of the flesh.” Luther’s description of the simul is not static but dynamic. Luther calls once more on his increasingly familiar formula, simul iustus et peccator, in his 1535 Galatians commentary to explain Gal 3:6, “Thus Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”12 As in the earlier examples, the same themes emerge in relationship to one another: the dual experience and status of the Christian, the Christian’s relationship to the sin that remains, and the dual nature of sin and righteousness as both internal powers and external works.
Faith justifies because it renders to God what is due him.
In this context, Luther adds something of an encomium to faith, answering the question why God reckons faith to us as complete righteousness, even when our righteousness remains in fact incomplete. “Faith justifies because it
renders to God what is due him.”13 Faith attributes glory to God. It regards him as “truthful, wise, righteous, merciful, and almighty.” This is the most acceptable allegiance to God and sacrifice to God, and thus by faith the Christian fulfills the Law’s demand.14 “Therefore faith alone attributes glory to God.” But even in this condition of worship and fulfilling the law by faith, “after faith there still remain remnants of sin in the flesh.”15 Righteousness is imputed to us, and it “does indeed begin through faith.” Its effect on us is the “first fruits of the Spirit,” but not the perfect righteousness that must wait “until the day of Christ.”16 Luther also continues to distinguish between the internal work of sin and its external effects. The “inner diseases of the heart, such as unbelief, doubt, contempt and hate for God” are the “fountain and cause of all evils,” whereas the “outward and course faults” are “little streams that proceed from those fountains.”17 The general content of Luther’s views remains consistent across these passages. Christians are sinful in fact but righteous by imputation at the same time. They strive against the remnants of sin to bear the fruit of the Spirit in this life while awaiting a full victory over sin in the eschatological future. And the sin against which they strive is not merely a set of external deeds or behaviors but an internal force animating those behaviors.
Equally important, the expressed rhetorical context for Luther’s views is also consistent. His purposes are to undercut the false righteousness of the hypocrites and sophists who think that they are no longer truly sinners and to give hope and consolation to the contrite who put their faith in the merciful forgiveness of God, to explain and defend the conviction that they are truly righteous by faith, even though they know they are still truly sinners in deed. Recognizing these twin rhetorical purposes explains what is missing from these passages: any real sense of exhortation to Christians in their struggle against sin. As we have noted above, Luther He explains there acknowledges and explains the nature of this that Christians should walk by the struggle, but even in his comments on obviously hortatory Pauline passages Luther Spirit and not the flesh, which means demurs to repeat the apostle’s rhetoric. His that they should explanations of Gal 5:13, 16, and 25 in the regard their 1519 commentary are all like this, and the righteousness as same is true for his explanation of 5:16 again coming from the in the 1535 commentary. He explains there Spirit and not from that Christians should walk by the Spirit and their walking. not the flesh, which means that they should regard their righteousness as coming from the Spirit and not from their walking.18 This is fine and true, of course, but the rhetorical target has moved. By 5:16, Paul has begun to argue for and urge the right use of spiritual freedom and power; Luther is still guarding against a misunderstanding of the source of righteousness. . 17
But Luther can sometimes shift gears. Consistent with his typical allergy to the self-righteousness of religious leaders in his own day, Luther seizes on Paul’s indictment of “vainglory” in Gal 5:26 and his exhortation to walk by (or conform to) the Spirit in 5:25.19 Similarly passionate exhortation can be found in his explanation of Gal 5:13.20 Luther paraphrases Paul, “Now it is up to you to be diligently on your guard not to use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” He regards it as a terrible and widespread evil to transform the teaching about justification by faith into a license for the flesh. “Therefore,” Luther explains, “we teach and exhort our followers with great care and diligence” not to think of the freedom of the spirit as a “pretext for evil,”21 but rather “for them to be servants of one another through love.” The tendency of Luther elsewhere in these commentaries to lean away from Pauline exhortation should be read as evidence of his evaluation of the rhetorical needs of his context and not misinterpreted as a conviction that such exhortation is out of place or ineffectual. Contemporary Artists and Audiences Turning now to a different mode of reflection, we find contemporary artists and audiences expressing dissatisfaction with one-dimensionally good and evil characters and exploring their own questions about moral complexity. The creators of Wicked22 did this for the
witches in the Wizard of Oz.23 Netflix has done it more recently for the characters of Karate Kid24 in their series Cobra Kai,25 and Disney has reimagined the famous characters of Sleeping Beauty26 in their blockbuster movie Maleficent,27 focusing especially on the stories of King Stefan and the eponymous Maleficent. Stefan turns out to be complicated only in the sense that things are often not what they seem. His character in Sleeping Beauty is benign; in Maleficent he is malignant. He is introduced as a thief; he develops by vain ambition; and he ascends to reign by deceit and violence. He is also revealed to be an orphan, which opens the possibility that the audience would understand him as wounded and regard him sympathetically as having good reasons for his faults. But this is a possibility that the narrative itself leaves undeveloped. Job
Maleficent is more interesting. She is introduced as a trusted healer and protector. Maleficent She shows compassion and forgiveness to Stefan and returns both him and his stolen item to where they belong (perhaps suggesting already the journey back to original goodness that her own character will eventually travel). She is also capable of real violence and destruction, though only after grievous provocation. She is an illustration of the now common proverb that “hurt people hurt people.” In the course
of her story, she gradually comes to regret her acts of vengeance. She tries, unsuccessfully, to undo them, and she longs for the forgiveness that she does not expect to receive. In the end she turns from her wicked ways, eschewing the opportunity to kill Stefan and refusing to become her worst self. Stefan goes the opposite direction. He lunges at Maleficent to conquer her by violence and stumbles into the death of Gollum, plummeting to his demise and losing his life for the sake of the thing that promised him life but destined his life to ruin from the very beginning. Stefan tells a realistic story. Many of us never learn. Our concupiscence and negative choices spiral, and fear overtakes us. We become increasingly worse versions of ourselves, with disastrous consequences for ourselves and for the people and natural world around us. Maleficent tells a hopeful story, and the audience must ask whether it is a plausible hope. Might we be people who are deeply good on the inside and only harm others when we ourselves have been harmed? Can we learn and grow ourselves out of our problems? To which of us would this apply? And what is the evidence around us for this organic process?
The character of Aurora (that name!) suggests that perhaps the story has its own doubts about Maleficent’s prospects if left to her own devices. Aurora is the one whose light shines in the darkness and begins to overcome it, turning
the malevolence of her enemy back toward benevolence. Aurora names Maleficent her fairy godmother. By Aurora’s reckoning, Maleficent is good, and this reckoning begins to turn her toward the good. She who was cursed speaks grace and unleashes a power that begins to unravel the curse itself. The analogy should not be exaggerated, and the intention here is not to demonstrate that Disney has unwittingly told a Gospel tale. But perhaps it is an invitation to tell the Gospel to a world that suspects that something like the simul might be true, or at least wishes that it could be. Must we all be defined by our worst moments? Is it possible that curses can be undone? Are there lights that can shine in deep darkness and not be overcome? Is forgiveness real, possible, and good? Who may grant it, and what are its effects?28
By Aurora’s reckoning, Maleficent is good, and this reckoning begins to turn her toward the good.
The watching public is all too aware that destructive forces and outcomes are everywhere, without good explanations for why. We grow increasingly cynical about non-apology apologies, especially from the powerful when they are caught red-handed, and sometimes we react by canceling the guilty beyond any hope of redemption. Admittedly, many demonstrate that they want not forgiveness but mere forgetfulness anyway. In all these ways we are tempted to locate the problem of sin and evil somewhere safely outside of ourselves. But the hero of
this story has blood on her hands, and we the audience are invited to identify with her in ways that were never true in Sleeping Beauty. She longs for forgiveness and a different future, but she cannot get from here to there on her own. And Aurora’s intervention, tantalizing though it may be, is mostly a case of blind naivete and mistaken identity with felicitous consequences. But the diagnosis and the hope that come from the true light of the world are even better than that, not least because that light has come into the world in a history beyond fiction. Evangelical theologians and all witnesses to the Gospel would do well to listen sympathetically to those in our world who are looking for what the simul enables us to see. If we will be patient to walk around respectfully inside their stories, perhaps they may come to inhabit the story within which all other stories are seeking their place. Steve Turnbull is the senior pastor at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio, where he lives with his wife Amy, their two children, and one delightfully incorrigible Labrador Retriever. Endnotes Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition, vols. 1–30, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia, 1955–76); vols. 31–55, ed. Helmut Lehmann (Philadelphia/Minneapolis: Muhlenberg/Fortress, 1957–86); vols. 56– 82, ed. Christopher Boyd Brown and Benjamin T. G. Mayes (St. Louis: Concordia, 2009). Hereafter LW. LW 25:257-277. The specific formula is found on p. 260, “…for he is at the same time both a sinner and a righteous man.” 2LW 25:257. 3LW 25:258. 1Martin
25:260. The language of “striving,” which appears throughout this essay, will be recognized by many as an uncomfortable fit in at least some streams of Lutheran theology and piety, even though related terminology appears in both Luther and the Pauline epistles. The controversy is well beyond the confines of the present context, and Luther’s usage will simply be reflected here. Perhaps those who see the difficulties well could advance the overall discussion elsewhere by developing an account of Luther’s approving usage of the language and concepts and distinguishing it from other, unhelpful developments. 5LW 25:260. 6LW 25:259. 7Contemporary scholars are more divided on the exegesis of Romans 7, especially regarding the identity and role of the “I,” but the representation of sin as an active agent is unmistakable. According to Paul, sin may exercise dominion in death and reign over mortal human bodies (Rom 5:21; 6:14). Humans can be enslaved to sin, and sin can even “seize an opportunity” and “dwell in me” (Rom 6:17, 29; 7:8, 17). 8LW 25:259-60. 9LW 27:230. 10LW 27:230-31. Luther cites Job 1:8; 7:21; and 9:20. 11LW 27:231. 12LW 26:232 for the specific quotation of the formula. 13LW 26:227. 14This agrees with Luther’s contention in the earlier Galatians commentary that Gal 2:18 is about the tearing down of sin, not the law. In fact, the law is established and fulfilled through faith. See LW 27:228-229. 15LW 26:229. 16LW 26:230. 17LW 26:230. 18LW 27:63-66. 19LW 27:97-105. 20LW 27:48-51. 21LW 27:29. 22Schwartz, Stephan and Gregory Maguire. 2004. Wicked: a new musical. 23Langley, Noel, Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Mervyn LeRoy, Florence Ryerson, Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, et al. 1939. The Wizard of Oz. Metro Goldwyn Mayer. 24Avildsen, John G., Bill Conti, and Brooks Arthur. 1984. The Karate Kid. Delphi II Productions; Jerry Weintraub Productions. 25Heald, Josh, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg. 2018. Cobra Kai. Netflix. 26Clark, Les. Clyde Geronimi, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Hamilton Luske. 1959. Sleeping Beauty. Buena Vista Film Distribution Company. 27Stromberg, Robert, Linda Woolverton, Joe Roth, Angelina Jolie, Michael Vieira, Don Hahn, Palak Patel, et al. 2014. Maleficent. Jolie Pas; Roth Films; Walt Disney Pictures. 28There are countless, still broader themes in the narrative imagination of the
Maleficent story that would be worthy of further reflection in other contexts. Consider that the primordial evil that gives rise to all the ills of the story is the juxtaposition of two adjacent cultures, inhabited by different races of creatures, segregated by misunderstanding and mutual fear, and brought into violent conflict by the imperial ambitions of the leader of one of them. Consider the crisis point of the story when a powerful man exploits erotic love and female trust to expand his power and advance his career. Or consider the persistent faith in the power of “true love” even as stories like this one replace romantic love with the love between sisters and friends.
ESCHATOLOGY of the SIMUL Introduction
One of the most important discoveries Martin Luther made from his years studying Scripture is that of simul iustus et peccator, the understanding that the Christian is simultaneously justified and a sinner. The life of the Christian as simul is not philosophical ontology in the vein of Neoplatonism. It is not combing the idea of The Christian life the hierarchical dualism of the material and as simul in this old nonmaterial with the ideas of potentiality, world is actualization, and habitus. Nor is the simul a eschatological, sequential, progressive equation moving from where one is less sinner to more saint in the self. The simultaneously old Christian life as simul in this old world is and new, fully eschatological, where one is simultaneously dead in sin and old and new, fully dead in sin and fully alive fully alive in Christ… in Christ, completely under the Law in the flesh and completely free from the Law in Christ, simultaneously at an end and a new beginning, simultaneously two persons in one person: at the same time righteous and sinner. The locus classicus for the coinage of simul iustus et 25
peccator and the beginning of Luther’s construction of this biblical thesis is found in his Lectures on Romans (1516):1 “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7), is to be rightly understood, we must therefore keep the following theses in mind: (1) The saints are intrinsically always sinners, therefore they are always extrinsically justified. . . “Intrinsically” means as we are in ourselves, in our own eyes; in our own estimation, and “extrinsically,” how we are before God and in his reckoning. . . (2) “God is wonderful in his saints” (Psalm 68:35); to him they are at the same time righteous and unrighteous. And God is wonderful in the hypocrites; they are at the same time unrighteous and righteous [italics mine].
Luther expands on the simul in his Romans’ lecture, specifically on chapter seven. For example, he writes, “Because of the flesh, [the Christian] is carnal and evil, for the good is not in him and he does evil; because of the spirit, he is spiritual and good, for he does the good. . . Thus, there comes about a communicatio idiomatum; one and the same man is spiritual and carnal, righteous [iustus] and sinful [peccator], good and evil.”2 The benefit of this discovery is comparable to his
discovery of the distinction of Law and Gospel. Because just as God’s Word is not one Word of Law, but two (Law and Gospel), so the Christian is not one, but two (righteous and sinner).3 The Law and Gospel distinction and the distinction of the simul iustus et peccator are something like the Siamese twins of biblical theology working in tandem. The old creature (peccator) remains – as long as one is alive – under the Law and its accusations, and the new creature (iustus) born out of the Gospel is no longer under the Law and all threats have been silenced. The Christian is simultaneously completely old, and consequently sinful (totus peccator), and yet, at the same time, completely new and justified (totus iustus).4 This means, according to Scripture, the The Law and Gospel whole life of the Christian is simul being distinction and the justified by the crucified and risen Christ, distinction of the being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and simul iustus et being redeemed in the sight of God the peccator are Father (1 Corinthians 1:30) from the something like the Law’s accusation and its consequence of Siamese twins of death. biblical theology
working in tandem.
While the Romans lectures are where Luther first identifies the biblical description of the Christian as simul, Luther gives a fuller treatment of this “double life” in both his early Lectures on Galatians in 1519 and throughout his later Lectures on Galatians in 1531 (published in 1535). In those commentaries, he actually takes up, not only 27
Romans, but he also highlights that the simul is identifiable throughout all of Scripture, indeed it is the reality of all God’s elect who are at the same time 100% sinner in themselves and 100% saint in Jesus Christ. Luther shines the light of the simul in the broader context of scripture when he begins to expound upon 1 John and Job in his Galatians lectures from 1519: “Those who have been justified in Christ are not sinners and are sinners nevertheless. . . Scripture establishes both facts about the Christian. John says in the first chapter of his canonical epistles: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). In the last chapter of the same epistle, he says: “We know that everyone who is born of God does not sin, but God’s generation (that is, the fact that he is born of God) preserves him, and the evil one will not touch him” (1 John 5:18). The same writer says in the third chapter (v. 9): “No one born of God commits sin because His seed abides in him, and he is not able to sin.” Behold, he is not able to sin, says John. Yet if he says he has no sin, he is lying. . . A similar paradox can be seen in Job, whom God, who cannot lie, pronounces a righteous and innocent man in the first chapter (1:8). Yet later on Job confesses in various passages that he is a sinner, especially in the ninth and seventh chapters: “Why do you not take away my iniquity?” (7:21; 9:20)
But Job must be speaking the truth, because if he were lying in the presence of God, then God would not pronounce him righteous. Accordingly, Job is both righteous and a sinner (simul iustus, simul peccator).5 In his Lectures on Galatians in 1535, the discussion of the simul is laid out by Luther when he comes to verse 3:6, “Thus a Christian man is righteous and a sinner at the same time, holy and profane, an enemy of God and a Child of God,” and, “These two things are diametrically opposed: that a Christian is righteous and beloved by God, and yet that he is a sinner at the same time. . . Therefore, Paul complains in Romans 7:23 about the sin that still remains in the saints, and yet he says later on (Romans 8:1) that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”6
These two, the righteous and the saint, are as far as east is from west, though not in a geographic distancing, nor in an ontological or Neoplatonic bifurcation of the material and spirit. Rather these two are opposed and separated in a relational (relatio)7 and eschatological manner which is the result of the revelation (αποκαλύψεις) of the spoken Law and Gospel resounding in the ears (the hearing of
faith) of a sinful creature. The Law kills the old Adam, and the Gospel raises a new creature of faith out of death (2 Corinthians 3:6). The peccator faces fatal destruction and then, the construction of something entirely new which is faith/the righteous creature (iustus), ex nihilo, that had never existed before.8 These two, the peccator and the iustus, though simultaneous for now, are nevertheless eschatologically and relationally distinct, separated by death and the grave, not the lex aeternae that remains to be fulfilled. The relational aspect is precisely when God interrupts our lives by speaking directly through the mouth of the preacher, the direct address. It is eschatological because the address spoken is not that of the Law towards a continually existing subject exercising “free will” to spiritually ascend. Rather the Law’s accusation unto death that Luther describes in his Heidelberg Disputation (1518), “do this, and it is never done,” is brought to an end (finis) in the Gospel promise (promissio): “it is finished.” “Believe this and it is already done;” there is nothing left to do, you are a new creation. Ego te absolvo (I forgive you), you are free in Christ.
The Law’s Double Terminus: in Christ Crucified, in the Conscience The simul is a scriptural insight Luther learned very early on in his studies of the book of Romans which
served as a key for, not only understanding the struggle of faith as a Christian laid out in the letters of Paul, but also unlocking the understanding of the whole life of all God’s elect from the time of the Old Testament, such as we find in the book of Job, but also as far back as the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve receive the protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15). One can also recognize the simul in the New Testament pastoral epistles, such as 1 John. Just as Scripture is divided into two parts, the Law and the Gospel, so, too, the Christian life is divided into two parts: the old sinner (peccator) who is under the Law with its power to accuse (the law always accuses) and the new justified creation (iustus) saved through the Gospel, with the Law behind him, emptied (lex vacua) and silenced, having met its eschatological end and goal (finis and telos) in Christ crucified (Romans 10:4).9 Christ terminates St. Paul the Law in the cross: he fulfills (finis) the law and is the goal (telos) toward which the Law points, “the Law is a disciplinarian towards Christ” (Galatians 3:14). “An end has to be set for the Law, where it will come to a stop. Therefore, the time of the Law is not forever; but it has an end which is Christ. But the time of grace is forever.”10 Paul makes his typical eschatological turn of phrase, asserting, “But now.” This is the rupture of the times, 31
indicating an end of the Law and the beginning of the age of grace. Once you, the peccator, were under the Law, but since Christ has come, now you are no longer under the law because you are a child of God through faith, the iustus. Just as the Law and Gospel distinction is Scripture’s own hermeneutical key, so too, the simul is given by Scripture as the interpretative key to the life as a Christian. Paul continues, “For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (3:27), and as Luther poignantly clarifies, Christ is not the Law. The Law, then, does not discipline or drive or instruct the sinner to itself, but to Christ who is not the Law. 11 The baptized experience this fatal destruction of the old (through repentance) and the construction of the new (which is faith). Through the daily drowning in repentance of the old sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, the new self is raised through the hearing of the absolution, extra nos, that Christ’s preachers declare. Luther points out that the end of the Law is a double event, literally and spiritually. First, Christ terminates (telos) the Law, “The telos or end of the Law involves both its termination and its fulfillment. Thus, in Paul’s original argument, the Law had lost its force or value and so terminates in Christ,”12 (Luther says, in a literal sense, “The Law was, until Christ”) and secondly, the Holy Spirit silences the accusing voice of the Law, spiritually, in the conscience.13
Now the time of the Law is finished in two ways: first, through the coming of Christ in the flesh at a time set by the Father. For Christ became a man in time just once, ‘born of a virgin, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law’ (Gal. 4:4-5) . . . Secondly, that same Christ who came in time comes to us in spirit every day and hour. With his own blood, to be sure, He redeemed and sanctified all men just once. But because we are not yet perfectly pure but remnants of sin still cling to our flesh and the flesh wars against the spirit, therefore He comes The second spiritually every day; day by day. He eschatological completes the time set by the Father end of the Law more and more, abrogating and abolishing worked in the life of the sinner the Law.14
is accomplished as Christ arrives as a gift for the sinner, first in baptism, and daily in the hearing of the Word.
As the Law has met its eschatological end in the crucified Christ, the Law also meets its end in the Christian, day by day. This is accomplished, however, not in the activity of the old Adam’s will exercising the deeds of the Law. No, the second eschatological end of the Law worked in the life of the sinner is accomplished as Christ arrives as a gift for the sinner, first in baptism, and daily in the hearing of the Word. This is to say, it is the active work of the Holy Spirit sending Christ into the life and ear of the waiting creature (passive),15 bringing the end to the old sinner under the Law and creating him anew in the Gospel, thus sanctifying that which is unsanctified. 33
“We begin and make progress. . .” On the one hand, Luther speaks of the simul as totus totus. There is no “progress” towards justification for the sinner living under the Law. There is a complete lack of any kind of movement; the old sinner is totally dead. And at the same time, the sinner is made to be totally righteous through the eschatological preaching of the promise. A Christian is not righteous in himself, but only by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness is complete, for Christ has fulfilled the Law on the cross; there is nothing residual that needs to be completed. So, the promise, faith, and imputation go together. “Imputed righteousness as a divine judgement brings with it the simul iustus et peccator as total states.”16 One of the most important books on the simul is Wilfried Joest’s Gesetz und Freiheit (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck, 1956). Its clarity is in showing that the sinner is not a continually existing subject progressing towards righteousness in the self, nor that the life of the Christian is a sequential, chronological existence, moving from mostly sinner to mostly saint. Rather, Joest writes,
The simul is not the equilibrium of two mutually limiting partial aspects but the battleground of two mutually exclusive totalities. It is not the case that a no-longer-entire sinner and a not-yet completely righteous one can be pasted together
in a psychologically conceivable mixture; it is rather that real and complete righteousness stands over against real and total sin . . . The Christian is not half-free, and half bound, but slave and free at once, not half saint, but sinner and saint at once, not half alive, but dead and alive at once, not a mixture but a gaping opposition of antithesis . . .17 This total and double imputation – the sinner is imputed with the righteousness of Christ and Christ is imputed with the sins of the unrighteous – militates against any typical theological discussion of “progress” in the Christian life. Oswald Bayer has recently contributed to the conversation of the simul regarding the total double state of imputation: “But the guilt of sin, as Luther asserts against the standard of his day, which is still upheld today by the Roman Catholic Church, is no fomes concupiscentiae, no mere tinder, Oswald Bayer but rather a brightly blazing flame. It is truly and completely sin; sin qualifies humans in their entirety. Therefore, sin is to be understood qualitatively not quantitatively. There are no fractions when it comes to sin. The same is true of faith; it is whole (totus) and without fractions.”18 On the other hand, Bayer, as well as Joest,19 have shown that Luther also discusses a partum iustus, partum 35
peccator. This is discussed in two senses. In first sense, partum partum is not meant as a a zero-sum equation of the person being a certain percentage sinner and the remaining percentage saint, equaling 100%. It is, rather in the sense of, “on the one hand,” you are 100% sinner and “on the other hand” you are 100% saint.”20 In the second sense, Luther talks about progress in the Christian’s life as partum partum, though not in the typical discussions of progress in Law and actualizing one’s potential in the mode of Aristotle (ad modum Aristotelis). The Law always accuses the old Adam. The sinner, however, imagines that there is a “Law” that does not accuse, and believes that this imaginary “Law” is doable. The progress that is made in the life of the Christian, however, is not about turning inward, to work on the self in matters of Law in order to chip away at sin. This only makes matters worse; the Law brings wrath (Romans 4:15) by increasing sin (Romans 5:20), it does not remove it. The progress, Luther says in his Romans’ lectures, is not the sinner ridding himself of sin, but rather the sinner who is extracted from sin.21 In this life, sin is removed in hope (spei) in Christ’s promise from the cross, but it is the Holy Spirit who daily drowns the old sinner in repentance and raises a new creature. We are extracted from gazing at our navels, depending upon our effort and understanding and working on ourselves, to instead placing ourselves in the hands of the living God to justify, sanctify, and redeem his sinners.
In Luther’s well-known explanation to the third article of the Creed in The Large Catechism, he speaks of holiness beginning and “growing daily,” and being “halfway pure.” Like a dog who returns to his vomit, we repeat our folly when we hear this and immediately assume Luther is speaking about “growth,” and “halfway pure” in the mode of Aristotle (ad modus Aristotelis), that the old Adam, who has been given a little “grace,” can now actualize his full potential and grow in the Law, moving from “halfway” holy towards the goal of “perfect holiness” by himself. Listen, however, to Luther’s explanation where it is the Holy Spirit alone who is the actor; it is the office and work of the Holy Spirit to extract life out of death by the forgiveness of sins: Meanwhile, because holiness has begun and is growing daily, we await the time when our flesh will be put to death, Aristotle will be buried with all its uncleanliness, and will come forth gloriously and arise to complete and perfect holiness in a new, eternal life. Now, however, we remain only halfway pure and holy. The Holy Spirit must always be in us through the Word, granting us daily forgiveness until we
attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness. In that life there will be only perfect pure and holy people, full of integrity and righteousness, completely freed from sin, death, and all misfortune, living in new, immortal, and glorified bodies. All this, then, is the office and work of the Holy Spirit to begin and daily increase holiness on earth through these two means, the Christian church and the forgiveness of sins.22
The progress is not made by the sinner in righteousness and sanctification in the Law, but rather it is the Holy Spirit who progresses in upon the sinner, wresting the sinner from the Law and its accusation, and giving new life by bestowing Christ and his benefits. We are not the actors, but the ones acted upon. Conclusion The eschatology of the simul is not progressive in the Law, but rather depends upon grace which is the end of the Law and all under the Law’s accusation. As the Christ descended from heaven above to earth below, he made his dwelling among sinners until we crucified him. His crucifixion was the fulfillment and end of the Law. Now, as he has ascended and fills all things, He has promised to always be with us and “for you” in the eschatological preaching of his promises to actual, live sinners. His
arrival, whole and complete, true God and true man, into the ears of sinners, silences the voice of the Law in the conscience, creating a truly free creature that did not exist beforehand. The Christian as simul iustus et peccator is the result of the eschatological event of the preaching of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of one creature to another, specifically the preaching of the forgiveness of sins in Word and Sacrament. “The Holy Spirit effects our being made holy through the following: the community (Gemeine) of saints (or the Christian church), the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. That is, he first leads us into his holy community, placing us in the church’s lap, where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ.”23 Such preaching of the Word into the ears of an actual sinner, that old Adam (peccator) accused by the law, and then raises a new creature (iustus), free from the Law and in Christ. This new creature, the justified (iustus), is, however, very deeply hidden though fully present, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,” (Galatians 2:20) and “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Rev. Dr. Marney Fritts is an instructor of Systematic Theology for Saint Paul Lutheran Seminary. Her Ph.D. dissertation was “Responses to Gustaf Aulén’s Christus Victor and their Impact on the Doctrine of Atonement for Proclamation” (Luther Seminary, 2011). She has written an essay for the festschrift,
Handing Over the Goods: Determined to Proclaim Nothing but Jesus Christ and Him Crucified (1517 Publishing: Irvine, California, 2018), in honor of Dr. James A. Nestingen, and is a regular contributor to the Connections magazine published by Sola Publishing. Endnotes 1Martin
Luther, Lectures on Romans (1516) in The Library of Christian Classics, volume XV (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961), translated and edited by Wilhelm Pauck, 124-125. 2Ibid., 204. 3Steven D. Paulson, “The Simul and the Two Kingdoms,” in Logia 25, no. 4 Reformation 2016, 17. When Dr. Paulson parenthetically says, “that baptized, I am for the time being, not one, but two – one is old and dead, the other new and eternal,” he is accurately portraying what Luther states in the later lectures on Galatians regarding the simul as the “double life” (LW 26, 170). 4Gerhard O. Forde, “Forensic Justification and the Christian Life,” in A More Radical Gospel: Essays on Eschatology, Authority, and Ecumenism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), edited by Mark Mattes and Steven D. Paulson, 119. 5Martin Luther, Lectures on the Galatians (1519), LW 27: 230-23. 6Martin Luther, Lectures on the Galatians (1535), LW 26: 232, 235. 7Oswald Bayer, “Luther’s Simul Iustus et Peccator,” in Simul: Inquiries into Luther’s Experience of the Christian Life edited by Robert Kolb, Torbjörn Johansson, and Daniel Johansson (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2021), 44. 8Ibid., 42; Robert Kolb, “Old Adam, New Martin,” in Simul: Inquiries into Luther’s Experience of the Christian Life edited by Robert Kolb, Torbjörn Johansson, and Daniel Johansson (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2021), 70,76. 9LW 26, 279; James A. Nestingen, “Speaking of the End to the Law,” in The Necessary Distinction: A Continuing Conversation on Law & Gospel (St. Louis: Concordia, 2017), 170-174. 10LW 26, 342. 11Ibid., 203. 12Nestingen, 170. 13Ibid., 317. 14Ibid., 360. 15Luther, Romans, “He does not speak of the ‘essence’ of the creature, and of the way it ‘operates,’ or of its ‘action,’ or inaction,’ and ‘motion,’ but using a new and strange theological word, he speaks of ‘the expectation of the creature.’ By virtue of the fact that his soul has the power of hearing the creature waiting, he no longer directs his inquiry toward the creature as such but to what it waits for.” 235-236. 16Forde, 118.
“Forensic,” on Wilfried Joest, Gezetz and Freiheit, 2nd ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1956), 58-59. 18Bayer, 39. 19Joest, 59. 20Bayer, 39, n. 37. 21Ibid., 42. 22Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), edited by Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert, 438-439. 23Ibid., 435-436.
SIMUL JUSTUS et PECCATOR
Both Saint and Sinner at the Same Time The Touchstone of the Reformation One of the most important Reformation doctrines is that of simul justus et peccator: the truth that we are indeed sinners, and yet we are declared righteous (saints) by God. While we do not find this actual phrase in Scripture, there are multiple passages in the Bible which present this truth and press it upon God’s people.1 As I begin writing, I first of all call upon the Holy Spirit to bless my thought and writing so that nothing I write contradicts God’s Word, even as I ask the Lord to bless those who read this presentation and that it helps them to correctly explain the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15b, NLT).
All Are Sinners – No One Does Good One of those passages that demonstrates this truth is Psalm 14:2-3, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt, not one does good, not a single one!” A very similar passage quoting nearly the same words can be found in Psalm 53:2-3, “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all 42
fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” In Romans 3:9b-12, Paul quotes these verses when he is writing about us as sinful human beings, “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” And finally let me quote from the First Letter of John 1: 8-10: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. There is simply If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to no way at all forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, that we can ever we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
completely resist sin and From these verses, and many others, we see that there is ample evidence in God’s word that live a life that is all of us human beings are sinful from the fall of good, perfect, Adam. There is simply no way at all that we can and acceptable before God. ever completely resist sin and live a life that is good, perfect, and acceptable before God. We are indeed sinners and so we shall remain without the forgiveness that is given to us by God through our Lord Jesus Christ. For me, the evidence of this terrible problem is made most clearly in Paul’s lament in Romans 7: 1425. 43
This is what I struggle with in my own life as a believer.
So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life — that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. (NLT)
Paul’s answer to this problem of sin is found only in Jesus who gave himself up for us all, taking our sin upon himself and making us saints in God’s eyes. In Luther’s lectures on Romans, commenting on Chapter 7 verse 16, he makes the point that: “I am at the same time a sinner and a righteous man for I do evil and hate the evil which I do.2 A few other passages that demonstrate this truth follow... “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins — and not only our sins but the sins of all the world” John 2: 1-2 (NLT). “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:33-34.
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” Titus 3: 3-7. These citations demonstrate that we are sinners who should be condemned by God, and who are unable to do anything on our own to make ourselves right before Him. Indeed, we are always sinners. At the same time, as we have shown, again from the Word, that those St. Augustine who have been brought to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit are indeed saints, made holy and acceptable to God through the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. We are always sinners and yet always saints. It was this truth made plain to Luther through the Word, and also from the writings of St. Augustine,3 that would free people from the false teaching under which
they were living and allow them to live with joy before God. Luther took this scriptural principle much further than St. Augustine, declaring powerfully that as Christians we are at once both righteous and sinners. We are sinners, and we are saints. For the one who imagines himself only a saint, Luther’s claim instills humility. For the one who imagines himself only a sinner, Luther’s claim offers hope. And while the principle of simul justus et peccator can be found in many of Luther’s writings, he specifically uses the term in his commentaries on the Book of Romans, specifically chapters four and seven. Reformation The corruptions of the sixteenth century were enabled through the penance system which had evolved over the centuries within the Church. This system was based on the belief that a stain remains on the sinner’s soul even after he has been forgiven. Now even with this stain the sinner is redeemed and headed for heaven, but these stains necessitated a purging process that could only be removed by performing penances, like prayers, pilgrimages, or acts of charity here on earth, or after death in the torments of purgatory. This system gave rise to the purchase of indulgences which, granted under the pope’s discretion, usually for a contribution, could remove the stain and consequently lessen the time required for cleansing in purgatory. A recent innovation before the Reformation
allowed one to buy an indulgence for a loved one, and this fueled indulgences sales across Europe, including Johann Tetzel’s sale just across the border from Luther’s principality of Electoral Saxony. It was this false and destructive teaching that led Luther to protest and so begin the Reformation. At the beginning, Luther believed that bringing the Word of God to the attention of the Pope and other church leaders would lead to a change in teaching which would destroy any idea that one needed to “work off” the stain of his own sin. However, the Church leadership was unable or unwilling to see the truth of the Word, or, perhaps, unwilling to give up the “cash cows” which brought revenue to the church coffers from saying special masses for those in purgatory or through the sale of indulgences.
Luther was adamant in his teaching that we are not righteous before God because of anything we do, Johann Tetzel but are forgiven and made righteous before God by the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, which we receive through faith. The Augsburg Confession makes this very plain in Article IV: Concerning Justification,
Furthermore, it is taught that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our own merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness in his sight, as Paul says in Romans 3[:21-26] and 4[:5].4 The scriptures make it plain that you and I are always sinners, that sin dwells in us and that of ourselves we have no power to change our hearts and lives and become totally obedient to God. Paul writes in Romans 3:10 “None is righteous, no, not one.” Or as he confesses about himself in Romans 7:18-19 (as I noted above), “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (NLT). Law and Gospel All of us need to keep this in mind when we think of ourselves, especially if we think we are pretty good and not at all like that person “over there.” Remember our Lord’s story of the two men who went up to the temple to pray, as recorded in Luke 18:9-14. In the end, it was not the boasting Pharisee who went home justified but the “despised tax collector” (the one who pleaded for mercy,
not even lifting his eyes to heaven) who went home forgiven. Thinking we are pretty good and not at all like that person “over there” can destroy us and lead us to false pride and eventually dependence on ourselves, which can only lead to death. The dichotomy of the Christian person as both saint and sinner is mirrored in the distinction of Law and Gospel in Holy Scripture. The classic text on this truth is C.F.W. Walther’s The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, published in 1897.5 Walther based his work on Luther’s 1532 sermon of the same title, in which he wrote, “Distinguishing between Law and Gospel is the highest art in Christendom, one every person who values the name Christian ought to recognize, know and possess. Where this is lacking, it is not possible to tell who is Christian and who is pagan...”6 Further expounding on this distinction, Walther wrote, “You are not rightly C. F. W Walther distinguishing Law and Gospel in the Word of God if you use demands, threats, or promises of the Law to try and force the unregenerate to put away their sins and engage in good works and thus become godly; and then, on the other hand, if you use the commands of the Law – rather than the admonitions of the Gospel – to urge the regenerate to do good.”7
So often, even those who are considered to be good preachers mix up Law and Gospel, either by playing down the Law and its consequences or making a Law out of the Gospel. Whenever he watched such confused preaching, my sainted Professor of Homiletics (preaching), Dr. R.R. Caemmerer, would have a fit no matter how eloquent the sermon was, and the student would receive a big fat F. He constantly stressed the need to show the hearers that they needed to be forgiven and to be certain that they understood and believed that they were indeed forgiven in Christ. Using both the truths we are working with, we who belong to God in Christ Jesus are always both saint and sinner. Saint because we have been forgiven though the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and sinner because of our flesh and desire to either do what we want or save ourselves. Rightly dividing God’s Word brings us to a similar conclusion. Council of Trent Returning to Luther’s teaching on simul justus et peccator, it became, along with the doctrine that we are saved by faith without the works of the Law, one of the major teachings of the Reformation. This truth was adopted and made part of the confession of the Reformed Council of Trent movement, the Anglican Church, the Methodist Churches and other Protestants who relied
on faith and not works. On the other hand, the Council of Trent itself reveals that Rome considered Luther's simul justus et peccator be a most serious threat to the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church. When we look at the anathemas of the Council of Trent, we can see plainly how far apart their teaching and that of the Reformation are: 5
If any one saith, that, since Adam's sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with only a name, yea a name without a reality, a figment, in fine, introduced into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema. 9
If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema. 21
If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey; let him be anathema. 30
If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise,
that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.8 Let the above be more than enough to show how far apart those of the Reformation and the official teaching of the Roman Church are. While there has been some movement in the Roman Church to correct their understanding, it still emphasizes purgatory, masses as an aid to free people from purgatory and depends on works in addition to Christ, thereby preaching another Gospel. Paul refuted this threat to the gospel in his own day when he said, I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9). Conclusion There is so much else that has been written concerning the truth that we are always, and at the same time, saint and sinner. Here is a quote from R.C. Sproul from 2019:
Perhaps the formula that Luther used that is most famous and most telling at this point is his formula simul justus et peccator. And if any formula summarizes and captures the essence of the Reformation view, it is this little formula. Simul is the word from which we get the English word simultaneously. Or, it means ‘at the same time.’ Justus is the Latin word for just or righteous and Peccator means sinner. And so with this formula, Luther was saying, in our justification we are one and the same time righteous or just, and sinners. Now if he would say that we are at the same time and in the same relationship just and sinners that would be a contradiction in terms. But that’s not what he was saying. He was saying from one perspective, in one sense, we are just. In another sense, from a different R. C. Sproul perspective, we are sinners; and how he defines that is simple. In and of ourselves, under the analysis of God’s scrutiny, we still have sin; we’re still sinners. But, by imputation and by faith in Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is now transferred to our account, then we are considered just or righteous. This is the very heart of the gospel. Will I be judged in order to get into heaven by my righteousness or by the righteousness of Christ? If I
had to trust in my righteousness to get into heaven, I would completely and utterly despair of any possibility of ever being redeemed. But when we see that the righteousness that is ours by faith is the perfect righteousness of Christ, then we see how glorious is the good news of the gospel. The good news is simply this, I can be reconciled to God, I can be justified by God not on the basis of what I did, but on the basis of what’s been accomplished for me by Christ. But at the heart of the gospel is a doubleimputation. My sin is imputed to Jesus. His righteousness is imputed to me. And in this twofold transaction we see that God, Who does not negotiate sin, Who doesn’t compromise His own integrity with our salvation, but rather punishes sin fully and really after it has been imputed to Jesus, retains His own righteousness, and so He is both just and the justifier, as the apostle tells us here. So my sin goes to Jesus, His righteousness comes to me in the sight of God.9 This truth has often been lost as “Christians” worried about their sanctification and tried to add works of the Law to the Gospel. So the Lutheran Pietists of the late 17th Century, buying into Calvinist teaching, wanted to make sure that Christians, relying on their baptism, were also engaged in living out their faith with good works. While what they were aiming at was good and helpful, it eventually fell into the error of depending on works again and seeing Jesus as a lawgiver rather than as Savior. One
of the reasons the Lutherans from Saxony came to the USA was to ensure that the Law - Gospel teaching of the Scripture was not lost and that believers continued to realize that they were only saved by Grace, through Faith and not by any sort of works. Yes, good works should proceed from the saving Grace of the believer, but as a fruit and not as a new law. Thus, Dear Reader, I am constrained. As Paul would say, by the Word and the Spirit, to once more emphasize that indeed we are sinners, and always will be in any effort of our own: “The LORD looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!” (Psalm 4:2-3 NLT) He also wrote, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7: 18–19 NLT) The Word keeps saying that we are sinners, unable in any way to save ourselves, and yet we are saved, we are forgiven. We are, because of Jesus, God’s own children, the redeemed of the Lord. As Paul again emphasizes,
The Word keeps saying that we are sinners, unable in any way to save ourselves, and yet we are saved, we are forgiven. We are, because of Jesus, God’s own children, the redeemed of the Lord.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared - he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit - whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior - so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3: 3-7 NIV) What more can we say, what more do we need? While there are pages and pages written both for and even against the truth that we are always both saint and sinner, the truth of God’s Word remains, for that is what we are, forgiven sinners whom God calls his own, saints because of Jesus who gave himself for us. And so it shall remain until by his mercy we are taken up into his glory, or when our Lord Jesus returns in triumph. May God’s love and truth keep you all steadfast in the faith and in your full trust of our Lord Jesus Christ. All glory belongs to God alone now and forever. Rev. Dr. Erwin L. Spruth is Pastor Emeritus, Faith Lutheran Church, Security, Colorado and Chairman of the Board, St. Paul Lutheran Seminary.
Bible verses are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise stated. Scriptural quotations marked ESV are taken from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright @2001 by Crossway Bible Publishing, a ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scriptural quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright @1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Scriptural quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright @1973, 1978, and 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Scriptural quotations marked MsgB are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright @1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPres Publishing Group. All rights reserved. 2Martin Luther, Luther’s Works v. 25 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1972), 63. 3“The teaching that a believer is at once justified and a sinner is hardly the creation de novo of Luther, having been articulated first by Augustine. In this regard Luther himself asserts, “I am neither the first nor the only man to say this [simul] since the Apostle. For St. Augustine, “All sin is forgiven in baptism, not so that it no longer exists, but so that it is no longer imputed.” Cited in Vitalis Mshanga, “Ecumenical Reflections on the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Simul Justus et Peccator Controversy,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 45 no. 4, (2010), accessed at https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Ecumenical+reflections+on+the+LutheranRoman+Catholic+simul+justus+et...-a0246252773 4The Book of Concord, ed. by Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Chicago: Augsburg Fortress, 2000), 38. 5C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, translated from the 1897 edition by W. H.T. Dau. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, date not given). 6Martin Luther, quoted in John Pless, Handling the Word of Truth. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2015), 151. 7Walther, 5, 7. 8“Council of Trent,” accessed Dec. 12, 2020, https://www.britannica.com/event/Council-of-Trent 9R. C. Sproul, “What Does “Simul Justus et Peccator” Mean?” Transcript of video presentation, October 17, 2019, accessed at https://www.ligonier.org/posts/simuljustus-et-Peccator ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Image Credits: (Cover, pp. 2, 59) Lucas Cranach the Elder, “Head of Christ Crowned with Thorns” (1510), accessed Oct. 1, 2021, https://media.mutualart.com/Images/2009_07/25/0246/623287/07fd970c-c6b3-404f8ce2-f22ffe5bb4cc_g.Jpeg
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“The saints in being righteous are at the same time sinners; they are righteous because they believe in Christ whose righteousness covers them and is imputed to them, but they are sinners because they do not fulfill the law and are not without sinful desires.” Martin Luther