Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | June 28, 2010

Formula of Concord, Article XI: God’s Eternal Election

Beginning later this year (Fall 2010, September), St. Mark Lutheran Church will undertake a study of the doctrine of God’s eternal foreknowledge and election based on the Formula of Concord’s 11th Article.  Over the next few weeks, leading up to that study, we will present the article from the Solid Declaration (the long version).

XI. GOD’S ETERNAL FOREKNOWLEDGE AND ELECTION

[PREVENTING DISAGREEMENT]

1 Among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession there has not yet arisen any public dispute at all about the eternal election of God’s children that has caused offense and has become widespread. Yet this article has been brought into very painful controversy in other places. Even among our theologians there has been some agitation about it. Furthermore, the theologians did not always use the same expressions. By the help of divine grace, we want to prevent disagreement and separation in the future among our successors on account of this teaching. Therefore, as much as in us lies, we want to present an explanation of this teaching here. Then everyone may know what our unanimous doctrine, faith, and confession is also on this article. 2 For the teaching about this article—if taught from, and according to, the pattern of the divine Word—neither can nor should be regarded as useless or unnecessary, much less as offensive or harmful. For the Holy Scriptures not just in one place or randomly, but in many places, thoroughly discuss and explain this teaching. 3 Furthermore, we should not neglect or reject the teaching of the divine Word because of abuse or misunderstanding. But for that very reason, the true meaning should and must be explained from the foundation of the Scriptures in order to turn away all abuse and misunderstanding. The plain summary and substance of this article are presented in the following points:

[AFFIRMATIVE STATEMENTS]

4 First, the distinction between God’s eternal foreknowledge and the eternal election of His children to eternal salvation is to be made carefully. Foreknowledge or prevision means that God sees and knows everything before it happens. This is called God’s foreknowledge, which extends over all creatures, good and bad. In other words, He foresees and foreknows everything that is or will be, that is happening or will happen, whether it is good or bad. For all things, whether they are past or future, are clear and present before God. This is written in Matthew 10:29:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:16)

I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in, and your raging against Me. (Isaiah 37:28)

5 God’s eternal election, or predestination, means God’s preordaining to salvation. It does not include both the godly and the wicked, but only God’s children, who were elected and ordained to eternal life before the world’s foundation was laid. As Paul says in Ephesians 1:4–5, “He chose us in Him.… He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ.”

6 God’s foreknowledge foresees and foreknows what is evil, yet not in the sense that it is God’s gracious will that evil should happen. Everything that the perverse, wicked will of the devil and of people wants and desires to try and do, God sees and knows before it happens. His foreknowledge preserves order also in wicked acts or works, since a limit and measure is fixed by God for the evil that God does not will. He limits how far it should go, how long it should last, and when and how He will hinder and punish it. God the Lord rules over all [Psalm 103:19] of this so that it must flow to the glory of the divine name and to the salvation of His elect, and for that reason the godless must be astonished [1 Corinthians 2:7–8].

7 The beginning and cause of evil is not God’s foreknowledge. (For God does not create and do evil, neither does He help or promote it.) The cause of this evil is the wicked, perverse will of the devil and of people, as it is written in Hosea 13:9, “He destroys you, O Israel, for you are against Me, against your helper.” Also, “For You are not a God who delights in wickedness” (Psalm 5:4).

8 God’s eternal election does not just foresee and foreknow the salvation of the elect. From God’s gracious will and pleasure in Christ Jesus, election is a cause that gains, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what belongs to it. Our salvation is so founded on it that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18), as is written in John 10:28, “no one will snatch [My sheep] out of My hand.” And again, “and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).

9 This eternal election or ordination of God to eternal life must not be considered in God’s secret, mysterious counsel in a simple-minded way. It is not as though election included nothing further, or nothing more belonged to it, or nothing more were to be considered in it, than that God foresaw who and how many were to be saved and who and how many were to be damned. Nor should we think that He only held a sort of military muster, such as, “This one shall be saved, that one shall be damned; this one shall remain steadfast ‹in faith to the end›, that one shall not remain steadfast.”

10 From this notion many get and imagine strange, dangerous, and deadly thoughts. These cause and strengthen either self-confidence and lack of repentance or hopelessness and despair. So people fall into troublesome thoughts, and say, “Before the foundation of the world was laid” (Ephesians 1:4), God has foreknown His elect to salvation. And God’s foreknowledge cannot fail or be hindered or changed by anyone [Isaiah 14:27; Romans 9:19]. In view of this, if I am foreknown to salvation, nothing can hurt me, even if I perform all sorts of shameful sins without repentance, have no regard for the Word and Sacraments, concern myself neither with repentance, faith, prayer, or godliness. I will and must still be saved, because God’s foreknowledge must come to pass. If, however, I am not foreknown, nothing helps me anyway, even though I busy myself with the Word, repent, believe, and so on. For I cannot hinder or change God’s foreknowledge.”

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