Election and the Christian Life

The doctrine of election is not primarily the abstruse, difficult article of faith that most Christians – indeed, most theologians – are intimidated by (at best). Rather, in the Scriptures it is given as a source of confidence for the Christian, and a foundation of the Christian life.

Like this:

… we must always take as one unit the entire doctrine of God’s purpose, counsel, will, and ordinance concerning our redemption, call, justification, and salvation, as Paul treats and explains this article (Rom. 8:28ff.; Eph. 1:4ff.) and as Christ likewise does in the parable (Matt. 20:2–14), namely, that in his purpose and counsel God had ordained the following:

1. That through Christ the human race has truly been redeemed and reconciled with God and that by his innocent obedience, suffering, and death Christ has earned for us “the righteousness which avails before God”2 and eternal life.

2. That this merit and these benefits of Christ are to be offered, given, and distributed to us through his Word and sacraments.

3. That he would be effective and active in us by his Holy Spirit through the Word when it is preached, heard, and meditated on, would convert hearts to true repentance, and would enlighten them in the true faith.

4. That he would justify and graciously accept into the adoption of children and into the inheritance of eternal life all who in sincere repentance and true faith accept Christ.

5. That he also would sanctify in love all who are thus justified, as St. Paul says (Eph. 1:4).

6. That he also would protect them in their great weakness against the devil, the world, and the flesh, guide and lead them in his ways, raise them up again when they stumble, and comfort and preserve them in tribulation and temptation.

7. That he would also strengthen and increase in them the good work which he has begun, and preserve them unto the end, if they cling to God’s Word, pray diligently, persevere in the grace of God, and use faithfully the gifts they have received.

8. That, finally, he would eternally save and glorify in eternal life those whom he has elected, called, and justified.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 619.

God’s choice of scoundrels

As I pointed out in the previous post, Jack Kilcrease has written an interesting post about God’s choice of the weak over the strong in the OT—e.g. Jacob over Esau—and this being a key fact in understanding the doctrine of election. Well worth reading and munching on.

Having munched, this thought presented itself to me concerning God’s choice of the younger over the older. There’s another fairly consistent theme in the OT as well.

More often than not, the younger has some obvious character flaw: Jacob, Joseph and Moses spring to mind (Abel is a counter-example, I suppose). No one but no one can say that Jacob was chosen because he was such a good and godly guy, or that Joseph was such an obvious candidate for the Lord’s service. The one thing that distinguishes Moses favourably is that fact that he at least realised that he wasn’t exactly the prime candidate for God’s attentions.

This theme is played out in a very obvious way in the parable of the Prodigal. The degenerate immoral and fallen younger brother is chosen over the dutiful and worthy older brother. In the process of election and bestowal of grace, not only is the older-stronger/younger-weaker dynamic reversed, but so is that of virtue. Now it’s the older brother who is sulking outside, while the younger one is the one who humbles himself.

Which is precisely what happens with Israel and the Gentiles, obviously. The sinful Gentiles believe the Gospel while godly Israel is left sulking outside. Yet the Father goes out to seek and to persuade. And so Esau is reconciled to Jacob, the brothers receive Joseph’s blessing, Aaron assists Moses. And the remnant of Israel will return to the Lord.

Election: What Calvinists don’t get

There’s a great post by Jack Kilcrease on what we can and can’t say about election and predestination here. I would be fascinated to see what those of a  Calvinist persuasion make of it. Go and have a look, and if you are a Calvinist, chip in.