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Archive for November, 2010

Real Time

 Real time:  “noun … the actual time during which a process takes place or an event occurs.”

The Old Testament for this past Sunday, Christ the King (November 21st) was Malachi 3: 13-18 and was the Text for Pr. Beasley’s Sermon.    “What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? 15And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.” (vss. 14-15)  In Pr. Beasley’s solid preaching he pointed out that the people then were wondering as we do in our day:  the times are not right, bad people get away with murder and so why bother with the LORD of hosts, church, etc?  Israel had become tired of tithing, were skimping on their worship etc. because there was no “profit” in the Lord.    While he preached, I thought of the phrase, “real time”.  Yes, I know I think that way as the people of Israel did.  Then we think of this being real time, the real thing, the way it is, the real world, the way things actually occur.  But is it?  But maybe the times are not what they appear to be.

There is an old Yiddish tale of a man who wanted to know what heaven was like.  So an angel took the man to heaven and opened up a door and there was a table and a group of men were studying Torah, that is, the Bible.  The man incredulously asked the messenger of God, “This is heaven?! I don’t see heaven!”  The messenger of God said to the man, “You can not see heaven because heaven is within them:  the Word of God.” 

In the second part of the Malachi Text it is written:   “Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.”  What is real time?  The time we spend in, with, for and under His Word. The name Malachi literally means “My Messenger”.  His message was God’s Word, God’s Name, the LORD.  They spoke with another in, with, for and under His Word and that is heaven, that is the Reign of the LORD, Thy Kingdom Come. Then, He heard them and us. This is real time and will endure for ever.  Why?  His Word endures forever. (see Isaiah 40:8, Matthew 24:35)

His Word comes to us Incarnate, spoken and written to make our time real in His grace and peace:

  • First and foremost, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, and so embodied in His Sacraments as He promises
  • Spoken in prayer, teaching, preaching and studying
  • Written in His inerrant Word:  the Bible

As we enter the real time of Advent, let us be ever more attentive to His Word and so esteem His Name, fearing to lose Him above all things, and cling ever closely to our Lord that He working in us may bring others with us to His Name.  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

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This is a picture of a Roman coin depicting one of their gods, Janus who was their god of beginnings and endings, of time.  The name of the  first month of our calendar is derived from this deity and seems appropriate:  looking back, looking forward. I would think that the Romans were a “forward looking” people, given the profile of Janus.  

 This Sunday, the 21st is the end of the Church Year.  On the 28th of November is the 1st Sunday in Advent which marks the beginning of the Church Year.  Yes, beginnings and endings, time and I thought of this false god, Janus, in relation to the Church Year.  Two  notes on the Church year and time:

1.  The Church Year does not correspond with calendar/secular year.  It’s out of sync.  Yes, the Lord’s “time” is not in sync with our time.   “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (1 Peter 3: 8)    Indeed, the Lord has His own time,

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.(Galatians 4:4; emphasis my own)

We are about to enter Advent in which by His Word and the Word made flesh, we are reminded again of   “…the fullness of time…”  that Christ Jesus was born for this:  our salvation, again TODAY!  Indeed, Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

2.  This is a false deity because he is looking only two  ways: forward and backward, both not quite real.  It’s about time, that is  Today2 Corinthians 6:2“For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you,and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”    Janus is looking only two ways. Our Lord looks to us for our salvation.  Only the true God can look upon us with His own eyes.  C. S. Lewis in his fiction, The Screwtape Letters, a series of letters written by Screwtape, a high-up tempter in hell to his nephew Wormwood  who has been assigned a Christian to tempt away from the Lord and Faith:  “In a word, the Future is, of all things the thing least like eternity.  It is the most completely termporal part of time–for the Past is frozen and no longer flows,and the Present is lit up with eternal rays.”  Screwtape also writes is that temptation is always in the future.  “For the Present is the point at which times touches eternity.” (Screwtape)  This is what the devil does not want us to touch and the Lord has touched us in His infant hands and when He comes to again to claim His own.  It’s about time.  Come, Lord Jesus.

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Intro:  The mega-churches boast they preach ‘practical’ sermons.  Below is a quote from Martin Chemnitz (November 9, 1522 – April 8, 1586: He is considered to be the “Second Martin” after Luther and Chemnitz was instrumental is solidifying the Lutheran Evangelical Church).  Reading this fine evangelical wisdom, based clearly upon Holy Scripture, I can not think of anything more practical than the practice of Repentance and Forgiveness in the Lord.  Please read the Scripture citations which are embedded in this piece I copied  from Cyberbrethren (see the Links on right hand side): 

What If We Indulge and Delight in Evil Lusts and Seek Occasions to Give Them Free Rein (Ro 6:12; MI 2:1; Ja 1:15)?
Then they become mortal sins (Ro 8:13; Ja 1:15), because there surely is no room for true repentance and faith where the lusts of the flesh are served and given rein, so that they break out into action. 1 Ti 1:19; 5:8; 2 Ptr 1:9. It is the nature and particular character of true faith that it does not seek how to commit, continue, and heap up sins freely, but rather hungers and thirsts after the righteousness that releases and frees from sins. Therefore, where there is no true repentance, the Holy Spirit pronounces a very solemn sentence. Jer 5:3, 9; Ro 2:5, 9; Lk 13:3; Rv 2:5. And where there is no true faith, there is neither Christ, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the grace of God, nor forgiveness of sins, nor any salvation. Therefore what? Doubtless the wrath of God, death, and eternal condemnation, unless the fallen are turned to God again. Cl 3:6; Ro 8:13. As a result of this, therefore, and for this reason mortal sins occur in the reborn, namely when repentance, faith, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are driven out and lost.

How, Then, Should One Deal with Those Who Have Fallen into This Kind of Sins?
Their sins are not to be disguised by silence, camouflaged, excused, or defended, but solemnly and earnestly censured and rebuked. Is 56:10; 58:1; Eze 13:10, 18; 2 Ti 4:2; Tts 1:13: “Reprove them sharply,” in such a way that the fearful judgment of God is threatened on them; 1 Co 6:10; Gl 5:21; Cl 3:6; 1 Jn 3:15; Mt 11:21; 2 Ptr 2:10. For he that regards those people as true Christians, and charms and misrepresents them, not only miserably misleads them, but also makes himself partaker of their damnation. Is 3:12; Jer 8:11; 23:17; Eze 3:18; 33:8. Now, the preaching of repentance, rebuking sins, is the instrument and means by which God wants to lead fallen sinners back to the way and convert them. Jer 26:2–3. But if the wicked, neglecting this means, will persevere and continue in his wickedness, he indeed shall perish, but the word of the minister shall deliver his soul. Eze 3:19.

But What If the Fallen Rise Again by the Grace of God and Earnestly Repent?
Then they are indeed to be received with joy and are to be restored and supported with the declaration of the forgiveness of sins. Jer 3:12; 18:8; Eze 18:21; 33:15; Mt 18:13, 27; Lk 15:7. This is what the examples of Scripture testify, e.g., Peter, David, the prodigal, the Corinthians and Galatians. And this indeed not only seven times, but seventy times seven times, Mt 18:22.

Martin Chemnitz and Luther Poellot, Ministry, Word, and Sacraments : An Enchiridion, electronic ed., 104-05 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

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Concordia Lutheran Mission:  November 6th, A.D. 2,010

      In one of our hometown newspapers, we have been thinking about buying a space in the worship directory.   For the price of the ad we can put a picture of our church except we have no building.  My wife suggested:  How about a picture of the congregation, after all, that’s the Church?!  Amen!   It is meet and right we took this photo on the weekend of All Saints.  The Church is people.   We really do not “go to Church” but by God’s grace in His beloved Son we are reconciled to go AS the Church, His building.  

1 Peter 2: 4As you come to him (that is, Jesus Christ), a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

     This photo also reminds us that a congregation is not only the Church by itself.  The Pastor and Vicar of our sponsoring congregation in Roanoke are in the photo as they have been Preaching, Teaching and Presiding here in Lexington.  ‘Our’ two college students’ parents were visiting during W and L’s parents’ weekend and they represent LCMS congregations in Texas and Illinois.  Indeed, the Church, the communion of saints, is, “…a great multitude that no one could number…”(Revelation 7: 9) which the living and the dead by God’s grace in Christ Jesus are gathered as we await the consummation of all things in Christ Jesus.  

     The Holy Spirit “…calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith” (The Small Catechism, 3rd article of the Creed) centered in the Word and Sacraments.  The Table and Word are center because without Christ Jesus, the Vine we can do nothing (see John 15).  Indeed it is the Lord who build His Church (see Matthew 16: 18)

            A blessed All Saints Sunday to all!

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The two quotes are on the Scripture Text:  “Ye are the Salt of  the earth” (St. Matthew 5:  13).  Both quotes are a challenge to a church growing too worldly and this is right because  this challenge is also in the Scriptures:  James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  Our Lord’s promise regarding the salt of the earth is also a challenge in this regard.

1.  The first quote is by G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936).  He was a convert to Roman Catholicism.  His mystery novels, the Father Brown mysteries, are his most popular writings.  Like C. S. Lewis, he wrote Christian apologetics:  a defense of the Faith.  His most popular in that genre is Orthodoxy. The quote below is from his devotional biography of Thomas Aquinas, entitled, The Dumb Ox

“The Saint is a medicine because he is an antidote. Indeed that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age. Yet each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he is not what the people want, but rather what the people need. This is surely the very much mistaken meaning of those words to the first saints, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” which caused the Ex-Kaiser to remark with all solemnity that his beefy Germans were the salt of the earth; meaning thereby merely that they were the earth’s beefiest and therefore best. But salt seasons and preserves beef, not because it is like beef; but because it is very unlike it. Christ did not tell his apostles that they were only the excellent people, or the only excellent people, but that they were the exceptional people; the permanently incongruous and incompatible people; and the text about the salt of the earth is really as sharp and shrewd and tart as the taste of salt. It is because they were the exceptional people, that they must not lose their exceptional quality. “If salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” is a much more pointed question than any mere lament over the price of the best beef. If the world grows too worldly, it can be rebuked by the Church; but if the Church grows too worldly, it cannot be adequately rebuked for worldliness by the world.”

2. This second quote is from a sermon preached by Lutheran Pastor, Martin Niemoller in Berlin ca. 1936  after he  had been threatened many times by Nazi-controlled Church authorities. Earlier, Niemoller had a face-to-face confrontation with Adolf Hitler regarding freedom of religion.  In the sermon is a reading of the intercessory list of those who have been forbidden to speak, or evicted or arrested by the Nazi authorities.  Just like the Chesterton quote, the relevancy of these quotes I think are self-evident and again a bracing challenge.

“Ye are the salt of the earth.” The Lord Jesus Christ does not mean, however, that we are to take care to distribute the salt among the people, but He draws our attention to another responsibility: “But if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?” Our responsibility is not how we shall pass on the salt, but we are to see that the salt really is and continues to be salt, so that the Lord Jesus Christ – who is, as one might say, the cook in charge of this great brew – can utilize the salt for His purposes…

The problem with which we have to deal is how to save the Christian community at this moment from the danger of being thrown into the same pot as the world: that is to say: it must keep itself distinct from the rest of the world by virtue of its “saltiness.” How does Christ’s community differ from the world?

We have come through a time of peril – and we are not finished with it yet – when we were told: “Everything will be quite different when you as a Church cease to have such an entirely different flavor – when you cease to practice preaching which is the opposite of what the world around you preaches. You really must suit your message to the world; you really must bring your creed into harmony with the present. Then you will again become influential and powerful.”

Dear brethren, that means: The salt loses its savor. It is not for us to worry about how the salt is employed, but to see that it does not lose its savor; to apply an old slogan of four years ago: “The Gospel must remain the Gospel; the Church must remain the Church; the Creed must remain the Creed; Evangelical Christians must remain Evangelical Christians.” And we must not – for Heaven’s sake – make a German Gospel out of the Gospel; we must not – for Heaven’s sake – make a German Church out of Christ’s Church; we must not – for God’s sake – make German Christians out of the Evangelical Christians!

That is our responsibility- “Ye are the salt of the earth.” It is precisely when we bring the salt into accord and harmony with the world that we make it impossible for the Lord Jesus Christ, through His Church, to do anything in our nation. But if the salt remains salt, we may trust Him with it: He will use it in such a way that it becomes a blessing.

 

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“I, _____ having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

From The Constitution of the United States of America, Article 2, Section 1: 

“Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:

‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'”

____________________________________________________________________________________

1.  Seven or so years ago one of the first cadets I knew was commissioned into the Armed Forces at VMI.  I attended the ceremony in Cameron Hall to see Brad commissioned.  Cameron Hall is where VMI plays basketball and so it is of good size.  On the main floor in four sections were the cadets in their respective branch of the Armed Forces for the ceremony.  Before the ceremony, there were speeches by reps from the 4 branches of  our Nation’s military, all officers.  I was not expecting much in the way of oration.  But the content of one officer’s speech, or the gist of it, has stayed with me.  He soon began to speak of the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War.  (My Lai Massacre: Wikipedia)  This grabbed my attention.  The officer then began to explain that Lt. Calley’s defense:  he was following orders.  The officer then said that the lieutenant was following unlawful orders.  But how would he know?  The speaker then told the cadets-soon-to-be officers of our Armed Forces that finally you do not obey a man,”…but  a bunch of words on a page, and not just any words but The Constitution of the United States of America. ”   When I heard that, my Lutheran heart sang out: Yes!  We are to follow words!   I heard growing up in the Lutheran Church, the Pastor say before offering Absolution, “I, a called Servant of the WORD…”  The Constitution is the final arbiter for which orders are legal. You are to obey words on a page, the Constitution.  Christians are as well to obey words in both the kingdoms of this world and eternally, in the Kingdom of God. Notice in the oaths above, from the President to the brand-new officer is to those words on a page:  our Constitution.  Senators and Congressmen’s oaths are likewise to the constituting document of our nation. 

2.  I enjoy reading American History and in particular regarding history of  the colonial period, the lead-up to the American Revolution and that revolution and it’s results.  At least one thing is certain about the American Revolution:  it was against all odds, against the world’s greatest super-power at the time.  Many factors played into it’s success:  a group of men and women of exceptional talents and abilities;   the sheer distance between the Colonies and Great Britain;  homefield advantage;  the rise of Enlightenment thinking and political philosophy, etc.  I think there was another significant factor, which reached into the very hearts of the nascent Americans that made the American Revolution and especially it’s aftermath, the formation of the nation and governmenet  which we swear to “preserve, protect and defend” that made this happen.  

Generally speaking, the Protestant Church was predominate.  A Protestant Church, the Church of England, was the offical religion of the British Empire. For instance:  the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg had an Anglican priest preach to them.   Remember that in 1776 the Reformation was just over 200 years old. In the lives of nations, it wasn’t that old yet.  It’s great battle cry was Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone.  The Protestants in their various Church bodies were many:  from Lutherans to Baptists to Anglicans  to Presbyterians.  Now the various Protestants all agreed on one thing:  we follow the Bible, and not a man, i.e. the Pope or a Bishop.  We disagree as to the correct interpretation of the sacred Scriptures and yet one thing was certain:  Scripture is crucial.  The Lord wants us to follow, yes, “a bunch of words on a page”!  Now these words on the page are  not just human words, but the very Word of God, living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword! (See Hebrews 4: 12-14)  .  My contention is that the American Revolution, and especially the Constitution could be written and be implemented, because we were a people already sensible to the rule of words on a page:  the rule of the Word, the Holy Bible.   I would further maintain that the Roman Catholic Church has not abandoned the rule of the Word in it’s worship and teaching, but Protestants were particularly insistant in it’s teaching and preaching as judging all doctrines and practices.  If a practice or behavior was contrary to the Word, then the Scriptures, God’s Word must be obeyed.  If  a doctrine and practice is contrary to the Scriptures, then even a seemingly holy man  espousing a  seemingly holy practice, e.g. praying a Hindu mantra repeatedly, must not be obeyed. 

3.  The centrality of the Word of God as recorded in the words of the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is seen in the Creation by the Word of the Lord, to the Call of Abram to the Call on Sinai and the writing by the finger of God the Ten Commandments, to  the preaching and actions of the Judges, Kings, holy women  and the Prophets,  and in the fulness of time, the Word became flesh, and  then the preaching of the Apostles and the apostolic Church, now to the ends of the earth.  I think  this set the stage for the great American experiment in political freedom by law.  As is sung in the song, “Oh, Beautiful for Spacious Skies”:    

AmericaAmerica! May God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

The American experiment has succeeded because her people were “people of the Book”.   We know that this country’s social contract is The Constitution of the United States of America.  We are to obey a “bunch of words on a page”.  If we get away from the Book, then we suspect that other documents which are authoritative are not.  The cry, Sola Scripture! must be heard in the Church again.  She still needs the Lord’s reforming Word. So does our Nation in these dark days.

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 Note:  I based this reflection on Article XI:  Election, Epitome of the Formula of Concord (1577), in the Book of Concord:  the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Wengert/Kolb) which is cited after my reflection.     In the Christ, Pr. Schroeder

 Marxist Theology (Groucho that is)—Groucho Marx said, “I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as one of its members.” Apply his comment to the Church: I don’t want to be a member of any Church that would have me as one of its members. I have heard people say something like that: “Oh, I can’t go to church….it’s for good people”. If that’s true, then church buildings should be empty. Remember this is the Lord who came not to seek the right people, but the wrong people.

Election is selection—in some clubs, if you have the right stuff you are elected by the membership. Sometimes that kind of election is in secret and someone may “blackball” the candidate. For the Church, one is also elected, but not by the membership. The Lord elects. Why is someone chosen for the Church by the Lord? Look at the Bible: Moses…a murderer; King David…a shepherd boy wet behind the ears; St. Paul…persecutor of the Church! The thief on the cross! All those people had been blackballed by their sin. Someone chosen because she is the best candidate? Just the opposite! There’s more. I have the wrong stuff and I need some work, in fact a total makeover! In the TV show, M*A*S*H, Hawkeye was explaining triage, the process of choosing those first for surgery: “See, it’s the person who is the bleeding the most, who has the most hurt, who’s admitted first. This is the only place where being the worse gets you to the head of the line”. Incorrect, Hawkeye: the other place is the Church and Jesus is the Physician. 

Divine Election Day—and  everyday is Election Day:. The Lord elects us. In the Lord’s election only one vote counts: His. “Has He elected me?” Where, when has the Lord cast His vote? IN some secret incense smoke caucus in heaven behind closed doors? NO. From the Bible we know exactly when the Lord has cast his vote: Good Friday. Where? Golgotha is where and when the Lord was crucified. The red ‘x’, His Cross, marks the ballot to elect you. He is the Open Door. And that red ‘ink’ is not dry. There He elected us all. He died for you. We so need His vote, His election. There He died and rose for us and our election, a very public election, for all to see. It’s like the Cross is put onto a billboard (See Galatians 3: 1) and pastors and ministers are the imbedded reporters announcing His election results for you. Some will believe the message and Him. Others will not. Some will contest Him and His election. Many will embrace the election results because He loved you so much on that Friday, Election Day. He died for an electorate that was His enemy. The Holy Spirit announces Christ Jesus’ election results in the morning, Easter morning: forgiven, one for all, once for all. He elects us. I need it so! The Lord’s election can not be bought: His election has bought us. It is the costliest election ever held and for an electorate who doesn’t care and did not turn out for the results on Good Friday, instead His own elected apostles fled at the costliest defeat ever in an any election imaginable (see Mark 14: 50)!  The costliest defeat became the greatest victory in the world. His merciful election is for the worse candidates imaginable, liberal or conservative! And the Lord wants everyone to win His election. It was a hard won campaign still going on. See, it’s the person who is the bleeding the most, who has the most hurt, who’s admitted first. This is the only place where being the worse gets you to the head of the line. See it is the wounded and risen Jesus Christ: the Head of the line for you, you: the most unlikely candidate who should not elected but needs to be! You have been elected! The victory party rejoices in the heavenly caucus over His finding you, His electorate!  (see St. Luke 15: 7)

The Prayer to See God’s Ways: Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears. Please show me now Your ways, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which comes through faith in Christ. Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Give me life, O Lord, according to Your Word, and I will declare Your greatness. Amen.

 

XI. Concerning the Eternal Predestination and Election of God

On this article there has been no public conflict among the theologians of the  Augsburg Confession.  However, because it is an article of comfort when properly treated, it is also explained in this document so that no offensive dis­pute may arise in the future.

 Affirmative Theses

The Pure, True Teaching concerning This Article

 1. First of all, the difference between praescientia and praedestinatio, that is,  between God’s foreknowledge and his eternal election, must be carefully noted.

 2. God’s foreknowledge is nothing else than that God knows all things  before they happen, as it is written, “God in heaven reveals mysteries. He has disclosed to King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in future times” (Dan. 2:28).

 3. This foreknowledge extends equally over godly people and evil people, but it is not a cause of evil. It is not the cause of sins, when people act wrong­ly (sin proceeds originally from the devil and the wicked, perverted human will), nor of human corruption, for which people are responsible themselves. Instead, God’s foreknowledge provides order in the midst of evil and sets lim­its to it. It determines how long evil can continue and determines also that everything, even if it is evil in itself, serves the welfare of God’s elect.

 4. Praedestinatio, however, or God’s eternal election, extends only to the  righteous, God-pleasing children of God. It is a cause of their salvation, which God brings about. He has arranged everything that belongs to it. Our salvation is so firmly grounded on it [cf. John 10:26-29] that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it” [Matt. 16:18].

 5. This election is not to be probed in the secret counsel of God but rather is to be sought in the Word, where it has also been revealed.

 6. However, the Word of God leads us to Christ, who is the “Book of Life” 7 [Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5], in whom are inscribed and chosen all who shall be eter­nally saved, as it is written, “He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world” [Eph. 1:4].

 7. This Christ calls all sinners to himself and promises them refreshment. He is utterly serious in his desire that all people should come to him and seek help for themselves [cf. Matt. 11:28]. He offers himself to them in the Word. He desires them to hear the Word and not to plug their ears or despise his Word. To this end he promises the power and activity of the Holy Spirit, divine assis­tance in remaining faithful and attaining eternal salvation.

 8. Therefore we are to make judgments regarding our election to eternal life neither on the basis of reason nor on the basis of God’s law. Such a course of action would lead us either into a wild, irresponsible, Epicurean life, or into despair—and would awaken harmful thoughts in human hearts. Whenever people follow their reason, they can hardly escape such reflections as these: “As long as God has chosen me for salvation, I cannot be condemned no matter what I do!” or, “I have not been chosen for eternal life, so it does not help when I do good; everything is really in vain.”

 9. Instead, the true meaning of election must be learned from the holy gospel of Christ. It clearly states, “God imprisoned all in unbelief that he may be merciful to all,” and that he wants no one to be lost but rather that everyone repent and believe on the Lord Christ [Rom. 11:32; 1 Tim. 2:4; cf. Ezek. 33:11; 18:23].

10. This teaching is useful and comforting for all those who are concerned about the revealed will of God and follow the order which St. Paul observed in the Epistle to the Romans. There he first of all points people to repentance, acknowledgment of their sins, and then to faith in Christ and obedience to God before he speaks of the mystery of God’s eternal election.

 11. That “many are called and few are chosen” [ Matt. 20:161 does not mean that God does not want to save everyone. Instead, the reason for condemnation lies in their not hearing God’s Word at all or arrogantly despising it, plugging their ears and their hearts, and thus blocking the Holy Spirit’s ordinary path, so that he cannot carry out his work in them; or if they have given it a hearing, they cast it to the wind and pay no attention to it. Then the fault lies not with God and his election but with their own wickedness [cf. 2 Peter 2:9-15; Luke 11:47-52; Heb. 12:15-17, 25].

 12. A Christian should only think about the article of God’s eternal elec­tion to the extent that it is revealed in God’s Word. The Word holds Christ before our eyes as the “Book of Life,” which he opens and reveals for us through the preaching of the holy gospel, as it is written, “Those whom he has chosen, he also called” [Rom. 8:30]. In Christ we are to seek the Father’s eter­nal election. He has decreed in his eternal, divine counsel that he will save no one apart from those who acknowledge his Son Christ and truly believe in him. We should set aside other thoughts, for they do not come from God but rather from the imagination of the evil foe. Through such thoughts he approaches us to weaken this glorious comfort for us or to take it away com­pletely. We have a glorious comfort in this salutary teaching, that we know how we have been chosen for eternal life in Christ out of sheer grace, without any merit of our own, and that no one can tear us out of his hand [John 10:28-29]. For he has assured us that he has graciously chosen us not only with mere words. He has corroborated this with an oath and sealed it with the holy sacraments. In the midst of our greatest trials we can remind ourselves of them, comfort ourselves with them, and thereby quench the fiery darts of the devil.

 13. Along with this we should strive as diligently as possible to live according to God’s will and to “confirm our calling,” as Saint Peter admonishes [2 Peter 1:101. We should especially abide by the revealed Word that cannot and will not fail us.

 14. This short explanation of God’s eternal election gives God his honor 15 fully and completely. On the basis of his pure mercy alone, without any merit of ours at all, he saves us “according to the purpose of his will” [Eph. 1:111. In addition, no one is given reason either for faintheartedness or for a reckless, wild life.

 Antitheses or Negative Theses

False Teaching regarding This Article

Accordingly, we believe and maintain that those who present the teaching of  God’s gracious election to eternal life either in such a way that troubled Christians cannot find comfort in it but are driven to faintheartedness or despair, or in such a way that the impenitent are strengthened in their arro­gance, are not preaching this teaching according to the Word and will of God but rather according to their own reason and at the instigation of the accursed devil, because (as the Apostle testifies) “whatever was written was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope” I Rom. 15:41. Therefore, we reject the following errors:

 1. When it is taught that God does not want all people to repent and believe  the gospel.

 2. Likewise, that when God calls us to himself, he does not seriously intend  that all people should come to him.

 3. Likewise, that God does not desire that everyone should be saved, but  rather that without regard to their sins—only because of God’s naked decision, intention, and will—some are designated for damnation, so that there is no way that they could be saved.

 4. Likewise, that the cause of God’s election does not lie exclusively in God’s  mercy and the most holy merit of Christ but that there is also a cause in us, because of which God has chosen us for eternal life.

 These are blasphemous, horrible, and erroneous teachings, which take away  from Christians all the comfort that they have in the holy gospel and in the use of the holy sacraments. Therefore, these errors dare not be tolerated in the church of God.

This is the brief and simple explanation of the contested articles which for a  time theologians of the Augsburg Confession taught and discussed in ways that contradicted each other. From this every simple Christian can recognize, according to the direction of God’s Word and the simple catechism, what is correct and incorrect. For here we have set forth not only the pure teaching but have also exposed and rejected contrary, erroneous teaching.  In this way the offensive divisions that had arisen are completely resolved.  May the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus grant the grace of his Holy Spirit, that we may all be one in him (John 17: 20-21) and steadfastly remain in this Christian and God-pleasing unity.

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