Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | July 19, 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).

30 For this reason the elect are described as follows: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life” (John 10:27–28). “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). They hear the Gospel, believe in Christ, pray and give thanks, are sanctified in love, have hope, patience, and comfort under the cross. (See Ephesians 1:13; Romans 8:25.) Although all this is very weak in them, they hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6).

31 “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.… The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:16–26).

32 Holy Scripture also testifies that God, who has called us, is faithful. So when He has begun the good work in us, He will also preserve it to the end and perfect it, if we ourselves do not turn from Him, but firmly hold on to the work begun to the end. He has promised His grace for this very purpose. (See 1 Corinthians 1:9; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 3:9; Hebrews 3:2.)

33 We should concern ourselves with this revealed will of God. We should follow and diligently think about it. Through the Word, by which He calls us, the Holy Spirit bestows grace, power, and ability for this purpose. We should not sound the depths of Godhidden predestination, as it is written in Luke 13:23–24, where one asks, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” and Christ answers, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” So Luther says:

But you had better follow the order of this epistle [of Romans]. Worry first about Christ and the gospel, that you may recognize your sin and His grace. Then fight your sin, as the first eight chapters here have taught. Then, when you have reached the eighth chapter, and are under the cross and suffering, this will teach you correctly of predestination in chapters 9, 10, and 11, and how comforting it is. [Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans (1546); LW 35:378]

34 “Many are called, but few are chosen” [Matthew 22:14]. This does not stem from the fact that God’s call, which is made through the Word, has the following meaning. It is not as though God said: “Outwardly, through the Word, I indeed call all of you to My kingdom, everyone to whom I give My Word. However, in My heart I do not mean this for everyone, but only for a few. For it is My will that most of those whom I call through the Word shall not be enlightened or converted. Instead, they shall be and remain damned, even though I explain Myself differently to them through the Word, in the call.” 35 For this would be to assign contradictory wills to God. In this way it would be taught that God, who surely is Eternal Truth, contradicts Himself, when, in fact, God punishes such wickedness in people, when a person states one purpose and thinks and means another in the heart (Psalm 5:9; 12:2–4). 36 By this notion the necessary basis of comfort is made completely uncertain and void. For we are daily reminded and encouraged that we are to learn and conclude what His will toward us is only from God’s Word, through which He works with us and calls us. We should believe and not doubt what it affirms to us and promises.

37 For this reason Christ causes the promise of the Gospel not only to be offered in general, but He also seals it through the Sacraments. He attaches them like seals of the promise, and by them He confirms the Gospel to every believer in particular.

38 On this account, as the Augsburg Confession in Article XI says, we also keep private Absolution. We teach that it is God’s command that we believe such Absolution. We should regard it as sure that, when we believe the word of Absolution, we are as truly reconciled to God as though we had heard a voice from heaven [John 12:28–30], as the Apology also explains this article. This consolation would be entirely taken from us if we did not understand God’s will toward us from the call that is made through the Word and through the Sacraments.

39 The Holy Spirit certainly wants to be present with the Word preached, heard, and considered, and He wants to be effective and work through it. Yet this foundation would be overthrown and taken from us if we misunderstand election. Therefore, the meaning is not at all like the one referred to above, that the elect are to be the sort of people who despise God’s Word, thrust it from them, blaspheme and persecute it (Matthew 22:5–6; Acts 13:46); or, when they hear it, harden their hearts (Hebrews 4:2, 7), resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51), persevere in sins without repentance (Luke 14:18–20), do not truly believe in Christ (Mark 16:16), only make an outward show (Matthew 7:22; 22:12), or seek other ways to righteousness and salvation outside of Christ (Romans 9:31). 40 Furthermore, God has ordained in His counsel that the Holy Spirit should call, enlighten, and convert the elect through the Word [Romans 10:17]. He will justify and save all those who by true faith receive Christ. In the same way, He also determined in His counsel that He will harden [Romans 9:18], reprobate, and condemn those who are called through the Word if they reject the Word and resist the Holy Spirit [Acts 7:51]. This is true even though the Spirit wants to be effective and work in them through the Word and persevere through the Word. In this way “many are called, but few are chosen” [Matthew 22:14].

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