The Call of the Gospel

Paul E. Kretzmann

Despair or pride

“From the verse: Many are called, but few are chosen, many meddlesome heads draw various thoughts that are neither fitting nor divine, following this line of thought: He whom God has chosen will be saved without means; and again, he whom He has not chosen may do whatever he will, be as pious and believing as he will, still it is ordained unto him that he must fall and cannot be saved; therefore I shall let it go as it will. If I should be saved, it will be without my interference; if not, all that I do and attempt is futile. What manner of untoward, secure people grow out of such impious thoughts every one can figure out for himself. Now, on the day of the Magi [Epiphany], when we spoke of the verse of the Prophet Micah, it was sufficiently shown that such thoughts are to be shunned as the devil himself, and a different form to study and think about God’s will be chosen; that is, we should not bother God in His glory and in His election (Versehung), for there He is incomprehensible. And it is impossible that a person should not be offended by such thoughts, and either fall into despair, or else become absolutely godless and bold.”

The person and works of Christ are a holy mystery

“But whosoever wants to know God and His will correctly, should go the right way, by which he will not be offended, but improved. The right way is Christ the Lord, when He says: ‘No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.’ Whoever, then, wants to know the Father correctly and come to Him, let him come to Christ first, and learn to know Him, namely, thus: Christ is the Son of God and almighty, eternal God. But what does the Son of God do? He becomes man for our sake, He becomes subject to the Law, in order to redeem us from the Law, He permits Himself to be crucified and dies on the cross, in order to pay for our sins; and He arises from the dead, in order to make, by His resurrection, an entrance into eternal life, and bring help against eternal death; and He sits at the right hand of God, in order to be advocate for us and to give us the Holy Ghost, by whom we may be ruled and led and kept against every temptation and suggestion of the devil. That means to know Christ rightly. When, then, this knowledge is good and firm in the heart, then begin and ascend into heaven and figure it out thus: Since the Son of God has done this for the sake of men, what follows with regard to the heart of God in its attitude toward us men, since His Son does this out of the Father’s will and command? Surely thy own reason must force thee to say: Since God has given His only-begotten Son for our sake, and for our sake has not spared Him, He surely can have no evil designs toward us. It is not His will that we should be lost, since He seeks and uses the supreme means to help us to life. In this way we may come to God in the right manner, as Christ Himself preaches, John 3:16: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Just hold these thoughts against the others that grow out of the other opinion, and ye will find that the other thoughts are those of the unpleasant devil, by which a man must become offended, and either despair or become bold and godless, since he can expect nothing good from God.”

Chosen and faithful

“Some draw other thoughts for themselves, and explain the words thus: Many are called, that is, God offers His grace to many; but few are chosen, that is, He imparts this grace to few, for only a few are saved. That is altogether a wicked understanding, for how can it be possible, if a person thinks and believes thus of God, that he will not become God’s enemy, since the absence of His will is the cause that we are not all saved? But just hold this opinion against the other which is found where people learn to know Christ the Lord first, and it will be found that such are all devilish blasphemies. Therefore there is an entirely different meaning in this verse: Many are called, etc. For the preaching of the Gospel is general and public for all that want to hear and accept it; and for that reason God has the Gospel preached so generally and publicly that every one should hear, believe, and accept it, and thus be saved. But how do things go? As it follows in the Gospel: Few are chosen, that is, few assume such an attitude toward the Gospel that God is favorably inclined toward them. For some hear it and pay no attention; others hear it and do not cling firmly to it, also do not want to make sacrifices or suffer for it; some hear it, but prefer money and goods and worldly lust. But that is not pleasing to God, and He does not want such people. That is what Christ calls ‘not being chosen,’ that is, not to behave so that God can be well pleased with them. But those are chosen people and well-pleasing to God that hear the Gospel diligently, believe in Christ, manifest their faith in good works, and suffer on that account what they must suffer.”

The life of the Christian

“This understanding is the right understanding that can offend no one, but improves the people that they think: Well and good, since I should be well-pleasing to God and chosen of Him, it will not be the proper thing for me to live with a bad conscience, to sin against God’s commandment, and not hinder sin; but I must go to the preaching of the Word, pray God for His Holy Ghost, not permit the Word to leave the heart, defend myself against the devil and his suggestions, and pray for protection, patience, and assistance; then the result is splendid Christians. On the other hand, those that believe God to grudge salvation to some people, either become desperate or secure and godless, live like the beasts and think: It is all ordained whether I shall become saved or not; why should I hurt myself? No, not thus; thou hast the command, thou shalt hear the Word of God and believe in Christ that He is thy Savior and has paid for thy sins. Remember this command, to follow it. If thou find thyself without faith, or weak, pray God for His Holy Ghost and do not doubt Christ is thy Savior, and thou shalt be saved through Him if thou believe on Him, that is, if thou take comfort in Him. May our dear Lord Jesus Christ grant this to us all! Amen.” [Luther, 13, 199-203].