Stöckhardt: So You Wanna Teach Justification “By Grace”?

We are justified “by His”, that is God’s “grace”, τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι.[1] The apostle repeatedly thinks of the grace of God where he speaks about righteousness that avails before God.[2] Grace is the reason that God determines to consider us and accept us as righteous. Grace is favor and kindness. The grace of God is the supreme proof of God’s love. The goodness and kindness of God extends over all creatures, the mercy of God over the poor and miserable, the grace of God benefits poor sinners. Grace is God’s love of sinners. Grace belongs to the unworthy, as Luther so often emphasizes.

Everyone can now perhaps easily understand if one says to him that God loves sinners and accepts the poor sinner into favor. But it is important that poor sinners also get a deep, lasting impression of this unique love of God that we call grace, that they see and taste some from it, how gracious is the Lord, that they heartily rejoice and learn to take comfort over the grace of God. Therefore, we must continue to pay attention to how the Apostle explains and interprets the expression, “By grace”. He writes “and are justified without merit by His grace”. “Without merit”, δωρεάν, free, for nothing, or what is the same, “without help of the law”[3], or “without works of the Law[4], that is a more full explanation of the term, “By grace”. Grace is the counterpart of works of the Law. It says in Romans 4:4: “But to the one who deals with the Law, the reward is imputed not by grace, but by obligation.” Two instances are conceivable. Either God gives something to someone by obligation and duty, namely when he has earned something with his works. Or He gives something to someone by grace, namely when he can present absolutely no work and merit. The one instances excludes the other. We read in Romans 11:6: “And if it is by grace, then it is not by merit of works; otherwise grace would not be grace. But if it is by merit of works, then grace is nothing; otherwise merit would not be merit.” It thus serves for defining the term “By grace” when we show that we are justified without merit of works. In the previously quoted sayings the phrase “not by works of the law” stands out. “Not by works” or “Not by works of the Law” is inculcated probably about fifty times in the writings of the apostles. For this reason the Holy Spirit has strongly involved the interpreters of Scripture to inculcate this word well to their hearers. When we have made quite distinct and clear to our Christians what “Not by works” wants to say, and when we have convinced them of the fact that no flesh is justified by works of the Law, then we have taught them what grace is.


[1] Romans 3:24.
[2] Cf. Romans 5:17, 20; Galatians 2:21.
[3] Romans 3:21.
[4] Romans 3:28.

– Georg Stöckhardt, “The Practical Treatment of the Doctrine of Justification”, translated by DMJ

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