Here’s my thesis:
Christ’s death on the cross paid all types of sins, of all types of men, for all times. Justification is God declaring a person not-guilty, therefore since Christ paid for all sins of all men for all times, from God’s perspective, all men are justified, thus forgiven from all their sins. This is universal, objective justification. On the other hand, the forgiveness freely given by God to men has to be received or rejected. Once received, the universally given forgiveness comes alive in a person. He experienced being born-again, therefore saved. This explains why justification is NOT God changing his heart towards man, rather justification is God loving all men thru the death of Jesus THEN when received changes man’s heart.
At thebereans.net forum, we’ve been discussing this. There are, of course, questions that are coming up. One of which is this:
I tried, but I failed to see how justification in Rom 8:30 and 1Jn1:9 can be considered “experiential” from the plain reading for the text. I think that one would only arrive at that interpretation if he/she had a prior point of view, like UJ, and used that to interpret the “justification” mentioned in those text. If that’s the case, and I’m not saying you’ve done that intentionally but I know people do that unconsciously, then I believe the interpretation is invalid.
Let me start with how we treat the doctrine of the Trinity. As Trinitarians, we all agree that there is no direct mention of that doctrine in the Bible. We have to make an assertion to come up with that doctrine. We can see in the Bible that the Father is God. But there are also texts that says Jesus is God, same goes with the Holy Spirit. And the Bible is clear that there is only ONE God. Therefore, we say these are ALL CORRECT, we all have to come into a conclusion that all 3 are Gods yet they are one. It is an assertion, not a direct quote from the Bible. And yes, it IS illogical as far as our human minds are concerned. (The tritheists and modalists wants to arrive at a logical conclusion, that’s why they swayed). Nonetheless, we accept it because the Bible speaks for it.
Now, let me be clear that I’m not trying to equate the gravity of the doctrine of the Trinity with the doctrine of Universal Justification. I’m just trying to make an example of how we can accept what the whole Bible says and see how seemingly like contradicting verses can all be true in all it’s essence.
I’m aware that there are verses in the Bible that implies that one is forgiven or justified only after they believe or asks for it (e.g, Rom 8:30 and 1 Jn 1:9). On the other hand, there are also some verses that says otherwise:
That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. (2 Cor. 5:19)
In this verse, we see the following:
1) It is God who is reconciling himself to the world
2) He IS reconcilling himself TO the WORLD
3) He is NOT counting men’s sins against them.
We see that it is solely God’s action. And when he does not count men’s sins against themselves, what do we get? A forgiven sinner. Take note also that the whole chapter of 1 Cor. 5 talks about Christ dying for all (v 14,15) and Christians being ambasadors of Christ (v. 20) presummably to those who are still NOT reconcilled with God.
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. (Romans 5:18)
That, for me is universal justification.
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
Atonement is a payment to make up for guilt. If Christ atoned for the sins of the whole world, that follows that all men’s guilt has been satisfied, paid for, therefore forgiven. This is univeral atonement.
Having said these, we’re still faced with a dilemma. What about those verses that hints that men should repent first before being forgiven and be justified. I submit that both are true. From God’s perspective, he sees every man justified, reconciled and forgiven. The reason is simple, Christ made it possible. That’s objective, general justification. On the other hand, every man needs to accept and experience this forgiveness. That’s why we need to repent. Even if we have been forgiven already, we cannot really experience it without accepting the offer. This is what we call subjective, experiencial justification.