This is a continuation of the translation by Nikolaus Selnecker that appeared in Issue #3 and in Issue #4. To the glory of him who loved us from eternity and predestined us out of his infinite mercy to be with him forever. Amen.
What opposes the tests of predestination?
First it must be known that the dangerous thoughts concerning the hidden predestination are the traps and insults of the devil leading us away from the revealed will of God to the rashness of asking other things, about which it is written, “A searcher of grandeur is crushed by glory.”
Secondly, just as Eve was seduced, so everyone is seduced, who listens to the devil in this doctrine. They either rush into the contempt of God and his Word or into despair, as our examples still testify forever. For as in 1548, Franciscus Spira1 despaired. In 1562, as the rector of a certain school, after he introduced Calvin’s idea of predestination and from there, he gathered various ideas (which the devil had increased with manifold suggestion). Hanging himself on July 22, he left this letter, “The sin of the Holy Spirit is that man plays with God by sinning, and thus from that, the thought of the divine law is constricted, so that where it escapes, he does not know, but he himself pronounces himself guilty of eternal damnation, which now happens to my miserable self, so that having been given over to eternal damnations, I am thrown down to the endless hell. By an outward holiness, we are not able to deceive God. It would have been better that I, the worst of all, was never born. There is a fixed number of the saved. This is from me: but what is that to me? This ought to have happened in this way necessarily. I am one of the condemned and I am able to never be ascribed to God, being condemned from the beginning. Therefore I wade eternally, a shame of [my] fatherland, a picture and vessel formed in shame. Every sin’s weight and the devil’s horror have attacked me. I go down to the infernal pit. I commend you to God, whose mercy is denied to me. Moreover the cause for this is more hidden than human reason is able to perceive, just as I have said in book I. C. etc. The most wretched am I,” he wrote.
Thirdly, it is certain that God teaches nothing so that we would become worried and anxious about our election, but he wants only that we are listeners of him, according to this, “I am your Lord God.” Sirach 3 [:22], “Higher are not the things which you do, but what God teaches to you, pay attention to these.” And the Father sends us off to the Son, “Listen to him!”2
Fourthly, “The mind and heart of man ought not fashion a foot in speculation or doubtful disputations, but in the expressed words and commands of God,” Isaiah 8.3
Fifthly, the greatest command of God is that we listen to the Son, in whom, as in a mirror, we behold the immense love of God towards us.
Our Luther says, “Staupitz used to comfort me when I labored in that trial of desperation with these words, ‘Look to the wounds of Christ and the blood shed for you; from these, predestination will shine. Therefore the Son of God must be heard, who was made incarnate, and therefore he appeared in order to break this work of the devil and make you certain of predestination. And therefore he said to you, “You are my sheep, because you listen to my voice; no one takes them from my hands.” ’ ”
Many people, who do not fight against this trial in the same way, fall headlong into ruin. Behold the boy Jesus, hear, take joy in him, and give thanks. If you have this, then you still have the hidden God together with the revealed. And he is only the way, the truth, and the life, outside of which you come upon nothing except ruin and death.
When the devil attacks you with these thoughts or doubts concerning predestination, only say, “I believe in the Lord our Jesus Christ, about whom there is no doubt for me, but indeed he was incarnate, suffered, died for me, in whose death I am baptized.” The trial vanishes with this response and Satan is turned back. Therefore you will be able to drive back Satan from you with very few words, “Go back Satan! The Son of God came into this world, was incarnate, redeemed me, sits at the right hand of the Father, and is my Savior etc.”
Did Christ satisfy for the sins of all people sufficiently and efficaciously?
Because it pertains to the plan and grace of God and the merit of the Son, redemption happened sufficiently, not as far as words, but efficaciously for every sin of every person universally. And the reasons are clear and steadfast.
First: For that reason, Christ was sent from the Father into the world, not to save a portion of some certain people, but to redeem and save the entire human race, just as it is written, “He himself is the forgiveness for our sins, not only for our sins though, but also for the entire world’s.”4 And, “Our Savior God wants all people to be saved.”[^5 ]
Second: Christ is more powerful than the earthly Adam, for he is God and man. Moreover Adam threw all people into death. Therefore Christ is much more able to restore the entire human race to life, who is life itself, Rom. 5.
Third: The testimony of the entire Scripture, John 1 [:14], “He bore the sins of the world.” John 3 [:17], “God sent his Son into the world, not to judge the world, but the world is saved through him.” John 4 [:42], “The Savior of the world.” John 12 [:47], “I did not come to judge the world, but to rescue the world.” 1 John 2 [:2], “Christ is the forgiveness of the sins for the entire world.” Isaiah 56 [:3], “Let no son of a foreigner, clinging to the Lord, say, ‘The Lord, by a separation, divides me from his people,’ and let no eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dried tree.’ Because the Lord says this, ‘Whoever would have kept my covenant, he will be delighted etc.’ ” Acts 10 [:35], “In every hnation.”
The fourth reason is the office of Christ who wants to save the entire human race, and every single person. Therefore Jesus means not only for some people, but for the entire human race; likewise Immanuel, Lord, brother and Savior of all people. Not only a shepherd who cherishes fruitful and strong sheep, but also who seeks the lost [sheep], leading back the wandering, bandaging and healing the wounded, making the sick well, and calling to all who are labored and burdened by the weight of sins and concerns about predestination and his own unworthiness. For with this, he wants to show the certitude of predestination kept in himself, to show the heart of the Father, and to restore to us the certainty of salvation, as the Word and mind of the great and secret plans of God, also the Chancellor and Evangelist, by all means also the covenant of the human race or bride, embracing the entire human race with a marital faithfulness.
The fifth reason is the invitation and calling of every person to the knowledge of the Gospel’s truth. Mark 16 [:15], “Going into the entire world, preach the Gospel to every creature.” For the voice of God is heard in the virtue and majesty everywhere on the earth, to which everyone of every people and nation ought to attend and obey; because it happens by the fault of men despising that voice, that it would immediately be spread from people to people, as though the heavenly doctrine’s purity flees and ungrateful ones neglect [it], and he punishes with blindness and lack of the Word. Just as also a faithful and pious physician offers and promises his faithful to all the sick, and heals everyone who follows his plan, and by the potion, which he himself ordered, whether using sweetness or bitterness; however, if they reject and despise every plan, [the physician] leaves them in their own death, not by his fault, but by the fault of the sick ones.
The sixth reason is the universal promise. For the immovable rule stands firm: just as the threats are universal and pertain to every single person, who violates God’s Word and will, so also the promises are universal and pertain to every single person, who recognizes Christ the physician, and embraces him by faith. And just as the threats are not restrained, so neither are the promises of grace restrained, they are naturally bound to the ones who believe by the Word according to the order established by God, which Christ expressed, saying, “Come to me all of you.”5 And Acts 10 [:43], “To him all the prophets bear testimony, that everyone, who believes in him, receives the remission of the sins through his name.” Romans 3 [:22], “The righteousness of God through faith of Christ in and above everyone.”
Indeed to us by result and experience, the promise of grace seems restricted to the assembly of the called, who are the church, i.e. the calling, as though a particular selection from the universal multitude of people; but this itself does not happen by the absolute decree of God, but by the fault of men, and yet it still happens. For what belongs to the plan of God, that he sets up no one for ruin, just as he wants no one to perish, although he is able to condemn the entire human race on account of sin. Therefore after the fall of man, he planned the universal promise which pertains to everyone; the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head. He separates Cain with his offspring from this promise, thus there is a separation and two churches occur, one is God’s and the other is Satan’s. Nevertheless many were converted in every age, and since they joined with the true Church of God (which God miraculously rules and preserves) in which and through which he wanted the universal promise to resound and be applied, so that it may be heard by all people.
Just as the divine law is universal and pertains to all people, plainly, “Cursed is everyone, who does not remain in everything, which is written in the book of the Law,”6 so also the thought of the Gospel is universal, indeed more universal and efficacious and pertains to all people, plainly, “Everyone, who believes in the Son, he has eternal life.”7 Moreover just as no one is excluded from the universal law, unless he flees to the mediator, the Son; so also no one is excluded from the universal promise of the Gospel, unless he does not flee to the Son. And just as the universal law seems in a certain way to be made particular, therefore every believer in the Son would be exempt from that and that happens by the grace and goodness of God alone; so also the universal promise of grace seems to be made particular, therefore every unbelieving and impenitent person would be exempt from that. This is by the fault and sin of men, and by the just judgment of God condemning everyone who does not make much of the Son, since there are a great number of them; this world reckons itself because it operates by the suggestions of the devil. Therefore as the sermon and promise of grace is universal, “Whoever believes in the Son, he has eternal life,”8 so also is this adversity universal and the sermon is expressed through the antithesis and consequence [of that], “Who does not believe in the Son, the wrath of God remains above him and already he is judged.”[^10 ]
The seventh reason is the word of the Gospel is announced in the Church to the pious and impious, i.e. to everybody without distinction. In the Lord’s Supper also the body and the blood of Christ is given to the worthy, unworthy, the pious, impious believers, and hypocrites. For the body of Christ was given for all people, and the blood of Christ was shed for everyone. And it is said, “He consumes the practice, a thousand consume [the practice], as much as they [eat], so much he [eats], and the eating is not consumed.” “The good and bad people consume, nevertheless with an unequal power to life or death, death is for the bad, life for the good.” Look at how unequal the outcome of a partial consumption is.
The eighth reason is the universal resurrection of the dead as accomplished and done by Christ, 1 Cor. 15. And this reason is an absolutely unchanging demonstration showing that the merit of Christ pertains to all, and is universally effective. One efficacy is to the life and salvation of all believers; the other through antithesis certainly to death and condemnation of everyone who greatly despises the work and merit of Christ, or is impenitent. From that, Paul 2 Cor. 2 [:16] calls himself and the ministry of the Gospel “the smell of death into death, and for the pious, the smell of life into life.” For Christ is always efficacious, whether for the life of the believers by grace, or for judgment according to the decree, “Who does not believe, already he is judged.”9 And when Christ says that he has not come to judge the world, he evidently shows that his wish is not that anyone perishes, but that people are judged and condemned by their own fault, and indeed not by simply original sin (which Christ is able and wants to heal) but by the sin of unbelief because, he says, “They do not believe in me.”10 Because Christ wants everyone saved, the efficacy of the same resurrection is testified, this makes every single person raised from the dead. For the resurrection of the body of Christ effects the resurrection of our bodies and renders it certain. Moreover Christ rose for our righteousness. They obtain this, whoever is guarded by faith in Christ, in which they are destined, even those ones will be resurrected, although they do not have that righteousness, which is the fruit of Christ’s resurrection; the unrighteous are resurrected for the judgment of damnation by their own fault.
Is not faith a gift and work of God alone? Therefore why is it given to one, and not another?
Previously there was a response to this question. In short it is this: Faith is a work and gift of God, because it is not of our work, merit, or will that righteousness and salvation come, but it is the grace of God alone, the action, efficacy and merit of Christ. However faith is not given directly but through the Word and use of the sacraments according to the instituted order of God. But faith is not given to non-listeners of the Word, hypocrites, the self-secure, impenitent, ones contemptuous of the ministry, Epicureans, enemies of the Word, or persecutors of the light and cross.
This is a great comfort for the pious and a confirmation about salvation, because they know faith, righteousness, life, and salvation does not depend on nature, reason, flesh, assent, will, work, their own merit, or by another creature’s, but is the work and gift of the omnipotent God. Therefore they are certain about the promise, life, and salvation. They always ponder the sweetest words, “It is not the will of the Father that one of his little ones shall perish.”11
If faith is a work of God, how is man able to be certain that he has faith?
The will, imagination, speculation, persuasion, opinion, and presumption of man have no place here. But the Word of the Gospel must be heard because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. This Word is applied to us by faith. There we must examine our hearts whether we willingly want to believe in the Word and apply it to ourselves if we are able in any way. If the heart responds and sighs that it very willingly wants to believe, but is not able by its own power, you are already saved. Therefore immediately with the Holy Spirit as leader and doctor, these things come to mind:
And these are the infallible proofs of true faith, to which approaches the hatred of evident errors, blasphemies, scandals, sins, and impious talk. For who are studious for the true faith, they are not able to bear the opposite and contrary to that faith, but they contradict the errors, avoid the impious talk, and do not endure the insults and shames afflicted to God and the harmed certainty of faith. The example in this proof is if someone would say that God prohibits sin and nevertheless has wanted the sin of the first parents and still wants sins, and orders them in this way. That blasphemes God and fashions him as an unjust and cruel tyrant with contradictory wills, who forbids it and still wants it; punishes us for it although he orders and makes it happen. The pious, truly believing mind avoids and hates these and similar insults to God. Likewise, if anyone would try to render our true faith doubtful and uncertain, and disputes and asks about predestination outside of Christ, he is not to be heard by a pious mind, but is rather to be avoided and rejected.
Why does Christ say, “To you is it given to know the mystery of the kingdom, and to others in parables, so that they do not understand by listening etc.?”12
This is a two-fold saying of Christ. The first part pertains to the disciples of Christ, who do not in passing hear the words of Christ, but seek from Christ the meanings of the parables and are studious for the Word. Therefore Christ as a faithful teacher responds to this and reveals his mind and the thought of Scripture, just as the heart of the purple-dyer Lydia was opened (so that she regards what was spoken by Paul.)
The second part speaks about the sluggish listeners, not searchers of the Scriptures, not asking, not calling upon Christ, not seeking the Holy Spirit, not studious for the truth, but neglecting and despising that which is spoken. Therefore the punishment of neglect and sloth is the uncultivation and ignorance of the heavenly mysteries.
The entire sermon of Christ, Matthew 13, is about the hardening and blinding of the listeners who do not embrace the doctrine of the Evangelist, but are deaf, i.e. not receiving, not considering, much less knowing theses things which Christ says. Therefore he says to the disciples, “to you, who hear my word, and want to complete it by me teaching it, the knowledge of the Gospel is given not known by nature, reason, or raised from human philosophy, but only revealed through me from the hidden Father. However it is not given to the despisers of my doctrine, the Pharisees, worldly wise, self-secure or hypocrites. Therefore whoever has, i.e. hears, loves, thinks about, considers, and retains my Word, to him it is given, and it will abound, i.e., immediately a better light and faith of the knowledge of God will increase and grow in him. However who does not have, i.e. who is not held by love and the zeal of hearing and considering what I say, still what he has or what he thinks he has will be removed from him.” Therefore he who was destined to the true faith from the beginning, but despises it, that one is forsaken by God, and thus is punished by blindness and is more inferior, that is by his own fault according to Isaiah 6.
Therefore the doctrine [of predestination] is not the cause of blindness through us and by our nature, just as the sun is not the cause that the eyes of the dimwitted are made more dull who turn toward the sun. Moreover these are the words of Isaiah, “Hear by listening, and you will not understand and see by seeing, and you will not know; how calloused is the heart of his people, and how heavy are their ears, and their eyes which are covered with mud, lest by chance he would see with his eyes, and hear with his ears, and know with his heart, and be converted, and I would heal him.”13 These are the words simply told by Vitus Theodorus, a man of holy memory, “this command is hard to be accepted as if God would envy the salvation of the Jews, and nevertheless Christ himself, John and the Apostles announced to the Jews the Gospel for many years to this end that they believe and are saved. And Scripture clearly testifies that God wants all people saved and thus he loved the world so that he sent to it the Son, in whom it would believe and be saved.” And the devil interjects himself here, stirring up and driving the hearts against the Word and they are destroyed, and obey him, just as Eve in Eden. Therefore the more that men despise the Word, do not want to receive nor embrace it by faith, they throw themselves willingly into darkness and are turned from the light. Necessarily, they are hardened and blinded not by God but by their own evil will, and by the devil.
Moreover because God leaves a place for this punishment, and he does not want to drag and compel men by force, therefore Scripture speaks as though God hardens those, nevertheless God does nothing more that leaves them in the blindness according to the desire of their heart and allows them to be carried away by their free will. It must happen here that immediately they are rendered blind, uncertain, worse and more unconsecrated as the examples of the Jews and Catholics testify. These words, “Lest by chance they would see, be converted and healed,” are not understood, as though God rejects the penitent and does not want to receive them into grace, but these are the words of the God, who is full of wrath, and the punishments are given to the evil person, just as also a father by just causes disinherits his stubborn and unworthy offspring and says, “I hate him and thus I separate him from me, so that he would not dare to return to me and have any hope of reconciliation and heredity, since there is no hope for his conversion.”
Why does Christ say, “Many are called, but few are elected”?14
This is not a contradiction or such a thought as if God calls them, but does not want them to be in the number of the elect, but wants them damned. For God does not speak one way and think another, but he wants repentance to be reached by everyone and the remission of sinners promised universally. However that many are called and few elected, Acts 13 [:46] expounds the reason, “you repel the Word of God and make yourselves unworthy for eternal life.” Acts 7 [:51], “you always resist the Holy Spirit.”
Therefore it shows that God wants himself heard through the Word of the Son through which the Holy Spirit wants to be effective. He wants men to be bestowed by the believing and preserving of the Word. However those who do not hear nor care for the Word but despise it, make it nothing, and oppose it, they are in the number of the called, but not the elect. The cause of this decree is not divine election, (which was considered a priori, because it pertains to the absolute will and grace of God, equally universal is both the promise and calling) but the will of man is turned and perverted from God, which does not want to admit, by a determined wickedness, the working of the Holy Spirit by which he wants to be effective through the Word, but he obstinately resists and throws it out by boldly resisting. Therefore few are the elect, (just as finally and a posteriori) or by the outcome of men’s wickedness and fault. And this is the usual response to the Word of Christ. The context of the parable shows the grammatical and simple thought. Therefore it shows election as genuine, just as we say election is gold. Many are called in this vineyard, but few are elected, sincere and faithful, few labor faithfully. This is the simplest and true meaning.
Note: At this point, the translator has taken the liberty of removing a potentially confusing section of this translation. Selnecker began to consider the doctrine of election outside its normal and saving context.
What use is the doctrine of predestination?
Henry Scrimger (c. 16th century) had an opportunity of seeing the notorious apostate Francis Spira, about whose extraordinary case he wrote a narrative, which was published along with an account of the same case by Petrus Paulus Virgerus, Mattheus Gribaldus, and Sigismundus Gelous. He wrote, “The history of Franciscus Spira, who fell into a dreadful state of despair because, having once assumed a profession of evangelical truth, he had afterwards recanted and condemned the same, most faithfully written by four most excellent men, together with prefaces by these illustrious men Caelius S.C. and John Calvin, and an apology by Petrus Paulus Virgerus, in all which, many subjects worthy of examination in these times are most gravely handled. To which is added the judgment of Martinus Borrhaus on the improvement which may be made of Spira’s example and doctrine, 2 Pet. 2. It had been better for them not to have known the way of life.” ↩
Matthew 17:5 ↩
This reference to Isaiah 8 appears to be wrong. ↩
1 John 2:2 ↩
Matthew 11:28 ↩
Galatians 3:10 ↩
John 3:16b ↩
John 12:47 ↩
Matthew 18:14 ↩
Luke 18:10 ↩
Isaiah 6: 9,10 ↩
Matthew 22:14 ↩
Nikolaus Selnecker provides a thorough systematic treatment of the Christian doctrine of predestination.
Aug 4, 2006