The Consensus of the Ministers of the Church of Bremen:

VII. Next, as regards the glory of office, the Son of God in the human nature He assumed and indeed through and by means of it, that is, through its cooperative sufferings and death, has accomplished the entire work of the redemption of mankind and manifested many visible miracles for the confirmation of His office. He has also made His flesh to participate in all His conquests, victories, and triumphs, and still does many works through this manhood of His, such as pertain to His office as head of His church (known as His spiritual body), and at the last day shall conduct a visible judgment of the living and the dead. . . . [654]

IX. And in this regard Christ’s death and sufferings, which are done in His human nature, are the one and only sufficient payment as a sin offering and ransom for the sins of the whole world, and His resurrection brings righteousness and eternal life to all believers.

X. Also in this regard, for reasons related previously from Cyril’s eleventh anathema, "the flesh of Christ is life-giving,” as the ancient teachers say. That is, the flesh of Christ is a life-giving flesh inasmuch as He has given His life for the world (John 6[:51]). Or as it is said in the schools, it is in respect of merit [respectu meriti] predicated of the person according to both natures, and imparted and applied to us, and by us appropriated through faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit.p655,

XI. Regarding these two degrees of majesty and honor which pertain to the sublime nobility of the manhood of Christ, and which He has on account of the personal union and for the discharge of that common office which the Son of God has undertaken for the redemption and salvation of mankind, this humanity of Christ possesses in and for itself-that is, in its body and soul-its glorious precedence and privilege above other men. Thus, the man Christ was conceived in a supernatural manner and born of a virgin and was purely holy and without sin from His mother’s womb. Moreover, though Christ, in respect of His manhood, grew in age, in wisdom, and in favor with God and man, He had received the fullness of the Holy Spirit when other saints had only a few gifts and in limited measure. . . . [655]

The Death of Christ and Its Intrinsic Merit, and What Good
Actually Comes of It, and Also the Proper Understanding
of the Universal Promise of the Holy Gospel

I. As for this newly excited controversy, our confession and belief is that for our sins the eternal Son of God truly died according to the flesh, and by one offering has perfected forever those who are sanctified. On this account we hold that the death and offering of the Lord Christ our one redeemer and savior is the single, perfect ransom (lutron) and redemption price which far exceeds the sin of each and every man, even were they yet a thousand times more, and that it is a payment sufficient and superabundant for the sin of the world. We know, however, that the undeviating doctrine of the gospel is: he who believes on the Son of God has eternal life, and he who does not believe on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

II. Consequently, though we indeed confess that the death of Christ in respect to its perfection is a universally sufficient offering for the sin of the whole world, we clearly and distinctly declare and teach that without an application by faith, the death of Christ is profitable to no one, and that accordingly its fruit and effect are particular to believers alone. This was formerly stated by Augustine in these words: “As far as the virtue and strength of the payment is concerned, the blood of Christ is a redemption of the whole world, but those who depart this world without faith are shut out from the redemption.” Again: "Christ has not submitted Himself to death so that those who should not be born again would be partakers of His redemption:’ The Scholastics have spoken in this manner: "Christ is dead for all men so far as the sufficiency of merit is concerned, but truly and solely for all believers so far as efficacy to salvation is concerned" (Lombard, Sententiarum, book 3, distinction 22; Innocent, book 2, chap. 41; De myst. Missae; Thomas [Aquinas], Super Apocalypsim, chap. 5; [Nicholas of] Lyra on 1 John 2). 662-663.

III. It is plain recklessness for some to reject those judicious distinctions and to press only the letter of the proposition that Christ has died for all men. Indeed, that Christ has died for all and not for all are both true and both are found in Scripture and each must be taken in its proper sense. It is correct that Christ has died for all generally because the worth and perfection of His offering is superabundant and sufficient to atone and pay for all sin, but not for all generally–but rather for all believers and elect, so far as the fruit and efficacy of His death is demonstrated to be in believers only. . . . [662-663]

V. First, Scripture tells us that such offering, shedding of blood and satisfaction is done for the whole world, as when it is said: "This is the lamb of God, which carries the sin of the world" (John 1[:29]); "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son" (John 3[:16]);,"The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6[:51]); "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Cor. 5[:19]); "Christ is the reconciliation for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2[:2]). But since the term world, if it is taken in its strict meaning and in its natural sense, comprehends not only the whole human race, but also all other creaturesand thus also Satan together with his angels–Origen and his followers wanted to extort from the aforementioned passages that even the devil and damned spirits are redeemed by Christ, and in His time are to be saved and made glorious, inasmuch as these come under the word world, even the rulers of the world being mentioned.

VI. With a view to elucidating this manner of speaking, that is, that the word world is to be understood not of irrational creatures, nor of damned spirits, but rather only of men, it must be accommodated to other ways of speaking in the Scripture, as when it is said that Christ has died for all men and was given for them. Thus Rom. 5[:18]: "Through the righteousness of one justification of life came upon all men"; 2 Cor. 5[:15]:"Christ died for all"; 1 Tim. 2[:6]: "Christ Jesus has given Himself for all as a redeemer"; Heb. 2[:9]: "Christ has tasted death for all"; Titus 2[:11] : "The saving grace of God has appeared to all men."

VII. All this was interpreted in the past by Pelagians as referring even to unbelievers, as is witnessed in Augustine’s writings. That, to the contrary, this not be understood as referring to each and every man (that is, not all Epicureans, unconverted heathen, Turks and antichrists), one must give attention to passages which elucidate the word all by use of the word many. Thus Isa. 53[:l1J: "My servant the righteous one shall by His knowledge justify many" Again [Isa. 53:12]: "He has carried the sins of many:’ Luke 2[:34]: "He is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.” Matt. 20[:28]: "The Son of man is come to give his life for the redemption of many" Matt. 26[:28]: "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

VIII. Finally, in order that one may know and understand without hesitation who actually are the world–the all and the many for whom Christ has so died that they are made partakers of His death and offering, power and effect, unto their justification, salvation, and glory–the Scripture advises us that this world, these all, these many, are no other than the particular, elect, and holy people of God; the sheep of Christ who hear the voice of their shepherd and recognize and follow Him; the congregation and church of God, which He chose in Christ from eternity and has received, and which He has converted out of all peoples and ranks of mankind through true repentance and faith in Christ. Matt. 1 [:21]: "He will save His people from their sin.”Titus 2[:14]:"He gave himself for us that He might redeem us from all unrighteousness, and purify to Himself a people for His own possession:’ 1 Peter 2[:6-8]: "I lay an elect and precious cornerstone in Zion, and he who believes on Him shall not be confounded. Now to you who believe, He is precious, but to the unbelieving He is the stone which the builders disallowed, and which is made the cornerstone and a stone of offence and a rock of vexation:’ John 10[:15]: "I give my life for the sheep:’ John 17[:9]: "I pray not for the world, but for those whom you have given me:’ Acts 20 [:28]: "God has obtained his church with his own blood.” Acts 10[:43]: "To this Jesus, all the prophets bear witness that through his name all who believe on him shall receive the forgiveness of sins:’ Heb. 5[:9]: "Christ has become the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him."

IX. By considering these different ways of speaking and their cohesion and relation, there is, as article three above has concisely explained, a ready resolution of the question which has been posed as to whether and how Christ has died for all men. It may be seen what should be thought of the pretensions of the present-day Ubiquitarians, who allege that Christ was crucified and died no less for the sins of all the damned than for the sins of Peter, Paul, and all other saints (Jacob Andrea, Acta Colloquii Mantis Belligartensis, 548; Huber, Thes., 19). Or that Christ has suffered and died for all Adams posterity, excluding not one-yea, not one man of the entire human race, either he who by faith lays hold on and joins himself to this salvation and abides in the salvation received, or he who through unbelief casts off the salvation afforded him and thus will once more and eternally be condemned. Or that through the death and satisfaction of. Christ for our sins, the judgment and wrath of God are covered and blotted out for all men together in reality, actually and truly Or that thereby all are together redeemed from all sin and damnation in truth and without doubt; indeed, that in point of fact, the entire human race is received again into His favor and into His bosom. Or that the apostle’s meaning is that he knows no man who is not through the grace of Christ brought from death to life and also made new. Or that all in like measure are forgiven of sins and even the ungodly have received the forgiveness of sins, although they be once more condemned for their roguery and pressed to discharge all their indebtedness. (The words of [Samuel] Huber are: "Sin is pardoned to all equally, by a universal forgiveness of sins, whether or not they believe. And all even of the reprobates are equally saved and anyone else, even if on account of their sin they are once more condemned.") Or that Christ has as much saved those who are cast off as He has all others, and more of the like frightful statements, from which it would follow that truly even for Cain, Judas, Nero, and Caligula the judgment and wrath of God has been covered by the death of Christ, that such have been introduced and received into the favor and bosom of God, and thus all the godless and accursed and eternally condemned Turks, heathen, and Epicureans, within and outside the church of Christ, should be quite as much reconciled, purified, sanctified, and saved as all the elect, believing Christians and the blessed children of God (which is dreadful to hear in the church of God).

X. Upon consideration of the aforementioned ways of speaking employed in Scripture, there should and can be an accurate exposition of the universal clauses in the promises of the gospel. In respect of their usefulness and fruit, they touch not all in common, believers and unbelievers, as some inaccurately assert, but rather each and every believer and they only (omnes et soli credentes, "believers all and solely"). For though the word believers is not always explicitly introduced, as indeed commonly happens, yet the nature and character of every promise of grace requires that one understand it only in reference to believers because faith and the promise of grace occur in conjunction with each other [corelativa], and one without the other is of no profit. From the lucid passages in which faith as a condition is required in express words, we are to understand other passages in which this is not set forth according to the letter. Reference to believers is explicitly set out in this chief saying of Christ: "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that all who believe on Him should not perish, but have eternal life" [John 3:16]. To the same effect the apostle says, Rom. 3[:22]: ‘The righteousness of God comes by faith in Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them who believe:’ There are countless such passages in which it is explicitly determined that believers are in view, and on that account it must be faith that is intended in the other passages which are not so express. The condition of faith, as well as conversion to God, is tacitly understood. Thus: "Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you" [Matt. 11:28]. Again: "God will have all men to be saved" [1 Tim. 2:4], namely on the condition that they believe. Such an explanatory example is given by the apostle himself when in Rom. 11[:32] he speaks comprehensively: "God has shut up all under sin that He may have mercy on all;" and then interprets it in Gal. 3 [:22]: "Scripture has shut up all under sin tat the promise might come by faith in Jesus Christ given to them that believe."

XI. That such explanations are necessary and neither can nor should be set aside, there is the incontestable consideration that everywhere the gospel excludes the unbelieving and impenitent from all the benefits of Christ and announces to them eternal punishment and damnation. Thus John 3[:18]: "He who believes not is condemned already:’ Again [John 3:36]: "The wrath of God abides on him"; Heb. 11[:6]: "Without faith it is impossible to please God"; John 9[:31]: "God does not hear sinners" (that is, the unbelieving and impenitent); Rev. 22[:15]: "Without are dogs and sorcerers and murderers and idolaters, and all who love and practice falsehood,” namely. such as remain without repentance and conversion, in the absence of which there can be no honest faith.

“The Consensus of the Ministers of the Church of Bremen” in, Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed., James T. Dennison, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 3: 654, 655, 662-663, 665-667. [Some spelling modernized; Italics original; bracketed inserts Dennisons (except my bracketed page numbers); and underlining mine.] [Note: Given the (specious) exgetical claims regarding the terms “world” (especially as used by John) and “all,” it is somewhat hard to imagine how the author of this consensus was able to affirm the traditional Lombardian formula in a coherent manner, or that he considered it to be exegetically derivable.]

Dennison’s introduction:

The Bremen Consensus (†1595) In 1522 Johan Timann (Johannes Tideman, ca. 1500-1557) arrived in Bremen to assume sacerdotal duties at St. Martin’s Church. Within two years he had joined Jakob Probst (1562) in bringing the Lutheran Reformation to the city. Probst had been a student of Luther at Wittenberg, and journeyed to Bremen in 1524 to take up priestly duties at the Liebfrauenkirche. In the year of his death, the Second (Calvinistic) Reformation was adopted in Bremen. The embrace of Calvinism did not, however, eliminate Lutheran loyalism. Count John VI of Nassau-Dillenburg (1535-1606), eager to consolidate his own Reformed faith, enlisted Christoph Pezel (1539-1604) to draft the Confession of the Dillenburg Synod in 1578 (cf. the Confession of Nassau-Dillenburg in this volume, pp. 458-539). In 1580 John VI then dispatched Pezel to Bremen in art effort to reconcile Calvinists and Lutherans. When Pezel arrived he was designated to debateJodocus Glanus/Glanaeus, champion of the Lutheran adherents in the city. Glanus steadfastly refused to engage in debate with Pezel, and was subsequently deposed by the city council. Though Pezel took his place as the theological leader of the city, he returned to Nassau for a time, only to be subsequently made permanent successor to Glanus in 1581. By means of his leadership of the Liebenfrauenkirche and the Angariikirche (St. Angar’s), the people promoted him as Rector of the local Gymnasium (the "Gymnasium Illustre"). This illustrious academy would send forth hundreds of graduates as ministers and university theologians for the German Reformed Church and beyond in the seventeenth century (Johannes Cocceius [1603-1669], perhaps the most famous alumnus). Catechetical instruction in the Gymnasium shifted from Luther’s Catechism, to one Pezel had written (the so-called "Bremen Catechism"), to the Heidelberg Catechism in 1600. As in Nassau-Dillenburg, the Bremen Consensus (which was also largely-if not exclusively-the work ofPez;el) consolidated the Calvinistic Reformation in this region.

Our text is found in Heppe, Die Bekenntnisschriften der niformirten Kirchen Deutschlands (1860), 147-243. The translator has included clarifications, embedded technical phrases, more complete biblical citations, and other comments in square brackets to aid in understanding. [Dennison, 3:645-646].

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