148 LSQ 43:2 & 3

Certain of His Salvation?

by Ulrik V. Koren

 

Introduction: “Can I be sure I am going to heaven?” This basic

question has lurked in the heart of every believer. In the midst of the

great election controversy in the Norwegian Synod, Rev. U.V. Koren

penned the following essay, “Can and Ought a Christian Be Certain

of His Salvation?” This paper was delivered in 1881, the same year

in which Dr. C.F.W Walther published his work on the controversy

concerning predestination. We see how Koren vividly understands

the purpose of all theology: the comfort of sinners with the grace of

God in Christ. He heavily leans upon Luther and Article XI of the

Formula of Concord, in addition to quoting many comforting verses

from the great treasury of Lutheran hymn writers. It is clear that

for Koren the Lutheran Symbols were not merely historical writings

of what Lutherans once believed, but the very breath of the living

church today.

 

It might seem strange to ask this question and it might seem

unnecessary to use many words in answering it. It might seem enough

to refer to our Confession of Faith where, in the Third Article, we say

that we believe in “the life everlasting”; and to the explanation of this

Article in our Small Catechism, where we say: “I believe . . . that the

Holy Ghost shall give to me and all believers everlasting life”; or to

one of the many passages in Holy Writ, where God promises to save

those who believe in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, when I undertake to

treat the question more fully, I have several reasons for it, both general

and more specifi c. Partly, there are many who think they are certain

of their salvation, but who deceive themselves, and therefore need to

be admonished; partly, there are many who would very much like to

be certain of their salvation, but dare not be, and therefore need to be

encouraged; fi nally, the question has recently become the object of

controversy among us—a controversy very closely allied to, or rather

a part of, the controversy concerning the doctrine of election.

If one wishes to avoid misunderstanding in treating this matter

and be kept from error both on the right hand and on the left, then

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 149

there are certain truths which must be noted in advance, be strictly

adhered to, and never lost sight of.

 

1. First of all, we must maintain that when this question of

our final salvation is being considered, there can be no talk of any

so-called absolute certainty, provided the word “absolute” is used in

its proper sense. But here, alas! In common usage the word “absolute”

is wrongly construed to mean “altogether and wholly,” “completely,”

and so forth. We do not use the word in this sense here; for, as we

shall see, a believer can and ought to be altogether and wholly certain

of his salvation. In itself, certainty is a superlative concept, denoting

the highest degree. If the certainty is not a perfect certainty, it is not

certainty, but only a more or less well-formed supposition. “Absolute”

here means independent, free, not determined by anything else. Thus

a person can be absolutely certain that he exists, of what he perceives

with his senses, sees with his eyes, and so forth; or, of what he can

demonstrate, such as the mathematical truth that one and one are

two, and so forth.

 

Thus an absolute certainty is a certainty which we have in

itself, and which is not dependent upon or attached to anything

else. The expression “I know” generally designates this. A believer

cannot have such an unbounded or disengaged certainty, or absolute

certainty, regarding his salvation in this sense. Only God can have

it. The certainty of which we speak is, first of all, a certainty of faith,

which can only be where faith is. We arrive at such a certainty through

another means, another power, than the one through which we arrive

at certainty concerning those things which we are accustomed to say

that we know. Further, the certainty of faith is not absolute, because

it is bound to the Word of God and to the order and way which God

has ordained unto salvation. But, as we have already said, it does

not follow from all this that the certainty of faith is weaker than

absolute certainty. Faith is certainty, and the Holy Scriptures often

use the expression. We know about that which we believe or hope,

for example, 1 John 3:3; 5:13; 2 Corinthians 4:14; 5:1, etc.

2. Furthermore, we must maintain that as certainty of

salvation is a certainty of faith, only he who is truly a believer can

have it. No unconverted person, no hypocrite, no nominal Christian,

no one who has merely an “historic” faith, can possess it. True, many

 

150 LSQ 43:2 & 3

imagine that they are certain of salvation (Matthew 7:21-22); it often

seems as though they believe that to be saved nothing else is needed

than to belong to a congregation, live somewhat decently, and then

die. But like their faith, their certainty is only imagination, for their

faith does not have the marks which the New Testament places upon

faith. Those who do not seek salvation have no promise of finding it;

nor do those who seek it in other ways than the one God has shown

us; for where there is no promise, neither can there be any true faith,

and where faith is dead, certainty of faith can only be sinful security.

For the same reason, neither can those who have another foundation

for their faith than Christ and the promises of God because of Him

have any certainty of faith regarding salvation. As their faith has no

foundation, neither can their certainty have any, except in their own

imagination.

 

3. Thirdly, we must maintain that a certainty is not here spoken

of which all believers necessarily must have in the same degree, or

which all believers necessarily must feel within themselves, with

the result that if they do not do so, they must conclude that they do

not have the right faith. When it is asked whether we can and ought

to have certainty of faith regarding a matter, we do not really ask

about the degree or strength of faith. The strength of faith, we know,

can be different, without the essence of faith being changed thereby.

Accordingly, the question is really whether we can and ought to

have faith in this particular. If we acknowledge this, it follows of

itself that we can and ought to have certainty, for faith, in its nature

and essence, is a fi rm conviction. It can be this even if it is so weak

that it is not felt as certainty—if it be true and sincere. If faith is not

a fi rm conviction, it is not faith, but only a vague notion. Thus the

expression “to believe” is often used in everyday conversation about

things concerning which one has only an opinion or a presumption.

Thus we, in fact, occasionally hear someone say, “I believe so, but

it may be that I am mistaken.” This is not faith in the Biblical sense

of the word. “I would wish,” Luther says, “that the word faith either

were not so common, or that it were allowed to retain its right meaning

and use, so that it were called faith when one is altogether certain

and without doubt in the matter. . . .Therefore, the Scriptures, also

designate faith with the Hebrew word emuna, and St. Paul calls it

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 151

pleroforia, that is, that the heart is altogether certain and has no doubt

as to the word. But for this the Holy Spirit is essential, who prepares

the hearts, as the Psalmist confesses (Psalm 51:10): ‘Create in me a

clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.’ Oh! he says,

I would gladly have a spirit which does not doubt or waver, but freely

says: I know nothing of which I am certain except Thy Word alone.

Here he plainly confesses that faith is not a notion or a something

that grows of itself within our hearts, for he says: ‘Create in me,’ etc

. . . . My beloved, it is not a matter such as one masters after a single

attempt. I am now an old doctor, have preached, written and learned

much thereabout, but nevertheless do not as yet know it. I can get

nowhere with it. If I have today mastered a considerable part of it,

it will only be, no doubt, that I have forgotten it again tomorrow.

Our fl esh and blood bring this about—which cannot enter so deeply

into the Word, and hide itself, that it will perish because of it, as

should indeed be the case, however, and verily must be.” (Luther’s

Sämmtliche Schriften, St. Louis-Walch edition, volume XII, 1614)

Hence, if certainty belongs to the essence of faith, it is so far from

being audacity to possess or to seek it, that it is much more a sin not

to possess it; for it is a sin to be infirm and weak in faith.

 

4. Furthermore, we must bear in mind that faith and hope,

in the Biblical meaning, are not different in such a way that faith is

stronger and hope weaker. The word “hope” is often used in such

a way as intentionally to express thereby that something is inferior

to, or weaker than faith. Many a person thus, for instance, when he

is asked, “Do you believe that you will be saved?” will not readily

venture to say, “Yes, I believe it,” but will perhaps not hesitate to

say, “I hope so.” as if something less were said thereby. This usage

of language has no foundation in the Holy Scriptures. Christian faith

and Christian hope are altogether coordinate there. The difference is,

partly, that hope especially has future blessings as its objective, while

the objective of faith is things past as well as things present and to

come. There is also this difference that while faith is the assent of the

heart to the Word, and appropriation of the promise it contains, hope

is the firm expectation of the blessings which are promised in the

Word. Faith and hope are therefore inseparable. While faith believes

the Word, hope expects the good which the Word promises. They go

 

152 LSQ 43:2 & 3

hand in hand; and how intimately they are conjoined is seen among

other things from the explanation given of faith in Hebrews 11:1, that

it “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not

seen,” just as the Christians “are called in one hope of their calling”

(Ephesians 4:4), and as we confess that we are “in hope of eternal

life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”

(Titus 1:2) He, therefore, who through Christ has access by faith into

grace, also rejoices in hope of the glory of God; and hope maketh not

ashamed. (See Romans 5:1-5)

 

5. Further, we must maintain that there is no difference

between being certain of one’s salvation and being certain of one’s

election. It may well be that a believer has not heard anything about

election, or has not understood any of this doctrine; but this does not

alter the case, however, for these two concepts, to be saved and to

have been elected, nevertheless amount to the same thing in effect.

Every single soul of the elect will be saved, and none except the elect.

(Matthew 24:24; Romans 8:30-33) To be one of the elect and to be

saved are, accordingly, the same, and if one believes that he will be

saved, it is the same as to believe that he is one of the elect.

 

6. Finally, we must be convinced that certainty of salvation

cannot be attained by brooding over or wanting to “investigate the

secret, concealed abyss of divine predestination.” Whoever makes

this his beginning will fall into either arrogance or despair and will

not attain to any certainty of salvation. Whoever, on the other hand, in

conformity with the advice of Luther and the guidance of The Book of

Concord, follows Paul in his explanation of God’s eternal counsel, as

this is presented to us in the Epistle to the Romans, will, by the grace

of God through the Gospel, learn to form the same conclusion as Paul

does, when in Romans 8:31 he exclaims: “What shall we say then to

these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?’’ And in the

immediate presence of the inscrutable mystery of God’s counsel, he

will also repeat the words of the apostle: ‘’O the depth of the riches,

both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are

his judgments and his ways past finding out! For who hath known

the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? or who hath

fi rst given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?”

(Romans 11:33-35)

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 153

For “we must carefully distinguish between what God has

expressly revealed in His Word and what He has not revealed.’’ (The

Book of Concord, Tappert edition, page 625, 52) God has in Christ

revealed to us all that we need in order to be certain of our salvation,

but much of His secret counsel He has kept hidden. We are not to

brood over this—and this admonition is needful in the highest degree.

“In our presumption we take much greater delight in concerning

ourselves with matters which we cannot harmonize—in fact, we have

no command to do so—than with those aspects of the question which

God has revealed to us in His Word.’’ (ibid, page 625, 53)

 

I.

With these introductory remarks, we will now account for

whether a believing Christian can and ought to be certain of his

salvation. As stated before, we find the first clear confession regarding

it in our Third Article of Faith, where we say: “I believe . . . the life

everlasting.”

 

In each of these parts in all the Articles of Faith it is true that

our faith is a true Christian faith only when we truly add the words

“for me,” and thus in a living way, make our own that in which we

confess our belief. This is true also of this part; yes, concerning this

part which states the final objective of our faith, we must say that it is

obviously much more important that we make whatever lies therein

our own, inasmuch as all the other parts are of no use if this one is

not added; for all the others indeed aim at and are given precisely

on account of this part. “Therefore, those who believe in Christ are

to be certain of eternal glory and together with all creatures sigh and

pray that God will hasten to come with a blessed day when our hope

shall be fulfilled; and for this very reason God has commanded us

to pray in our Lord’s Prayer: ‘Thy Kingdom come’; for we are not

baptized for the present life, nor do we hear the Gospel just for it, but

everything has eternal life in view.” (Luther’s Sämmtliche Schriften,

St. Louis-Walch edition, volume XII, 735)

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men

most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19) But how can a Christian have

 

154 LSQ 43:2 & 3

certainty regarding his salvation, or, in other words, that he shall be

kept in the true and living faith unto the end? He is to believe it. “The

entire life which a truly believing Christian leads after Baptism is

nothing else than an expectation of the revelation of the bliss which

he already has. He certainly has it entire, but nevertheless hid in

faith.” (Luther, ibid, 137)

 

He is to believe, that is, humbly and in a child-like manner

rely upon the promises which God has given him precisely concerning

this. These promises are more firm than heaven and earth and are

given just for this purpose, that we are to believe them, have a fi rm

conviction that He will fulfill them in spite of the devil, the world

and our flesh.

 

Of ourselves we are powerless, impotent. We can neither

believe God nor do anything else well-pleasing in His sight. “It is

God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure”

(Philippians 2:13), and “makes us perfect in every good work to

do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight,

through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.” (Hebrews

13:21)

 

What then has our heavenly Father promised to do for us

and work in us? He has promised us who “wait for the revelation of

our Lord Jesus Christ,” that He will “confirm us unto the end, that

we may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ;” and to

assure us further He reminds us that He “is faithful, by whom we

were called unto the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

(1 Corinthians 1:7-9)

 

He has assured us that He, because He “is faithful, will not

suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will with the

temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it.”

(1 Corinthians 10:13) He has said that because He “is faithful, he will

establish us and keep us from evil.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3) He wants

us to “be confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good

work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians1:

6) “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans

11:29), and He has “called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus,

after that we have suffered a while.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Our Lord Jesus does not desire that our hearts be troubled,

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 155

but that we believe in God and believe also in Him. He has therefore

said: “In my Father’s house are many mansions. . . . I go to prepare

a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come

again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be

also.” (John 14:1-3) He has promised us another Comforter, the Holy

Spirit “that he may abide with us forever” (John 14:16), and has said:

“because I live, ye shall live also.” (verse 19) In His High-Priestly

Prayer, He prays that God will “keep us from the evil,” and says:

“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me

where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given

me.” (John 17:24) He has promised to be with us always, even unto

the end of the world, and has at the same time reminded us that “all

power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18-

20) He can therefore also promise us, and has promised us, that His

sheep, that is, those who hear His voice, “shall never perish, neither

shall any man pluck them out of his hand.” (John 10:28)

 

It is therefore God’s will that we “hold fast the profession of

our faith without wavering, for he is faithful that promised.” (Hebrews

10:23) If we are troubled with the thought of how easily we can

fall, and with what difficulty “our whole spirit and soul and body

are preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,”

we are to pray and with Paul believe and say: “Faithful is he that

called us, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) He must

do it; otherwise, it will not be done: “for we are kept by the power

of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last

time.” (1 Peter 1:5) But we are also to rely fi rmly upon this power

of God, for He has promised and said: “I will never leave thee, nor

forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5), and therefore He wants us to “cast

all our care upon him.” (1 Peter 5:7) We do this when we think and

believe as follows: “What is to become of my soul? Well, He must

see and give heed to that, who has so truly cared for my soul as to

give His own life to redeem it. Let Him be praised eternally, the only

right and true Shepherd and bishop of all souls that believe on Him!

And, surely—He will not fi rst because of me begin to teach me how

He preserves and defends the saved, who hear and keep His Word,

against the power of the devil and the evil and the tyranny of the

world. He says: ‘They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck

 

156 LSQ 43:2 & 3

them out of my hand.’ (John 10:28) I will let the matter rest here. I

therefore no longer wish to care for my soul myself, or have power

and authority over it; for then it would truly be ill cared for because

the devil could soon, yea, any moment snatch it away from me and

devour it. There, in Jesus’ hand, it shall continue to be safe and well

preserved, according to His Word.” (Luther’s Sämmtliche Schriften,

St. Louis-Walch edition, volume IX, 1830)

 

For what do we need in order to be kept in the faith to the end?

Is there anything of all that we need which God should not be willing

to give us? “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up

for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

(Romans 8:32) Therefore, St. Paul, with much frankness, can promise

believers: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye

also appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4) Therefore he can teach

us that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly,

righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed

hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus

Christ.” (Titus 2:12-13; cf. Philippians 3:20-21) Therefore he himself

can comfort us, saying: “For we know that if our earthly house of

this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house

not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1),

and we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2), a “hope

that maketh not ashamed” (verse 5), because we have not given it to

ourselves nor invented it, but it is “the hope set before us,” which we

should therefore “lay hold upon” and “have as an anchor of the soul,

both sure and steadfast.” (Hebrews 6:17-19) Therefore St. John can

testify so directly and surely: “We know that when he shall appear,

we shall be like him.” (1 John 3:2) Yes, and Paul in his glorious song

of victory in Romans 8 can challenge all principalities and powers,

all enemies and dangers, both those present and those to come, and

be certain that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of

God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Yes, indeed, God would have us believe that it is unalterably

certain that we shall sometime be saved. For He has given us all these

glorious words and promises that we should believe them. Surely, He

has not given them to us that we should doubt them. “For the Son of

God . . . was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 157

of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.”

(2 Corinthians 1:19-20) He, therefore, who believes these promises

believes that it is unfailingly certain that he shall once be saved. “He

that believeth not God hath made him a liar.” (1 John 5:10)

Now, we are not to forget, and, if we are believers, neither

will we forget, that left to ourselves we could easily fall from faith,

and certainly would fall at once. But as a help against this, the Lord

Jesus has taught us to pray to our heavenly Father: “Lead us not into

temptation.” And when we then in this prayer pray “that God would

guard and keep us, that the devil, the world and our fl esh may not

deceive us, nor lead us into misbelief, despair and other shameful

sin and vice; and, though we be thus tempted, that we may still in

the end overcome, and retain the victory,” are we not to believe and

regard it as altogether certain that God will do this? And when we

pray in the Third Petition “that God would break and hinder every

evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow God’s name nor

let His Kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world and

our own flesh”; and when we further pray “that God, in place of our

will, lets His good and gracious will be done, and strengthens and

keeps us steadfast in His Word and in faith unto the end”—are we

then not to believe and regard as altogether certain that He will do it?

Or when we pray in the Seventh Petition that God “would deliver us

from all manner of evil. . . .and at last, when the hour of death shall

come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this vale

of tears to Himself in heaven,” are we then to regard it as uncertain

whether we shall receive what we pray for? Are we not, as Luther

says, to make the “Amen” which our Lord has taught us, right strong,

and thus believe that it is unswervingly certain that we shall receive

it? “Amen, Amen, that is, yes, yes, it shall be so.”

 

Thus, because God has promised it, we are to believe it, and

consider it to be unfailingly true that we shall be saved. Because

“from such words and promises of God, which of pure grace and

mercy, without our deserving, are spoken to us, springs the hope that

I certainly expect that which is promised to me, . . . and do not allow

anything to frighten me away from them, be it sin, death, the devil,

or hell, the world or our own flesh. Just as now faith looks only to the

promises of God, so does hope look only to the pure and undeserved

 

158 LSQ 43:2 & 3

mercy of God, that is, to that which is spoken in His Word and profuse

of grace, as the psalmist says: ‘For thy loving-kindness is before mine

eyes: and I have walked in thy truth.’ (Psalm 26:3)

 

“The work and fruit of faith is a good conscience, a tranquil

heart, and a cheerful trust in God. Hope is tranquil and expects what

God has promised, let fall what may: and it is especially established

in tribulation. St. Paul sums this up so beautifully in Romans 5:1-5,

where he says: ‘Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with

God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access

by faith into the grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the

glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:

knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience;

and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the

love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which

is given unto us.’” (Luther’s Sämmtliche Schriften, St. Louis-Walch

edition, volume XI, 1940)

 

We were baptized to share in the death and resurrection of

Christ, and have promise upon promise from the mouth of God, and

should we not want to believe it! Do we not have enough with which

to struggle and contend, the miserable and shameful unbelief because

of our old Adam without in addition thinking that we did right and

that it was piety on our part to doubt what God has promised?

 

II.

Is there a doctrine in the Word of God to which men have

not objected? I know of none. This doctrine has also been objected

to, that a believer can and ought to be certain of his salvation. And,

alas! These objections are now in our own midst, and from trusted

teachers among us. I cannot but cherish the hope, however, that by

the Word of God they can be set aright, so there can once more be

the unity among us, which by the grace of God there has been for so

many years.

 

The objections which are raised appear in a double form.

Partly it is alleged that we cannot have such a certainty, partly that

we are not to have it. It is really but one objection, however. For it is

true, that if we could not have this certainty, neither should we have

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 159

it; and again, if it is God’s will that we are to have it, we are also able

to, by the grace of God.

 

In the Scripture passages previously cited I have shown

from the Word of God both that we can and should be certain of our

salvation, and I will now look more closely at the objections made

to it.

 

In the first place, the objectors say: from the Scripture passages

which have been cited, it is clear that God is able to do all that is

necessary for our salvation; but I cannot know whether I shall receive

His grace in the future, whether I shall permit Him to keep me in faith.

I do not know whether I, like so many others, shall fail to keep from

falling away. And how can I be certain that I shall once be saved?

Where is it written that perchance I shall not fall and be lost?

First, let me reply to this: If this objection were valid, a

Christian would have to spend his days on earth in uncertainty as to

his eternal salvation. It would then be Christian and correct to say:

“Now I am a Christian; but whether I remain one is more than I can

know. I can have no firm belief regarding it. I am to watch and pray

and use the means of grace; and I am to work out my salvation with

fear and trembling—1 know this, but what the end will be, I do not

know: whether I come to Jesus or to the devil, to heaven or to hell—I

can have no certain or dependable belief concerning this.”

Is this Christian faith? Is this the faith the apostles had?

Paul—who testified: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of

righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at

that day” (2 Timothy 4:8)—and John, who says, that “when he shall

appear, we shall be like him?” (1 John 3:2) Is this the faith which called

forth in the apostles’ disciples the joy of which Peter speaks (1 Peter 1:

8). . . .” ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”? The reason

for this joy, indeed, lay in the words of Peter, in which he “blessed

God for his manifold spiritual graces,” for instance, “Blessed be God

the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant

mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection

of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and

undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who

are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to

be revealed in the last time, wherein ye greatly rejoice,” etc. (1 Peter

 

160 LSQ 43:2 & 3

1:3-6) Do you suppose that in the midst of their unspeakable joy,

and as they joined the apostle in blessing the “God and Father of

our Lord Jesus Christ,” that nevertheless they did and should have

thought within themselves: “But whether we shall ever enter heaven

and receive any inheritance, is more than we can tell; we dare have

no firm assurance about it”?

 

Is this the burden of the faith we confessed in Holy Baptism

regarding life everlasting? Does this agree with what we say in our

Catechism: I believe that the Holy Spirit shall grant me, together with

all those who believe, eternal life?

 

If the objection were true, it would be presumptuous to believe

God’s promises. It would be audacious to sing at the grave of a dear

one:

 

Then shall I see Thy count’nance clear,

Lord, Throne of my salvation,

When Thou in glory dost appear,

With trump and angel-vision;

 

or when we sing with Brorson:1

O, I am a sinful man,

That is all my titled glory;

Better it can never be,

If God’s Law scroll I but scan.

But—Thou becamest Jesus,

And my mis’ry ‘pon Thee took;

Therefore is my name most precious,

And Thou wrot’st it in Thy Book.

At Judgment I shall rise

To enter heaven with joy,

To reign there with my Lord,

And wear the beauteous crown.

Branches of palm, and raiment white,

Angelic drink, abundant life—

These I enjoy,

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 161

For Jesus’ sake, and by His blood.

 

or when we confess with the same hymn writer:

 

My walk is heavenward all the way,

Await my soul, the morrow,

When thou shalt fi nd release for aye

From all thy sin and sorrow;

All worldly pomp, begone.

To heaven I now press on;

For all the world I would not stay,

My walk is heavenward all the way.

 

We would not then dare to sing with Kingo:2

 

From first day of my life,

Whatever I have met

Of grievous pain and strife,

I shall indeed forget,

When in triumphant Church

Mid all the heavenly host,

With angel tongue and voice,

God’s honor I will boast.

Then shall I in my hand

The palm of triumph wave,

For great the victory

By which Christ came to save,

Who by His blood and death

Has won the victory—

Thus it shall be my joy

To bear the emblem high.

Neither ought we sing with Paul Gerhard night after night:

Behold, the day is vanished.

 

162 LSQ 43:2 & 3

And hosts of stars have risen

In heaven’s deepest blue:

Thus I shall be attired,

When life and cares are ended,

And I depart to be with You.

 

We have then no right to pray with Palladius and Landstad:3

 

Grant us a steadfast faith,

So we may never doubt

That peace and rest in heaven

We shall by Thee obtain!

 

or to confess:

 

His Spirit is to me a pledge,

My faith shall fi nally obtain

A sweet and blessed end.

 

But no, God be praised! Let the papal church keep its old lie that a

Christian is to be uncertain of his salvation. We will continue in our

churches and in our homes humbly and joyfully to pray, praise and

give thanks, saying:

 

Until we join the hosts that cry,

‘Holy are Thou, O Lord most high!’

And ’mid the light of that blessed place

Shall gaze upon Thee face to face.

 

Now let us examine more closely what lies in that objection

that “God can and will do His part, but I do not know, surely, whether

I shall let Him do so, and thus I cannot be certain of my salvation.’’ In

it lies the assertion that the promises of God cannot be sufficient for a

troubled heart. For, it is said, even though our Savior has promised: “I

will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there

ye may be also’’ (John 14:3), I surely cannot know whether I will

always let Him receive me unto Himself, whether it won’t happen

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 163

that I leave Him, and so I cannot depend on it with full certainty that

I shall once arrive there where He is. Thus the promises of God are

not sufficient for one to build an unfailing certainty of salvation on

them.

 

Well now, if God’s promises are not enough, what more then

do we want? Something more from God? No, God indeed has already

promised us everything. It must therefore be something of our own.

Good deeds? No, for we surely know that they do not avail; for we

are justified by faith in Jesus Christ, not by the works of the Law.

(Galatians 2:16) Is it faith then which is meant? “Yes,’’ they answer,

“if I knew that I would continue in faith unto the end, I could be

certain of my final salvation.’’ If we meet this objection by reminding

them that we indeed have the unfailing promise of God that He will

keep us in faith unto the end, and that according to the Scriptures we

‘’are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready

to be revealed in the last time,” and that according to Scripture it is

by God’s power that we are preserved in faith to eternal salvation,

they again answer with the same objection: ‘’Yes, but I don’t know

whether I will be willing to receive this help from God unto the end.

I can, of course, fall.’’

 

Thus the Word and promise of God are considered insufficient.

God has promised to do everything; but that, however, is not enough.

In addition, one must have something of his own, otherwise he cannot

be certain of his salvation. Men want to build on their own acceptance

of the Word in addition to God’s Word. They want to make their own

faith, or willingness to believe, or their own non-resistance, a basis

for their confidence; and if they cannot do this, they do not want to

have any confidence. But surely, thereby, faith has been mortally

wounded. For whoever wants to build on something of his own in

addition to the promise of God, does not have the true Christian faith

which the Holy Ghost works. Because “it is the essence and nature

of faith to tolerate nothing alongside it in which man might trust

except the Word of God alone, or the divine promise. To him who

uses faith as a weapon in the strife, the things which are contrary to

God’s Word will suggest themselves immediately. But faith lets go

of all creatures and visible things in the world, also itself, and holds

fast to the Word of God. Faith does not seek a footing somewhere, or

 

164 LSQ 43:2 & 3

reach for something, to obtain certainty, and thus be preserved. This

is what Christ means when He also says (John 8:51): ‘Verily, verily,

I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.’

If you cling to the Word of God and close your eyes, you will be

preserved. From whence does it come? Indeed, from here: the Word

of God is a living Word; death cannot devour it. If the Word remains,

you also remain.” (Luther’s Sämmtliche Schriften, St. Louis-Walch

edition, volume XI, 2191)

 

At this point the opposition will no doubt seek another

expedient, saying: We subscribe to all this with all our heart, that a

man is not to believe in his faith, and that faith has only the Word

of God to rely upon; you could just as well have spared yourself the

trouble of telling us, because we already knew it. When we say we

want nothing to do with this faith that is unfailingly certain that we

will once be saved, it is precisely because we neither can nor ought to

have such a faith: “It is not commanded by God to know beforehand

with divine certainty of faith that we shall indeed be constant, but

rather with daily fear and trembling see that we become so by a true

and diligent use of the means of grace.”

 

I reply to this: Fear and trembling form no contrast to faith

and do not hinder it, but further it. I shall make this plain later. But

the subterfuge that we are not to have certainty of faith regarding

our salvation, and that God has not commanded it, is really nothing

else than a new way of stating the previous objection, or, that God

will do His part, but I cannot be sure that I shall do mine; and thus,

neither can I be certain of my salvation. Indeed, men may say that

they subscribe to those words about not believing in one’s faith, or in

one’s acceptance of grace, but only in the Word and promise of God;

however, they cannot dismiss this matter with such utterances. There

is the best opportunity right here to show whether they really mean

this and acknowledge the significance of it. I have cited a long list

of promises of God to the effect that He will make us finally blessed.

Why will the opposition not believe them, that is, be assured of their

fulfillment? Christ says to us: “I will come again and receive you

unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:3) If

a person really accepts this truth, that the Word of God is sufficient

for faith and that faith does not want anything else to rely upon, he

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 165

must admit that we are to believe this promise of God, that is, be

unswervingly certain that it will be fulfilled. Or is it not given to be

believed? Is it not the will of God (that is to say, commanded us), that

with divine certainty of faith we are to know beforehand that what

God has promised will take place?

 

The answer is, yes, God wills it, to be sure, but we cannot

know if we shall will it. This is but a repetition of the previous

objection and shows where the damaging thing lodges.

The mistake is that they do not fully and completely surrender

every thought of contributing anything whatsoever in any particular

or in any manner to their salvation. If we do not do this, neither do

we believe God’s promise before we are assured that we ourselves

will do our part, be it little or much.

 

The objection is raised: Indeed, you forget that we can resist

the grace of God. Manifestly, this is our power, and who can vouch

for it that we do not resist?

 

I reply: God must vouch for it; and—praised be His

unfathomable grace! —He will vouch for it. And this is, indeed,

the very thing we are to believe, and if we do not believe it we do

not give God all the glory for our salvation. For who can overcome

our resistance? Can we do it ourselves? No, no power in the world

can overcome the opposition of our evil and vain hearts—save God

alone. And hasn’t God promised to do this? Hasn’t He promised that

He will not leave us? Hasn’t He promised us eternal bliss? Did He,

then, perhaps not take into consideration that this also required that

He deliver us from our most dangerous enemies, our own flesh and

blood? Has He forgotten this? Is He not, according to Scripture, “the

finisher of our faith,” just as He is its “author”?—No, the case is this:

one does not want to give himself up wholly and entirely and cling

to the Word alone.4

 

“A person must despair of himself, let go with both hands

and feet, confess before God that he is incompetent, and implore His

divine grace, in which he may firmly trust. Anyone who teaches or

seeks another way to begin than this errs and deceives both himself

and others as, then, those do who say: ‘Look here, you have a free

will: do what is in your power; God will do His part,’ and who are

of the opinion that a person should not teach people to despair. It is

true enough one is not to teach people to despair; but we must first

 

166 LSQ 43:2 & 3

explain this despair rightly. No one is to despair of the grace of God,

but, despite the entire world and all sin, firmly rely on God’s help;

of himself, however, one is altogether to despair and in no way rely

on his free will to perform even the smallest little deed. . . .It is not

possible that God can deny a person His grace who thus with his whole

heart acknowledges his inability and plainly despairs of himself. . .

.This despair and searching after grace is not to last for an hour or for

a time and then cease, but all our deeds, words, thoughts, as long as

we live, are to have as their aim that we always despair of ourselves

and continue in the grace of God with an eager desire and longing

for him.’’ (Luther’s Sämmtliche Schriften, St. Louis-Walch edition,

volume Xl, 2310)

Despite all these glorious promises, men still make the

pitiable assertion that God does not want us to have certainty of

faith concerning our constancy unto the end. On what do they base

this assertion? Among other things, on a rational deduction which

unbelief makes along these lines: As it is possible for me to fall away,

and since I, according to God’s will, am always to acknowledge and

bear in mind that it is possible for me to fall away—it follows that I

neither can nor ought to be certain that I will not fall away.

 

But this rational deduction does not hold good, because there

is no contradiction in one’s recognizing as possibilities two opposite

things: salvation and damnation—while at the same time, according

to a divine promise, one has the certainty of faith that the fi rst of

these possibilities (salvation) will become reality. If anyone cannot

understand this,5 he can, however, learn it from St. Paul, who says

that by faith he is immovably sure that he shall be saved, but that the

possibility that he may be condemned is not thereby annulled. By

faith he is certain that this possibility, by the grace of God, shall not

become a reality, and still he admits the possibility, as shall be pointed

out later. (Romans 8:38; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Corinthians 9:27)

 

Or, it is said: I cannot be certain of my salvation because

I know that I may fall away, and nowhere in the Bible does it say

that I will remain constant. The meaning is: If it were stated in the

Scriptures, with the mention of my name, that I am to endure unto

the end; or, if I could look into the Book of Life and find my name

there, then I could be certain of my salvation. In other words, this

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 167

is precisely what Christ so often and severely chastises: that people

will not believe, but want to see. “Blessed are they,” He says, “that

have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

 

“But as long as we are on earth, we must live in hope. For

although we are sure that we have all the blessings of God through

faith—for faith is surely accompanied for you by the new birth, the

fi lial relationship, and the inheritance—we do not yet see this. It is

still something to be hoped for and still somewhat remote. We cannot

see it with our eyes. St. Peter calls this the hope of life. . . .We speak

of a living hope, that is, a hope in which we may hope with certainty

and be sure of eternal life. But this is still concealed. It is still covered

with a cloth. One does not see it. At present it can be grasped only with

the heart and through faith, as St. John says in 1 John 3:2.” (Luther’s

Works, American Edition, volume 30, page 11)

 

Another objection by which men would save themselves

from difficulty is that they say all of God’s promises of salvation are

conditioned (as many of our church fathers have expressed it); for God

has not promised us salvation unconditionally, but, as St. Paul says

(Romans 11:22), “if thou continue in his goodness”; nor has Christ

unconditionally promised that we shall be where He is, for we must

infer a condition from other passages, as “if ye abide in me” (John

15:7); “if a man keep my saying.” (John 8:51)

 

I reply to this: Yes, if it were true that God’s promises are

conditioned on something in us, which we must therefore first bring

about in order to obtain the promises, our opponents would then,

indeed, be correct, and we could never be sure of our salvation;

but—God be praised!—it is not so. This objection is, then, nothing

else than the old confusion and lack of understanding which we know

from the Absolution Controversy, and of which every pastor with a

little experience has had enough instances in his own care of souls.

It comes from a confusion of the nature of the divine promises with

the effect of the divine promises. The promises of God in themselves

are not conditioned upon anything except the mercy of God and the

ground on which they are given, Jesus Christ. They are and must be

unconditional, otherwise they would not be promises of grace, and

this is then the essence of the promises. It is a different matter with

the effect. This is conditioned upon our faith; for if we do not believe,

 

168 LSQ 43:2 & 3

the promises profit us nothing. And it is for this reason, indeed, that

I write these lines—to exhort us that we do by all means believe

these glorious promises. The effect of the promises is, accordingly,

conditioned on our belief in them. But we are to note, in connection

with this, that God Himself has promised to fulfill this condition, for

we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Christ. And the

means by which God effects this condition is precisely the free and

unconditioned promise itself.

 

Wherever in the Gospel it seems as though God demands

something of us, so that our salvation is made to depend upon it,

Scripture shows that God Himself will fulfill the condition for us; for

otherwise it would not be fulfilled, our salvation would not be of God,

and the Gospel would not be Gospel. Here the Augustinian saying

applies: “Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis”—that is, ‘’Give me what

Thou commandest me, and command what Thou wilt.’’ According

to their nature, the promises of God are unconditional, and precisely

for that reason they create within us the condition which is demanded

for their blessed use—namely, faith. All that we can do by our own

strength is to despise the promises of God or doubt them. Alas, it is

quite easy for us to do this!

 

Another objection of long standing is that such a frank

assurance of salvation does not agree with the many admonitions of

God to us to “watch and pray”; that “he that thinketh he standeth,

take heed lest he fall”; that we are to “work out our salvation with

fear and trembling,” and the like.

 

This has always been the claim of the Roman Catholic Church

and later of a part of the Reformed Church.

 

This objection is also closely related to the lack of trust in

God’s Word and promises already mentioned—as though these were

not sufficient unto salvation—and is founded on a misconception

of the nature of faith. So far from it being the case that the fear and

trembling to which God exhorts us militate against the certainty of

faith, much rather do these further that certainty. In fact, if we do not

work out our salvation with fear and trembling; if we do not bear in

mind that we may fall; if we do not watch and pray, and if we do not

“strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24); in short, if our life is

not a daily conversion, we cannot be kept in faith. Therefore St. Paul

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 169

says, Romans 11:20: “Thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded,

but fear!” An interchange of effect is to be noted here: the only way

to be kept in faith is to fight the good fight of faith, and that which is

to give us strength to fight the good fight is again, faith, the certain

hope of eternal life.

 

God has not promised to save His elect, as it were, without

any further ado, without their knowing it. He does not force us, but He

reproves, rebukes, exhorts, guides and comforts us. He bears us up; He

draws us, and likewise gives the strength to follow His guiding hand.

He has shown us the way by which He will save us—not the sinful

way of security, but the narrow way. Jesus is the way for us and there

is none other. The promise is joined to this way. If we would go any

other, we have no promise; and if we have no promise, we can have

no divine certainty of faith, but merely a vain illusion. Therefore the

certainty of faith can and is always to be controlled and proved. Even

though it is, as to its essence, a frank, unshaken, divine and unfailing

certainty, it is indeed at the same time no absolute certainty, but a

certainty of faith; and precisely because it is a certainty of faith, it is

bound to the Word of God on which it rests. Therefore, many of our

old teachers called it a certitudo ordinata, that is, one joined to and

determined by a certain order (the order of salvation), so that if the

order of salvation is abandoned, the certainty of faith ceases.

As God has promised that He will save us, we are to believe

this with all our heart; but if we are God’s children, we not only

believe this one utterance, that it is certain that we shall be saved,

but we also believe all the utterances in which God shows us how He

saves us. Every word from the mouth of God is precious to us, and

each day we have use for the admonitions and warnings of God, as

well as for His comfortings. For we are not merely spirit; our faith

is, for the greater part, very weak and frail, while flesh and blood

in us are strong; but if we “live after the flesh, we shall surely die.”

If we relapse into sensual security, we lose our faith, and where is

our certainty then? We, therefore, also need the Word of God which

reminds us that there is the possibility that we may fall away and be

condemned, in order that this truth may drive us to faith in God’s

promises, in which our salvation lies. Faith in God’s promises cannot

be preserved unless we shun all sin and live in daily repentance, so

 

170 LSQ 43:2 & 3

we must also precisely hold to faith and preserve a good conscience;

for he who puts away from himself a good conscience will suffer

shipwreck to his faith. (1 Timothy 1:19) “Because faith in God, and

prayer, are delicate matters, and there may easily be a slight wound in

the conscience which drives faith and prayer away, as every Christian

often experiences. Therefore, St. Paul places these words together, as

in 1 Timothy 1:5, 9; 3:9.” (Luther’s Sämmtliche Schriften, St. Louis-

Walch edition, volume X, 1706-1707)

 

Paul shows this in his own case. He had unfailing certainty

of faith regarding his election and salvation, but he also knew that

God would save him through combat with the flesh, and that he could

be preserved in faith only through such combat and thus obtain the

incorruptible crown; therefore he says: “I keep under my body, and

bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached

to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:27) He

had the proper weapon for this combat in faith, which he calls the

shield, with which we shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the

wicked. (Ephesians 6:16) Therefore, Peter admonishes that we show

diligence in good works, that by their testimony that we are on the

right road of faith, we may be established in our calling and election,

and that through this fi rm faith we again may receive strength, so

that we do not become inactive or unfruitful in the knowledge of our

Lord Jesus Christ, but that the virtues which issue from faith may be

found to abound in us. (2 Peter 1:8-10) Therefore John says in the

same breath, as he has said that he is certain that he shall be saved:

“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as

he is pure.” (1 John 3:3)

 

If we consider what we are and what we have deserved, that

we have never been and never could be worthy of even the least of

the gifts of God; if we consider what we are in the sight of God, who

thoroughly knows our miserable hearts; and if we then have become

convinced from the Word of God that He loves us and would have

us be among His own, that the Father loves us as that father in the

Gospel loved the prodigal son, that the dear Lord Jesus has had mercy

on us as on Peter, that the Holy Ghost has not become weary of us

and will still be our Instructor and Guide—is it then possible that we

can do otherwise than love Him in return, and that with fi lial fear we

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 171

will live in daily conversion and take heed lest we do anything against

God? Will it not be our daily shame and sorrow that we do not do

better? Should we want to add this sin also to all other sins, that we

will not believe what God promises us? No, we will believe it, and

we will be certain of it, not in sinful security, but in filial fear. We will

“serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:11)

We will acknowledge our weakness of faith with shame; we will not

imagine that we have “already attained, either were already perfect”;

we will pray God that He will not leave us nor forsake us, but that He

will strengthen our faith and help us to humility and to watchfulness

against our most cherished sins we will strive to give up all hope of

helping ourselves, and will seek our hope and our strength and our

encouragement for all this in the glorious promises of God. We will

believe them, even though we must cry out and say with tears: “Lord,

I believe, help Thou mine unbelief!’’ Thus shall faith keep us in fi lial

fear and filial fear drive us to faith.

 

Alas, we have also another fear in us—namely, the slavish

fear of the old Adam. It is the fear belonging to doubt, servitude

and an evil conscience. This fear does not give God the glory. It is

damnable, and we are to strive against it; for it is not of God, but of

the evil, natural, unbelieving heart, which will not believe God, nor

can it (Romans 8:7), but wants to believe in itself, or else will not

believe, but wants to see. It is this fear, which belongs to doubt and

unbelief, of which St. John speaks when he says that “There is no

fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” But St. Paul speaks

of fi lial fear when he admonishes us to “work out our salvation with

fear and trembling.”6

 

We need to be reminded of this in order to be kept from sinful

security. Hence we sing:

 

I walk in danger all the way,

The thought shall never leave me,

That Satan, who has marked his prey,

Is plotting to deceive me.

This foe with hidden snares

May seize me unawares,

If e’er I fail to watch and pray,

 

172 LSQ 43:2 & 3

I walk in danger all the way.

 

And we sing, “I pass through trials all the way,” and, “Death doth

pursue me all the way.” But why remind ourselves of this? Is it,

perhaps, so that we will become terrified and begin to doubt and say:

“I know I walk in danger, and what the end will be, and where I shall

go, that I do not know?” No! So that the remembrance of danger may

drive us to God, so that we may strengthen ourselves with His promise

and by faith be given the power to be on our guard and overcome our

foes, so that we may therefore continue, let us say instead:

 

I walk with angels all the way,

They shield me and defend me;

 

and:

 

I walk with Jesus all the way,

His guidance never fails me.

Within His wounds I find a stay,

When Satan’s power assails me;

 

and therefore:

 

My walk is heavenward all the way,

Await, my soul, the morrow,

When thou shalt find release for aye,

From all thy sins and sorrow.

 

“For,” as Luther says, “having been bought with the precious

blood of Christ, been born again in Holy Baptism because of His

glorious resurrection from the dead, called by the Gospel unto a lively

hope, ‘to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth

not away, reserved in heaven for us,’ as St. Peter says—we are also,

with rejoicing and in full trust, to be looking for ‘that blessed hope,’

our soul’s final salvation.”

 

“This truly Christian attitude, with its heavenly lines of

demarcation, the Apostle Paul designates to us in Titus 2:13, and

admonishes us to note well the difference between this present

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 173

perishable life and the future imperishable life, and to turn our backs

to this present life as the life that perishes and which we finally must

leave, and constantly have the future life in view and firmly and

assuredly hope for it as the life that continues forever and in which we

belong. We should do good deeds, in chastity, righteousness and godly

fear look for that blessed hope, he says, that is, we should prepare

for a better life than this life on earth. On that we should build more

firmly, and with greater certainty hope for it, though we do not yet

see it and feel it, than we build on and hope in this present life which

we see and feel. This is a right doctrine, but it is not soon learned;

a right sermon, but it is not soon believed; a beautiful exhortation,

but it is not easily followed; it is well said, but not well done. For

there are exceedingly few persons on earth who look for the blessed

hope, the future imperishable inheritance and kingdom, and await

it so assuredly, as it really ought to be, so that they do not possess

the present life more assuredly. . . .Nor are we baptized to remain

here on earth and make a paradise and a heavenly home here, . . .but

that heaven may be opened for us, and that we may be saved unto

eternal life . . . . For this eternal life we are baptized; for it Christ has

redeemed us with His death and blood, and for it we have received

the Gospel. . . .Here one must believe, hope, await, but in the beyond

it shall be revealed. He who does not await the blessed hope will not

come to the revelation; but he who firmly and without doubt awaits

it, need not worry about the revelation. Such distinction (between

hope and revelation) St. Paul also makes in Colossians 3:3: ‘Your life

is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life shall appear,

then shall ye also appear with him in glory.’ St. John also makes this

distinction (1 John 3:2): ‘Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not

yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear,

we shall be like him. . . .’

 

“A Christian speaks as follows: God through His Son has

granted me eternal life; unto this life I am baptized, and unto it I

am called by the Gospel. I will therefore also confidently await it.

Besides, however, He has created me and placed me in office, so that

I am to be lord, mistress, servant, teacher, pastor, etc., and serve Him

in my calling; I will therefore also be zealous in good works, be a

pious servant, a diligent teacher, a faithful minister of the Word, and

 

174 LSQ 43:2 & 3

do what is pleasing to God.

 

“To him who knows this and conforms to it, life will not seem

burdensome or hard, and he will not murmur against God though

he at times fare ill. For being certain of eternal life, and waiting this

blessed hope, and the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, he readily

does and suffers what he needs must do and suffer . . . . But to him

who does not know this and does not conform to it, life necessarily

must be hard and cumbersome. For, not being certain of eternal life,

and not awaiting the blessed hope, he can neither be contented nor

have patience.” (Luther’s Sämmtliche Schriften, St. Louis-Walch

edition, volume IX, 932ff.)

 

The Gospel according to St. Matthew (14:24-31) contains a

narrative which, with a few touches, exemplifies and confirms the

proofs I have adduced in the foregoing of how groundless are the

objections that are raised against this doctrine.

 

One night the disciples were on the Sea of Gennesaret. It was

nearing daybreak. The weather was rough, the wind contrary, and they

were hard pressed by the waves. They saw someone walking on the

sea. It was Jesus; but they did not recognize Him. It was, in fact, not yet

light; they were tossed up and down by the waves, and—how would

a person be able to walk on the sea? “They were troubled, saying. It

is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake

unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid. And Peter

answered Him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee

on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down

out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he

saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he

cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth

his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith,

wherefore didst thou doubt?”

 

We have here a person who has set a goal for himself which

he cannot attain by his own strength. Peter cannot by his natural

strength take a single step forward on the water, much less, fully

come to Jesus. Just as little can a sinful being by his own strength and

effort take a single step toward God and salvation, to say nothing of

keeping himself in the way of salvation to the end.

 

But the Savior said to Peter, “Come.” Therein lies the promise.

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 175

This word shows that Jesus both can and will help Peter come to Him;

for He well knew that Peter could not come of himself, and that if he

were to come, it must be by the power and will of Jesus. If Jesus had

not been able as well as willing to help him go forward, He would not

have said, “Come.” Therefore, Peter should have held to this Word.

By faith in this Word he should have been certain that he could and

would come to Jesus. He should not have consulted his reason and

considered that as the human body is heavier than water, there was

the likelihood that he would sink, for surely this was not unknown

to Jesus. Nor should he have allowed himself to be troubled by the

rough weather and the high waves. Jesus, who had said that he should

come, surely also knew what kind of weather it was. Nor should he

have consulted his own fl eshly thoughts, which would seduce him

to rely on his faith instead of on the Word of Jesus. In other words,

he should not have thought: Do I now have such a strong faith, that,

on the strength of it, I can walk on the sea? For then he either would

have doubted immediately or placed his trust in himself, as he once

did later, and in either instance he would have sunk. It was indeed

only that word of Jesus, “Come,” that gave him the right to hope

that he would reach his destination on the waves. Faith relies on the

power of the Word of Jesus, to hold fast, and not on its own strength.

If faith relies on itself, it has already forsaken the solid rock, which

is the promise of God.

 

Nor should he have thought thus: “It is true. Jesus has said,

“Come,” but I cannot know whether I will ever be able to get there,

because it is possible that I may sink; this possibility is not annulled.

I know, surely, that a human being is heavier than water. I know, too,

that only by faith can I stay on the water’s surface: but I cannot know

whether I shall retain my faith, and whether I may not be frightened

for a moment by this boisterous weather.”

 

This again would have been secret mistrust in the promise,

as though it were not enough that Jesus had said, “Come,” With this

word in his ear and in his heart, Peter should have said, as he did on

another occasion, “At Thy Word, Lord—yea, at Thy Word I will come,

in spite of myself and all the billows and storms in the world!”

But did Peter not have to observe anything in order to have this

certainty of faith about coming fully to Jesus? Is there in this incident

 

176 LSQ 43:2 & 3

no correlative to what we have said previously about the “fear and

trembling” that are to accompany faith? Yes, there is that too. For

when Jesus says “Come!” both the way and the goal are designated.

Had Peter wanted to walk about and go elsewhere, he would have

had no promise. His prayer had been: “Bid me come unto thee on the

water,” and Jesus had said. “Come!” He had not said: “Go wherever

thou wilt,” just as God has not promised us salvation without at the

same time designating the way we are to go, namely, “the narrow

way, which leads to life.”

 

But Peter let go of the promise; he conferred with reason; he

made calculations according to the weather, which was rough, and

therefore, he began to sink. Jesus said to him. “O thou of little faith,

wherefore didst thou doubt?” There we have the testimony of Jesus

Himself as to what Peter should have done and what we are to do

when we have a promise from the mouth of the Lord.

But what would be our estimate of Peter, if, after this reproval,

he had, in addition, by means of all sorts of objections and seemingly

sensible and rational arguments—perhaps even thinking this to be

right, humble and spiritual procedure—wanted to adorn his unbelief

and doubt of his being able to cross the angry waves and come to

Jesus?

 

II.

I have previously shown that it is in conformity with our

covenant of Baptism to have certainty of faith regarding our final

salvation, and that our Catechism points out that the prayer our Savior

taught us strengthens us in this certainty. I have also called attention

to this fact that our Church confesses it in its hymns. I will now show

the relationship of this doctrine to the true Lutheran doctrine of the

gracious election of God unto salvation.

 

As already shown, we cannot arrive at certainty regarding our

salvation by pondering or wanting to search out the secret, hidden

depths of divine predestination. Those who would begin here will

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 177

not arrive at any certainty of faith as to their salvation, but will either

become arrogant or else despair. We cannot believe in something

that is hidden and of which we have not heard. (Romans 10:14) To

believe, it is essential to have something which has been revealed. If

the gracious election to salvation were altogether and solely a hidden

counsel of God, it is clear that our faith and hope concerning salvation

could have nothing to do with it. This, however, is not the case.

Therefore the Lutheran Church confesses that: “We are not

to view this eternal election or divine ordering to eternal life only in

the secret and inscrutable counsel of God, as though it comprised no

more and that nothing more is involved in it, or that nothing more is

to be considered in connection with it, than that God has foreseen who

and how many are to be saved, who and how many are to damned,

or that he merely held a sort of military muster: This one shall be

saved, that one shall be damned.” (The Book of Concord, Tappert

edition, page 617, 9)

 

“For from this many derive and adopt strange, dangerous and

pernicious thoughts and speak thus: If I am foreordained to salvation,

nothing can injure me with respect to it, regardless of what I do;

and if I am not foreordained, then no matter what I do will not help,

because I can neither hinder nor change the election of God.” (ibid.

page 618, 10)

 

“We must oppose such false imagining and thoughts,” our

Confessions say, “with the following clear, certain, and unfailing

foundation: All Scripture, inspired by God, should minister not to

security and impenitence but to ‘reproof, correction and improvement.’

(2 Timothy 3:16) Furthermore, everything in the Word of God is

written down for us, not for the purpose of thereby driving us to

despair but in order that ‘by steadfastness, by encouragement of the

Scripture we might have hope.’ (Romans 15:4) From this it is beyond

all doubt that the true understanding or the right use of the teaching of

God’s eternal foreknowledge will in no way cause or support either

impenitence or despair. So, too, Scripture presents this doctrine in

no other way than to direct us thereby to the Word (Ephesians 1:13,

14; 1 Corinthians 1:21, 30-31), to admonish us to repent (2 Timothy

3:16), to urge us to godliness (Ephesians l:l5ff.; John 15:16, 17:3,4,

10, 12), to strengthen our faith and to assure us of our salvation

 

178 LSQ 43:2 & 3

(Ephesians 1:9, 13, 14; John 10:27-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15).’’

(ibid, page 618, 12)

Therefore, as the Formula of Concord says, there is not one

thing regarding the election of grace which God has revealed, and

another thing which He has hidden from us, warning us not to ponder

over the latter, but instead to remain with that which He reveals, and

adding the words quoted earlier, that “this admonition is eminently

necessary. In our presumption we take much greater delight in

concerning ourselves with matters which we cannot harmonize—in

fact we have no command to do so—than with those aspects of the

question which God has revealed to us in His Word.’’ (ibid, page

625, 52-53)

 

What has been revealed to us concerning the gracious election

of God to salvation is first of all: what prompted God to it, namely,

His mercy and the most holy merit of Christ; and, secondly, in what

way it has been revealed and by what means God will bring the elect

to salvation, namely, through conversion and faith, which He will

work in them by the means of grace.

 

These revealed truths, this grace of God in Christ, and this

way of salvation are they in “which He has made known to us the

mystery of His will and has brought it to light in Christ Jesus.’’ It is

these revealed truths alone which can give us the certainty of faith

concerning our salvation, or in other words, concerning our election,

and that, for this reason, these things concern not only some few,

but they concern all men: for election must be learned from the holy

Gospel concerning Christ, “which clearly testifi es that ‘God has

consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon

all’ (Romans 11:32), and that He does not want anyone to perish

(Ezekiel 33:11; 18:23), but that everyone should repent and believe

on the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2).’’ (ibid, page

495, 10) Furthermore, the Scriptures teach us that Christ has borne

the sin of all the world (John 1:29), that His blood is the atonement

for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2) Christ says: ‘’Come unto

me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’’

(Matthew 11:28), and it is the Father’s will that whoever believes in

Christ shall have eternal life. (John 6:40)

 

This truth that the promises of the Gospel concern all men,

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 179

“we must therefore always hold to rigidly and firmly.’’ Furthermore,

we must strongly hold fast the truth that God’s call is no delusion,

as if He called only some with an effective call, while others are

only apparently called. No, according to Scripture, God’s call is an

earnest and holy call, and “in those whom He thus calls He will be

efficaciously active through the Word so that they may be illuminated,

converted, and saved. For the Word through which we are called is

a ministry of the Spirit—‘which gives the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:8)

and a ‘power of God’ to save. (Romans 1:16) And because the Holy

Spirit wills to be efficacious through the Word, to strengthen us, and

to give us power and ability, it is God’s will that we should accept

the Word, believe and obey it.’’ (ibid, page 621. 29)

 

If the promises were not universal; if we did not have the Word

of God for it that God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto

the knowledge of the truth’’ (1 Timothy 2:4): if we did not know that

the call of God is an earnest, effective and true call—then we would

have no foundation whatever on which to stand, and we could not

speak of any certainty of faith concerning our salvation. The thought

that there is an election of grace, and that many are called, but few

chosen, would then be a terrible doctrine which must lead either to

arrogance or despair; for what assurance would I then have that all

those promises concerned me? None at all. Now, however, since we

fi nd it taught so plainly and incontestably in the Word of God that

God does not desire the death of any sinner, but that He invites all

to come unto Him, that Christ will gather all under His wings; yea,

that God is angry when we do not come (Luke 14:21), while there is

joy in heaven over every sinner who repents, we have a foundation

which cannot be moved.

 

We could, of all men, least tolerate it that anyone deny the

universality of grace—we, who have acknowledged that we ourselves

can do nothing at all for our salvation, so that we can hope to be saved

only because our salvation is from the very fi rst to the very last an

altogether free and unmerited gift of God’s pure grace. Anyone who

thinks he can himself assist in the matter, even though ever so little,

by his acceptance of grace, or by his non-resistance and so forth—by

being in one way or another not quite as great a sinner as others, may

still suppose that he has some ground for hope, since he still has a little

 

180 LSQ 43:2 & 3

something of his own to hope in; but one who has acknowledged with

Paul (not just said) that he is the chief of sinners, must despair if the

radiant glory of the Gospel is not for everyone, does not drive away

the darkness and draw and call him onward on the way to God.

There is, therefore, no greater injustice than to maintain that

we violate the universality of grace. That would be to close the door

on ourselves; for there is no other reason than the universality of

grace for our daring to count ourselves among the children of God.

But God be praised, we now have a foundation which cannot be

moved. What proof do we have that it cannot be moved? That we

are completely helpless and that therefore we can only look to God

for salvation, and that we have His unfailing Word and promise as to

our salvation. This foundation cannot be moved; it is called Christ,

for us and in us and with us and over us, our alpha and omega, the

beginning and the end.

 

Again: if we ourselves could help a little, choose the good,

accommodate ourselves to God, and so forth, and, accordingly, to

that extent would have to see that we did our part, and therefore

hope that we did what was ours to do (while God did His), our hope

would indeed be according to the foundation on which it was built,

unstable, uncertain, wavering. No wonder, therefore, that anyone

who has not fully surrendered himself vacillates between hope and

fear as to his salvation, yea—and consequently maintains that it is

right to waver like that.

 

On the other hand, anyone who sees that he has no prospect

of helping himself (alas, a slow and difficult lesson for us to learn)—

anyone who finds all avenues closed, with no way open for him, asks:

What will God do with me? And then God gives him the answer in

the Gospel.

 

But when the creative and regenerative power of the Gospel

has overcome the resistance of our natural heart, and when the scales

have fallen from our eyes, so that by the light of the Gospel we

acknowledge God’s glory in the countenance of Christ Jesus; when

we then sigh amid the tribulations of this world and are worried about

ourselves; when we think with anxiety about how many of the called

have either despised the call or believed only for a time and then fallen

away: and when we acknowledge our own inability to keep ourselves

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 181

in the faith unto the end, and think of the danger to which we are

therefore exposed—then it is that the comforting significance of a

gracious election comes to our rescue and is acknowledged by us.

As Luther says: “Be first of all concerned about Christ and

His Gospel, in order that you may acknowledge your sin and His

grace and thereafter strive against sin, as Paul teaches from the fi rst

to the eighth chapter in the Epistle to the Romans; thereafter, when

in the 8th chapter you become vexed under the cross and suffering,

the 9th, 10th and 11th chapters will teach you how comforting God’s

predestination is.” The Election of Grace does, indeed, teach us that

when someone is saved, it is not because he himself was so pious that

he wanted to come to God, but because God, of His grace, for Christ’s

sake, has determined to lead him through all the dangers unto eternal

joy. All that God does in time, He has determined to do from eternity;

for there is no change with God, nor shadow of turning, and there is

no past or present for God, but everything is eternally present.

Therefore, our Church confesses: “God’s eternal election,

however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect,

but by God’s gracious will and pleasure in Christ Jesus it is also a

cause which creates, effects, helps, and furthers our salvation and

whatever pertains to it. Our salvation is based on it in such a way that

‘the gates of Hades’ are not able to do anything against it.’’ (Matthew

16:18) (The Book of Concord, Tappert edition, page 617, 8).

 

For when we—instead of wanting to brood over those things

in the election of grace which are hidden—are willing, as shown

above, to adhere to that which is revealed, namely, to the ground for

election and grace, on which He carries it out here in time, then “it

is indeed a useful, salutary, and comforting doctrine, for it mightily

substantiates the article that we are justified and saved without our

works and merit, purely by grace and solely for Christ’s sake. Before

the creation of time, ‘before the foundation of the world was laid’

(Ephesians 1:4), before we even existed, before we were able to have

done any good, God elected us to salvation ‘according to his purpose’

by grace in Christ. (Romans 9:11; 2 Timothy 1:9) This also completely

refutes all false opinions and erroneous doctrines about the powers of

our natural will, for in His counsel God has determined and decreed

before the world began that by the power of His Holy Spirit through

 

182 LSQ 43:2 & 3

the Word He would create and effect in us everything that belongs

to our conversion.” (ibid, page 623, 43, 44)

 

“This doctrine also affords the beautiful and glorious comfort

that God was so deeply concerned about every individual Christian’s

conversion, righteousness, and salvation and so faithfully minded

about it that ‘even before the foundation of the world was laid’ He

held counsel and ordained ‘according to His purpose’ how He would

bring me thereto and keep me therein. Furthermore, God wanted to

insure my salvation so firmly and certainly—for due to the weakness

and wickedness of our flesh it could easily slip from our fingers,

and through the deceit and power of the devil and the world it could

easily be snatched and taken from our hands—that He ordained my

salvation in His eternal purpose, which cannot fail or be overthrown,

and put it for safekeeping into the almighty hand of our Savior, Jesus

Christ, out of which no one can pluck us. (John 10:28) For this reason,

too, Paul asks, Since we are called according to the purpose of God,

‘who will separate us from the love of God in Christ?’” (Romans 8:

35) (ibid, page 624, 45-47)

 

Here the objection will be raised: I can understand that this

doctrine would be comforting if just one thing were added: whether

I am really one of those who are chosen. But where is that written?

How may I know whether I am one of the elect?

 

Answer: You are not to know or want to know in the ordinary

sense of the word. You are to believe it, and do so on the basis of the

promises God has given you. (It would be profitable to look more

closely at these promises, of which I have gathered a considerable

number in the fi rst part of this article.) If a man will not believe these

promises, nothing can help him. Isn’t it enough that God promises

a man everything that he needs? Whoever wants to have more must

find it himself.

 

According to the Word of God, as our confessional writings

also testify, the whole matter comes down to this: We ourselves can do

nothing toward our salvation. God says that He will do everything for

the elect. The Word of God also says that He wants to do everything

for everyone. It follows that all should believe that they are chosen.7

But the greater number will not. For that reason they are rejected. God

has not formed them vessels of wrath. They have done so themselves,

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 183

because they put the Word of God away from themselves. If we are

not willing to believe that God will do everything for us, we cannot

be helped. But if we give God all the glory and believe that He will

do everything for us, we also believe that He has determined this

from eternity and has thus chosen us unto eternal life.8

 

In a very clear way, indeed, does the Formula of Concord

conclude from the call the certainty of election. From that, or from

the fact that we are called, it would have us conclude in faith that

we are chosen.

 

God has called us with an holy calling to His eternal glory in

Christ Jesus. He is truthful and does not lie. He knows what is required

for us to follow this call, and He knows that we cannot follow it

ourselves. Since He would have us follow it, however, it is clear that

He will also give us the ability to follow it, and to remain in it unto

the end; for He “hath called us with an holy calling, not according to

our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was

given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Timothy 1:9)

 

Furthermore, in Holy Baptism, God has sealed His call to

us and consecrated us unto participation in Christ and thereby to be

“heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’’ If it seems to us that it

is a long time since we were baptized, to God it is as though it had

occurred today, and we are to comfort ourselves each day with this

inviolable testimony of God’s will toward us.

 

And again: our Lord Jesus Christ has Himself come to us

personally and has imparted Himself to us in the most Holy Supper.

Is it possible that we could receive any greater and more glorious

assurance that He would have us believe that we are His, members

of His body, and are chosen unto eternal life?

 

And lastly, the promise of prayer;—is not heaven opened for

us by it, as Paul says, citing the words of the prophet Joel: “Whosoever

shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved?’’ (Romans 10:13;

Joel 3:5) Commenting on this passage in Joel, Luther says, (after he

has shown how we obtain salvation through the free mercy of God,

who loved us while we were yet enemies): “As we learn, we have

our riches only in God’s Word. We do not have more from God until

we die; then we shall see Him face to face. We are to note especially

the unconditioned words: ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the

 

184 LSQ 43:2 & 3

Lord’; because He excludes no one from salvation, which He readily

and freely promises those who call upon Him.

 

“It is well to know this, because of the dangerous thoughts

concerning election, which the heart imagines without the Word

of God, yes, contrary to the very Word; for, in the first place, the

Word and mercy of God are offered to everyone in general, in this

and similar passages. In the next place, the servants of the Word of

God have received the command to remit the sins of the individual.

We should be content with this divine ordinance and believe that

since God sends us His Word we are those who are elected. Lastly,

we should also, wholly in keeping with this promise, call upon the

Lord and be certain of our salvation, which He so plainly promises.”

(Luther’s Sämmtliche Schriften, St. Louis-Walch edition, volume

VI, 1436)

 

Because it is God who calls us; because we are called in one

hope of our calling, namely, in hope of eternal life, which God, who

cannot lie, has promised from eternity, but now revealed in His Word

(Ephesians 4:4; Titus 1:2); therefore, we can and ought to have the

certainty of faith of our salvation and election. But it is also true, as

Dr. Rudelbach says, only those who have acknowledged that they are

called with an eternal, holy calling, only they can believe the Word of

revelation, that they are chosen from eternity, before the foundation

of the world was laid. (Ephesians 1:4) (Church Postil, 1,150)

 

God has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake

us—Christ has promised that no one shall pluck us from His hand,

and we should not want to believe! Christ wishes that we shall comfort

ourselves with this, that all the hairs of our head are numbered; how

much more does He desire that we shall comfort ourselves in the

certainty of faith, that He has determined to preserve our soul. Praised

be His Holy Name!

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 185

Endnotes

1 Hans Adolf Brorson (1694-1764). Danish hymnwriter.

2 Thomas Kingo (1634-1703), Danish hymnwriter.

3 Peder Palladius (1503-1560), Danish hymnwriter; Magnus Bostrup

Landstad (1802-1879), Norwegian hymnwriter.

4 Dr. Koren’s note: This objection (like the others raised against this

doctrine), plainly militates against the First Commandment, which

demands that we should trust in God alone.

5 Dr. Koren’s note: It is, as stated above, my conviction that the

deduction is not even correct according to reason: fi rst of all, because

certainty of faith is not absolute; furthermore, because the Christian

is seen in two different aspects, as the new man and as the old Adam;

and, finally, because the realization of what faith anticipates takes

place in the future and does not therefore annul present possibilities.

However, it is of less importance whether or not one understands

this. What is important is that we do not make our reason governess

of the Word of God, and do not reject a doctrine which is plainly

taught in the Word of God because we cannot make rhyme nor

 

186 LSQ 43:2 & 3

reason out of it. We know that the Word of God does not contradict

itself, even if we cannot see the agreement. It may be well here to

call Luther’s words to mind:

 

“Why does Christ refer us in various ways to the Scriptures?

In order that we may keep our Christian faith. For all our articles

of faith are very difficult and lofty, so that no man can understand

them without the grace and gift of the Holy Spirit. I testify and speak

thereabout as one who has experienced not a little thereof; and if you

also want to experience a little of it, take an article of faith, whichever

you want—Christ’s incarnation, resurrection, and so forth, and you

will not retain one of them if you try to comprehend them with your

reason. I have fared thus: when I have let the Word of God go, I have

lost Christ, God and everything. . . .Thus the heathen have made

this bold deduction: What do you mean? God, who is immortal by

nature, became man and died? There is no sense to it!—Of course

there is no sense to it. Therefore men also lose it when they think

of it without the Word, for it is too lofty. It will not permit being

contained in my head, and still less in yours.’’ (Luther’s

Sämmtliche Schriften, St. Louis-Walch edition, volume XII, 1604-

5)

6 Dr. Koren’s note: It is important to call attention to the fact that the

opposite doctrine necessarily must work a lesser or a greater degree

of slavish fear. But slavish fear is a revelation of sin in us. It belongs

to the old Adam and is wrought in it by the Law. The fear which the

Law demands is filial fear, which goes hand in hand with love and

trust and is produced by the Gospel. This shows that the opposite

doctrine confuses Law and Gospel.

 

7 Dr. Koren’s note: For those who may find these statements too brief,

or who need a more detailed presentation, I will add the following:

God has opened a way for us to eternal life and salvation through

Christ Jesus. Those who make use of this way, or who follow the call

of God and repent and believe in Christ, and thus become the children

of God, know, both from the testimony of the Word of God and of their

conscience, that they are not better than others, and have not merited

the least good thing in preference to other sinners in the world. They

know that all the prerogatives they have are due solely and alone to

the incomprehensible and unmerited grace of God. Therefore, they

 

LSQ 43:2 & 3 187

ascribe to God alone the glory for their entire salvation and for every

part of it. They ascribe to God the glory for the beginning and for

the end of their conversion and faith, yes, for every good thought

that is in their heart. When they now see that God, because He was

gracious to them, thus began the good work in them, and likewise

understand that He promises them, in His inviolable Word, that He

will perfect the good work until the day of Jesus Christ, they believe

this Word of God in all humility and therefore believe that they shall

be saved. And when they then ask, Whence comes this, and where is

the source of this glory? They find no reason whatsoever in themselves

or in their own conduct of any kind, and must also here, as the Word

of God shows, conclude and say: It comes from the mercy of God

and the most holy merit of Christ alone; it comes from the good and

perfect will of God, from Him who does everything according to

the counsel of His will. He is so gracious, that He predestinated me

“unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according

to the good pleasure of His will.” (Ephesians 1:5) Thus a Christian,

therefore, believes that he is one of the elect, and that God has done

and will still do everything for him. But now, God does indeed offer

to all men this very same grace which has been described here, and

that, not feignedly, but earnestly and truthfully. For God, in that He

would have Christ preached unto all men, thereby also promises

them everything that they need; as it is written: “He that spared not

his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with

him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Therefore, God wants

to do everything for everybody. As those who are described above,

everyone should therefore believe that they are chosen. Now it is

true, that God knew from eternity that many will, alas, not accept

His gifts, or will accept them for a time and at

last cast them away. These are not chosen; but it is their own fault,

for God called them with an earnest and powerful call, showed them

that He really wanted to do everything for them, so that they would

have full opportunity to become the children of God and continue to

be so, and hence, to believe themselves saved and among the elect;

but they would not, and thus “many are called, but few are chosen.’’

(Matthew 22:14)

 

8 Dr. Koren’s note: Luther says, “From the Word of God, a Christian

 

188 LSQ 43:2 & 3

knows and acknowledges his own unworthiness and has a true fear of

God, but he also comforts himself with the grace of God and believes

that in Christ, the Son of God, he has the forgiveness of sins and

redemption, and that he is pleasing to God and chosen unto eternal

life; that in every need, where he finds weakness and temptations,

he can fi nd refuge in God, call upon Him, expect His help and he

certain that he will be heard.’’ (Luther’s Sämmtliche Schriften, St.

Louis-Walch edition, volume XI, 1860)

Amen

Rolf D. Preus


 

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