Election or Predestination

The confessional Lutheran Church believes that God desires that all people be saved, and come into the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3,4), and that if anyone is not saved, this is due to their own unbelief and not because God willed their damnation (Matt. 23:37). At the same time, God, from eternity, predestined the entire number who would be saved to eternal life, and every one of these will be saved without fail (John 17:12, 18:9).

Christians are to find their election in Christ Jesus, which He gives and preserves through the means of grace, that is: Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Absolution, and the preaching of the Gospel.

This doctrine of election, meant to bring comfort to the believer, has become one of the most controversial teachings in the Bible. This doctrine runs contrary to Roman Catholic teaching that nobody can be certain about one’s salvation until you stand before the judgment seat of Christ. And yet Scripture teaches:  Ephesians 1:4-5 NKJV:  “…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” And, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13b-14 NKJV:  “God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We believe that this doctrine cannot be explained by human reason, particularly the question of why some are saved and not others. Such a question into the mystery of God defies human explanation, although some have tried: Calvin, with his double predestination, more fully developed in Theodore Beza’s supralapsarianism (i.e. God first rejects the reprobate [unconverted] out of His sovereign will, using Romans 9:22-24, and then He ordains the means of their damnation through the Fall); and, even some Lutherans with their doctrine of election in view of faith (Intuitu Fide) confusing predestination with God’s foreknowledge, positing that God elects those whom He sees will believe in the end.

We of the OLCC reject as unwise and harmful to pious Christians the human reasoning of the Roman Catholic Church; and the Calvinists; and Arminians (who believe God’s sovereign will and man’s free will are compatible); and, we also reject those Lutherans who maintain that God elects those whom He beforehand saw will eventually believe.

We do not reject God’s sovereign will, but we should not delve into this mystery of God and feign to explain passages like Romans 9:13 “As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’” We rather maintain what Luther said on the subject: “In chapters nine, ten, and eleven (of the Book of Romans) the apostle teaches about the eternal predestination of God.... Follow the order of this Epistle: first be concerned about Christ and the Gospel, in order to recognize your sin and his grace; then fight against your sins.... Adam must first be quite dead before a man is able to bear this subject and to drink this strong wine. Watch that you do not drink wine while you are still an infant. Every doctrine has its limit, time, and age.” (What Luther Says, An Anthology, Vol.1. St. Louis, Mo. Concordia Publishing House, 1959, pp.455-456.)

Therefore, our churches hold to the clear words of Scripture and to the Formula of Concord, Article XI on this subject.