First Head of Doctrine
Divine Election and Reprobation
Article 1 - All Mankind Condemnable Before God
Since all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and deserve eternal death, (Rom 5:12) God would have done no one an injustice if it had been His will to leave the whole human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn it on account of its sin, according to these words of the apostle: so that … the whole world [may be] held accountable to God. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:19, 23); and, the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).
Article 2 - The Sending of the Son of God
But in this the love of God was made manifest, (1 Jn 4:9) that He gave His one and only Son into the world that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).
Article 3 - The Preaching of the Gospel
So that men may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends heralds of this most joyful message to whom He will and when He wills. (Is 52:7) By their ministry men are called to repentance and to faith in Christ crucified. (1 Cor 1:23 – 24.) For how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent (Rom 10:14 – 15) ?
Article 4 - A Twofold Outcome
The wrath of God remains upon those who do not believe this gospel. (Jn 3:36) But those who receive it and embrace Jesus the Saviour with a true and living faith are delivered by Him from the wrath of God and from destruction, and are given eternal life. (Mk 16:16; Rom 10:9)
Article 5 - The Cause of Unbelief, the Source of Faith
The cause or guilt for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is by no means in God, but rather in man. (Heb 4:6.) Faith in Jesus Christ and salvation through Him, however, is the free gift of God, as it is written: By grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not fromyourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8). Similarly: It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ… to believe on Him (Phil 1:29)
Article 6 - God’s Eternal Decree
That God in time confers the gift of faith on some, and not on others, proceeds from His eternal decree. (Acts 13:48) For He knows all His works from eternity, (1 Pet 2:8) and He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will (Eph 1:11). According to this decree He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, no matter how hard they may be, and inclines them to believe; those not elected, however, He leaves in their own wickedness and hardness by a just judgment. And here especially is disclosed to us the profound, merciful, and at the same time just distinction between men equally worthy of condemnation, or that decree of election and reprobation which has been revealed in God’s Word. Although perverse, impure, and unstable men twist this decree to their own destruction, it provides unspeakable comfort for holy and God-fearing souls.
Article 7 - Election Defined
Election is the unchangeable purpose of God whereby, before the foundation of the world, (Eph 1:4, 11; Jn 17:2) out of the whole human race, which had fallen by its own fault out of its original integrity into sin and perdition, He has, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His will, out of mere grace, chosen in Christ to salvation a definite number of specific persons, neither better nor more worthy than others, but involved together with them in a common misery. He has also from eternity appointed Christ to be the Mediator and Head of all the elect and the foundation of salvation and thus He decreed to give to Christ those who were to be saved, and effectually to call and draw them into His communion through His Word and Spirit. He decreed to give them true faith in Him, to justify them, to sanctify them, and, after having powerfully kept them in the fellowship of His Son, (Jn 17:12) finally to glorify them, for the demonstration of His mercy and the praise of the riches of His glorious grace. (Jn 17:24; Jn 6:37, 44) As it is written: God chose us in Christ, before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will — to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves (Eph 1:4-6). And elsewhere, those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified (Rom 8:30). (Jn 17:2)
Article 8 - One Decree of Election
There are not various decrees of this election, but there is one and the same decree concerning all those that are to be saved under both the Old and the New Testament. For Scripture declares that the good pleasure, purpose, and counsel of the will of God is one. (Deut 7:7; 9:6; Eph 1:4, 5) According to this purpose He has chosen us from eternity both to grace and to glory, both to salvation and to the way of salvation, which He prepared for us that we should walk in it. (2 Eph 2:10)
Article 9 - Election Not Based on Foreseen Faith
This election is not based on foreseen faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality of disposition, as a cause or condition in man required for being chosen, but men are chosen to faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, and so on. Election, therefore, is the fountain of every saving good, from which flow faith, holiness, and other saving gifts, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects. (Rom 8:30) This the apostle teaches when he says, He chose us (not because we were, but are) to be holy and blameless in His sight (Eph 1:4).
Article 10 - Election Based on God’s Good Pleasure
The cause of this gracious election is solely the good pleasure of God. This good pleasure does not consist in this, that out of all possible conditions God chose certain qualities or actions of men as a condition for salvation, but in this, that out of the common mass of sinners He adopted certain persons to be His own possession. For it is written, Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad (Rom 9:11 – 13), and so on, she (namely, Rebecca), was told, “The older will serve the younger” (Gen 25:23). Just as it is written: “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated” (Mal 1:2, 3). And, all who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).
Article 11 - Election Unchangeable
As God Himself is most wise, unchangeable, all-knowing and almighty, so His election can neither be undone and redone, nor changed, revoked, or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, (Jn 6:37) nor their number be diminished. (Jn 10:28)
Article 12 - The Assurance of Election
The elect in due time, though in various stages and in different measure, are made certain of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation. They attain this assurance, however, not by inquisitively prying into the hidden and deep things of God, (Deut 29:29; 1 Cor 2:10-11) but by observing in themselves, (2 Cor 13:5) with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unfailing fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God – such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, (2 Cor 7:10) and a hunger and thirst for righteousness. (Mt 5:6)
Article 13 - The Value of This Assurance
The awareness and assurance of this election provide the children of God with greater reason for daily humbling themselves before God, for adoring the depth of His mercies, for cleansing themselves, (1 Jn 3:3) and for fervently loving Him in turn who first so greatly loved them. (1 Jn 4:19) It is therefore not at all true that this doctrine of election and the reflection on it makes them lax in observing the commands of God or falsely secure. In the just judgment of God, this usually happens to those who rashly presume to have the grace of election, or idly and boldly chatter about it, but refuse to walk in the ways of the elect.
Article 14 - How Election Is to Be Taught
This doctrine of divine election, according to the most wise counsel of God, was preached by the prophets, by Christ Himself, and by the apostles, under the Old as well as the New Testament, and was then committed to writing in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, also today this doctrine should be taught in the church of God, (Acts 20:27; Job 36:23-26) for which it was particularly intended, in its proper time and place, provided it be done with a spirit of discretion, in a reverent and holy manner, without inquisitively prying into the ways of the most High, to the glory of God’s most holy Name, and for the living comfort of His people. (Rom 11:33; 12:3; 1 Cor 4:6)
Article 15 - Reprobation Described
Holy Scripture illustrates and recommends to us this eternal and undeserved grace of our election, especially when it further declares that not all men are elect but that some have not been elected, or have been passed by in the eternal election of God. (Rom 9:22) Out of His most free, most just, blameless, and unchangeable good pleasure, God has decreed to leave them in the common misery into which they have by their own fault plunged themselves, (1 Pet 2:8) and not to give them saving faith and the grace of conversion. These, having been left in their own ways (Acts 14:16) and under His just judgment, God has decreed finally to condemn and punish eternally, not only on account of their unbelief but also on account of all their other sins, in order to display His justice. This is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought is blasphemous!), but rather declares Him to be its awesome, blameless, and just judge and avenger.
Article 16 - Responses to the Doctrine of Reprobation
Some do not yet clearly discern in themselves a living faith in Christ, (Jas 2:26) an assured confidence of heart, peace of conscience, a zeal for childlike obedience, and a glorying in God through Christ; (2 Cor 1:12; Rom 5:11) nevertheless, they use the means through which God has promised to work these things in us. They ought not to be alarmed when reprobation is mentioned, nor to count themselves among the reprobate. Rather, they must diligently continue in the use of these means, fervently desire a time of more abundant grace, and expect it with reverence and humility. Others seriously desire to be converted to God, to please Him only, and to be delivered from the body of death. (Phil 3:3; Rom 7:24) Yet they cannot reach that point on the way of godliness and faith which they would like. They should be even less terrified by the doctrine of reprobation, since a merciful God has promised not to snuff out the smouldering wick nor to break the bruised reed. (Is 42:3; Mt 12:20)
Still others disregard God and the Saviour Jesus Christ and have completely given themselves over to the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. (Mt 13:22) For them this doctrine of reprobation is rightly fearsome as long as they do not seriously turn to God. (Heb 12:29)
Article 17 - Children of Believers Who Die in Infancy
We must judge concerning the will of God from His Word, which declares that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they are included with their parents. (Gen 17:7; Is 59:21) Therefore, God-fearing parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in their infancy. (Acts 2:39; 1 Cor 7:14)
Article 18 - Not Protest but Adoration
To those who complain about this grace of undeserved election and the severity of righteous reprobation, (Job 40:1-5) we reply with this word of the apostle: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God (Rom 9:20) ? And with this word of our Saviour: Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? (Mt 20:15)
We, however, with reverent adoration of these mysteries, exclaim with the apostle: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen (Rom 11:33-36).
Rejection of Errors
Having explained the true doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, Synod rejects the following errors:
Error: The will of God to save those who would believe and persevere in faith and obedience is the whole and entire decree of election to salvation. Nothing else concerning this decree has been revealed in God’s Word.
Refutation: This error is deceptive and clearly contradicts Scripture, which declares not only that God will save those who believe but also that He has chosen specific persons from eternity. Within time He grants to these elect, above others, both faith in Christ and perseverance. I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world( Jn 17:6) . And all who were appointed for eternal life believed , ( Acts 13:48). For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight ( Eph 1:4).
Error: There are various kinds of divine election to eternal life. One is general and indefinite, another is particular and definite. The latter in turn is either incomplete, revocable, non-decisive, and conditional, or it is complete, irrevocable, decisive, and absolute. In the same fashion there is an election to faith and another to salvation. Therefore election can be to justifying faith, without being decisive to salvation.
Refutation: All this is an invention of the human mind without any basis in the Scriptures. The doctrine of election is thus corrupted and the golden chain of our salvation broken: And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified( Rom 8:30).
Error: The good pleasure and purpose of God of which Scripture speaks in the doctrine of election is not that He chose certain specific persons and not others, but that out of all possible conditions (such as the works of the law) He chose or selected the act of faith, which in itself is without merit, as well as the imperfect obedience of faith, to be a condition of salvation. In His grace He wished to count such faith as complete obedience and worthy of the reward of eternal life.
Refutation: This offensive error deprives God’s good pleasure and Christ’s merits of all efficacy, and draws people away from the truth of gracious justification and from the simplicity of Scripture. It contradicts the word of the apostle: God has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time( 2 Tim 1:9).
Error: Election to faith depends on the condition that man should use the light of nature properly, and that he be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life.
Refutation: If this were true, election would depend on man. This smacks of the teaching of Pelagius and is in open conflict with the teaching of the apostle, All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast( in Ephesians 2:3-9) .
Error: Incomplete and non-decisive election of specific persons to salvation took place on the ground of foreseen faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness, which either began or continued for some time. Complete and decisive election, however, occurred because of foreseen perseverance in faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness till the end. This is the gracious and evangelical worthiness because of which the person who is chosen is more worthy than the one who is not chosen. Therefore faith, obedience of faith, holiness, godliness, and perseverance are not fruits of unchangeable election to glory. Instead, they are necessary conditions and causes required and foreseen as accomplished in those who are to be fully elected.
Refutation: This error militates against all of Scripture, which constantly impresses the following upon us: Election is not by works but by Him who calls( Rom 9:11); And all who were appointed for eternal life believed ( Acts 13:48); He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight( Eph 1:4); You did not choose me, but I chose you ( Jn 15:16); And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace( Rom 11:6); This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins( 1 Jn 4:10).
Error: Not every election to salvation is unchangeable. Some of the elect can and do indeed perish everlastingly, notwithstanding any decree of God.
Refutation: This gross error makes God changeable, destroys the comfort which the believers obtain from the firmness of their election, and contradicts Holy Scripture: The elect can not be led astray ( Mt 24:24); And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given Me, but raise them up at the last day( Jn 6:39); those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified( Rom 8:30).
Error: In this life there is no fruit, consciousness, or certainty of the unchangeable election to glory, except such as is based upon a changeable and uncertain condition.
Refutation: To speak about an uncertain certainty is not only absurd but also contrary to the experience of the believers. As a result of the awareness of their election, they glory with the apostle in this favour of God. (Eph 1) With the disciples of Christ they rejoice that their names are written in heaven. (Lk 10:20) They put the consciousness of their election over against the flaming darts of the devil, when they exclaim: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen( Rom 8:33) ?
Error: God did not simply by an act of His righteous will decide to leave any person in the common state of sin and condemnation since his fall in Adam, nor did He decide to pass by any one in granting such grace as is necessary for faith and conversion.
Refutation: Scripture, however, states, God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden( Rom 9:18). It also declares, The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them( Mt 13:11) . Likewise, I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure( Mt 11:25, 26).
Error: God sends the gospel to one people rather than to another not merely and solely because of the good pleasure of His will, but because one people is better and worthier than another to which the gospel is not preached.
Refutation: Moses denies this when he addresses the people of Israel as follows: To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set His affection on your forefathers and loved them, and He chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today( Deut 10:14, 15). And Christ says , Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes( Mt 11:21).
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