Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | July 5, 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).

11 In fact, even when godly hearts have repentance, faith, and good intentions to live by God’s grace ‹in a godly way›, thoughts like these arise: “If you are not foreknown from eternity to salvation, ‹your every effort and entire labor› is no help.” This happens especially when they see their weakness and the examples of those who have not persevered, but have fallen away again.

12 Against this false delusion and thought we should set up the following clear argument, which is sure and cannot fail: All Scripture is inspired by God. It is not for self-confidence and lack of repentance, but “for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Also, everything in God’s Word has been written for us, not so that we should be driven to despair by it, but so that “through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Therefore, there is no question that lack of repentance or despair should not in any way be caused or strengthened by the sound sense or right use of this teaching about God’s eternal foreknowledge. The Scriptures teach this doctrine only to direct us to the Word (Ephesians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 1:7), to encourage repentance (2 Timothy 3:16) and godliness (Ephesians 1:14; John 15:3), and to strengthen faith and assure us of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13; John 10:27–30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13–14).

13 If we want to think or speak correctly and usefully about eternal election, or the predestination or preordination of God’s children to eternal life, we should make it our custom to avoid speculating about God’s bare, secret, concealed, mysterious foreknowledge. Instead, we should think or speak about how God’s counsel, purpose, and ordination in Christ Jesus—who is the true Book of Life—is revealed to us through the Word. 14 In other words, the entire teaching about God’s purpose, counsel, will, and ordination belongs to our redemption, call, justification, and salvation. They should be treated together the way Paul treats them and has explained this article (Romans 8:29–30; Ephesians 1:4–10) and as Christ treated it in the parable of Matthew 22:1–14; namely, that God in His purpose and counsel ordained the following:

15 1. The human race is truly redeemed and reconciled with God through Christ. By His faultless obedience, suffering, and death, Christ merited for us the righteousness that helps us before God and also merits eternal life.

16 2. Such merit and benefits of Christ are presented, offered, and distributed to us through His Word and Sacraments.

17 3. By His Holy Spirit, through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered, Christ will be effective and active in us, will convert hearts to true repentance and preserve them in the true faith.

18 4. The Spirit will justify all those who in true repentance receive Christ by a true faith. He will receive them into grace, the adoption of sons, and the inheritance of eternal life [Galatians 3:19].

19 5. He will also sanctify in love those who are justified, as St. Paul says (Ephesians 1:4).

20 6. He also will protect them in their great weakness against the devil, the world, and the flesh. He will rule and lead them in His ways [Deuteronomy 8:6], raise them again when they stumble [Proverbs 4:11–12], comfort them under the cross and in temptation [2 Corinthians 1:3–5], and preserve them for life eternal [John 12:25].

21 7. He will also strengthen, increase, and support to the end the good work that He has begun in them [Philippians 1:6], if they cling to God’s Word, pray diligently, abide in God’s goodness, and faithfully use the gifts they received [Matthew 25:14–30].

22 8. Finally, He will eternally save and glorify in life eternal those whom He has elected, called, and justified.

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