This is the first in a series of posts that seek to present key passages pertaining to the doctrine of Justification by comparing the statements of contemporary authors with the patristic writings of the the Church Catholic. It's by no means exhaustive; if it were, there would be far too many quotations for a simple blog post. But I hope it brings to mind a number of important questions: "Why is there so much disconnect? Why do the interpretations of these passages appear to completely contradict and disagree with one another?" (The second and third post can now be found here and here, respectively)
-- Exegesis of Romans 5:18 and/or 19 by contemporary sources --
A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod (1932)
This We Believe (WELS, 1999)
"1. We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends. It is a message relevant to people of all times and places, of all races and social levels, for 'the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men' (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for "the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men' (Romans 5:18)." (http://www.wels.net/what-we-believe/statements-beliefs/this-we-believe/justification)
"God no longer looks upon sinful man with wrath, but 'before His divine tribunal' forgives the sins of mankind, does not impute their trespasses unto them (2 Cor. 5:19). 'By the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life' (Rom. 5:18). And this reconciliation is, as has been shown, complete and perfect, extensively and intensively, for we certainly have no right to restrict the meaning of of either the terms 'world' (2 Cor. 5:19) and 'all men' (Rom. 5:18) or the terms 'not imputing their trespasses' (2 Cor. 5:19) and 'justification' (Rom. 5:18). Nor do these passages speak merely of a new relation between God and man, but they state definitely that God’s action produced the new relation, God’s action in not imputing their sins unto men, in forgiving them their sins, in justifying men in His heart, this is the meaning of objective reconciliation, as taught in 2 Cor. 5:19, Rom. 5:18; 5:10; 4:25. (CHRISTIAN DOGMATICS, by Francis Pieper, Volume 2, pages 398 & 399)
"Paul teaches the same truth in his epistle to the Romans (5:18)...because of the sin of Adam all men were condemned or declared guilty by God. In the same way all men were justified or declared innocent, righteous, not guilty because of what Christ did as their substitute."
Universal Justification <http://www.wlsessays.net/node/142>
--Interpretations of Romans 5:18 and/or 19 in the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Statements from Orthodox Lutheran Fathers--
The Lutheran Confessions
Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord
"This faith is a gift of God, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the Word of the Gospel, and trust in Him, that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the father, and are eternally saved. 12] Therefore it is considered and understood to be the same thing when Paul says that we are justified by faith, Rom. 3:28, or that faith is counted to us for righteousness, Rom. 4:5, and when he says that we are made righteous by the obedience of One, Rom. 5:19, or that by the righteousness of One justification of faith came to all men, Rom. 5:18. 13] For faith justifies, not for this cause and reason that it is so good a work and so fair a virtue, but because it lays hold of and accepts the merit of Christ in the promise of the holy Gospel; for this must be applied and appropriated to us by faith, if we are to be justified thereby." (http://bookofconcord.org/sd-righteousness.php#para11)
Epitome of the Formula of Concord
"He rendered to the Father even unto death, and thereby merited for us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, as it is written: As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous, Rom. 5:19." (http://bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.php#part3.3)
This notwithstanding, we most willingly grant that there is a righteousness that avails before God for the entire human race, a righteousness that has been gained and acquired through Christ, so that if the whole world were to believe in Christ, then the whole world would be justified. With respect to this, Paul writes in Romans 5 that 'through one man’s justification (dikaioma), the gift has spread toward all men for justification (dikaiosis) of life.' Nevertheless, no one is justified nor does anyone receive remission of sins from this acquired universal righteousness without the imputation of this acquired righteousness of Christ. But the imputation of righteousness does not take place except through faith."
"For as the clause, By the offense of one, upon all men to condemnation, is so worded that not one is omitted in its sense, so in the corresponding clause, By the righteousness of One, upon all men unto justification of life, no one is omitted in its sense—not, indeed, because all men have faith and are washed in His baptism, but because no man is justified unless he believes in Christ and is cleansed by His baptism. The term all is therefore used in a way which shows that no one whatever can be supposed able to be saved by any other means than through Christ Himself. For if in a city there be appointed but one instructor, we are most correct in saying: That man teaches all in that place; not meaning, indeed, that all who live in the city take lessons of him, but that no one is instructed unless taught by him. In like manner no one is justified unless Christ has justified him." (Citation below, in next quote.)
"For, he says, as by the offense of one upon all men to condemnation; even so by the justification of one upon all men unto justification of life. Romans 5:18....Moreover, if Christ alone is He in whom all men are justified, on the ground that it is not simply the imitation of His example which makes men just, but His grace which regenerates men by the Spirit, then also Adam is the only one in whom all have sinned, on the ground that it is not the mere following of his evil example that makes men sinners, but the penalty which generates through the flesh. Hence the terms 'all men' and 'all men.' For not they who are generated through Adam are actually the very same as those who are regenerated through Christ; but yet the language of the apostle is strictly correct, because as none partakes of carnal generation except through Adam, so no one shares in the spiritual except through Christ. For if any could be generated in the flesh, yet not by Adam; and if in like manner any could be generated in the Spirit, and not by Christ; clearly 'all' could not be spoken of either in the one class or in the other. But these 'all' the apostle afterwards describes as 'many'; for obviously, under certain circumstances, the all may be but a few. The carnal generation, however, embraces many, and the spiritual generation also includes many; although the many of the spiritual are less numerous than the many of the carnal. But as the one embraces all men whatever, so the other includes all righteous men; because as in the former case none can be a man without the carnal generation, so in the other class no one can be a righteous man without the spiritual generation; in both instances, therefore, there are many: For as by the disobedience of one man many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Romans 5:19." (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 5. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1503.htm>.)
For in the same manner also St. Paul writes in Romans 5[:18]: "As through one man's sin condemnation has come over all men ,so through one man's righteousness justification has come over all men." Yet not all men are justified through Christ, nevertheless he is the man through whom all justification comes. It is the same here. Even if not all men are illumined, yet this is the light from which alone all illumination comes. (Luther's Works: Vol. 52: page 71)
"3) If we wanted to go beyond the limits of the Apostolic comparison, someone could infer from the same that the righteousness of Christ is propagated to us through carnal generation, since the unrighteousness of Adam is communicated to us in that manner. Likewise, one could infer that the righteousness of Christ is propagated to all men together, without any regard for faith or unbelief, since the sin of Adam is propagated to all through carnal generation.
4) But since that is absurd, a distinction must fully be made between the acquisition and the application of the merit of Christ; or between the benefit itself and participation in the benefit. The acquisition of the merit, or the benefit itself obtained by the death of Christ is general. For as Adam, by his disobedience, enveloped all of his posterity in the guilt of sin, so Christ, who suffered and died for the sins of all, also merited and acquired righteousness for all. But this benefit is only applied to those who are grafted into Christ by faith, and only they become participants in this benefit." (Citation below, in next quote.)
“This verse is a summary of everything that came before. That I may briefly summarize, he says, what I have said thus far concerning the comparison between Adam and Christ, the matter boils down to this: Just as the guilt that was contracted from one transgression of Adam sentences all men to death, so the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to believers by faith justifies them, so that they are restored again to participate in the eternal life that had been lost in Adam and through Adam.
[You ask,] But how did the righteousness of Christ overflow to all men for justification, since not all men are justified? We reply: The Apostle is not speaking about the application of the benefit, but of the acquisition of the benefit. If we wish to descend to the application, that universality must be restricted to those who are grafted into Christ by faith. For as the unrighteousness of Adam is communicated to all those who are descended from him by carnal generation, so the righteousness of Christ is communicated to all those who are grafted into Him through faith and spiritual regeneration." (http://www.intrepidlutherans.com/2012/11/johann-gerhard-on-romans-519.html) and
“1. The merit which God the Father regards and on account of which He justifies believers freely through his grace. Here belong the passages of Scripture which clearly speak of merit, such as Rom. 4:25...1 Cor. 15:3...Rom. 5:6...1 Peter 2:21...1 John 4:10...And also with regard to the ransom which Christ paid, note the entire article of the Creed: “He suffered...was crucified,” etc. Concerning the perfect obedience note Rom. 5:19...”
Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., trans. J. A. O. Preus, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989, II, p. 1127.