The 5th Sunday of Pentecost
Heritage of Our Fathers #4—Election June 12, 2016
465, 431, 473(1-3) [alt. Christian Worship 538(1-3)], 54
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
It seems like some people just “have it all.”
Detroit Tigers baseball star Miguel Cabrera makes $49,423 for each at-bat—even if he strikes out. That means in every game he collects about seven times the average annual income of a Detroit family. Multiple that by 162 games each year and some would say he “has it all.”
Visiting the beach in South Haven on a summer day will give you a chance to see all sorts of large sailboats and yachts making their way through the channel to Lake Michigan and back. The people on these vessels are smiling, relaxed and carefree, sipping cold drinks on the deck. It seems like people who lead that kind of life must “have it all.”
Our own lives appear slow and dull in comparison to those who have so much more than we do, whether it be money, intelligence, popularity, or anything else. We might even think sometimes, “Why can’t I have it all?”
The astonishing truth, however, is that you do have it all. The Bible says so. Our God and Father “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (v. 3 NIV). Notice the word every. You have all the gifts from Heaven that are necessary for you—everything required for you to live through this life, rise from the dead, and experience an eternity of joy with Jesus in the new creation!
Not only the Apostle Paul, who wrote down these words, but other Christians who have gone before us have understood that we really do have every spiritual blessing in Christ. In the great confession of faith known as the Formula of Concord, the early Lutheran church fathers carefully listed these blessings, which the Bible records, and which we should hear and pay close attention to (Formula of Concord, Solid Dec., XI 15-20):
First, “The human race is truly redeemed and reconciled with God in Christ. By His faultless obedience, suffering, and death, Christ merited for us the righteousness that helps us before God and also merits eternal life.”
This is just as you have been taught—that Christ died for your sins and lived the holy life that satisfied God, earning you a place in Heaven.
Second, “Such merit and benefits of Christ are presented, offered, and distributed to us through His Word and Sacraments.”
Jesus announces that He has made up for your sin, and in the Lord’s Supper He gives you that same body and blood with which He paid the great price for your forgiveness.
Third, “By His Holy Spirit, through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered, Christ will be effective and active in us, will convert hearts to true repentance and preserve them in the true faith.”
Yes, by His powerful word He works in us to believe the unbelievable!
Fourth, “The Spirit will justify all those who in true repentance receive Christ by a true faith …”
Fifth, “He will also sanctify in love those who are justified …”
This is just as our text says “to be holy and blameless in His sight” (v.4). God’s Spirit works in us so that we turn from evil and seek after what is good.
Sixth, “He also will protect them in their great weakness against the Devil, the world, and the flesh. He will rule and lead them in His ways, raise them again when they stumble, comfort them under the cross and in temptation, and preserve them for life eternal.”
Look how your Heavenly Father has blessed you with every spiritual blessing in Christ. That is as clear as anything can be. His own Son has suffered for all your wrongdoing, Christ’s righteousness has been given to you, you have been moved to believe in what your Savior has done, and you are led in godly living until you are taken into everlasting glory. You have it all!
But our enemy, the Devil, and the evil ones who follow after him do not want us to be sure that we really have every blessing. They want us to doubt and wonder, “How do I know all this really belongs to me? How do I know God has loved me enough to make me one of His own? Is it actually true that the Almighty Maker is concerned about me and my life—me, out of billions of people on earth?”
What happens is that we find ourselves feeling small and insignificant, feeling like we are nothing. We try to do what is right and pleasing to God and we always end up ruining it in some way. The bad things we try to avoid doing repeat in our lives again and again. Our fears, our frustrations, and our mistakes all recycle themselves. Do we really “have it all”? Do we actually have every spiritual blessing? There are days when it hardly seems like it to us.
To reassure you that you “have it all,” God reveals that these blessings have been yours for a long, long time:
[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (v. 4). The key words are “He chose us…before the creation of the world.” Before the earth was formed, before Adam and Eve were made, before the fall into sin, before your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were ever born, back in the days when there was God and nothing else, He had you in mind. Already then, He began His efforts to bring you out of sin, darkness, and death. In eternity He chose you, in time He accomplished it by preaching the Word to you, showing you the cross of Christ, and persuading your heart to believe. In time to come, He will complete the work by raising you from the dead and taking you to be with Him in heaven.
He chose you in eternity. You should think of this simply as an initial stage in God’s work to save you from your sins.
We are not to use this comforting truth to blame God in any way for those who are lost. This teaching is solely for the believer’s reassurance in times of doubt and fear.
The Formula of Concord says: “This doctrine…provides the excellent, glorious consolation that God was greatly concerned about the conversion, righteousness, and salvation of every Christian. He so faithfully provided for it that even before the foundation of the world was laid, He considered it, and in His purpose ordained how He would bring me to salvation and preserve me in salvation” (Solid Dec., XI 45). You can well understand by this how much God cares about you. You have it all because He has been active from eternity to give you every spiritual blessing from the heavenly realms.
“He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (v. 5). You did not choose Him, but He chose you. He decided that He wanted you to be His. What an assurance this is when you face your moments of doubt! To be able to stand and say, “I am a poor sinner, but God wanted me to be His child.” What reassurance! And that is something every Christian can say!
God has adopted you and made you His own by grace, and if you are an adopted child, then you are an heir and you are entitled to inherit the salvation that has been prepared for you. Therefore, “He placed salvation for safekeeping in the almighty hand of our Savior Jesus Christ, from which no one can snatch us (John 10:28)” (Formula of Concord, Solid Dec., XI 46).
He also chose you “in accordance with his pleasure and will.” So do you think He will go back on this? Do you think that God is going to stop wanting you for His own when He desired you from eternity? When it was His pleasure and will to bring you into His spiritual family, will He just let you go? Surely not!
So “this doctrine provides glorious consolation under the cross and amid temptations. In other words, God in His counsel, before the time of the world, determined and decreed that He would assist us in all distresses. He determined to grant patience, give consolation, nourish and encourage hope, and produce an outcome for us that would contribute to our salvation” (Formula of Concord, Solid Dec., XI 48).
You have it all, and that is no accident. It is the work of God, not your work or that of any other man. God alone saves.
This teaching of Divine Election, God’s choosing you to be His own, “establishes very effectively the article that we are justified and saved without any works or merits of ours, purely out of grace alone, for Christ’s sake. Before the time of the world, before we existed…when, of course, we could do nothing good—we were chosen by grace in Christ to salvation, according to God’s purpose” (Formula of Concord, Solid Dec., XI 43).
When you begin to despair, when you feel that perhaps you don’t really belong to God because your sins have overwhelmed you, when the sorrows and pains of this world have brought you down, then know this: “If, by the grace of God, you believe the Gospel of the forgiveness of your sins for Christ’s sake, you are to be certain that you also belong to the number of God’s elect” (Brief Statement, 40).
The bottom line is that God wants you to be sure that you are one of His. He wants you to be certain that you “have it all,” and that is why He says, “I chose you before the world began.” God tells you this so that there can be no doubt, and so you can know that the Devil and all His evil angels are not, and never will be, strong enough to tear your crown of life away from you. Amen.
First, the distinction between God’s eternal foreknowledge and the eternal election of His children to eternal salvation is to be made carefully. Foreknowledge or prevision means that God sees and knows everything before it happens. This is called God’s foreknowledge, which extends over all creatures, good and bad…God’s eternal election, or predestination, means God’s preordaining to salvation. It does not include both the godly and the wicked, but only God’s children, who were elected and ordained to eternal life before the world’s foundation was laid. As St. Paul says in Ephesians 1:4-5, “He chose us in Him…He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ.”…God’s eternal election does not just foresee and foreknow the salvation of the elect. From God’s gracious will and pleasure in Christ Jesus, election is a cause that gains, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what belongs to it. Our salvation is so founded on it that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18), as is written in John 10:28, “no one will snatch [My sheep] out of My hand.” And again, “and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).
Formula of Concord, Article XI
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