Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | July 26, 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).

41 Few receive the Word and follow it. Most despise the Word and will not come to the wedding [Matthew 22:3–6]. The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God’s foreknowledge, but the perverse human will. The human will rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Spirit, which God offers it through the call. It resists the Holy Spirit, who wants to be effective, and who works through the Word, as Christ says: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:37).

42 Many “hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away” (Luke 8:13). The reason is not that God was unwilling to grant grace for perseverance to those in whom He “began a good work,” for that is contrary to St. Paul (Philippians 1:6). The reason is that they willfully turn away again from the holy commandment, grieve and embitter the Holy Spirit, involve themselves again in the world’s filth, and redecorate their hearts as homes for the devil. For them their last situation is worse than the first. (See 2 Peter 2:10–20; [Ephesians 4:30;] Hebrews 10:26; [Luke 11:24–26].)

43 This is how much of the mystery of predestination is revealed to us in God’s Word. If we abide by this teaching and cling to it, it is a very useful, saving, consoling teaching. It establishes very effectively the article that we are justified and saved without any works and merits of ours, purely out of grace alone, for Christ’s sake. Before the time of the world, before we existed, yes, even before the foundation of the world was laid—when, of course, we could do nothing good—we were chosen by grace in Christ to salvation, according to God’s purpose (Romans 9:11; 2 Timothy 1:9). 44 Furthermore, all opinions and erroneous teachings about the powers of our natural will are overthrown by this. God in His counsel, before the time of the world, decided and ordained that He Himself would produce and work in us by His Holy Spirit’s power. Through the Word, He would do everything that belongs to our conversion.

45 This doctrine also provides the excellent, glorious consolation that God was greatly concerned about the conversion, righteousness, and salvation of every Christian. He so faithfully ‹provided for it› that even before the foundation of the world was laid, He considered it, and in His purpose ordained how He would bring me to salvation and preserve me in salvation. 46 He wanted to secure my salvation so well and so certainly, since through the weakness and wickedness of our flesh salvation could easily be lost from our hands, or through the devil’s and the world’s craft and might it could be snatched and taken from us. Therefore, He ordained in His eternal purpose what cannot fail or be overthrown. He placed salvation for safekeeping in the almighty hand of our Savior, Jesus Christ, from which no one can snatch us (John 10:28). 47 Therefore, Paul asks in Romans, because we “are called according to His purpose” (8:28), who “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”? (8:39).

48 Furthermore, this doctrine provides glorious consolation under the cross and amid temptations. In other words, God in His counsel, before the time of the world, determined and decreed that He would assist us in all distresses. He determined to grant patience, give consolation, nourish and encourage hope, and produce an outcome for us that would contribute to our salvation. 49 Also, Paul teaches this in a very consoling way. He explains that God in His purpose has ordained before the time of the world by what crosses and sufferings He would conform every one of His elect to the image of His Son. His cross shall and must work together for good for everyone, because they are called according to God’s purpose. Therefore, Paul has concluded that it is certain and beyond doubt that neither “tribulation, or distress,” neither “death nor life,” or other such things “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (See Romans 8:28, 29, 35, 38, 39.)

50 This article provides a glorious testimony that God’s Church will exist and abide in opposition to all the gates of hell [Matthew 16:18]. Likewise, it teaches what God’s true Church is, so that we may not be offended by the great authority of the false church (Romans 9:24–25).

51 Powerful rebukes and warnings are taken from this article, such as these:

[They] rejected the purpose of God for themselves. (Luke 7:30)

For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet. (Luke 14:24)

Many are called, but few are chosen. [Matthew 20:14]

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. [Luke 8:8]

Take care then how you hear. [Luke 8:18]

So the teaching about this article can be used for our benefit, comfort, and salvation.

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