Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | August 9, 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).

67 However, Christ, as God’s only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father [John 1:18], has announced the Father’s will to us. In this way He has also announced our eternal election to eternal life. He says, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Likewise He says, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life” (John 6:40). And again, “For God so loved the world‹, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)›.

68 The Father wants all people to hear this proclamation and desires that they come to Christ. Christ does not drive these people from Him, as it is written, “whoever comes to Me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).

69 In order that we may come to Christ, the Holy Spirit works true faith through the hearing of the Word. The apostle testifies about this when he says, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17), that is, when it is preached in its truth and purity.

70 Whoever would be saved should not trouble or torment himself with thoughts about God’s secret counsel, about whether he also is elected and ordained to eternal life. Miserable Satan usually attacks with these thoughts and afflicts godly hearts. But they should hear Christ, who is the Book of Life, and hear about God’s eternal election to eternal life for all of His children. Christ testifies to all people without distinction that it is God’s will that all people should come to Him “who labor and are heavy laden” with sin, in order that He may give them rest and save them [Matthew 11:28].

71 According to Christ’s teaching they should abstain from their sins, repent, believe His promise, and entirely trust in Him. Since we cannot do this by ourselves, by our own powers, the Holy Spirit desires to work these things—repentance and faith—in us through the Word and Sacraments. 72 In order that we may receive this, persevere in it, and remain steadfast, we should beg God for His grace, which He has promised us in Holy Baptism. No doubt He will give it to us according to His promise, as He has said,

What father among you, if his son asks [him for bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks] for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:11–13)

73 The Holy Spirit dwells in the elect, who have become believers, as in His temple [1 Corinthians 6:19]. He is not idle in them, but moves God’s children to obey God’s commands. Therefore, believers, too, should not be idle, much less resist the work of God’s Spirit. They should practice all Christian virtues, in all godliness, modesty, temperance, patience, and brotherly love; and they should give all diligence to make their calling and election sure [2 Peter 1:10]. They should do this so that the more they find the Spirit’s power and strength within them, they may doubt their election less. 74 For the Spirit bears witness to the elect that they are God’s children (Romans 8:16). Sometimes they fall into temptation so terribly that they imagine they can no longer perceive the power of God’s indwelling Spirit, and so they say with David, “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from Your sight’ ” (Psalm 31:22). Yet they should, without regard to what they experience in themselves, again say with David the words immediately following (as is written in the same place), “But You heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to You for help.”

75 Our election to eternal life is founded not on our godliness or virtue, but on Christ’s merit alone and His Father’s gracious will. He cannot deny Himself [2 Timothy 2:13], because He is unchangeable in will and essence [Hebrews 6:17–18]. Therefore, when His children depart from obedience and stumble, He has called them to repentance again through the Word, and the Holy Spirit wants by the Word to be effective in them for conversion. When they turn to Him [Jeremiah 31:18–19] again in true repentance by a right faith, He will always show His old paternal heart to all who tremble at His Word and from their heart turn again to Him, as it is written:

If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her? Would not that land be greatly polluted? You have played the whore with many lovers; [yet return again to Me,] declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:1)

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