Friday, January 29, 2016

God's Election

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
 27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel [3] be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” (Romans 9:19-29 (ESV)
“You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
Born this way. It’s become a popular defense for the gay agenda. Christians remain unimpressed. Certainly, we can sympathize with the struggle against sin, but we don’t want to live in a world where sin is excused with a shrug of the shoulders and an accusation against God saying “Why have you made me like this?” We know we were all born sinful, that we all have to curb sinful desires. We also know God did not create us to be sinners, but sin has infected us to the very core of our being. We know our flesh is weak, and after much struggling with sin, the predestination of God becomes a great source of comfort.
It’s a source of comfort, but often it is taught in such a way that it becomes a source of terror, what Luther called anfechtung. When God’s predestination is divorced from the work of the church, from the operation of the Holy Spirit in and through his means of Grace, the proclamation of the gospel and the sacraments, from the cross of Christ, then the whole thing comes undone. Then predestination becomes a source of terror even for the Christian who has been baptized. The question becomes, did God predestine me?
This was, in fact, the problem Luther had. Ironically, it was a doctrine of predestination that drove him to despair. He saw God as an angry and capricious God who had before time began determined who was going to heaven and who was going to hell, and all the good works, all the “works righteousness” in the system were meant to convince a person that he was indeed one of the elect. All of this is expertly handled in “Luther Discovers the Gospel” by Uuras Saarnivaara. So it is ironic that Luther is often lumped with Calvin for this doctrine of predestination. It was actually the same doctrine of predestination that Calvin would later teach, that Luther found to be wrong in his study of scripture.
The main breakthrough that Luther had, and which is further reflected in the confessions was that God’s foreknowledge has to be separated from God’s will. That God knows something will happen cannot be equated with his will, or confused with his desire. Of Course God knows that many will reject his will and desire for their life. He desires all men to be saved. He allows this to happen for reasons we perhaps don’t understand. But neither can we as men, as creature and benefactors of his benevolence ever question God, debate him, or criticize him. We are not his equal. As Bo Giertz says in his commentary on this passage, “If we begin to criticize God’s dealings, then God is no longer our God.” And us Lutheran’s would also point out, this means we can’t tell him he doesn’t mean what he says when he says he desires all men to be saved. It is not for us to question his will to forgive sins through the mouths of fellow sinners, or to use baptism as an act of election, and the Lord’s Supper as a means of sanctification. God is operative working his eternal election here in time and through his gospel. It is for this work that he established the church and instituted his office of holy ministry.  
So we take comfort in his election through which he only works salvation. And if we object to the loss of so many to the eternal abyss, then we know our objection is nothing compared with the objection of our God who sent his only begotten son into this world to save them with his death and resurrection that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.

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