God has elected in view of faith.
Election, as we have seen, is revealed in the Gospel. The Gospel, however, points us, as we have seen furthermore, to the merit of Christ as the only and exclusive cause of all salvation, therefore also of the election to eternal life. God has not appointed men to salvation on account of their own works, their own merit, their own worthiness, but solely for the sake of the merit of Jesus Christ. The ground and the cause of election do not, even in the smallest measure, he in us, but alone in Christ and the mercy of God. As however God’s mercy, so also the merit of Christ, considered in itself, is altogether universal. Christ is the propitiation not only for the sins of the elect, but also for the sins of the whole world. In Him the justification of life has come upon all. In Christ’s merit, therefore, considered merely from the standpoint of its acquisition, there can be grounded no choice from among sinners, since it has been acquired for all alike. If Christ’s merit with regard to its acquisition alone had decided election, then all sinners would have been elected. But now all sinners are not elected; God has really made a selection, He has appointed some in preference to others unto salvation. Accordingly the merit of Christ must have been considered also with respect to its appropriation, which takes place through faith. The merit of Christ apprehended by faith must have decided who among redeemed sinners was to be saved and who was not. When God in eternity finally separated those who alone shall be saved from those who are not saved. He must have sought this appropriation of the merit of Christ by faith. What the Apology says: “Faith makes the difference between those who are saved and those who are damned” — held good also with regard to eternal election. Foreseen faith, or the merit of Jesus Christ apprehended in faith and foreknown by God, made the difference between those that were elected and those that were not elected. In short: Election took place in view of faith. And that is what our fifth thesis teaches. [[@Page:707]]
With this thesis we have now come to the real point on which the present doctrinal controversy turns. This doctrine, namely, that God has elected in view of faith, Missouri has rejected and condemned as false, and has set up on the other hand a doctrine that, in its innermost essence is nothing but simple Calvinism. Missouri maintains that faith dare in no sense be conceived as a cause of election, not even as a secondary cause, not as a condition, in general not as a presupposition; that the Holy Scriptures know nothing of the foresight of faith as a presupposition of election; that the doctrine, that God first foresaw faith and thereupon appointed just those unto salvation whom He foresaw as believers, is contrary to Scripture. Missouri holds that faith, on the contrary, is dependent on the choice of persons, that it is an object and a goal and a result of election; that God has chosen the elect unto the call to faith and unto perseverance in faith; that election is the fountain whence all this flows; that God has not acted according to the rule of the revealed counsel of grace: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”, but according to a hidden rule of His secret will; that the merit of Jesus Christ apprehended in faith has not decided what sinner shall be saved in preference to others, but alone the free pleasure of the divine will. — The point of controversy between us and Missouri is not this: Is man’s whole salvation due only to the grace of God, or in part also to himself? It is true that Missourians try to present the question in this form, and then proceed to assert that they ascribe everything to the grace of God, whilst we want man too credited with a part in his salvation. But this is false pretence. We are agreed with Missouri that all is of grace. That is not the question at all in the present controversy. The point of dispute between us and Missouri is this: How did it come that of sinners, all alike lost in Adam, and all alike redeemed in Christ, a certain number was chosen in preference to others and appointed unto the certain attainment of salvation? Was this determined by the merit of Christ as apprehended by faith, or — by the free pleasure of a secret will of God? This, this is the point of controversy — and this alone. Missouri together with the Calvinists affirms the latter, we together with the orthodox teachers of our Church the former. — The question therefore in the present conflict is by no means about trifles, about unessential subordinate points of Christian doctrine, about theological subtleties. We are concerned about a matter as important as any that [[@Page:708]]ever engaged the attention of the American-Lutheran Church in the conflicts she has waged. The question refers to nothing less than the principal and fundamental doctrines of the whole Gospel, that the salvation of a sinner depends wholly upon the merit of Jesus Christ apprehended by faith, and upon nothing else, whether human works or a secret will of God. We are concerned about the truth of the universal gracious will revealed in the Gospel. This universal gracious will of God is undermined and overthrown by the Missouri doctrine of an election unto faith in accordance with the mere divine pleasure, even though this will be not expressly denied. And because we would hold fast to this universal gracious plan revealed in the Gospel, we reject the Neo-Missourian doctrine of a choice unto salvation according to the mere pleasure of God, and confess with our fathers: God has elected in view of faith.
The fact, that we with our fathers confess this doctrine, does not prove it to be a true doctrine, just as little as its condemnation by Missouri makes it a false doctrine. Everything depends here upon proving the truth of the doctrine from the Word of God. Such proof we shall now furnish, and we shall first consider those passages that treat expressely of election. From these passages it will be proved incontestibly that God, according to the Scripture, has not elected unto faith but in view of faith.
The first passage to be considered is Matt. 22.1-14. In the parable of a marriage supper Christ pictures to us the kingdom of Heaven. The king has prepared the feast and sent out the servants to call the guests to the marriage. It is his earnest will that all the guests, none excepted, should participate in the marriage feast. But this royal purpose is not realized, for the guests will not come. He indeed sends out again other servants; but those invited despise these also, yes, some even scoff at them and slay them. Then the king, in his anger, punishes these guests, destroys the murderers and burns their city. In Order, however, that there may be guests at the marriage table, he sends his servants out upon the highways, to invite to the wedding whomsoever they shall find. A great number accepts the invitation, the tables are all furnished with guests. But not all those that have come share in the feast. There is one who has appeared without a wedding garment. Him the king causes to be cast out. And then Christ closes the parable with the words: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” [[@Page:709]]
This parable evidently treats of eternal election. Missouri indeed will not admit it. According to her the mere fact and nothing beyond the fact that few are chosen is here expressed. From the parable itself, she says, no proof as regards the doctrine dare be taken. But that is not true. When our Lord Himself declares the purpose of the parable, as He does here, there certainly can be drawn from the parable a proof for the doctrine. As the parable of the sower means to state more than the simple fact, that few are saved by the preaching of the Word, showing also how it comes that the majority hear it unto damnation and only a few unto salvation; so this parable also declares not only the fact that few are chosen, but at the same time, why it is that of the many called only few are chosen. — Our Confessions also use this parable as a proof-passage for the doctrine of election. The Confessions find here a proof not only for the fact, that the number of the elect as compared with the called is small, but also for the statement, that in the doctrine of election all the eternal decrees of God “respecting our redemption, calling, justification and salvation” are summed up together. According to our Confessions the whole eternal decree of salvation in its various parts is summed up in this parable, and at the same time the explanation is given how it comes that only few are chosen and saved. And so it is in fact. Christ teaches us here, that God desires most earnestly the salvation of all men. He had already in eternity, therefore, ordained Christ to be the Savior of the whole fallen world, permitted Him to become man in the fulness of time, and as the Lamb of God to suffer and die for the sins of all sinners, thus reconciling the lost world with Himself. And now in order that all redeemed sinners may become partakers of eternal salvation, God invites them all into His kingdom, causes His grace to be carried and offered to all with equal earnestness and power, and in no instance neglects even the smallest thing that is necessary to save the individual. That not all are saved, not even the majority, but only a few, is not due to God’s will, as though God did not earnestly desire that all should come, but secretly in His heart from the outset had picked out only a few unto salvation. He is displeased with those that do not come. The cause of their remaining away lies altogether in the conduct of men, in their contempt for the divine call of grace. God called them, but they would not come. Therefore they do not attain unto salvation. — Not all, however, curtly reject God’s gracious call. Many come, many hear the [[@Page:710]]Word and outwardly enter the church of God. But among these also a separation takes place. Then “the king came in,” so says the parable, to see his guests and discovered a man without a wedding garment. At the king’s question: “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” the man was speechless. By his silence he uttered his own condemnation. His speechlessness proves that it is his own fault that he is found without a wedding garment. The king therefore commands that he be cast out into outer darkness. Why is he cast out? Not because the king had not prepared a wedding garment for him, or had not offered it to him as earnestly as to the others. No; the king had done no more for others than for him, and no less for him than for others. He, however, had proudly refused the proffered garment, and was therefore discovered without it. However earnestly it had been offered to him — he is not clothed therein; and that is the reason why he is cast out. — Why do the others remain seated at the marriage board? Solely because they really wear this proffered garment, because the king sees them thus attired. Whether the wedding garment has been put on or refused decides the acceptance or rejection of the guests. — The wedding garment is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This garment is put on through faith. God’s eyes will seek for this righteousness at the last day. Where He finds this righteousness appropriated by faith. He saves; where this is not found. He casts out. It matters not if Christ have died for a man; it matters not if all grace have been offered to him ever so earnestly and often; it matters not if the Spirit of God have worked repeatedly upon his heart by means of the Word: if God does not behold him clothed in Christ’s merit, then he is lost. Those, then, that are finally saved, inherit this blessing because they are in Christ, because they have laid hold of His merit in faith. Not our own works and merits, nor on the other hand, the mere pleasure of a secret divine will, but only the appropriation of the merit of Jesus Christ, will decide which sinners shall be saved. When now Christ closes this gospel, which enjoins this truth so impressively, declaring: “Many are called, but few are chosen”, He evidently teaches that, as now in time, so also in eternity not the mere pleasure of a hidden will, but alone the merit of Jesus Christ embraced in faith decided which sinners should eternally be saved. As now in time, so also in eternity God’s eyes sought for faith. As now in time God justifies and saves sinners only on [[@Page:711]]account of the merit of Jesus Christ apprehended in faith, so likewise in eternity, God decreed (or elected) to justify and save sinners only for the sake of Jesus Christ’s merits appropriated by faith. Whomsoever His all-seeing eye beheld in the wedding garment of His Son, him He appointed unto salvation; whomsoever He found without this garment, him He was compelled to reject, glad as He would have been to elect him. Since now so few permit themselves through God’s universal gracious call to be enveloped in this garment, the greater number wilfully thrusting it from them, it necessarily follows that of the many called but few are chosen. — Christ teaches also in this parable that God has elected according to the same plan, the same rule, that He follows in time in the justification and in the salvation of the sinner. This parable, therefore, shows us that God has certainly taken the rule of election from the plan of salvation.
Missouri rejects this pure biblical Lutheran explanation, and opposes it by an interpretation that is thoroughly Calvinistic. Missouri maintains: When Christ says, “Many are called, but few are chosen”. He means to say: This parable sets forth, that it appears and becomes evident, that many are called, but only few are chosen. Although God has in general formed a decree to save all men according to an appointed order of salvation and therefore causes all men to be called, still He has according to a free purpose, already in eternity, chosen for Himself a certain number of persons and has resolved to call them, to bring them to faith, to preserve them in faith and to save them, in preference to others. And these who have thus been separated must be called, must come to faith, must persevere in faith and be saved, and beside them none else. This hidden counsel and decree now became evident in that only a few accepted the gracious call of God, the majority rejecting it. According to this, Christ would say here: God’s having in His hidden counsel appointed only a few to the call, to faith, to perseverance and to salvation is the reason why so few accept the Word. Had God, as He could “just as easily” have done, elected many, had He elected all, then all would have come to faith and to salvation. Is this not true Calvinistic exegesis? The universal gracious will, intended for all with equal earnestness, is thus in fact undermined and destroyed; yea, the cause why so many are not saved is thus really transferred to the will of God, however much this may be [[@Page:712]]denied. Luther characterizes such exegesis by saying: “This is principally a godless explanation.”
Our Confessions also reject this exegesis most emphatically. Let the inquirer read attentively [[§§ 34-42 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:34-42]], where it is stated that the calling of the many and the choosing of the few is not founded upon the secret hidden will of God, as though God in the universal decree of grace revealed in the Word had not at heart had an earnest intention with respect to all, but with respect to a few only. For thus the universal counsel of grace would be made a pretense, yea, a lie. Just because God is in earnest with regard to all men alike. He causes His gracious will to be preached to all and to be sealed unto them in the sacraments and private absolution. And through this gracious counsel revealed in the Word the Holy Ghost would operate upon all that hear the Word, in order that they may be enlightened, converted, and saved. Where this effect is not attained, it is not because He did not desire to save such persons; nor is it because God’s gracious call to them was not active and efficacious. But, earnest and efficacious as this universal gracious will is, it does not everywhere achieve its purpose; that is, it does not necessarily convert and save all. This will contains a condition upon which God makes its realization depend: it is an ordered will, and only in its order is it executed. God has ordained in His eternal counsel “that He will justify and save all those who, through true faith, receive Christ; He has also determined in His counsel that He will harden, reprobate, and condemn those who are called through the Word, if they reject the Word and resist the Holy Ghost, who wishes to be efficacious and to work in them through the Word.” Our Confessions teach here that God has established this rule, this law, in His eternal counsel once for all. According to this rule He saves and condemns in time, according to this rule He has elected and reprobated in eternity. And in accordance with this principle, say the Confessions — therefore not according to the mere purpose of a hidden will — are we to understand that the Scriptures say: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Muell. pp. 809- 811.) Whilst according to Missouri’s teaching the election of the few occurs in harmony with a mere purpose of the secret will of God, according to our Confessions it occurs in accordance with the order and the rule of the gracious will revealed in the Gospel: He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life. Missouri’s interpretation is thus found flatly contradicting the Confessions. [[@Page:713]]Martin Chemnitz, the chief author of the Formula of Concord, explains this parable in his sermon on Predestination in exactly the same way as we do. Chemnitz does not say in a single syllable that God chose a number of people in accordance with a bare purpose, and resolved to bring these to faith and to preserve them therein, in preference to others; but he sets forth, upon the basis of this parable, all the eternal decrees through which God has established the universal way of salvation, as essential elements of election, and then shows how, in consequence of this universal order of grace, a selection from among the called has come about. But let us hear Chemnitz himself. He says: —
“The Lord teaches and specifies in this parable all that belongs to this article, and how one point always follows from the other, namely, that divine predestination or election consists in and embraces the following. When God foresaw that the human race would fall from Him through sin and would thereby sink beneath God’s wrath and the devil’s might into eternal ruin and damnation. He, the loving God, before the foundation of the world was laid, in His secret, divine counsel, considered, planned and decreed how to help the human race out of its ruin unto salvation. In the first place, His only Son should take unto Himself human nature, or, as the parable says, the king would arrange a marriage for His Son and would wed Him unto our human nature.”
“Secondly, this Son should be made subject to the law, should be slain as an offering for our sins, and in this way everything necessary to the marriage joy of eternal salvation should be prepared through Him.”
“Thirdly; He desired that not only the flesh and blood that His Son would assume into the unity of His person should partake of this salvation, but other guests also, not from among the fallen angels, but from the human race which was now allied and related to God’s Son as His bride, because of the assumed human nature, and was therefore become flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone.”
Fourthly, He Would have His guests called to the marriage by His servants; that is, He would reveal this His heavenly counsel through the Word to the world and would call men to His kingdom by the spoken Word.”
“Fifthly, He desired to work efficaciously upon men’s hearts through this call, enlighten, convert, and save them.” [[@Page:714]]
“Sixthly, those whom He justified He would guard, protect, preserve, save, and glorify. Just as these particulars are also summed up one after the other, like a golden chain, by St. Paul in the beautiful passage, Romans 8, where he says: Whom He did predestinate, or ordain, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”
“Seventh, because God foresaw that the wicked human heart would not heed, but resist, this call and operation of God, and would not accept the grace of God intended to work upon man, He decreed in His purpose that all who despised, blasphemed, and interfered with this His call, or, when He would operate in their hearts by His grace, did not heed the call, and persevered in their resistance, should be punished in time, and in eternity rejected and damned, as this parable also clearly sets forth.”
“This is the simple understanding and meaning of what belongs to divine predestination, of what it embraces and whereon it rests. And when we speak or think of God’s predestination or election, we must take all these parts together, as Paul throughout the whole first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians treats and explains this doctrine part by part; and if I abide by this explanation of the matter and in this simplicity, I have as much as I need know about it, and know that I cannot go wrong or err.
Rom. 8.28-30, is the next passage that we have to consider. It reads as follows: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow. He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” The apostle desires in these, as in the preceding, verses to comfort Christians in their sufferings of the present time and to encourage them to patient endurance of these sufferings, by showing them that, because they are certain of God’s love and therefore also of salvation, nothing can hurt them, but everything must serve to their advantage. He declares: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” Those that love God, and of these the apostle speaks here, are true Christians as distinguished from false and hypocritical Christians. In the four passages in which the Holy [[@Page:715]]Scriptures use this expression (1 Cor. 2.9; 8.3; Eph. 6.24; James 1.12) they employ it to denote nothing more and nothing less than true believers, children of God not only in name but also in fact. The apostle declares that nothing can conduce to their hurt, but that everything must prove for their benefit. And this is not something imaginary, but firm, certain truth. We know, writes the apostle; that is, we true, believing Christians are certain of it. But why are we so certain? The apostle tells us, when he proceeds with the words, “who are the called according to His purpose.” True Christians are thus seen to be called according to a purpose; and because this is so, they know also with certainty that everything must help them on unto salvation. God’s gracious plan has been published to them, and this not in vain. They have experienced the power of this call; it has opened their heart and kindled faith in them. That they are what they are, truly believing, God-loving Christians, they owe solely to this divine call of grace. Without the call they would to-day belong to the lost world. The fact, however, that God calling through His Word has delivered them out of the kingdom of darkness and has transplanted them through faith into the kingdom of grace, is assurance to them that God earnestly desires their eternal salvation, and that everything must serve them to this end. For this call was not issued accidentally to them, so as to occasion the fear that it might accidentally leave them in the lurch; on the contrary, their call rests upon an express, divine purpose, according to which God had resolved to lead them to salvation. — Of what kind is the purpose that God has resolved upon and decreed? Missouri claims that this divine purpose does not denote the universal plan of salvation, according to which God had decreed to save men in an appointed way, namely, through faith in Christ; but that this word denotes the special, unconditionally effective decree, framed concerning certain persons only, by virtue of which God has undertaken to call some rather than others, to bring them to faith and preserve them therein, and to save them eternally; in short, purpose is the same as “election”; to be called according to the purpose means to be called “on account of election.” Missouri then makes the apostle say to Christians: We Christians that love God know that everything must work together for our good, because we are not called, as are others, on the basis of the universal plan of grace, but according to the purpose — on the basis of election. That this exegesis is false is [[@Page:716]]evident from the fact that thus a twofold call is taught, one according to the purpose and one apart from the purpose. Experience bears witness that many are called who either never come to faith, or who do not abide in faith and love and are therefore lost. “Many indeed are the called, but few are the elect.” The many evidently could not be called on the basis of election, simply because they were not elected. Their call, then, was, according to the Missourian explanation of these words, no call according to the purpose, but apart from the purpose; their call happened altogether accidentally, and as it happened accidentally, so also accidentally it came to naught. God had not so much as under- taken their call, and therefore the call did not attain its goal. Others, on the other hand, were called according to the purpose. Concerning these God had resolved that they, only they, and none else, shall and must come to faith, persevere in faith, and be saved. And God “necessarily” accomplishes this resolution. Of course these elect must also be led to heaven according to the plan of salvation; they must therefore be called. But their call must attain its purpose; it can not be despised, for it is a call according to the purpose. The Scriptures know nothing of such a Calvinistic double call. As the Scriptures know of but one universal redemption, so do they know also of but one universal call. And just as certainly as God, according to the Scriptures, does nothing in time that He has not already in eternity resolved to do, so certainly does the call of every person rest upon the purpose. Wherever the call is extended, it is not accidental, but purposed. It is evident that this divine purpose can not, as Missouri maintains, mean a special counsel of election; this becomes clear when we examine what the Scriptures say, in the different passages where the word is used. We thus learn that the purpose was already formed in eternity (Eph. 3.11); that it is not based on human merit, but alone on God’s grace (2 Tim. 1.9); that it does not depend on anything outside of God, but alone on the “counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1.11). The object and goal of this divine purpose, so the Scriptures further tell us, is the salvation of the world. Upon this purpose rest, out of it flow, from it proceed, the world-embracing redemption (Eph. 3.8-12), the call (2 Tim. 1.9), the appointment to sonship and the inheritance (Eph. 1. 5-11). According to the Scriptures, this purpose was “purposed in Christ Jesus”; that is, as God, in His purpose, had appointed Christ to be the only Savior of sinners, so also has He determined [[@Page:717]]to save eternally, not without Christ, not apart from Christ, but alone in Christ, i.e. those only who are in Christ, who believe in Him. Therefore this purpose is called Rom. 9.11, “the purpose according to election”, i.e. a purpose so framed, that in it a choice of those to be saved out of the mass of mankind is made. For God has not resolved to save all absolutely, but only those who believe in Christ. What, now, is this purpose of which the apostle speaks when he says: “The called according to His purpose”? Surely, not a new counsel, differing from the universal counsel of grace, so that God, without reference to faith or unbelief, out of the mere free pleasure of His secret will chose for Himself a certain number of men, and resolved to call these in preference to others, to bring them to faith and to preserve them therein; but it is the divine decree formed in eternity, not based on human merit, but on God’s free grace, as regards its final realization bound by God Himself to faith as a condition: and upon this decree rest the universal redemption, the universal call, conversion, justification and salvation of sinners. It is, as our Confessions say, the purpose, counsel, will and appointment of God, pertaining to our redemption, call, justification and salvation. It is the eternal decree in which God — as the Confessions elsewhere say — has resolved “that He would save no one except those who acknowledge His Son, Christ, and truly believe on Him” ([[Epitome XI, 12, p. 556 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:12]]). It is the purpose of which Christ says: “And this is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6.40). Because God has made this decree of salvation in eternity. He causes men to be called efficaciously in time, thus overcoming their hearts, so that they receive His Word and assent thereto. Upon His purpose rests the call And as certainly as this gracious purpose of God is executed in the call of true Christians, and as certainly as God desires to lead them to a blessed end, so certainly their sufferings can not tend to their hurt. If purpose did not here mean the universal counsel of salvation revealed in the Gospel, if it meant, as Missouri teaches, a hidden, essentially different counsel, the call would offer the Christian no comfort. He could then never be certain that everything must serve for his advantage. For he would continually be subject to the fear: What if you are not called according to the purpose? — Before he could have any real comfort, he would have to be absolutely sure that he is called according to the [[@Page:718]]hidden purpose that hovers over only a few persons. But where shall he find this certainty? — However much Missouri prides itself on assuring Christians of their salvation by this doctrine of election, it really robs them of all comfort. In the following verse the apostle shows in how far those who are the called according to the purpose are the persons for whom all things must work together for good. He writes: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” He here calls attention to the divine order and appointment contained in the universal decree of salvation, to lead to glory with certainty all those that love God. But that no one might entertain the thought, that this decree was not executed according to .the revealed plan, of grace, but according to the mere pleasure of a secret will, the apostle makes this appointment to be dependent on divine foresight, for he declares that God has appointed those to glory “whom He did foreknow.” “Whom He did foreknow” — these words are of the highest importance in the present controversy. What do they mean? Missouri claims: to love, elect, predestinate. Thus we read, e.g. in the Western District Minutes of 1879: We are to understand by this expression nothing else than: He loves them. He has chosen them, elected, received them as His own and recognizes them as His loved ones (compare p. 28 and “L. and W.”, 1880).
That “foreknow” can not here mean “elect” is shown first by the context. This passage has often and rightly been likened to a chain. As in a chain one ring is attached to the next, yet each is a link by itself, so with respect to the individual sentences of this passage: one member is coupled to the next: glorification, to justification, justification to calling, calling to predestination, predestination to foreknowledge. Everything is finally based on the eternal divine counsel of salvation. That is the foundation which supports everything. From this point the process is by way of foreknowledge to predestination in eternity, and by way of calling to justification and salvation in time. A different act of God is denoted by each member of the sentence. As is evidently the case in [[verse 30 >> Rom 8.30]], where the different stages of the way of salvation — calling, justifying, glorifying — are mentioned, so also in [[verse 29 >> Rom 8.29]], where the eternal acts of God — foreknowledge and predestination — are described. For, just as there the apostle makes glorification dependent on justification and justification [[@Page:719]]on calling, so here he makes predestination dependent on foreknowledge. As little as calling, justification and glorification are one and the same thing, so little are foreknowledge and predestination one and the same. The Missourian exegesis, however, makes the apostle say one and the same thing in both words. According to Missouri the words: call, justify, glorify, form by themselves one chain which is forged to the rock of an absolute predestination. This rock is described by the three words: purpose, foreknowledge, predestination. But not only does this exegesis destroy the connection of the discourse, it also ascribes to the apostle trifling, insipid words. Stop a moment and consider: from the Missourian standpoint “according to the purpose” means “on the basis of election”, “foreknow” means “elect”, and to predestinate to glory means again to elect. The apostle would then make this revelation to the Christians at Rome: You are called according to election, for whom He has elected, them He has elected! How? Has Paul really written such meaningless words? — Missouri herself has felt with what difficulties this interpretation is beset. In order to give the thing a better look, the declaration was afterwards made that foreknow means: a divine act before the dawn of time, by virtue of which God already in eternity accepted certain persons as His own, devoted them to Himself, made them His own, placed them in communion with Himself (“L. u. W.”, 1880, pp. 200 sqq.). These swelling words may have made the matter as clear as daylight for some and may have completely satisfied them; but in fact they do not better the matter, they only veil it a little more. The gist of this statement too is: foreknow means elect. For when God adopts according to His mere pleasure, one sinner in preference to another. He thereby predestinates him to glory, elects him to salvation. This latest Missourian interpretation can have no signification but this: Whom God elected, He elected. As certainly as the holy apostle does not utter such nonsense, so certainly also foreknow, in the light of the context, can not mean elect. In the first place the sense of foreknow (proginoskein) does not allow of such an interpretation. Nowhere do the Holy Scriptures use foreknow in this sense. This meaning of foreknow has simply been invented, invented by Calvin, adopted by Hofmann, rehashed by P. Stoeckhardt. In the entire Bible proginoskein means nothing else than to foreknow, to know beforehand, to recognize beforehand. That this is at least the fundamental meaning of the word even our [[@Page:720]]opponents must concede. When Paul says: “The Lord knoweth them that are His” (2 Tim. 2.19), that does not mean: He makes them His own, loves them as His own, but: He knows which are His. When the same apostle again says, Rom. 11.2: “God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew”, that does not mean: His people that He elected, but: His people that He knew beforehand, namely as His people. The sense of the passage is: Although hardening has befallen the greater part of Israel, God has not on that account cast away His people; for not all the descendants of Abraham are God’s people, but only those that have the faith of Abraham. And this His foreknown people God hath not cast off. When it is said (1 Pet. 1.18-20): “Ye were redeemed … with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ: Who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of the times for your sake”, — to foreknow here does not mean to appoint beforehand, but to know beforehand. The apostle would say: Christ has indeed been revealed in the last times as the innocent, spotless lamb of God, slain for our sins. But God has foreknown and recognized this from eternity. True, Christ has certainly been foreordained by God to be the atonement for our sins; however, that is not what the apostle says here, but, that God knew Him from eternity to be such an offering. In short: Nowhere in the Scriptures is foreknow to be confounded with foreordain, elect, join in fellowship with one’s self: wherever the Holy Scriptures use this word, it retains its original meaning: know, recognize, beforehand. No matter if this foreknowing as well as knowing be followed by love, or even include this in itself, it still remains a knowing, and a knowing is what the Scriptures understand thereby. Our passage therefore remains unchanged: whom He foreknew; and not: whom He predestinated. — It is a fundamental principle of Lutheran exegesis that we dare not depart from the native sense of words unless compelled to do so, especially not in passages that form the foundation of an article of faith. Therefore our Church has so severely reproved the Reformed for having forsaken the letter in the words concerning the Lord’s Supper. As in the words concerning the Lord’s Supper, so here also we have a passage that is the seat of an article of faith. Nevertheless, Missouri does not scruple to infuse into these words a sense that they do not have and can not have, whether we consider the words themselves or [[@Page:721]]the connection in which they occur. Is that less blameworthy than the perversions of the words of the Lord’s Supper on the part of the Reformed? In order to justify this perversion of the word “know”, Matt. 11.27 is appealed to: “And no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” Here, say our opponents, to know must mean “to love”; but not even here can this be the meaning. The words: “to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him”, prevent such an explanation; for, reveal is to teach. If there were any passage where “know” meant merely “love”, it would be this one; but here knowing is not excluded. It is therefore impossible that in the words, “Whom He did foreknow”, knowing or recognizing, the act whereby one person is seen to differ from another, should be excluded.
If we ask: What has God foreknown these people to be, whom He has predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son? the answer, according to the preceding verse can only be: He has recognized them as true believing children of God. And that God, also with regard to faith, looks into the future, is proved by John 17. 20: “Neither pray I Tor these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” The same thing is proved by 1 Tim. 1.16: “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in the first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.” “Should” is here used, if we examine the original, in the sense of “would.” … The apostle would say: I am become a pattern unto them that will hereafter believe in Him. As God, in the light of these passages, has looked upon future believers, even so has He also in the appointment of certain persons to salvation looked upon their future faith. When the holy apostle says: “Whom He did foreknow. He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son”, he would say: Whom God has foreknown or recognized as such, who in consequence of the execution of His universal plan of salvation would believe in Christ, these He has also appointed to be conformed to the image of His Son, both here in suffering and hereafter in glory. —
It is clear from the whole eighth chapter of Romans that this is the meaning of the passage. The apostle, before reaching this passage in the eighth chapter, draws a sharp line, and places some on the one side and others on the other side of the line. [[@Page:722]][[Verse 1 >> Rom 8.1]]: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” The antithesis to this appears in [[verses 7, 8 >> Rom 8.7-8]], and [[13 >> Rom 8.13]]: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” The meaning of the holy apostle is briefly this: In those that are in Christ there is nothing damnable: in those that are outside of Christ everything is damnable. Whether or not one is in Christ is determined by whether he walks after the Spirit or after the flesh. But those that walk after the flesh are outside of Christ. — [[Verse 14 >> Rom 8.14]]: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” The antithesis, according to the foregoing, is: Those that are not led by the Spirit of God are not God’s children. — [[Verse 17 >> Rom 8.17]]: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” The antithesis is: If we are not children, or permit ourselves to be alienated by suffering, we shall not become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, and we shall not be glorified. — [[Verse 28 >> Rom 8.28]]: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” The antithesis: To them that do not love God, all things work together for ruin. What a pressing admonition for Christians lies in this passage, that they may strive to be in Christ through faith, may love God, and follow the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit! And now should the apostle say, [[verse 29 >> Rom 8.29]]: Oh, God has from eternity elected and predestinated you to the infallible attainment of salvation, without even inquiring whether you would be in Christ through faith?! No; he can only mean: Those, of whom He in His omniscience foresaw that they, in consequence of the execution of His universal plan or purpose of salvation would believe in Christ, He has predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. But these are the very ones who, according to the preceding verse, love God. Therefore it is said in 1 Cor. 8.3: “But if any man love God, the same is known of Him.” And, as though the apostle would completely anticipate the idea, that God had dealt arbitrarily in His appointment to glorification, he presents the stages of the execution in time of the eternal decree, saying, [[verse 30 >> Rom 8.30]]: “Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called.” (These have not been called in vain. For, although the call can be despised and actually is [[@Page:723]]despised by the greater part of mankind, yet this point is not here considered since the apostle speaks of the predestinated, of those concerning whom God foreknew that they would come to faith, that they would not maliciously and stubbornly resist the call of the Word.) “And whom He called” (and who thereby became truly believing Christians, [[verse 28 >> Rom 8.28]].), “them He also justified” (God justifies believers only, therefore reference is had here to the called who have become believing through the Word.) “And whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Glorification, in fact, is still in the future; has, however, together with justification, as good as taken place. God leads His own, as far as He is concerned, from stage to stage.) Thus the execution in time of the eternal decree proceeds, according to the apostle’s words, through the faith-creating call to justification, and through justification to glorification. God carries out His eternal decree in time by working faith through the call, justifying believers, and saving and glorifying the justified. In the light of the temporal execution of the decree the apostle shows us what divine election is. For the decree and the execution must correspond perfectly. In the same manner, in the same order in which God now in time actually saves men, in that order He has also appointed them to salvation. As, in time, in justification and salvation faith is presupposed, so the eternal appointment presupposed faith. As God justifies and saves only those who are already believers, so He appointed unto salvation such only as were already (according to His foreknowledge) believers. In directing our attention to the execution of the decree, the apostle says that election did not take place according to a hidden free purpose, but according to the rule followed out in the plan of salvation. Whoever is on the way to salvation, being called and justified, can and should draw the comforting assurance for himself, that he belongs to the elect; only, he must suffer with Christ ([[verse 17 >> Rom 8.17]]), and must kill the works of the flesh ([[verse 13 >> Rom 8.13]]); and for this conflict God will furnish him with the necessary strength, as St Paul shows farther on in this chapter. — This passage, Rom. 8.28-30, does not afford the slightest support for teaching the election of certain individuals, according to a free purpose, unto the call and unto faith; it rather teaches most unequivocally that God, in the predestination of certain persons unto salvation in preference to others, not only had regard to Christ’s merit in so far as it would be acquired for us, but also as to whether that merit would be [[@Page:724]]grasped and accepted through faith, in short: this passage teaches that God has elected in view of faith.
This interpretation is confirmed by the ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters of Romans. Our opponents indeed try to explain Rom. 9.18: “Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth”, as though God, in the bestowal or the denial of His grace, did not act according to the revealed rule: “He that believeth shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned”, but according to pure arbitrariness. This, however, is a shameful perversion of the words. For, throughout these three chapters, treating as they do of the rejection of the Jews as God’s people, the thought expressed in Rom. 9.32, extends like a scarlet thread: “Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” That it is still God’s gracious will to save the Jews also, is proved by Rom. 10.12-13: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It is true that God has mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and hardens whom He will, but He has determined in His counsel “that He will justify and save all those who, through true faith, receive Christ; He has also determined in His counsel that He will harden, reprobate and condemn those who are called through the Word, if they reject the Word, and resist the Holy Ghost, who wishes to be efficacious and to work in them through the Word. And for this reason ‘many are called, but few are chosen.’” ([[Form. Conc., Mueller, p. 713. >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:40]]) The rule according to which God has mercy or hardens is plainly and clearly revealed.
A third passage, of primary importance in showing that election took place on account of the merit of Jesus Christ apprehended in faith, is Eph. 1.3-6: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” The apostle begins with praise to God for having blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. God [[@Page:725]]has blessed us, says the apostle; whom does he mean by the word “us”? He means, first of all, himself and those to whom he writes. But he was a believing Christian, and so were those to whom he addressed himself. He calls them “saints” and “faithful in Christ Jesus.” The apostle includes in the word “us” believing Christians in general. These are blessed by God. And for this the apostle praises God.
Wherewith has God blessed them? “With all spiritual blessings in heavenly places”, answers the apostle. He means all the gifts that Christ has acquired, as forgiveness of sins, righteousness, freedom from death and the devil, sonship, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the peace of God, inheritance of eternal life, etc.
If we ask further: How have the Christians become partakers of these spiritual blessings? the apostle answers, “in Christ.” What does “in Christ” mean? Does it mean: for Jesus Christ’s sake, so that the idea would be simply this — Christ has acquired these blessings and made it possible for God to bless us? Missouri claims this to be the meaning. But this is not the meaning. Had the apostle wanted to say merely this, he would have written “for Christ’s sake”, and not “in Christ.” “In Christ” means more than for Christ’s sake. Wherever these words occur in Holy Scripture they mean: in communion with Christ. Communion with Christ, however, is impossible except through faith. “In Christ” means then: to stand in believing fellowship with Christ. That this is correct is shown by the following passages: Eph. 2.13: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” [[Likewise 3.21 >> Eph 3.21]]. Also Rom. 8.1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” When now the apostle says: “He has blessed us in Christ”, his meaning is: God has given His only begotten and beloved Son to the world, and in Him has prepared for the world all that it needs. Forgiveness, righteousness, life and salvation are in Christ, and in Him alone. He that would have and enjoy these spiritual blessings must be in Christ. Outside of Him there is no forgiveness, but only a curse, no life, but only death, no salvation, but only hell. Only in Him, only in believing fellowship with Him, is the blessing to be had and enjoyed. That men may partake of this blessing, God gives His Word and Sacraments and operates through these by His Holy Spirit, in order to lead the hearts of men to true repentance and faith. All men who use [[@Page:726]]the means of grace and do not wilfully resist are brought to faith, are united by faith with Christ and as believers in Christ have and enjoy also the spiritual blessing in heavenly places. In Christ, then, in believing fellowship with Him or, what is the same, for the sake of the merit of Jesus Christ embraced in faith, have we become partakers of the spiritual blessing in heavenly places.
When the apostle continues in the following verse: “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world”, he establishes a comparison between God’s blessing in time and election in eternity, and says: God has blessed us in the same way in which He has elected us. The apostle presents the act of blessing in time and the act of election in eternity as acts corresponding perfectly. If one would rightly understand eternal election, let him consider how God in time blesses men with spiritual and heavenly gifts. The same order that God followed now, He also followed in eternity in the matter of election. The rule and the order, according to which God separates His people in time from the world and receives them as His children and heirs of everlasting life, are the same order and rule according to which in eternity in His divine counsel He separated them from the world and predestinated them to be His children and heirs of everlasting life. Here in time we are blessed in Christ: before the foundation of the world election took place in the same way — in Christ. The apostle says: “According as He hath chosen us in Him.” In Christ, not into Christ, not for Christ’s sake, but in Christ. All spiritual blessing in heavenly places is locked up in Christ: the eternal election of the Father is locked up in Christ. Christ is, as it were, the compass within which election took place. Therefore the Church sings: “O God, in Thy dear Son have I been chosen from eternity”, and, “In Thy deep wounds let me discover my election.” Here the Lutheran and the Calvinistic doctrines of election separate. The Lutheran doctrine of election lives, moves, and has its being in the expression “in Christ.” This “in Christ” is her heartbeat. The position of the Lutheran Church is in complete agreement with the revealed counsel of grace. The Calvinistic doctrine starts from the free purpose of a hidden will. According to this position the election of those who are to be saved takes place in a hidden abyss. The mere pleasure of God decides who are to be saved and who are not. Christ is thus abased until He becomes either the mere means of the execution of this purpose, as the most positive Calvinists declare, or at least, [[@Page:727]]as in the case of Missouri, Christ is retained as the foundation of election in so far as “by His merit He made it possible for God to elect sinful men.” With respect to the selection of individuals, however, Christ’s merit has properly nothing to do. There the mere pleasure of God decides. The election itself does not take place in Christ. The apostle teaches quite differently here. He says: Just as in time God blesses us in Christ, even so has He in eternity elected in Christ. If faith can be excluded from being considered in connection with the blessing here in time, then also can it be disregarded in contemplating eternal election. But if faith can not be excluded in the former case, then it can not be overlooked in the latter, for the apostle joins both together by the words “according as.” But now faith can not be shut out when we speak of the blessing in time, therefore it is not to be shut out when we speak of the election in eternity. As only he can share the blessing in time who is in Christ, who stands in believing fellowship with Christ, so he only could be elected whom God saw in Christ, in believing fellowship with Christ. He who was outside of Christ was also outside of the circle of election within which the choice was made, and therefore could not be chosen. As in time God is governed by the plan of salvation in the actual acceptance unto sonship and heirship, so also before the foundation of the world in the predestination unto sonship and heirship He was governed by the plan of salvation. As in time God does not impute Christ’s righteousness nor receive unto sonship and heirship when Christ’s merit is not apprehended by faith, so also in eternity has He not appointed unto the certain attainment of Christ’s righteousness and eternal life when He did not foresee faith in Christ. He has elected only whom God, according to His omniscience, saw in Christ through faith; those whom He did not see in Christ, He did not and could not elect. For God, “in His eternal divine counsel determined that He would save no one except those who acknowledge His Son, Christ, and truly believe on Him” ([[Conc. Form. Epitome, No. 12 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:12]]). True, the elect were not, at the time of their election, actually in Christ, save in God’s foreknowledge; they were not even in existence. God, therefore, if He was to elect at all, had to look into the future. Because He is the omniscient God, in whose sight “everything is naked and open”. He saw from all eternity all the millions that would ever live and die. And He saw them either in Adam or in Christ. But in Adam there is nothing save death and ruin; in Christ alone [[@Page:728]]are redemption, life, and eternal happiness (Rom. 5.14-19). Therefore God could not have beheld those whom He elected, as being in Adam, but rather as being in Christ, as believers. Our opponents, in their doctrine of election, separate faith from God’s grace and Christ’s merit and put it on the same plane with works. But faith, as repeatedly remarked, is not here considered as a work or virtue, but as the hand through which God’s grace and Christ’s merit are accepted. Faith, grace, Christ always belong together. Therefore our Confessions say: “As often, therefore, as mercy is spoken of, faith in the promise must be added, and this faith makes a distinction between those by whom salvation is attained and those by whom it is not attained. Faith makes the distinction between the worthy and the unworthy, because eternal life has been promised to the justified; and faith justifies.” ([[Apology, Mueller, p. 144. >> BookOfConcord:AP:3:225-226]])
From the following verses also, in which the apostle declares whereunto God has elected us, it appears that God, when He elected, sought for faith. He says first of all, that God has chosen us “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Accordingly, the purpose and goal of election is a holy, God-pleasing life. Since, however, a holy life in love is not possible where faith does not dwell in the heart, — for “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” — it follows that those who were chosen by God before the foundation of the world that they should be holy in love, were already before the all-seeing eye of God in Christ, were already in faith, before they were chosen; for as unbelievers they could never have been appointed unto holiness in love. As in time no one is brought to lead a holy life in love except he have first believed, so God in eternity resolved to lead no one unto such a holy life of whom He did not see that he would believe in Christ.
The second thing that the apostle names as the object and goal of election is sonship. “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself.” What do these words mean? Sonship means in the Holy Scriptures: Adoption and the relation thus established between believers and God. Through adoption believing Christians have been delivered from the state of wrath and the curse, to which they belong by nature, and transplanted into a state of grace; and in this state, for the sake of Christ’s righteousness embraced in faith, they have obtained the forgiveness of their sins and the promise of the eternal inheritance, and as an earnest and pledge of this there has been [[@Page:729]]given them the Holy Ghost, through whom they, being free from all fear of God as the strict Judge, cry out: “Abba, Father.” This childlike relation in which Christians live with God is intended in our passage, when the apostle speaks of the adoption of children. He would say this: By electing us in Christ, God has determined to bring us through Christ into such a relation with Himself, as that which exists between dear children and their loving father. — In this “predestinated unto adoption” Missouri tries to find its election unto faith. “In the idea of adoption”, says “Lehre und Wehre”, “the idea of faith is included. It is therefore altogether scriptural to say: God has predestinated us unto faith.” (1880, p. 237.) This is by no means the case. To preordain to adoption is not — to preordain unto faith. Our fathers have incontrovertibly established this over against the Calvinists, who, just as Missouri, would like to prove their election unto faith from these words. For the refutation of this objection a passage from the celebrated writings of the great theologian John Gerhard may be in place. He writes: “We say, the consideration of faith belongs to the decree of election. This is not contradicted by the statement of the apostle that God has chosen us unto the adoption of children. We furnish the proof: God has formed a decree to receive certain persons from the lost human race as His children and finally to save them (for with this’ adoption eternal life is most intimately united, Rom. 8.17). Of what nature the decree was is shown by the execution of it. As in time men become partakers of the adoption through faith, so the consideration of faith can not be excluded from the appointment unto adoption and eternal salvation. Whom God accepts as His children in time. He has also resolved to accept in eternity; and in what manner God in time accepts certain ones as children, in the same manner He has decreed to accept them in eternity: therefore the consideration of the faith to be bestowed, as well as of the foreseen faith, belongs to the decree of election. The apostle says expressly: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself”; He has elected us in Christ; but God could not elect men in Christ without regard to faith, since faith alone joins us to Christ and unites with Him. We therefore compare with this apostolic expression the passage John 1.12: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” As, therefore, God offers here in time the blessing [[@Page:730]]of adoption through faith, so He has from eternity formed the decree to accept those as children and to constitute them as heirs, concerning whom He foresaw that they, by the help of the Holy Spirit through the Word, would perseveringly believe in Christ.” (Loc. Theol. IV, p. 212). — Far from teaching an election unto faith, these words rather most gloriously confirm the doctrine that God has elected in view of faith; for adoption follows faith, if not in point of time, yet in the nature of the case, as Gerhard here unanswerably proves.
If we ask: What is the cause that in eternity moved God to elect a sinner out of the lost mass of mankind unto salvation? the apostle here answers: Only this — the merit of Jesus Christ, not merely as acquired, but also as appropriated; or: the merit of Jesus Christ apprehended (according to the foresight of God) in faith. The apostle does not teach in our passage an election unto faith, but certainly an election in foresight or in view of faith. Election in the strictest sense presupposes faith. Only when one speaks of election comprehensively, as does the Formula of Concord, where the various provisions of the universal plan of salvation and the choice of individuals are understood, only then can one say that that faith flows from election.
Furthermore, 2 Thess. 2. 13, is an exceedingly important passage in the present controversy. It reads: “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” If these words clearly and plainly teach anything, it is that God has chosen the elect, not unto faith, to say nothing of choosing them unto the call, but in sanctification and in faith unto salvation; that therefore not the mere pleasure of God, but Jesus Christ’s merit embraced in faith, decided their eternal appointment unto salvation. The Missourians therefore fear this passage most of all. It causes them the most trouble. Therefore several explanations of the passage have been tried, but so far their attempts have miserably failed.
The Minutes of the Western District, 1877, bring forward the following explanation, p. 30: “Paul would say: We are elected unto sanctification of the Spirit and unto belief of the truth… We have been elected from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and in faith, in order that we may be in sanctification and in faith, i.e. in obedience to God’s Word.” Although [[@Page:731]]the apostle expressly says: “in sanctification — in faith God has elected you”, the “in” is changed by a cunning stroke into “unto” and we have the following: God has elected unto sanctification and unto faith. Although the apostle mentions “sanctification of the Spirit” first, letting “belief of the truth” follow, thereby indicating that he does not speak here of the sanctification of life, which follows faith, but of sanctification in the wider sense, namely the work of the Holy Spirit, through which faith is wrought; still, regardless of the apostle’s order, no scruples are shown about understanding “sanctification of the Spirit” to mean sanctification of life and explaining “belief of the truth” by: obedience to God’s Word. In this manner “election unto faith” has successfully been explained into the present verse! — But is not that revising the Holy Spirit’s work after a terrible fashion and “taking Him under instruction as though He did not know how to express what He wanted to reveal”?
Later on, it seemed advisable to Missouri, in order “to proceed more safely”, to renounce this explanation, so evidently contradictory to the clear words of Scripture. But instead of accepting the interpretation which most forcibly urges itself upon every unprejudiced reader of the Scriptures, they have tried another, which is in fact not another, for it only veils the matter a little better. They have granted that sanctification of the Spirit does not denote sanctification of life, as the Minutes of 1877 declared, but the whole work of the Holy Spirit, namely, that the Holy Ghost “calls us by the gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith.” They have further conceded that they must give up the explanation: unto sanctification and unto faith, which the Minutes of ‘77 defended. Still more decidedly have they rejected the interpretation: God has elected you through sanctification and through belief of the truth; to represent man’s faith as a means of election, which is an act of God, they consider a most unhappy thought. Just how this is an unhappy thought, it is hard to discover. Justification is certainly an act of God, as well as election. And yet every page of the Scriptures tells us that we are justified by faith; and our Church believes, teaches and confesses that faith is the means of justification, of this act of God. Is this too, perhaps, an awkward notion, of which a St. Louis professor can no longer conceive? — St. Louis therefore prefers to understand “through sanctification and through belief” as denoting the way and manner in which [[@Page:732]]God has elected. And we too can be content with this. We are fully satisfied with this exegesis, if only these words are really understood of the way and manner in which God has elected, of the mode of election, of the order in which the election of certain individuals has taken place. More than this we really do not want. But this is something altogether different from what Prof. Stoeckhardt makes out of this way and manner in which God has elected. He makes it to mean this: “God has elected to salvation in such a way, that He at the same time embraced in salvation sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.… The apostle would then say: When God formed the eternal decree of election to salvation He did it in such a way that He at the same time adopted faith, as the means and the way of salvation, into that eternal act of His will. When God predestinated you unto salvation He at the same time and by this act determined to sanctify you through His Holy Spirit and to lead you to belief of the Gospel … or, in short: you shall be saved through the ministration of the Holy Spirit and through faith.… It is the same whether one says: God has predestinated each and every one of the elect unto faith and unto salvation” (“L. u. W.”, 1880, p. 235.) What does all this talk say but this: “chosen through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” means still: elected unto sanctification, unto the call, unto faith. At first this interpretation is renounced, in order “to proceed more safely”; but now the same thing is trotted out again, embellished a little better, and receives the name “way and manner” in which God has resolved to save the elect. God has elected in faith is to mean: God has picked out, according to a secret, hidden will, a certain number of persons for Himself, and at the same time decreed to bring these unto faith, to preserve them in faith and to save them through faith. But where does the apostle say that? God hath chosen you through sanctification and belief of the truth, he says; but where is it written: in choosing you, God has at the same time resolved to save you by the way of faith? That is nowhere contained in this passage. Prof. Stoeckhardt makes that addition, in order to introduce his election unto faith. — Oh, that the Reverend Professors at St. Louis would at length heed what was once written in “L. u. W.”: “What creature in heaven or on earth has a right to add aught to the words of the Holy Spirit and complete them from the resources of his reason as though the Scriptures were incomplete?” [[@Page:733]]
“God hath chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” — Missouri is not able to overcome this passage. It is so clear and immovable that even the skill of the St. Louis masters is here brought to shame. This text remains unshaken over against all their attempts at expounding or impounding it: elected in sanctification of the Spirit, not unto the call; elected in faith, not unto faith. We may appropriately apply here the saying: “Thy word stands firm as a wall, no man can pervert it, however skillful he be.” This one passage upsets Missouri’s Calvinizing doctrine of election. Let us observe these important words somewhat more closely. We find all the chief points of the doctrine of election here stated. The apostle says to the Christians at Thessalonica: God has elected you, i.e. He has chosen you for Himself from among the lost, ruined world, has dedicated you in preference to others unto Himself. And when did this take place? “From the beginning,” says the apostle, which is manifestly the same as: “before the foundation of the world”, Eph. 1.4. And whereunto has God elected? Not unto the call, not unto faith, as Missouri claims, but unto salvation, answers the apostle. If we ask: What men has God elected? in what condition, in what disposition were they when God appointed them unto salvation? then the apostle gives us an answer so clear and definite, that it is scarcely conceivable how Lutheran Christians can longer remain in the dark regarding this question. The apostle says: “God hath chosen you in sanctification of the Spirit and in belief of the truth.” What do these words mean? “Sanctification of the Spirit”, as already remarked, and as conceded by Prof. Stoeckhardt, can not here denote sanctification in the narrow sense, not the God-pleasing life of the Christian flowing from faith. This appears from the fact, that the apostle places sanctification first and faith afterward. If the apostle had wanted to speak here of the sanctification of life, he would surely have written: in faith and in sanctification. By sanctification of the Spirit the apostle understands what that expression embraces in its wider sense, the work of the Holy Spirit upon the sinner in rescuing him from the doomed world and transplanting him into redeeming, saving communion with God, advancing and preserving him therein; or as our catechism expresses it: “calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in true faith.” Sanctification then really consists in this, that the Holy Ghost kindles and preserves faith in man’s heart. For in [[@Page:734]]faith alone does the sinner have fellowship with God. On this account the apostle adds the words: “in belief of the truth.” What do these words say? The truth is God’s Word — “Thy Word is truth”, John 17.17, — the Gospel — “After that ye heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation”, Eph. 1.18 — above all things Christ Himself — “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, John 14.6. “Belief of the truth”, then, is faith in the Gospel, faith in Christ — a faith that trusts in the message of salvation as undoubted truth, a faith that embraces Christ’s merit. The Holy Spirit alone produces this faith, and in doing so He sanctifies the sinner. When the apostle says: “God hath chosen in sanctification of the Spirit and in belief of the truth”, he designates sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth (the belief wrought by the Holy Ghost and apprehending Christ’s merit) as the sphere, the circle, in which eternal election moves and is executed. The apostle, consequently, says really the same here that he declares, Eph. 1.4, in the words: “He hath chosen us in Him” (Christ). For where the Scriptures speak of faith, they always include Christ’s merit; and where they speak of Christ’s merit as the cause of our salvation, they always include faith. Hence, when we speak of our salvation, Christ and faith dare never be separated. As in Eph. 1.4, so also here, the apostle teaches that the merit of Jesus Christ, grasped by faith, has decided election. Only, it is more explicitly taught here than there that reference to faith dare not be excluded from the divine decree of election; yet at the same time, that this faith is indeed not man’s own work, but’ solely the work of the Holy Spirit. This faith, effected by the Holy Ghost and apprehending the merit of Christ, is the necessary condition that precedes the selective appointment to salvation. If we ask: What men in preference to others did God in eternity choose out for Himself and appoint unto salvation? The apostle gives us the answer: God has from eternity elected to salvation all those individuals, and those only, of whom He, by virtue of His omniscience, foresaw that they, through the power and operation of the Holy Ghost, would believe and embrace Christ’s merit — those whom His all-seeing eye, penetrating the future, already saw in the condition of divinely effected faith.
That this is the only correct interpretation of our passage appears from the context. In the [[preceding verses >> 2 Thes 2]] the apostle has foretold the appearance of antichirst and the apostasy of many that would be corrupted and believe a lie, and testifies that their [[@Page:735]]being deluded is their reward for not having received the love of the truth. A divine judgment is executed upon them, God Himself delivering them over to delusion and the belief of a lie, not as though HE did not most earnestly desire their salvation, but in order to punish them for having wilfully despised the divine message of salvation. For it is, undoubtedly, God’s irrevocable decree to deliver those into judgment who do not in faith accept the Gospel: since, now, the apostle does not speak of a judgment decreed against present, but against future scorners, — he is prophesying concerning the days of antichrist — he declares that God has resolved in eternity to abandon to judgment all those whose wilful unbelief He foresaw. The apostle evidently contrasts the elect with the reprobate, when he proceeds: “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Whilst St. Paul says of the reprobate that they have been rejected because they did not receive the love of the truth, would not believe, he says of the elect that they are chosen to salvation “in belief of the truth”. It would be impossible for the apostle to say that the elect, in that moment of eternity when God decided who should infallibly be saved and who not, appeared before God’s eyes as unbelievers, just as did the reprobate; and that whilst God has rejected these on account of their unbelief, He has chosen those, the elect, in accord with the free pleasure of His secret will, appointed them to faith, and resolved to lead them infallibly upon the way of faith unto salvation. For then the real ground of reprobation would not lie, as the apostle previously said, in wilful unbelief, but in the will of God. The apostle would then have contradicted himself in two verses immediately following one upon another, by first assigning rejection to the wilful unbelief of man, and in the next verse transferring, indirectly at least, this rejection to the divine will. As impossible as this is, so impossible is it for the words, elected “in faith”, to mean: ordained irrevocably according to a free purpose in preference to others, unto faith, and upon this way of faith unto salvation; but they must mean: appointed to salvation as believers, because in a state of faith; and consequently these words, taken into connection with the preceding verses, would say: When God in eternity decided who should be saved and who judged, men did not stand perfectly alike before Him, but as already divided into believers and unbelievers. [[@Page:736]]And according as He saw them either in faith or in unbelief, He elected or rejected them. Such an understanding of the present passage is demanded both by the words as they stand, and also by the context.
The simple meaning of these apostolic words is the following: You beloved Thessalonians are now in the state of faith. That is, of course, not your work and merrit, but the work of the Holy Ghost only, wrought in you by means of the Gospel which I preached unto you. As believers in the Gospel you have become the possession of Jesus Christ, have been justified from your sins, have been accepted unto life eternal, while all those that do not believe the Gospel have been delivered unto judgment. God has, however, adjudged this salvation to you already from eternity, and not only now in time. And this eternal appointment occurred in just the same way as your acceptance in time. As you were not justified as disbelievers of the truth, but as believers, so you were not elected in eternity as unbelievers, but as believers. For it is God’s unalterable decree that only he that believeth shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. True, you were not at the time of your election actually believers; for you were not yet actually in existence. But as certainly as God saw you before you came into existence (and it was then He elected you), so certainly did He see you called by the Gospel and brought to faith by the working of the Holy Ghost. And as such, believers whom He knew beforehand. He has elected you. He hath chosen you from the beginning to salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. — We repeat it: if this passage teaches anything concerning election, then it teaches that the elect have been elected not without faith, but in faith, as believers, in foresight of faith, or, what is the same, for the sake of the merit of Jesus Christ apprehended (in the foreknowledge of God) in faith.
The very same is taught also by the next passage which treats of election, 1 Pet. 1. 1-2: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” With these words St. Peter greets the congregations of Minor Asia, founded for the most part by St. Paul, consisting of Jewish and Gentile Christians, [[@Page:737]]but principally of the latter. He calls the members of these congregations “elect sojourners”, and thereby reminds them of the great advantage which they as believing Christians enjoy over those who are without a knowledge of Christ. They are now the elect people of God, whom God through His gracious call has separated from the world and chosen for His possession.
And he says of these “elect sojourners” that they are what they are “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” They are “elect sojourners”, first of all “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” These words contain a very important qualification of the word “elect.” If, in considering the subject of predestination, we follow the leading of our reason, we cannot (as also our Confessions declare) resist the thought: either you are elected — and then things may go as they will, you must be saved anyhow — or: you are not elected — and then you may do what you will, you’ll be lost at any rate. But just to encounter such thoughts, the apostle Peter says here, as St. Paul says in Rom. 8, that election has taken place according to the foreknowledge of God. By these words the apostle leads us out of eternity into time and reminds us that God turly knew in eternity what would occur in time, and that election is determined and conditioned by this divine foreknowledge. For the word “foreknowledge” does not mean, as Missouri maintains, “preordination, predestination, fellowship of the elect with God, determined beforehand.” As already remarked in the explanation of Rom. 8, that is nothing but an invention, a meaning attributed to the word by Calvin. “Foreknowledge” means simply “to know beforehand.” This word is never used in the Holy Scriptures in any other sense, never in the sense of election. Therefore our Confessions want the difference between foreknowledge and predestination to be accurately observed ([[Mueller, p. 554 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:2]]). It is therefore nothing less than a departure from the Word if any one, out of regard for his own thoughts, would make divine foreknowledge mean predestination. And the whole connection shows that foreknowledge here must mean to know beforehand and can mean nothing else. For what sense do we get out of the passage if we explain foreknowledge and predestination to be one and the same? Peter would then reveal to the Christians, whom he addresses, the astounding fact: Ye are elected according to election. Would not that be perfectly [[@Page:738]]senseless? Therefore Prof. Stoeckhardt does not like to say, as do others, foreknowledge is election: he prefers to keep these two ideas apart, and thus explains foreknowledge: “predestined fellowship of God with the elect.” But that is only playing hide and seek with words. For if God has from eternity placed certain persons into fellowship with Himself, has received them rather than others unto Himself, then He has thereby elected them. Or has He not thereby chosen these out of the mass of the lost and appointed them unto heavenly rest? Even according to Prof. Stoeckhardt’s explanation foreknowledge is nothing but election. “To the elect according to the foreknowledge” means then, according to his interpretation: to the elect according to election. But just as certainly as the Holy Ghost does not use such meaningless phrases, so certainly foreknowledge does not mean predestine, but to know beforehand. Chemnitz, one of the chief authors of the Formula of Concord, understands the word even so. He says: “The disposing, moving, operating will does not really belong to a definition of divine foreknowledge, but simply that God knows what is future before it occurs.” According to this passage, as well as according to Rom. 8.29, it is firmly established that election has not taken place according to an absolute will, but according to foreknowledge, and is determined and conditioned by the same.
To what does this foreknowledge of God, according to which election has taken place, refer? What is the object of this foreknowledge? It is self-evident that divine foreknowledge as here used is not unlimited, relating to good and evil, to things necessary and things incidental, but limited by precise reference to a fixed object. The apostle tells us what this object is to which divine foreknowledge relates, when he next presents as a second qualification of election the words: “in sanctification of the Spirit.” Sanctification denotes here also, as in 2 Thess. 2.13, the operation of the Holy Spirit, by virtue of which, through Word and Sacrament, He receives the sinner into the redeeming, saving fellowship of God, advances and preserves him therein, makes him a believer and keeps him as such. In this sanctification of the Spirit, i.e. as persons who through the power of the Holy Ghost have grasped in faith Christ’s merit, those, to whom the apostle writes, have been accepted in time as God’s peculiar people, as children and heirs. In sanctification of the Spirit, i.e., as true believers, God the Lord has appointed or [[@Page:739]]elected them in eternity to sonship and heirship, as the apostle here states. And God could do this, because by virtue of His omniscience He saw from eternity not only that they would be born in time as lost sinners, and would be redeemed through Christ, but that they would be baptized, hear the Gospel, and through these means, empowered by the Holy Spirit, would believe in Christ. Already in eternity they appeared before His all-seeing eye as believers, and as such they were elected. Faith, apprehending Christ’s merit, was the object to which God’s foreknowledge referred, according to which election took place. God did not blindly dash in among men and seize whomever He happened to strike; He has not drawn the line of separation between sinners and sinners — all alike — according to the hidden reasons of a secret will, but He has acted in accord with the principle: “He that believeth on the Son, hath life.” Whomever, by virtue of His omniscience. He beheld in this faith He elected; whom not. He rejected. Elected according to the foreknowledge of God in sanctification of the Spirit means essentially nothing but: elected in view of divinely wrought faith. Elected in sanctification of the Spirit, says the apostle, not unto sanctification of the Spirit, therefore not unto faith, not unto the call, as Missouri teaches; for the call and faith belong indeed to sanctification. The Lutheran Church teaches that the second article concerns all men. The Calvinists deny this. In this point Missouri is still Lutheran. But how is it with respect to the third article? The Lutheran allows that this also is for all, the Calvinists, on the other hand, allow it for the elect only. And Missouri? Now it stands on the Lutheran, now on the Calvinistic side; now it still leaves the third article for all men and again not for all, but only for the elect. In so far as Missouri still teaches universal grace, it allows the third article for all; but in so far as the selection of individuals that are infallibly to be saved is placed between the second and the third article, and from this choice is said to proceed a special call, necessarily attaining its object, and a richer grace, unconditionally guaranteeing salvation for these chosen ones according to the free purpose — in so far Missouri does not allow the third article for all, but only for the elect. The apostle Peter knows nothing of such an election unto the call and unto faith, and which stands in open contradiction to the revealed counsel of grace. He recognizes only an election that corresponds perfectly with the [[@Page:740]]revealed plan of grace, an election in sanctification of the Spirit, i.e. in faith. As God does not save men according to mere pleasure, but according to a certain order, so also He does not elect according to mere pleasure, but according to an appointed order. As He justifies and saves only those who stand in faith, so He has elected only those whom He foreknew as believers. The separation of individuals does not, in the divine mind, precede the sanctification of the Spirit, but follows it. The separation is not made unto sanctification of the Spirit, but in the sanctification the separation is accomplished, i.e. the sanctified, believers, are selected. Missouri may assert ever so stoutly that the Scriptures do not by a single word indicate that faith is to be considered as a presupposition of election; that they know nothing of the foreknowledge of faith as a basis of election — it is not true. As the apostle Paul teaches in Rom. 8.29, so here Peter also teaches: elect sojourners according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit — thus he teaches in the most emphatic manner an election in view of faith. But the apostle adds yet another qualification to the “elect sojourners.” He says that they are elected “unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Therewith the apostle shows what the object and goal of their election is, whereunto God in election has appointed them, namely: unto obedience and unto sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Here, according to Missouri’s claim, her doctrine of election is expressed in the most emphatic manner. “The apostle hereby teaches,” so says “L. u. W.,” “with clear, plain words, that we are elected unto faith and unto justification.” But where does “unto faith” stand in clear, plain words? Why, some one replies, don’t you see the express declaration: “unto obedience”? Yes, surely, but where does it say: “unto faith”? It is amazing how brisk and spry Missouri has become in explaining (laying out) the Scriptures since the new “Reformation” has begun. Paul says 2 Thess. 2.13: “elected in belief of the truth.” But these words are wholly irreconcilable with the Neo-Missourian doctrine of election. In the Minutes of ‘77 we get this exegesis: “unto obedience to God’s Word.” Peter says here: elected “unto obedience.” But then that explanation does not fit well. Unto faith fits better. Without hesitation, therefore, they say and interpret: unto faith. At one time they change “faith” into obedience, at another time obedience into faith. But is that abiding [[@Page:741]]by the Word? Or is it not much rather, in a horrifying manner, putting the Holy Ghost to school?
True, they have asserted, in order to support their cause, that when the Scriptures speak of obedience and add nothing else, they mean faith. But that is merely a claim invented for the occasion. The very opposite is the case: When the Scriptures speak of obedience without adding anything else, they mean obedience in general and not only justifying faith as such. Of course faith can also be called obedience, for obedience is cheerful submission to the divine will as revealed in the Word. This will of God is a double one: the holy will, as revealed in the law, and the gracious will announced in the Gospel. In so far, now, as faith submits itself to the gracious will of God revealed in the Gospel, it too is obedience and can likewise be called obedience. And there are really some passages of Holy Scripture, in which faith is called obedience, where faith is actually meant by the word obedience. But where such is the case, the Scriptures expressly indicate it. Thus Paul says, e. g., Rom. 1.5, that it is his office to establish the obedience of faith, i.e., an obedience that consists in faith; and 2 Cor. 10.5, he says that he brings into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (i.e., unto Christ). Furthermore, 1 Pet. 1.22: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth.” That faith is understood in these passages is clear. For this is an obedience unto the truth, the Gospel, unto Christ the founder and contents of the Gospel — an obedience that can be nothing but a believing acceptation of the message of salvation. In the first passage it is even stated that this obedience is faith. But why must we in these passages understand obedience to mean faith? Because the Scriptures themselves indicate that they are only speaking of submission to the gracious will revealed in the Gospel. But where the Scriptures do not further particularize, obedience is meant in general, i.e. submission to the whole will of God revealed in the Word; there the whole conduct of a believing, justified child of God is understood, as this is shown in faith and life. And such is the use of the word in our passage. “Elected unto obedience,” therefore does not mean, chosen before others unto faith, unto conversion, but it means: appointed unto humble and childlike conduct over against the divine will. The apostle says here essentially the same that Paul says Eph. 1.4: [[@Page:742]]God “hath chosen us in Him, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
This construction of the text is demanded by the order of thought in the three qualifications by which the apostle limits the word “elect.” He has said that election has occurred according to divine foreknowledge, in sanctification of the Spirit, i.e. in the faith wrought by the Holy Ghost. When God elected, He did not behold those, whom He chose, as being in Adam, lost in the sight of the law and knowing nothing of the Gospel, but He beheld them in the sanctification of the Spirit, as united with Christ, as believers, and as believers, not as unbelievers, He elected them. It is this that the apostle expresses concerning the elect in the first two qualifications. When now he proceeds: “unto obedience,” he certainly can not mean: You, that have come to faith and that are elect according to the foreknowledge of God, are elected unto this, that ye should believe; the aim of God in your election was that He might make you believers. Yes, if he had said: God has appointed you, who still lie before His eyes in unbelief, unto the obedience of faith, of the gospel, of Christ, then one might give the rendering: God has elected you unto faith. However, to say of those who have been elected as believers, as in the state of faith, that they have been elected so that they should become believers, is altogether senseless. If we do not want to ascribe nonsense to the apostle, we must take his words as they read, namely: you, the believing children of God, are appointed by God unto cheerful and willing submission to His whole will as revealed in Law and Gospel, that you approve yourselves in work and in suffering as His obedient children. That this, and nothing else, is the meaning of the apostle, appears from the fact that he elsewhere uses the word “obedience” in this manner. In the 13th verse of our chapter he admonishes the elect sojourners: “Wherefore, girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance.” What does the apostle wish to say in this connection? He desires to say: You Christians have through the Holy Ghost come to faith and have become God’s children, being born again unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, unto [[@Page:743]]an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. Show yourselves in all your life as obedient children, or as “children of obedience,” by setting your hope altogether on the grace of God and by no longer living according to the lusts of the flesh. Thus the apostle tells us as clearly as possible what he understands by “obedience”; not faith alone, he does not speak of the former conversion of the sinner through faith, the transplanting of the unregenerate from a state of sin and wrath into a state of faith and of grace, — for he speaks to regenerate, sanctified Christians who have become believers —; but he understands by “obedience” the whole submissive conduct of believers, as justified Christians, over against the divine will, which conduct consists in an exclusive trust in the gracious promises of the Gospel and in a holy walk according to the divine Law. Believing Christians are appointed unto this obedience. That they prove this obedience, this God had in view in their conversion and justification in time, as well as in their election in eternity. True, this obedience embraces not only what we are accustomed to call good works, but also Christian faith, not, however, in so far as that faith is the transplanting of the sinner from a state of sin and of wrath into a state of grace, but only in so far as it constitutes the principal part of a Christian’s filial conduct towards God. A man must come to faith through the operation of the Holy Ghost and through Him be justified and regenerated, before we can speak of obedience on the part of man. Filial obedience presupposes acceptance into the filial condition. He that has believed and has thus become a justified and regenerate child of God, should above all approve himself as a child of God in the manner described by Luther in “The Large Catechism”: “That the heart know no other trust or confidence than in Him, and do not suffer itself to be torn from Him, but may, for Him, risk and disregard everything upon earth” ([[Müller, p. 388 >> BookOfConcord:Large Cat.: Commandments, art. i, par. 16]]). In so far faith of course belongs to the obedience which should employ Christians according to the will of God. In so far, but in so far only, Peter here includes faith. — The meaning of the word, the context, and parallel passages all go to prove that the apostle, by the word obedience, does by no means understand converting, justifying faith only, as Missouri would have it, but the whole conduct agreeable to the divine will, as believing Christians are called to manifest it.
Yet Missouri objects that the context does not allow this [[@Page:744]]construction of obedience. For, the apostle says not only: elected unto obedience, but adds: “unto sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” But sprinkling with Christ’s blood denotes justification. In this connection, therefore, obedience can denote nothing but faith embracing Christ’s merit, by which we are justified. Now It is undoubtedly true that sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ means: justification, deliverance from the guilt and the punishment of sin on the basis of the merit of Jesus Christ, absolution. From the word itself it in no way appears that the first absolution, which is bestowed upon the sinner just converted from his evil ways, is meant. It can just as well be that absolution which is daily granted unto all Christians that have long been in a state of grace. Absolution, deliverance from the guilt and the punishment of sin on the basis of the merit of Jesus Christ, can mean this, as well as the other. If by the absolution here under consideration, the first absolution must necessarily be understood, the absolution, namely, that is granted to the godless man newly converted and whereby he, formerly subject to wrath and judgment, is received into the state of God’s pardoned children: then of course justifying faith might be understood by obedience. But this is not the case. Far from understanding the expression: sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, to mean the justification of a formerly unconverted sinner, we can not at all, according to the context, find this meaning in the passage. The apostle sets forth this sprinkling with Christ’s blood as an end of the election accomplished according to the foreknowledge of God in the sanctification of the Spirit. He does not speak of people who up to that time had lain in unbelief under divine wrath, but of such as were already, through the working of God the Holy Ghost, believing Christians, at least according to God’s foresight, and who, in the moment of eternity when their election occurred, stood in grace and sonship and as sprinkled with Christ’s blood before the all-seeing eye of God. It is impossible, therefore, to find here a discussion of reception into the state of grace and sonship, but only of preservation in this state; but this preservation occurs through obedience, above all, however, through continued sprinkling with the blood of Christ, daily forgiveness of sin. For since believing Christians never render perfect obedience, but daily sin much and often, and hence daily merit God’s wrath and condemnation, they [[@Page:745]]therefore need daily purification through Christ’s blood, if they would remain God’s children and heirs. It is then by no means necessary that the word obedience, by reason of its being connected with sprinkling, etc., must denote: the faith that grasps Christ’s merit, that translates from a state of wrath into a state of grace. Peter has no knowledge of such a thing as the Missourian election unto faith. By both words, obedience and sprinkling, the apostle describes the state of God’s children on earth, which state embraces willing submission to God’s will and then also daily cleansing from sin through the blood of Christ. Not unto faith, unto conversion, unto the call, as Missouri says, but unto obedience and daily repentance believing Christians are appointed. At this God aimed in election: they are elect “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” And now, to sum up everything briefly, the simple meaning of the apostle’s words is as follows. You, dear believing Christians, are preferred above all other men, as Israel was formerly chosen above the heathen, namely a chosen generation. Through sanctification of the Spirit God has separated you from the lost world and received you as His dear children and as heirs of heaven. And as God now in time really executes this plan, so did He in eternity resolve to do. God has from eternity appointed and elected you to be His children. God has, of course, not done this blindly, as though He had at random thrust His hand into the mass of humanity and accidentally seized on you. He has not dealt according to the bare, absolute purpose of His secret will, as though He had picked out certain persons in preference to others, from among a mass of sinners all alike and undistinguished from one another, to be His favorites, and appointed these to faith and upon the way of faith unto salvation, and had not so done with regard to others simply — because He willed it so. No! God has elected you according to His foreknowledge in sanctification of the Spirit. As you have now in faith become God’s children, so God from eternity has foreknown you as believers in Christ, and as such, as believers. He has elected you. As you did not become God’s children without faith, before faith came, so you were not elected (according to God’s foreknowledge) without faith, as unbelievers. And as you now, as Christians, are called to live in obedience to God’s will and in daily [[@Page:746]]repentance, so you have been appointed thereto from eternity. God has elected you unto obedience and unto sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ. If you in this way make your calling and election sure, you will certainly receive the end of faith — your soul’s salvation. — Far from contradicting St. Paul, and Christ Himself, by preaching the Missouri doctrine of a selection of certain individuals unto the call, unto conversion, unto faith, and this according to a free, uncircumscribed purpose of the divine will, he holds in perfect harmony with all other passages of Scripture that God has not elected according to an absolute purpose, not according to a secret plan, not without faith, not unto faith, but in faith, in foresight of faith, for the sake of the merit of Jesus Christ apprehended (according to the divine foreknowledge) in faith.
Let us finally glance once more at all the scriptural statements cited. In Matt. 22. 1-14, we learned that the marriage garment, the merit of Jesus Christ embraced in faith, decides and has decided concerning acceptance and rejection in time and in eternity. In Rom. 8. 28-30, we heard that the decree of election is not totally or essentially different from the universal decree of salvation, but is included in the universal decree of salvation, which decree makes salvation conditional on the presence of faith; and that therefore the eternal appointment of certain persons to glorification is conditioned by the foresight of faith. In Eph. 1. 3-5, we were shown that as the blessing of God is dispensed in time, so also in eternity election took place in Christ, in believing fellowship with Christ. 2 Thess. 2.13, and 1 Pet. 1.2, finally, taught us that election was not unto sanctification and unto faith, but in sanctification of the Spirit and in belief of the truth. And in the last passage we heard again, as in Rom. 8, that election was determined by the foresight of faith. We nowhere found the slightest support for an election unto faith and according to God’s mere pleasure. Only through forced distortions of the words of Scripture was it possible for the Missourians to introduce their Calvinizing doctrine of election into Holy Writ. If we furthermore add that the Scriptures expressly state that God has elected believers, as we see in James 2.5: “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith?” that they affirm Heb. 11.6: “But without faith it is impossible to please” God, thus proving that God could not elect without regard to faith: then [[@Page:747]]we may safely assert that he scriptural proof for the doctrine, that God did not elect according to a free purpose, but in foreknowledge of faith, has been furnished as powerfully and irresistibly as it can be furnished for any doctrine. The words: “God has elected in foresight of faith” do not appear in just so many letters and syllables in the passages quoted. But if a doctrine can only then be shown to be scriptural when the very words employed by the church are found in the Bible, then the Confessions of the church have a poor chance. Where do we find in Scripture the exact words: God is one in essence and triune in persons? that the divine nature in Christ has communicated its attributes to the human nature? that the church, properly speaking, is invisible? that the ministerial office is conveyed through the call? that Christ’s body and blood are sacramentally united with the bread and the wine in the Holy Supper? Yes, where in the Bible do we find the Lutheran Church’s phrase “In, with and under” in exactly these same words? Nowhere. If the doctrine of the eternal appointment of certain individuals to salvation in foresight of faith were proved to be unscriptural, because the identical words and syllables are not discernible in the Bible, then these other doctrines can not be established as scriptural, for the individual words and phrases in which the church has expressed them are just as little, as in the former case, to be found in the Bible. Only then to recognize a doctrine as scriptural when the ecclesiastic and theological mode of expression can be produced letter for letter and syllable for syllable from the Scriptures, is fanaticism, yea — madness. We are not so much concerned, in the reproduction of a doctrine, about the presentation of it in the identical original words, as we are concerned about the matter, the substance that is contained in the ecclesiastic and theological expression. The substance handled in the present doctrinal controversy, namely that God has not elected according to His mere pleasure, but in view of Jesus Christ’s merit embraced in faith — is taught as clearly and plainly in the passages quoted, as the real presence of the body and the blood of Christ is taught in the texts treating of the Lord’s Supper. For, truly, the words: “This is my body, this is my blood,” do not more plainly express the “In, with and under,” than the words: “God has elected us in Christ, in sanctification of the Spirit and in belief of the truth according to [[@Page:748]]foreknowledge” express election in foresight of faith. The rejection of the latter doctrine on the part of Missouri is therefore not less a rejection of divine truth, than the rejection of the true presence of Christ’s body and blood, on the part of the Reformed. Hence, if Missouri asserts that the Scriptures know nothing about the foresight of faith as the basis of election, and chat the doctrine, that God first foreknew faith and then appointed just those unto salvation whom He foreknew as believers, contradicts clear Scripture-teaching, then that assertion is just as little true as when the Reformed maintain that the Scripture knows nothing of the true presence in the Holy Supper and of an oral reception of the body and the blood. And as little as a Lutheran Christian will allow himself to be led astray by the talk of the Reformed — for the Lutheran clings to the simple word: this is my body, this is my blood — so little will a sound Lutheran Christian permit himself, by the talk of Missouri, to be led astray regarding the truth that God has elected in view of faith. For the text: “God has elected in Christ, in sanctification of the Spirit and in belief of the truth, according to foreknowledge,” is “too powerful, and cannot be torn out of his heart and head by mere words.” An election unto faith, according to a mere, absolute purpose, an election that picks out from among the mass of sinners, all alike, certain individuals without any reference to faith or non-faith, so that now these elect “shall and must” come unto faith, remain in faith, and be saved, “and besides them none else,” — such an election the Scriptures do not recognize. This doctrine of election does not only contradict the clear scriptural teaching of election, by impudently and flatly denying the truth set forth in the texts that treat of election, but it also fundamentally overthrows the whole Gospel. Therefore, for the one reason, that we hold firmly to the clear Word of God and will let no human speculations be foisted upon us as God’s Word; and above all, because we would retain the comfort of the Gospel, — we reject with our fathers this Calvinizing doctrine of modern Missouri, and we hold with our fathers, on the strength of the divine Word, that in election Christ’s merit is considered not merely as obtained for us, but also as apprehended by us, that God has elected in view of faith.
As the doctrine, that God has elected in view of faith, is clearly and plainly declared in those passages of Scripture that [[@Page:749]]expressly treat of election, so is it also demanded and confirmed by the analogy of faith. And this is the second proof that we wish to adduce, in a few words. By the analogy of faith we understand the connexion, the agreement, the harmonious relation, in which the articles of faith stand to each other. God has not revealed to us an unconnected, contradictory faith. The different articles of faith are not like a variegated quilt that is patched together out of different stuffs and out of rags representing all possible colors. No; the different articles of our faith are all most intimately related to each other and are in wonderful consonance with each other. They are like a work of art, whose individual parts form a harmonious whole. The apostle writes to this effect, Rom. 12.6: “Whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith.” In thus warning us most earnestly against would-be interpretations of Scripture which violate the unity of faith, the apostle at the same time says that all articles of faith really agree, the one with the other. Every doctrine purporting to be of scriptural authority, if destructive of this connexion, is necessarily a false doctrine, even if one should seek to prove it with demonstrations ever so glittering from one or the other passage of Scripture, or from so-called dogmas. On the other hand, every doctrine that is not only expressly taught in passages of Scripture, but is also demanded and confirmed by the analogy of faith, must of necessity be divine truth. If the harmony of faith demands and confirms the doctrine, that the selection and appointment of those persons who shall infallibly be saved occurred for the sake of Jesus Christ’s merit apprehended in faith, then this doctrine must be the truth, and the opposite must be false doctrine. That the analogy of faith really both demands and confirms this doctrine is undeniable.
If we question the Gospel as to what decides the justification and the salvation of one sinner in preference To another, we find the answer recorded upon every page of the Sacred Book: Faith alone. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be dammed.” — “And this is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life.” — “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already.” In these and innumerable passages we are most plainly informed who shall be saved and who not. God [[@Page:750]]indeed, as the Gospel tells us, desires the salvation of all men; is as earnest, too, in this desire with regard to the one as with regard to the other. His love embraces all with equal ardor. God has not, at the outset, preferred any one or overlooked any one. But God, as the Holy One, certainly can not and will not under any and every condition declare sinners to be His dear children and save them. For the sake of divine holiness and righteousness sin had first to be expiated by making a sufficient offering, and a perfect righteousness had to be acquired, before the sinner’s forgiveness and salvation could be granted; so also for the sake of the same holiness and righteousness the acquired righteousness of Jesus Christ must first become the sinner’s own before he can be declared just before God’s judgment bar and be saved. The only possible means of appropriating the merit of Jesus Christ is faith. Therefore God in His eternal counsel decreed that He would save sinners solely through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. True, God Himself must work this faith; but He wants to create it in all, if they do not render His work impossible by wilful resistance, for God will certainly use no force. Although He offers the sinner all necessary power in order to believe. He still allows him the freedom of wilfully thrusting His grace away; and those who do so, God can not justify and save, however willing He would be to save them. Though Christ has died for them, and His merit has time and again with all earnestness been offered to them — as long as they do not actually embrace in faith Christ’s merit, they stand before God as unrighteous, still therefore under the law and its curse, and hence can not be justified and saved. What, according to the Gospel, decides that, of the sinners all alike lost in Adam, all alike redeemed in Christ, a certain number is chosen, justified, saved, and the others, not chosen, are delivered unto destruction? Not a man’s own works and merits, but just as little an unconditioned purpose of the free pleasure of God; this alone has decided: the merit of Jesus Christ apprehended in faith — nothing else. Therefore the Apology says: “And this faith makes a distinction between those by whom salvation is attained, and those by whom it is not attained. Faith makes the distinction between the worthy and the unworthy, because eternal life has been promised to the justified; and faith justifies, if we through faith grasp the promise” (Muel. p. 144). [[@Page:751]]Justified and saved by grace alone, for Christ’s sake, through faith — that is the kernel of the whole Gospel. This is the fundamental article of the Christian faith and upholds the entire system of Christian doctrine as well as the church itself.
What follows from this statement of the doctrine of election? If the articles of faith must stand in agreement with each other, if, above all, they must be in accord with the chief and fundamental doctrine of the Gospel, the doctrine that supports everything else, then it follows necessarily that also in eternal election God took into account the merit of Jesus Christ apprehended in faith, that He elected in view of faith. If election is the final and unchangeable decree of God, in which He has drawn a sharp distinction between sinner and sinner, and has once for all settled who shall be saved and who not; furthermore, if this decision depends, according to the Gospel, on nothing (whether it be human merit or an absolute divine decree) but faith, i.e., on the apprehended merit of Jesus Christ; moreover, if there are not two different contradictory wills of God respecting salvation, a revealed will and a hidden will — then, already in eternity, Jesus Christ’s merit apprehended in faith must have decided whether a man should be appointed to the certain attainment of salvation or not, and what men should be thus appointed. God must have looked into the future, and those, whom He saw among the coming sons of men as believing through the power of His Word and as sharing in the merit of Christ, He, for the sake of the merit of Jesus Christ grasped in faith, sundered out from the mass of unbelievers and appointed them unto salvation; whilst all the others, whose persistent unbelief He foresaw, He rejected on account of their unbelief. Election must be founded upon Christ’s merit; for Christ’s merit is the foundation of all salvation. Here, just as little as in justification and salvation, can Christ’s merit be considered with respect to its acquirement alone. For we speak here of the separation of certain individuals from the mass of sinners, as well as of an appointment of these chosen ones to the infallible attainment of salvation. But this separative appointment could not possibly have its ground in the merit of Christ considered with respect to its acquisition alone. Christ’s merit has been acquired for all, for those who weep in hell no less than for those who rejoice in heaven. If, in election, this only were considered, that Christ died for all, then all would be elected and all would be saved. But now not all, [[@Page:752]]only a few of the redeemed are elected. If election took place for Christ’s sake just as well as the justification of a sinner took place for Christ’s sake, then, as in justification, so in election, the appropriation of Christ’s merit, occurring through faith, must have been taken into account. As in justification the merit of Jesus Christ accepted in faith decided who should be justified, so also in eternal election the merit of Jesus Christ accepted in faith decided which persons should be saved and which should not. This follows necessarily from the analogy of faith. Thus the doctrine of election fits harmoniously into the whole body of the articles of faith. Thus there exists not the slightest contradiction between this doctrine and the fundamental doctrine of the Gospel: “Out of grace, for Christ’s sake through faith.” The analogy of faith demands and confirms the doctrine, that God has elected in view of faith.
But how about the doctrine of election which Missouri at present teaches? Does it stand in perfect harmony with the chief and fundamental doctrine of the Gospel? Not in the least; on the contrary, it contradicts this doctrine directly. For what does Missouri teach? She teaches — to repeat once more and briefly — the following: “Predestination (election) is the actual and eternal separation of certain individuals from the multitude of those who are not to be saved” (“L. u. W.,” 24, p. 353). This separation is not founded upon the merit of Jesus Christ accepted in faith, is not accomplished according to the rule: He that believeth shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned, but is wholly independent of this appropriation of Christ’s merit. From the multitude of men, all alike in unbelief and under the curse of the Law, God separates certain persons who most certainly shall and must be saved, others He leaves behind, although He could have elected and saved these just as easily as the rest. God indeed gives to all men a certain grace; but for the elect He has provided a “more abundant” grace. While, therefore, the non-elect may despise their call, God necessarily carries out His will in the case of the elect, in that He overcomes the most wilful resistance, so that they must come to faith. While also many non-elect temporarily believe, but lose their faith again, the elect must persevere in faith, must, in case they for a time fall away, become repentant again by virtue of the grace of election. While eternal life is promised to all believers on condition that they persevere, perseverance and salvation are guaranteed [[@Page:753]]for the elect by virtue of their election. Why God acts differently in these two instances, and according to what rule He acts, is hidden from us; only this is certain, that the merit of Christ accepted in faith, has not been the rule. The work of election has been done without any regard to man’s conduct; it is based only upon the secret will of God. The Minutes of ‘77 say: “If we were to say to our God: Why hast Thou elected me? He would answer: Because I so willed. If we would ask further: Why didst Thou will it? He would reply: It was even the pleasure of my will” (p. 26). In the Minutes of ‘79 we read: “If God grants the grace of perseverance to the elect, the non-elect have no right to accuse God for not bestowing on them this rich measure of grace; for God does not owe us a special, greater measure of this grace. To him that would thus complain, God would speak this word of Scripture: ‘Have I not power to do with My own what I will?’ — Parents act in a similar manner. Sometimes a parent is more kind to one child than to another, because the one is more obedient and gives more joy than the other; to the latter the parent gives food and drink and tries in various ways to please it; but to the former the parent manifests, in this or in that direction, more love than to the latter. Even so does God deal with us; only. He does not even ask whether we have followed Him or not; but He acts as He pleases” (p. 38).
What? Does this doctrine of Missouri agree with the plan of salvation revealed in the Gospel? Does it not rather contradict the Gospel directly? The Gospel says: Faith alone — nothing else — decides whether a man will be saved, for without faith man is outside of Christ and still remains under the curse. God can not save him in an unbelieving state. Only where there is forgiveness of sin, are life and salvation. Man has forgiveness of sin only when he embraces in faith the merit of Christ. Therefore man must first have attained the forgiveness of sins through faith, before God can save him. The Gospel teaches this. And what does the Missourian doctrine of election teach? It says: Not faith, but only the free pleasure of God has finally decided the question, what sinners rather than others shall be saved. When God saw them all lying in the same ruin, in the same unbelief, He chose, according to His free purpose, whom He would, and promised them eternal life as an inalienable possession. He did not at all inquire concerning the apprehended merit of Jesus Christ; this did not at all decide, [[@Page:754]]but only the free pleasure of God. God did not make any inquiry concerning faith, but only followed His own will. Truly, that is not the old gospel which prophets and apostles preached, but a new one, wholly different — a cancellation of the entire Gospel.
This becomes still clearer, when we consider what the word choose, or elect really means. To elect means simply to take out of a number of people certain persons whom one prefers, to do this for an appointed purpose, and to abandon the rest. A selection, where all are taken, where a few at least are not left, would be no selection. We must not represent the matter as though one first of all picks out which he wills without any reference to the rest, and, when this has been done, for some reason or other passes by the rest. On the contrary, in the act of choosing certain persons, the rest are passed by. The choosing of the one is the abandoning of the other. The very thing which constitutes the act of election, is this, that certain individuals are chosen for a certain purpose and the rest are omitted. Thence follows also that one and the same law must decide the choosing and the not-choosing. Because this constitutes election, that I take some whom I prefer, and omit others whom I will not have, I can not choose according to one rule and omit to choose according to another rule, but with regard to both one and the same rule must decide. At the last day Christ the Lord will make a strict difference between those who shall be saved and those that shall not be saved. He there chooses, as He has the right to do, a number of persons out of the mass of humanity, and in doing so excludes the others from this election. And this takes place according to one and the same rule. Belief and unbelief decide. Where He finds faith, He saves: where He finds unbelief. He rejects. But if the judge of the world would at the last day make no inquiry concerning faith, if the apprehended merit of Christ would not decide who are to be saved, but only the free purpose of a hidden will; then the unbelief of the others would not be the cause of their rejection, but this rejection would be based on the free pleasure of God, who without inquiring about anything, accepts whom He wills and rejects whom He wills. The same thing is true in the eternal decree of election with respect to certain individuals, which is nothing but the judgment in eternity. There also the same law must have decided the acceptance and the non-acceptance. If God did not take faith into account, then He did not take unbelief into [[@Page:755]]account. If the free pleasure of the divine will alone settled the question, which sinners shall infallibly be saved, then also this divine free pleasure alone decided which shall not be saved. The former, as well as the latter, were unbelievers — and yet as such they were elected. If in their case unbelief was no hindrance to election, then in the case of the non-elect unbelief could not have hindered election. Had God elected them, their unbelief would have melted away as the snow melts beneath the sun’s warmth. Why God has not elected them is a hidden mystery of His will. As election, so non-election is based on the secret hidden purpose of the divine will. Between acceptance and rejection the decision is rendered by the sovereign pleasure of the divine will alone. When Missouri rejects election in view of faith and teaches us an election, according to God’s free pleasure, an election of unbelievers, she puts the cause of the non-election and final destruction of so many — for only the elect shall and must be saved, and beside them none else — in the secret will of God. That such a doctrine is in open contradiction to the Gospel, one does not need to prove to a Lutheran Christian. True, Missouri as a whole has not yet expressly and openly advanced the statement, that non-election also is based on God’s secret will; but this proposition is the necessary conclusion of the doctrine that God has elected according to His mere pleasure without foresight of faith. By such a doctrine the universal gracious will of God, even if one does not in so many words say it, is really undermined and overthrown, yea, is made a lie. For if God, as Missouri says, actually picked out from among the mass of humanity all alike in sin, a certain number for Himself, and resolved through the bestowal of a richer measure of grace to bring them to faith, to preserve them therein and to save them and none else, although He could just as easily have saved the rest; then the revealed will of grace is a mere pretence. And if God’s mere pleasure decides who shall be saved and who shall not, then wilful resistance, since God removes this in the case of the elect, is not the cause of non-election, but the cause is found in God’s will. One may call these the deductions of reason, but that does not in the least change the matter. These are necessary conclusions from the teaching of Missouri. In necessary conclusions the subject itself appears. If the necessary consequences of a certain doctrine are false, then the doctrine itself is necessarily false. From the proposition: God has, [[@Page:756]]without any regard to faith, but merely according to His free pleasure, appointed a certain number of persons to salvation and has omitted others, this necessarily follows: God has, without any regard to their unbelief, merely according to His free pleasure, passed over a great number of men and has not given them the grace of election which decides everything. Thus, behind the universal gracious will there stands still another will, the will of election, referring from the very outset to a few only. These are the necessary consequences of the Missourian doctrine of election, and they have already, in part, been drawn by some. But for this reason the Missourian doctrine of election is necessarily a false doctrine, an open contradiction of the Gospel — a cancellation of the entire Gospel.
All this is not in the least changed by saying: we do not exclude faith from election, we teach that God has elected nobody whom He has not elected unto faith; He has resolved to elect through faith. The Missourian doctrine of election is not freed by these and similar remarks from its opposition to the Gospel, even if some are thus deceived, for this is saying no more than the Calvinists have always said. In that sense no one, not even the grossest Calvinist, has excluded faith from election. The Calvinists have always said that God would save His elect through faith only; therefore He elected and appointed them to faith also. They allowed faith a place in the decree of election in so far as the object and effect of election were considered. What they rejected was, that God in election itself had any regard to faith; just so Missouri. But just as certainly as the Calvinists taught an absolute, unconditioned election, dependent only on God’s will, notwithstanding that they allowed faith to be at the same time an appointed means for the execution of election; so certainly Missouri also teaches an unconditioned election, however much she may assure us that God has resolved to save the elect through faith. Just as do the Calvinists, so also Missouri takes faith into account only as a means of carrying out the decree of election. But that is not at all the question about which we are here concerned. The question is this: Was regard had to faith in election itself? has faith, has the appropriation of Christ’s merit something to do with the separation itself of individuals? Did election occur in view of the merit of Christ and of true faith in Christ so that God elected those whom He did elect because He saw from eternity that they through His grace would [[@Page:757]]“believe in Christ? and did He reject the others because He foresaw their wilful, persevering resistance? Or did God out of a mere free purpose elect certain ones and resolve to give them faith, but reject the others and omit the resolve to give them faith? That is the question under discussion. And in answer to this question Missouri says with the Calvinists: No, the election of individuals did not occur in view of faith. The appropriation of Christ’s merit did not decide the question, who should infallibly be saved; but only God’s free pleasure determined the matter. As the Lord of all, who can do what He wills, God has chosen out a number of persons for Himself, whom He would, and has appointed these in preference to the rest unto faith, and in such a manner that they must come to faith and must through faith be saved. According to Missourian teaching faith is included in election somewhat as good works are included in justification. As these have no place in justification, when the question is as to what sinner shall be justified in preference to others — for faith alone decides that — (although the justified are certainly appointed to live, not in sins, but in sanctification); so also in election faith has no decisive voice whatever when the question is, what sinners in preference to others shall be appointed unto eternal life, its bearing being restricted to this that the elect are appointed to be saved through faith alone. But as the works following justification really have nothing to do with justification itself, but are only its necessary fruit and effect: so also faith, according to Missourian teaching, has nothing to do in election itself, but is only the fruit and effect of election. And it is a deceitful diversion when Missouri claims also to teach an election through faith. No; Missouri does not teach that. She teaches with the Calvinists an election according to God’s free pleasure without regard to faith, an election unto faith, not in faith. In contradiction to the Gospel Missouri dismisses faith from election proper; for her, as for the Calvinists, faith is only the means for executing the unconditioned decree of election.
If the Missourian doctrine of election were the truth, no preacher could say to his hearers: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved: your salvation depends on whether you believe.” For then there would be, in addition to the revealed gracious will, still an altogether different will of God. And whilst the revealed will promises to all salvation on the condition of faith, God the Lord would, in His secret will, have appointed [[@Page:758]]unconditionally only a certain few from the mass of humanity, all alike in sin, unto faith and salvation. These only would come to faith, at least to persevering faith, and would be brought thereto by virtue of the mystery of election impending over them, the others would not be brought thereto, because they were not elected. It was not the revealed will of grace that saved, but only the secret will of election, which unconditionally selected certain persons and in the case of these necessarily accomplished its purpose. Beside these none could and should be saved. Then, however, this secret will alone would be decisive, on it alone would depend whether a man should be saved or not. How could I as a preacher, according to Missourian teaching direct my hearers to the revealed will, since, in obedience to this type of teaching, I should still be forced to say: “Indeed, behind this revealed will there is still another, and this latter is not for all, is not executed according to the rule of the revealed Gospel, but according to hidden reasons, and this is really the only decisive will — the will that decides everything. — We can point our people to the revealed will; for according to our teaching there is but one saving will of God, and that is the one revealed in the Gospel. A Missouri preacher, however, who really understands his doctrine, can not do this. He can really say only this: You are one of those whom God has elected, or: You are not one of them. When a Missouri pastor absolves a man, and the man asks: “Will I certainly be saved?” according to Missourian doctrine he must answer: “Yes, if you are elected, not otherwise.” A true Lutheran pastor on the other hand would answer him: “Yes, if you believe — and that you can know — you will certainly be saved.” And he can say this to all alike. According to Missourian teaching he could not do so. He would have to say: “If you are not elected, I can not help you, nor can God’s Word — and God does not want to help you. If you are elected, yes — then there is help for you.” But who will tell a distressed person with absolute certainty whether he is elected or not? Yet if one cannot absolutely assure him of this, how shall one comfort him? — We can, it is true, give him no sign and seal that God in eternity has irrevocably appointed him to salvation; but in our doctrine this is not necessary, for, according to our teaching, there is no other saving will of God besides the one revealed in the Gospel; accordingly the revealed saving will is [[@Page:759]]also the will of election, since from the beginning this is for all, and is accomplished according to one and the same rule. We can, therefore, confidently say to troubled hearts: “Behold, here is the Gospel, here is your baptism, here the absolution, here the Holy Supper: believe these, and you will infallibly be saved. God Himself has promised this to you in His Word and He will also faithfully keep this promise; He will not lie, God’s will is here revealed to you, and behind this will there is no other. Missouri pastors indeed still continue to preach in the same way; but by so doing they really deny their doctrine of election, yea, they condemn themselves. They may direct their hearers ever so much and ever so often to the universal gracious will, but if the hearers have really comprehended Missouri’s doctrine of election, they will not be able to free themselves of the thought: “Yes, that is all very beautiful; but behind this revealed will of God there is yet a hidden wall, altogether different from the other, intended for a few only, absolutely accomplishing its purpose, and this alone decides everything. If I am not appointed to salvation according to this secret will of election, ‘I may hear God’s Word with ever so much diligence, be absolved, go to the Lord’s Supper, everything — everything is in vain.’” Such thoughts, according to Missouri’s teaching, can not fail to appear. For if there is really such a secret, all-deciding will of election, altogether differing from the universal gracious will — what does it help us to close our eyes against it! You may seek to cover it ever so carefully with the veil of mystery, if you do not want to deceive yourself, you will never find rest in this doctrine. Men carnally secure may indeed content themselves. Enthusiasts may imagine that they must certainly be the favored ones picked out according to the concealed will; but sober Christians, really desirous of salvation, must fall into doubt, if they have rightly grasped this doctrine. Missouri claims to make men quite certain of their salvation by her doctrine of election, but in fact she thereby robs the Christian of all comfort. Despair or security, these are the fruits of the Missourian election doctrine. But this characterizes it sufficiently as a false doctrine, opposed to the Gospel. [[@Page:760]]