- (from the Saxon Visitation Articles)
- Christ has died for all people and, as the Lamb of God, has borne the sins of the whole world.
- God created no one for condemnation, but wants all people to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Therefore, He commands all to hear His Son Christ in the Gospel. By the Gospel He promises the power and working of the Holy Spirit for conversion and salvation.
- Many people are condemned by their own guilt who are either unwilling to hear the Gospel of Christ or later fall from grace. This happens either by error against the foundation of grace or by sins against conscience.
- All sinners who repent are received into grace, and no one is excluded, even though his sins were as scarlet. For God’s mercy is much greater than the sins of all the world, and God has compassion on all His works.
ARTICLE IVPredestination and the Eternal Providence of God
The pure and true doctrine of our churches concerning this article:
Translation from Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (656). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
As noted in the title of this article from the Saxon Visitation Articles (1592), it was specifically written to summarize (very briefly) the Lutheran teaching on the article of election (predestination). This was necessary because the errors of Calvinism were spreading in Germany at that time, namely, the teaching that God doesn’t want all men to be saved, that Christ only died for the sins of the elect, and that the non-elect, therefore, couldn’t be saved, even if they should hear the Gospel, believe it and be baptized, because Christ had never borne their sins or made satisfaction for them.
The Calvinist doctrine robs Christians of the comfort of the Gospel. All of God’s promises, according to Calvinism, are invalid for the non-elect. God does not desire their salvation. Christ has done nothing to merit their salvation. The promises of mercy through faith in Christ only apply to the elect. So, for the Calvinist, if he wants to be sure that he has a gracious God in Christ, if he wants to be sure that his baptism is valid and that the absolution is valid, he can’t rely on the means of grace. Instead, he first has to somehow try to figure out the unknowable answer to this bottom line question:
- “Am I one of the elect?”
The Lutheran (i.e., Christian) Gospel, on the other hand, offers sure comfort to terrified consciences, because it directs the sorrowful sinner, not to the hidden counsel of God, but to the revealed will of God. Here, all the questions to the sorrowful sinners have objective, knowable answers:
- Am I a sinner who deserves God’s condemnation? (Rom. 3:19-20)
Did Christ die for the sins of the world (and, therefore, also for my sins)? (John 1:29)
Has God made Christ into a Throne of Grace in His blood, where God promises to be reconciled to all sinners who look to Christ in faith – to justify and forgive them, to be merciful and gracious to them? (Rom. 3:24-26)
Has God promised that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved? (Mark 16:16)
The Gospel proclaims an answer of “Yes!” to all of these questions, and through the Yes! of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit works faith when and where it pleases God.
So in the Lutheran Gospel, the bottom line question is not, “Am I one of the elect?” The bottom line question is, “Have I been baptized?” and “Do I trust in Christ as the Throne of Grace? Do I wish to be judged by God through Him alone?”
The one who answers “Yes!” or who even whimpers, “Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief!” is most certainly among the saved.
The Biblical truth is that God started in eternity with election and brought about in time everything necessary for the salvation of the elect, including the incarnation of the Son of God, the perfect obedience of Christ, the preaching of the Gospel reaching their ears and faith being created in their hearts. Election is the cause of faith, just as the Means of Grace is the instrument through which the Holy Spirit creates faith.
So the Lutheran, unlike the Calvinist, isn’t forced to start out by determining his election, nor is the Lutheran forced to seek the certainty of his salvation in his election. The Lutheran begins with the dependable Means of Grace and faith, and then works backward. If the Gospel has reached me and made me a believer in Christ, then I know that I have God’s eternal election to thank for it.