Chapter 41. The Divine Purpose as Interpreted by Its Contents and Results.

Chapter XLI. The Divine Purpose as Interpreted by Its Contents and Results.

1. What is the sum and substance of God’s revelation of Himself to man?

His Grace and Mercy in Jesus Christ (see Chapter IX). This is shown in the devising and execution of a Plan of Redemption, the various stages of which have now been successively traced, according to what has been stated in Chapter IX, 20. The time has now come according to the order observed by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (Chapter IX, 22, 23) for the treatment of Predestination.[1] All the provisions of the Gospel in detail go to make up what Predestination includes. For whatever God does in time He has purposed to do from all eternity. Unlike man, His plans are not modified by circumstances that had not been anticipated.

2. What is the meaning of “Predestination”?

Generally speaking, an act by which something is predetermined or foreordained. ”The particle ‘pre’ denotes the priority of time that intervenes between the decree of Predestination and the men who are said to be predestinated; so that there is a destination of men to eternal salvation, before they were or began to be” (Bechmann).

3. In what two senses is the word used?

“The term is taken in (a) a more general sense, with respect to both the believing and the unbelieving, as the destination of both the former and the latter to a particular end; and thus Predestination is the destination to eternal salvation of those who believe unto the end, and to eternal damnation of those unbelieving unto the end; in which sense Predestination comprises also Reprobation. This, however, is not the meaning of the term in this article, (b) Predestination is taken in the language of Scripture, in so far as it is opposed to Reprobation, and denotes only the destination or ordination of those who finally believe to eternal life, and that this has been done before those who believe were, viz., from eternity” (lb.).

4. What synonym is there for Predestination?

Election. They refer to the same act of God, but connote different relations. Predestination connotes the priority of the act to the existence of those with whom it has to do; Election connotes the particularity of the act and indicates that it is not universal.

5. Define Predestination or Election.

IT IS THE ETERNAL DECREE, PURPOSE OR DECISION OF GOD, ACCORDING TO WHICH, OUT OF PURE GRACE, HE DETERMINED TO SAVE OUT OF THE FALLEN, CONDEMNED AND HELPLESS HUMAN RACE EACH INDIVIDUAL WHO, FROM ETERNITY HE FORESAW, WOULD, BY HIS GRACE, BE IN CHRIST UNTO THE END OF LIFE.

6. What is the force of the expression, “out of pure grace”?

That this decree was in no respect or degree whatever determined or influenced by the consideration of anything existing within those who were elected. The motive for the election is found entirely within God.

Eph. 1:5—”Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Rom. 11: 5, 6—”There is a remnant according to the election of grace. But it it is by grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.”

7. What is meant by God’s determination “to save out of the human race”?

It means that Election is not, as Huber strangely taught, universal. The very term “Election” declares this, and so also the results show; for not all are saved.

8. What is declared by the words “out of the fallen, condemned and helpless human race”?

That man’s fall, condemnation and sinful estate are not in consequence of the decree of Predestination, but that it assumes or presupposes all this. It is lost and fallen men whom Predestination is to eternally save. Predestination is God’s determination to provide a remedy for the consequences of the fall.

9. Why do you say “each individual”?

Because Election deals with men, not as a class, but as individuals. Each and every man, woman and child who will be saved eternally, was separately and individually the object of God’s election from all eternity. As we are born and die and must give an account to God as individuals, as we are regenerated, justified and sanctified, as individuals, as we are baptized and receive the Lord’s Supper as individuals; so also Election or Predestination is an act of God’s will with respect to each person and each case individually, and to a class only because constituted of such individuals.

“In his counsel, purpose and ordination, he prepared salvation not only in general, but in grace considered and chose to salvation each and every person of the elect, who shall be saved through Christ” (Formula of Concord, 653)

10. What is the force of the words “who from eternity he foresaw”?

To affirm, first, that the decree is as the word Predestination itself implies, prior to the existence of the persons, with whom God’s mind and will were thus occupied; secondly, that Predestination is not identical with foreknowledge; and, thirdly, that, speaking of course anthropomorphically, but nevertheless in accordance with Holy Scripture and, therefore, with absolute truth, foreknowledge is not dependent upon Predestination, but Predestination upon foreknowledge.

11. Why cannot Predestination be identified with foreknowledge?

“Because foreknowledge extends to all creatures, good and bad. He foresees and foreknows everything that is or will be, that is occurring or will occur, whether it be good or bad, since before God all things, whether they be past or future, are manifest and present…. But Predestination pertains not at the same time to the godly and the wicked, but only to the children of God who were elected and appointed to eternal life before the foundation of the world was laid (Eph. 1:4, 5)” (Formula of Concord, 650).

12. In what sense is Predestination dependent upon Foreknowledge ?

Since God has not predestinated all that He has foreknown (“for all that the perverse, wicked will of the devil and of men purposes and desires to do’ and will do, God sees and knows before,” lb.), but, in His inexplicable will, has allowed a certain measure of freedom and contingency in His creatures, and afforded them a degree of moral responsibility, knowing from all eternity what will be the result of their use of this trust, He also has determined how in every case their decision and activity will be treated. The divine foreknowledge unerringly records all the future, and the divine will acts with reference to all thus recorded without destroying the freedom of the will of the creature with respect to those things which He has left to this freedom (see Chapter V, 18). When, therefore, God has willed that He will be determined in a certain decision by the free decision of a creature, that freedom of the creature will certainly be guaranteed in the result; but what in the exercise of this freedom, the decision of the creature will be, as well as the determination of His will concerning it He knows from all eternity, and makes His plans accordingly. “Thus there is no doubt that God most exactly and certainly saw, before the time of the world, and still knows who, of those who are called will believe or will not believe; also who of the converted will persevere in faith and who will not: who after a fall will return and who will perish in their sins” (Formula of Concord, 659).

13. Is the decree of Predestination, therefore, absolute?

The answer to this question depends upon the meaning of “absolute.” If it means “fixed,” “irrevocable,” “including no conditions,” it is absolute. The decree of election contains no proviso. Its formula is not: “Mary Magdalene shall be saved, in case, by God’s grace, she be in Christ unto the end of life.” The fulfilment or non-fulfilment of the proviso or condition is contained in the foreknowledge which determined the predestination. That Mary Magdalene is in Christ, by God’s grace, at the end of her earthly life, is “foreseen and foreknown from all eternity; and this being foreknown, she is an elect child of God whose salvation is irrevocably predestinated.

If, however, “absolute” mean that no condition be admitted in the divine foreknowledge, and that there is no order established with respect to which the election is determined, and outside of which there is no election, its application is incorrect.

“This eternal election or appointment of God to eternal life is not to be considered in God’s secret, inscrutable counsel in such a manner as though it comprised in itself nothing further than that God foresaw who and how many would be saved, and who and how many would be damned, or that he only held a review, and would say: ‘This one shall be saved, that one shall be damned; this one shall remain steadfast, that one shall not remain steadfast’ ” (Formula of Concord, 651).

14. Is it conditional?

This must be answered in the same way. In the decree there is no condition or proviso. But the difference between the persons elected and those who are non-elect is determined not by any unwillingness of God to provide for the salvation of all, but upon a different relation and attitude which they bear towards the Order of Salvation provided in Christ.

“For this reason, the elect are described thus: ‘My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life’ (John 10:27 scl-)- And (Eph. 1: 11, 13) : Who, according to the purpose, are predestinated to an inheritance, who hear the Gospel, believe in Christ, pray and give thanks, are sanctified in love, have hope, patience and comfort under the cross (Rom. 8:25) ; and although in them all, this is very weak, yet they hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6). Thus the Spirit of God gives to the elect the testimony that they are the children of God, and, when they know not for what to pray as they ought, He intercedes with groanings that cannot be uttered. Thus, also, Holy Scripture shows that God, who has called us, is so faithful that, when He has begun a good work in us, He also will preserve and continue it unto the end, if we do not turn ourselves from Him, but retain firmly to the end the work begun, for retaining which He has promised His grace” (Formula of Concord, 655).

All this is to the effect, that the elect, according to God’s will, comply with a certain order, while the non-elect, not by God’s will, are outside of that order. “By this particular election, God closed the door of salvation upon no one, when, according to His infallible foreknowledge, He elected not all, but only some to salvation. For this was done, not because He was unwilling to elect all, or because He is even now unwilling that all be saved, but because He knew beforehand that only a few, ‘and not all would receive His Word, and persevere in faith” (Quenstedt, HI, SO

15. What caution have our theologians shown in applying these terms?

They define the decree as “not absolute, but ordinate and relative; not conditionate, but categorical and simple.” By “ordinate” they mean “that which is determined by a certain order of means”; since it is God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of what is preached, i. e., through the entire series of agencies comprised in the Gospel, to save them that believe (i Cor. i: 21). In saying that the decree is not conditionate, they distinguish between it and God’s will. When “God willed, according to His immense goodness, to give salvation to all upon the condition of faith in Christ, this will was conditionate, while the decree of election was not conditionate” (Hollazius), since it was based on infallible foreknowledge and was, therefore, as stated under 13, irrevocable, and without a proviso.

16. State the condition upon which the decree which is not conditionate is based?

That the person, concerning whom the decree is made be “in Christ,” and that too, “unto the end of life.”

Eph. 1:4—”Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”

No one is elected unless he be and remain in Christ. His being in Christ is not the consequence, but the condition of his election. Nevertheless this “being in Christ” is not a consummation which man attains by his own powers, but as the definition further states (see above, 5) even this is “by the grace of God” (see Chapter, IX, 20). For it is “by the grace of God,” that the Son of God became incarnate, and by His obedience procured that merit, in virtue of which alone our salvation and inheritance of eternal life are possible. The sole ground of election, therefore, is the merit of Christ.

17. But does not the expression “in Christ” declare even more than that the merits of Christ have been provided for man’s salvation?

It affirms that what Christ has provided has also been applied and appropriated. Although Christ has died for all, not all are elect, since not all are to the end of life “in Christ.” What it is “to be in Christ,” Paul declares in Phil. 3:9:

“And be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”

“In” denotes “the cause of account of which.” The decree of election therefore is in view of the righteousness of Christ, as by faith it belongs to the one who is predestined to eternal life. What distinguishes the non-elect from the elect, is that the former are without, and the latter have the faith which appropriates Christ’s righteousness and makes it their own.

18. Does not this introduce a synergistic error into the statement of Predestination by making faith a cause of election, and thus denying that it is an act of God’s free will?

No statement can be guarded with such care that it is not liable to be perverted when taken by itself. The relation of faith to Predestination is precisely the same as it has to Justification. Men are justified not on account of faith, but through faith on account of the merits of Christ; or on account of faith apprehending the merits of Christ. Precisely so, they are elected, not on account of faith, but through faith on account of the merits of Christ; or on account of faith apprehending the merits of Christ. The merits of Christ do not justify, unless apprehended by faith ; neither does faith justify, if it apprehend any other object than Christ, or if it even apprehend Christ outside of His divinely-human person and the righteousness which He has acquired through His priestly office. Both Predestination and Justification, therefore, are on account of the merits of Christ apprehended by faith. Nothing can be ascribed to faith in the one sphere, that cannot be ascribed to it in the other; neither should anything be denied to it in the one sphere, that is not denied to it in the other. Justification is the record in time of God’s eternal Predestination; Predestination is the record from all eternity of that which was to occur in our Justification. Hence such difficulties must always be solved by turning to the article of faith particularly involved. (See especially Chapters XVII, 15-17; XVIII,11-13.)

19. Can you cite the opinion of any Lutheran theologian generally recognized as worthy of consideration?

“With loud voice we declare that, in electing man to eternal life, God found nothing good in man, and that He regarded neither good works nor the use of the free will, nor even faith itself, so as to elect these movements or on account of them to elect some men; but we say that it was the only and sole merit of Christ, whose worth God regarded and out of pure grace made the decree of election. Nevertheless since the merit of Christ has a place in man only through faith, we teach that election was made with respect to the merit of Christ to be apprehended by faith. All those and they alone, we maintain, have been elected by God from eternity unto salvation, who, He foresaw, would, by the efficacy of the Holy Spirit through the ministry of the Gospel, truly believe in Christ as Redeemer, and persevere in faith unto the end of life. We will present, with utmost brevity, the arguments for this: (1) Election is made in Christ (Eph. 1:4). But it is only through faith that we are in Christ (Eph. 3: 17). Therefore they ‘who hereafter believe in him,’ are elect (1 Tim. 1: 16). (2) Election is a decree concerning justifying and saving men. But it is only by faith that God in time justifies and saves men (Rom. 3, 4; Gal. 2, 3; Eph. 2, etc.). Therefore God determined from eternity to justify and save only those who would believe; and, as a consequence, He has chosen all those and those alone who He has foreseen, would by faith remain in Christ. (3) Outside of Christ none are elected. But sinful men, without regard to faith, are outside of Christ. Sinful men, therefore, are not elected without regard to faith. Accordingly, as Paul says (Eph. 1:4), that God has elected us in Christ, so 2 Thess. 2: 13 says that He elected us in faith; since we could not have been elected in Christ except with regard to faith apprehending Christ…. Justification which occurred in time, is a mirror of the Election which occurred before time” (Gerhard, II, 86). “The things which God docs in time are the manifestation of what He decreed to do in time. From this, we infer that the manner in which He justifies and saves men in time, is that of the eternal decree concerning their salvation, which is called election…. But

John 6:40—”This is the will of my Father that every one that beholdeth the Son and believeth on him, should have eternal life.”

…To sum up, the decree and the execution of the decree most exactly correspond. From this it is manifest that the decree neither of Election nor of Reprobation is said to be absolute, but that the decree of Election was made with respect to Christ as He is to be apprehended by faith, and that all they and they alone are elect of God, whom God foresaw would perseveringly believe, by the efficacy of the Holy Spirit through the ministry of the Word, in Christ the restorer of the human race. So, in turn, the decree of Reprobation was made with respect to final impenitence and unbelief” (lb., II, 49).

20. Can this be reduced to a tabular form?

Yes.

Paul was {Justified-Elected} in view of {The Merits of Christ accepted by faith; or, of Faith accepting the merits of Christ.}

The formula of Justification and that of Election are one and the same. Nothing dare be admitted with respect to Justification which is rejected with respect to Election. Est enim vera regula illa usitata: Eaedem sunt causae Electionis quae sunt Justificationis (Hutter, L. T., 801).

21. What factors must always be kept clearly in mind in attempting to construct a satisfactory statement of this subject:

”The following pillars standing, the Absolute Decree falls; the Absolute Decree standing, these pillars fall:
“1. God seriously wishes all to be saved.
“2. God created all in Adam according to His own image, a part of which is immortality.
“3. Christ, by His obedience and sanctification, merited salvation for all.
“4. The Holy Spirit in the Word offers the means of salvation to all.
“No one, therefore, has been excluded from salvation by any absolute decree” (Gerhard, II, 81).

“We should accustom ourselves not to speculate concerning the pure, secret, concealed, inscrutable foreknowledge of God, but how the counsel, purpose and ordination of God in Christ Jesus who is the true Book of Life have been revealed to us through the Word, viz:…
“1. That the human race should be truly redeemed and reconciled with God through Christ….
“2. That such merit and benefits of Christ should be offered, presented and distributed through His Word and Sacraments.
“3. That He would be active and efficacious in us by His Holy Spirit through the Word….
“4. That all who in true repentance, receive Christ by a true faith, He would justify….
“5. That those who are thus justified, He would sanctify….
“6. That He would defend them against the devil, the world and the flesh, and would rule and lead them in His ways, and when they stumble would raise them again, and under the cross and in temptation, would comfort and preserve them.
“7. That the good work He has begun He would support unto the end….
“8. That those whom He has elected, called and justified, He would eternally save and glorify in life eternal” (Formula of Concord, 653).

22. But is not faith the fruit and result of Predestination?

A confusion may readily result by using the word Predestination in two different senses. Bene docet qui bene distinguit. On the one hand, Predestination refers to God’s determination to provide salvation for man and includes the entire series of agencies whereby this is to be accomplished, viz., the Incarnation of the Son of God, Redemption, the gift of the Holy Spirit, Calling, Illumination, Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification, the Means of Grace, the Church, the Ministry, etc. In this sense, faith is a fruit and result of Predestination. But, on the other hand, Predestination is applied to that which makes a difference between men, i. e., the eternal Election whose effect is to produce two distinct classes, the elect and the non-elect. This is the sense in which it is being treated here. Faith is not the result of Predestination in this sense, but enters into the condition, viz.. as joined with the merit of Christ which it apprehends. Even the merit of Christ is in the one sense of Predestination, a result, for the gift of Christ was the result of foreordination; but in the other, and that the usual sense of the term, it is the condition.

23. Is there no need of caution, however, in stating the relation of faith to election?

Certainly. For faith is too frequently regarded a result of man’s own powers, and the words of the Catechism forgotten: “I believe that I cannot, of my own reason and strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord or come to Him.” There is a strong tendency to make of it a ground instead of a mere organ for receiving mercy. (See Chapter XVII, 11-13.) It is to this that the Formula of Concord refers when it says (665) : “It is false and wrong, when it is taught that not alone the mercy of God and the most holy merit of Christ, but that there is also in us a cause of God’s election, on account of which God has chosen us to eternal life.”

24. Are all who believe elect or predestinated to life?

It has been shown (Chapter XVII, 36), that faith can be lost, and that too, so as never to be restored (Chapter XVII, 37; VIII, 59, 60). Not all, therefore, who are regenerate are elect: but they only who, at the end of life, believe in Christ. For the promise is:

Rev. 2:10—”Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.”

25. Can the Elect fall from God’s grace?

Yes; but only for a time. For if they were to be permanently alienated from God. they could not be elect, since the divine foreknowledge is infallible (see Chapter V, 17, 18).

26. Can one know whether he be elect?

He can know that he is regenerate and justified (Chapter XVII, 38-40), and that no means or effort will be lacking on God’s part, that he be retained in this race.

John 10:28—”No man shall snatch them out of my hand.” Phil. 1:6.

But as man, by his own will, can abandon this grace at any time during his earthly career, his certainty of election is “not absolute, but conditionate and ordinate.” Hence Paul apprehends,

“lest that, by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected,” 1 Cor. 9:27.

But at the close of life, he is so absolutely sure of his election, that, with the greatest confidence, he exclaims:

2 Tim. 4:7, 8—”I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished my course; henceforth, there is laid up tor me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.”

“Between the Scylla of perpetual doubt and the Charybdis of absolute security, the ship of our faith, following the pole-star of God’s Word, makes its way. We trust God on account of the rich and infallible promises which He has given us; yet, at the same time, we fear God, on account of the weakness and temptations of our flesh; and, therefore, with most earnest entreaties, pray Him for the gift of perseverance, and trust that we will obtain it, but yet, to avoid all carnal security, ask that our faith be confirmed by meditation upon the Word and the use of the Sacraments, and earnestly strive to advance daily in the path of godliness” (Gerhard, II, 105).

27. What is the remedy for doubt as to whether one be in the number of the Elect?

“If faith be weakened in temptations, and the sense of faith be almost extinguished, we ought to regard the general promises in which God offers His grace to all: the merit of Christ which concerns all; the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, in which God offers the blessings of His Son to all; Baptism, the answer of a good conscience towards God: we must resort to the use of the Lord’s Supper, in which Christ offers the very body for us to eat, which He gave to death for us, and the very blood for us to drink which He shed for us on the altar of the cross. From all this we ought to infer that God sincerely wishes that, knowing our sins, we believe in Christ, and by faith become partakers of eternal salvation” (Ib.).

28. What of the disposition of God towards the Non-elect?

They are said to be “reprobate” (1 Cor. 9: 27; 2 Cor. 13:5), i. e., “disapproved,” “abandoned,” “rejected.”

29. Is Reprobation exactly the reverse of Predestination or Election?

No. For Reprobation simply leaves fallen man to the consequences of his sin, while Predestination or Election introduces a new order, viz., that of Redemption by which salvation from sin is provided.

30. Is the state of the Reprobate precisely the same as though Christ had not died and the offers of the Gospel had not been made them?

No. Their guilt and punishment are increased.

John 15:22—”If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.” 3:18—”He that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” 16:9—”He will convict the world of sin, because they believe not on me.”

31. What then is Reprobation?

It is the divine decree according to which, God, in the exercise of His justice, leaves those who to the end of life reject the offers of divine grace to the -consequences of their sins, and particularly to those of the increased guilt incurred by not believing in Christ.

32. Why is Predestination particular instead of universal?

The answer for this question is not to be found in the absolute will of God. For “from eternity he determined to so concur with His Word and the preaching of the Gospel, that no one would lack faith except those who. to the end of life, would despise the means of conferring faith and grace itself.”[2] All passages of Scripture in which God declares that it is not His will that any perish, clearly prove this (Ez. 33 : 11 ; 2 Peter 3:9; Matt. 23 : 37; see Chapter IX, 10-16). Predestination becomes particular, therefore, through the free will of man repudiating and opposing, until the end of life. God’s purposes of love.

33. But is not this contrary to Rom. 9:15 sqq.: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,” “Whom he will he hardeneth”?

This passage is entirely misunderstood when it is interpreted as though it taught that God created some for wrath, as well as some for mercy. Paul is doubtless wrestling with doubts and difficulties which often met him in the consideration of this question. The “old man” in Paul questions God’s justice with respect to the different destinies of men, and the argument of the “new man” in Paul in reply, is to the effect, that the difference rests not upon justice, but upon pure mercy: and yet that, in this exercise of mercy, even though it would be restricted, there would be no violation of justice. Where all deserved eternal death, there could be no complaint of injustice no difference how many or how few were included in the Plan of Redemption. The question as to the extent of this provision, is clearly answered in other passages.

“Since it was the Apostle’s purpose to vindicate the justice of God from the tongues of Jewish objectors, he demonstrates that God is everywhere just, whether, out of mercy, He save men, or, by His just judgment, He harden and condemn them. As an example of hardening, he cites Pharaoh, the greatest persecutor of the Church. But upon whom He wishes to have mercy, and whom He wishes to harden, the Apostle does not determine in this passage. All Scripture, however, shows that God in His beloved Son wills to have mercy upon all who believe, and that He wills to harden those who contumaciously strive against His Word, in order in them to declare His justice, as is shown by the example of Pharaoh.”

“The application is not to be made that, as the potter from the same mass makes some vessels for honor and others for dishonor; so God, by an absolute decree creates some predestinated to salvation, and, by an absolute decree, creates others rejected to condemnation and destruction. For this would be in conflict with: 1. The Context. The Apostle does not say that God prepares vessels of wrath, but that ‘with much long-suffering he endureth vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction.’ What God endures with much long-suffering, He does not Himself make. Augustine has beautifully said: ‘God does not make vessels of wrath, but finds them; He does not find vessels of grace, but makes them.‘ 2. With Scripture, which so interprets this long-suffering of God, that by it ‘God invites to repentance’ (Rom. 2:4). How, therefore, can He fit them for destruction, who wishes that they should no longer be vessels of wrath? 3. With the very words of the Apostle. They are called ‘vessels of wrath’; but there can be no wrath of God, where no iniquity of man has preceded. 4. With the rules of illustrations. As Chrysostom says: ‘Illustrations must not be taken throughout.’[3] The potter deals with senseless clay which does not resist his will. Can this be said of men some of whom resist the Holy Spirit, despise the counsel of God, and repel the Word? With neither class of vessels, whether fitted for honor or for shame, is the potter angry. But of men, fitted for destruction, the Apostle says that they are ‘vessels of wrath.’ 5. With the article of Creation. For man was created in the image of God, of which immortality was the chief part. With the article of Redemption; for the Son of Man came to save that which was lost. With the very nature of God, who is not angry with his own work (Wis. 11:25, etc.)” (Gerhard, II, 63 sq.).

34. As this article contains so many difficulties, would it not be better to entirely ignore it?

By no means. Only, as before stated, care must be taken that it be treated at the proper place, and upon the basis of all the other articles.

“For the doctrine concerning this article, if presented from and according to the pattern of the divine Word, neither can nor should be regarded as useless or unnecessary, much less as causing offence or injury, because the Holy Scriptures not only in but one place and incidentally, but in many places, thoroughly discuss and explain the same. Therefore, on account of abuse or misunderstanding, we should not neglect or reject the doctrine of the divine Word, but precisely on that account, in order to avert all abuse and misunderstanding, the true meaning should and must be explained from the foundation of Scripture” (Formula of Concord, 649).

35. What consolation does the consideration of this doctrine in its true place and order afford?

It shows most effectually “that we are justified and saved without all works and merits of ours, purely out of grace, alone for Christ’s sake. For before we were born, yea before the foundation of the world was laid, when we could do nothing good, we were chosen, according to God’s purpose, out of grace and in Christ, to salvation.”

It shows that God was so solicitous concerning this salvation,’ that before the world began, He deliberated concerning it and ordained how to bring it to pass.[4]

It shows that He was so earnest concerning my salvation, that He has put its accomplishment in the hands of one no less powerful than the Son of God Himself, and that from these hands no one can wrest us (John 10: 28; Rom. 8: 38, 39).

It shows also the part which the cross, i. e., the sorrows, afflictions and temptations of this life, performs in contributing to the attainment of the divine purpose. Through them, as Paul teaches in Rom. 8: 29, the elect are fashioned after the image of the Son of God (see Formula of Concord, 657, 658).

36. In what does the special peril lie in its treatment?

“Our curiosity always has much more pleasure in investigating those things that are hidden and abstruse than what God has revealed in His Word.” However far we proceed in our treatment, we have no sooner solved one difficulty, than another meets us. Mystery crowds upon mystery, like summit upon summit upon the traveler in a mountainous region, who finds each mountain height only the opening to other heights beyond. No human terminology can be devised to adequately express the doctrine, or to be beyond the need of qualifications and explanations, so as to avoid being misunderstood. These difficulties, the Formula of Concord declares, “we cannot harmonize,” and what is more, “we have not been commanded to do so,” i. e., God has not called us to such task. Here, as in every other article of divine revelation,

Deut. 29:29—”The secret things belong unto Jehovah our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.”

Like John, in the Apocalypse (Rev. 4: 1), we see in this doctrine a door opened in heaven, and are permitted to look through and get a faint glimpse of what is beyond. Let us beware of penetrating farther than to the utmost limit of that for which we have God’s call. As in the doctrine of the Trinity, and of the Incarnation of the Son of God, we must be content to stand there. Faith begins, where reason ends.

Excursus I. Matthew 22:14.
Excursus II. Luther on speculations concerning Predestination.

Footnotes:

  1. It is an interesting fact that even Calvin postpones the treatment of this subject to the very close of the Third of the Four Books into which he divides his “Institutes,” viz.. until after he has discussed Justification.This order was adopted also by our Lutheran theologian, Conrad Dietrich, in his Institutiones Catecheticae of 1613, who treats of Predestination after his exposition of the last article of the Apostles’ Creed; and by Hutter in his Loci of 1619, who puts it at the close of Soteriology.
  2. “Omnibus hominibus sufficiens gratia datur; infidelibus, ut credant; fidelibus, ut perseverent.”—(Hutter, L. T. 798.)
  3. CF. the Latin axiom: “Omne simile claudicat.”
  4. Beautifully expressed in a familiar hymn of Paul Gerhardt:”From all eternity, with Love
    Unchangeable, Thou hast me viewed.
    Ere knew this beating heart to move,
    Thy tender mercy me pursued.”So also J. A. Rothe:

    “Now I have found the ground wherein
    Sure my soul’s anchor may remain;
    The wounds of Jesus, for my sin.
    Before the world’s foundation slain;
    Whose mercy shall unshaken stay.
    When heaven and earth are fled away.”