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After The Death of Luther —

How the Formula Of Concord Was Forged

(Ten Parts)

Part Six

Osiander’s Attack On Justification

The Reformation began with Luther’s clear teaching about justification by faith, apart from works. Luther ignited a continuing firestorm of controversy by rejecting false doctrine. His opponents spent most of their energy attacking him personally, but he appreciated their ability to sharpen his teaching and his weapons against false doctrine.

When Luther died in 1546 justification was attacked from every corner within Lutheranism. In the name of adiaphora (matters of indifference) papal doctrines were re-introduced during the Interims by Luther’s co-workers! In addition, George Major made good works necessary for salvation, and Strigel taught synergism, the human will cooperating in justification.

Andrew Osiander’s attack upon justification and the two natures of Christ did great damage to Lutheranism for a time, but it also helped prepare Martin Chemnitz in his God-given role of saving the Reformation through the power of the Word.

Martin Chemnitz said, “I frequently shudder, because Luther — I do not know by what kind of presentiment — in his commentaries on the Letter to the Galatians and on the First book of Moses so often repeats the statement: ‘This doctrine of justification will be obscured again after my death.'”

Osiander held his views as early as 1522, but remained quiet until Luther’s death. Then he said, “Now that the lion is dead, I shall easily dispose of the foxes and hares.” He was a brilliant man, apparently a loyal member of the Lutheran clergy, but proud and overbearing. In 1549 Count Albrecht of Prussia gave him a pastorate and a theology position with a double salary at the U. of Koenigsberg. Trouble erupted. Theology professors carried fire arms to class!

Osiander’s vanity and special position made it easier for him to return to the Roman view of justification. People take the Gospel for granted today, but the Reformers were raised on salvation by works and the inherent goodness of man. The Old Adam in us does not like to hear that our righteousness is “alien,” entirely from Christ, received from the Word and Sacraments. Lutherans today who are bewitched by false teachers never tire of boasting of their good works and questioning the effectiveness of Luther. The spirit of Osiander is not far from us.

Osiander received the protection of Duke Albrecht but increased the number of his opponents, adding Melanchthon. Then he died in 1552. Joachim Moerlin devoted his life to defeating Osiandrism and was banished by Albrecht for his trouble. Young Chemnitz, a colleague of Moerlin, librarian to Albrecht, also attacked Osiander’s false doctrine of justification. Chemnitz left Prussia, when Moerlin was exiled, and returned to Wittenberg.

Osiander also tried to divide the two natures of Christ, calling Him Mediator according to His divinity alone, while Stancarus opposed him with the contrary false doctrine, that Christ is Mediator according to His humanity alone.

Problems with the two natures of Christ led Chemnitz to write his brilliant book, translated by LC-MS President Jack Preus, The Two Natures of Christ.

The Formula of Concord (Article III, Of the Righteousness of Faith before God) rejected both Osiander and Stancarus, stating: “Against both the errors just recounted, we unanimously believe, teach, and confess that Christ is our Righteouness neither according to the divine nature alone nor according to the human nature alone, but that it is the entire Christ according to both natures.” (Concordia Triglotta, p. l793).

— Pastor Gregory L. Jackson