Faith, grace, merit

Whenever we speak of justifying faith, we must keep in mind that these three objects belong together: the promise, grace, and Christ’s merits as the price and atonement. The promise is received through faith. Grace excludes our merits and means that the benefit is offered only through mercy. Christ’s merits are the price, because there must be a certain atonement for our sins. Scripture frequently cries out for mercy; the Holy Fathers often say that we are saved by mercy. Therefore, whenever mercy is mentioned, we must keep in mind that faith, which receives the promise of mercy, is required there. Again, whenever we speak about faith, we want an object of faith to be understood, namely, the promised mercy. For faith justifies and saves, not because it is a worthy work in itself, but only because it receives the promised mercy.

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain, 89 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005).

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.

A Season of Receiving

GiftI was planning to write a short post on why it is better to receive than to give at Christmas. However, a far more professional and prolific blogger beat me to it. Read it.