Question: What has the Lutheran Church confessed concerning Predestination?
“This is not to be investigated in the secret counsel of God, but to be taught from the Word of God, where it is also revealed. But the Word of God leads us to Christ, who is the Book of Life, in whom all are written and elected that are to be saved, as it is written (Eph. 1:4) “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.”
Chapter 9 - The Grace Of God Towards Fallen Men
1. What is the natural fruit of sin?
Eternal death. As seen above (Chapter 8:17, 18), this is simply spiritual death at its maturity, or in its culmination.
2. But is not Eternal Death the result of a new act or volition of God?
No. All man’s ruin comes from himself. If any one be lost, he is lost solely by his own fault. No one is lost by God’s will. God permits much that He does not cause (Chapter 5:23).
3. All having sinned, we understand, therefore, that all would have eternally perished, unless God had interrupted the natural order of sin and death?
Such is the clear teaching of Holy Scripture.
4. God, however, had not interfered, and all had been left to the consequences of their sins, could man have complained?
This would have been nothing less than what is just, and what occurred to the fallen angels.
5. If God had interfered to save one man, or a hundred, or a thousand, and had made no provision for the rest, would there have been any injustice?
Every one who has sinned being justly liable to the full penalty, no one can plead any injustice in case God, out of pure mercy, determines to save others involved in the same guilt.
6. But if He were to save the majority of the race, would the remainder be injured?
The answer is the same, even though justice would exact its extreme penalty in but one case, and all the rest escape.
7. Was such a discrimination shown?
No. But we reach the true doctrine not by arguing concerning the abstract justice of God, but by learning of the universality of the Plan of Redemption as taught in the Gospel.
8. What moved God to interfere with the natural order of sin, and to provide for man’s salvation?
Nothing but His free will (Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:1, 5, 9, etc.), or “good pleasure” (eudokia) (Eph. 1:5, 9; Phil. 2:13; Luke 2:14). He was not determined by any necessity of His nature or obligation to man.
9. What disposition of God is particularly manifest in this act of His will to save man?
His Grace (see Chapter 2, 73).
Eph. 1:7 — “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace.” 2:8 — “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Tit. 2:11 — “The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation unto all men.” This implies the absolute absence of any merit in man which could deserve this interference, but that God’s love was exercised in spite of that which called for God’s wrath.
His Mercy (see Chapter 2); Eph. 2:4; Titus 3:5. This presupposes the foreseen misery of men because of sin and its consequences.
10. What do you mean by the universality of Grace?
That it has been extended towards all men. As universal as is sin, so universal is grace. As universal as is misery because of sin, so universal is the mercy for the relief of this misery.
1 Tim. 2:4 — “God our Savior who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.”
2 Peter 3:9 — “Not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
John 3:16 — “God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son,” etc.
11. But may not the universality of Grace apply simply to the race as a whole?
In its provisions, it is extended to each and every individual alike. No one is excepted or passed by.
1 Tim. 1:15 — “Faithful is the saying and worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
Rom. 11:32 — “God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.”
12. What is the testimony of the Lutheran Church on this subject?
As the preaching of repentance, so also the promise of the Gospel is universal, i. e., it pertains to all men (Luke 24). Therefore Christ has commanded ‘that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.’ For God loved the world and gave His Son (John 3:16). Christ bore the sins of the world (John 1:29), gave His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51), His blood is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 1:7; 2:2) (Formula of Concord, 654).
13. Explain somewhat more fully the text “God would have all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4).
“He does not say that it is His will that the godly be saved, but that the world should be saved through Him. For by the expression ‘world,’ He means the whole race of mortals. For although the whole world is not saved through Christ, nevertheless the will of God is commended to us as directed not towards the destruction, but towards the salvation of all” (Wolfgang Musculus quoted by Calovius).
14. Recapitulate the arguments of our theologians in support of this position.
(a) The universality of Christ’s merits.
1 John 2:2 — “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.”
(b) The universality of the call.
Matt. 11:28 — “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
(c) The universality of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 10:17 — “I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh.”
(d) The administration of Word and Sacraments, the purpose of which is the salvation of those to whom they come, even though the results differ with respect to different classes.
(e) The condemnation of unbelievers for their rejection of the offers of the Gospel.
15. Is it right, then, to say that God willed that all should he saved provided they believe?
No. For it is God’s will not only that men be saved, but also that they should believe (see above, 10; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Just as Christ died even for those who do not or will not believe, so also God’s gracious will is independent of man’s faith, or any disposition of man towards God. As the call and promise are universal, so also is the will of God of which they are the expression.
16. If it be God’s will that all should believe and be saved, how is it that many are lost?
Because it is not God’s will that men be saved against their own wills. Man’s will forever retains the freedom to reject what God offers and what God sincerely desires that he accept.
Matt. 23:37 — “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not.”
17. What is implied in saying that God wills man’s salvation?
This is more than a will of complacency (see Chapter 11, 72 c), by which He would be satisfied or gratified with whatever pertains to man’s welfare.
Because man being spiritually dead is without any power to will, devise or contribute to his own salvation.
“In spiritual and divine things, the intellect, heart and will of unregenerate men cannot in any way, by their own natural powers, understand, believe, accept, think, will, begin, effect, do, work or concur in working anything; but they are entirely dead to good and corrupt” (Formula of Concord, 552).
All man’s help, therefore, must come alone from God.
19. What then is God’s saving will towards man?
It is His purpose to make every provision whereby the salvation of each and every man is rendered possible, all of which is included in the Plan of Redemption that He devised.
20. What are included in this plan?
The incarnation and mediatorial work of the Son of God.
The special mission of the Holy Ghost to apply the fruits of this mediatorial office.
The institution of the Means of Grace, through which the various acts of this applying grace are wrought, to the end that men may be called, justified and glorified.
21. What is the proper place for the treatment of Predestination?
After all the details which God’s decree and purpose comprised, are learned from the Gospel. For whatever the Gospel contains and proclaims was included in this purpose.
22. What has Luther said on this subject?
“Follow the order of the Epistle to the Romans, and concern thyself with Christ and the Gospel, that thou mayst recognize thy sins and His grace; then fight with sins as Chapters 1-9 have taught. After that, when thou hast come to the eighth chapter, and art under the cross and suffering, thou wilt learn right well in Chapters 9-11 how comforting predestination is” (Introduction to Romans).
23. What has the Lutheran Church confessed concerning Predestination?
“This is not to be investigated in the secret counsel of God, but to be taught from the Word of God, where it is also revealed. But the Word of God leads us to Christ, who is the Book of Life, in whom all are written and elected that are to be saved, as it is written (Eph. 1:4) “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” See Chapter 12.