Barth’s Doctrine of Grace

Here in one place is a series of articles I wrote on Barth’s doctrine of election.

Barth’s Doctrine of Grace

(Part 1)

We begin a series of articles on Barth’s doctrine of grace. Barth articulates his view in chapter 7 of his Church Dogmatics (found in the second part volume of the second volume) titled “The Election of God.” A few introductory remarks follow:

1. The word “election” in the title of this chapter summons the ghost of the doctrine of predestination for some people and frightens them straight away. This is fair enough. Barth is not afraid of the word predestination and talks of it freely. But if readers are familiar with the conservative Reformed doctrine of predestination, they will find Barth’s treatment almost unrecognizable.

2. For Barth “election” means the choice of God. God chooses to be the God of humanity and that humanity will be his people. The Father chooses his Son Jesus Christ. He chooses humanity in his Son Jesus Christ. He then chooses to create humanity so that he may be with them and they may be with him.

3. The choice of God demonstrates his initiative in creation and salvation. This is God’s grace in a nutshell. We belong to him because God first chose to belong to us.

4. Therefore, the grace of God is expressed in a relationship of belonging. It is the covenant. Grace is the Word of God which says, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” In other words, grace is Emmanuel, “God with us”, it is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

5. In his treatment of grace in the covenant Barth develops a doctrine of double predestination in which Jesus Christ is the chosen man and the rejected man. In him the old man of our sin is rejected, but the new man we become in him is chosen to be God’s man. Predestination therefore is not just the cause of salvation, it is salvation.

6. Barth develops his doctrines of grace and covenant and predestination within the second volume of his Church Dogmatics. They are part of his doctrine of God. That is, they are not a means to an end to rescue creation from the calamity of the fall. Instead they reveal who God is in himself. God creates in order to fulfil the purpose of his grace: to be the God of humanity.

(Part 2)

“Here be dragons”. This phrase refers to the practice of medieval map makers of drawing dragons and sea serpents in the uncharted areas at the edge of the map. For many people this is where the doctrine of election belongs on the theological map: on the edge, in the unexplored areas where dangerous terms like “predestination”, “reprobation” and “supralapsarian” lurk.

In his first subsection on the doctrine of election called “The Orientation of the Doctrine” Barth declares his intention to place it in a more central location on the theological map in the following ways:

1. The doctrine of election is part of Barth’s doctrine of God. In the first part volume of the second volume of the doctrine of God, Barth has described who God is in himself. He is the God who loves in perfect freedom. In this second part volume Barth describes who God is towards us. He is the God who chooses us in Christ. In this way Barth places the doctrine of election where he thinks it belongs, at the very centre of things, before his discussions on creation, reconciliation and redemption. In Barth’s view, God’s grace is not a response to our fall into sin, a plan B when plan A failed. Instead, God’s grace revealed in his election is his purpose for creating and saving us.

2. The link between who God is in himself and who he is towards us is the name Jesus Christ. We see who God is in himself most clearly in the life and works of Jesus Christ. We also see who God is towards us in the same way. Before God chose us, he chose his Son. Only subsequently has God chosen in his Son the people whom the Son represents. Because Jesus Christ is truly divine, he reveals himself as the God who has chosen to belong to us. But because he is truly human, he reveals himself as the true human being who belongs to God. This relationship of belonging is the covenant, and the covenant revealed in God’s choice of us in Christ shows that God is love and that God is free. God is towards us the same as he is in himself. The God who loves in perfect freedom.

3. That God has chosen us in Jesus Christ is the sum total of the gospel, the good news of God. It is not something to fear. It is not something to banish to the wastelands of theology or preaching. It is something to rejoice in, something to proclaim out loud. God’s election is his grace and his grace is his initiative in making the first move towards us, and not meeting us half-way as if we can co-operate him, but meeting us in his Son in our state of rebellion and sin. If God’s choice hints at a rejection that also takes place, his choice is only light, not a mix of light and dark. The doctrine of election is not a message of hope and a message of despair. It is the message of our only hope in Jesus Christ.

4. The doctrine of election reveals and affirms God’s freedom, his mystery and his righteousness. We cannot tell God what he must do. We cannot fully understand what he has done. But ultimately we must confess that all that he does is good and right. As Barth surveys the different Church fathers of the past, Augustine, Luther, Calvin among others, these are the truths that they have tried to affirm in explaining and defending the doctrine of election to more or less success. God’s freedom, his mystery, and his righteousness will then become for Barth the criteria by which he will judge and attempt to form a biblical doctrine of election in harmony with the Word of God who is Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, Barth orients the doctrine of election not in the corners of the theological map, but at its very heart, in the nature of God. The doctrine of election reveals God’s purpose in creating, reconciling and redeeming humanity. Here at the heart of the map we find no dragons, but only the compass of theology which directs all thought and speech about God, Jesus Christ.

(Part 3)

The foundation we lay for a building determines the kind of structure we build. If the foundation is made of poor materials, the building will collapse. If the foundation is too small, the building cannot be any larger. And if the foundation is not deep, the building cannot be tall.

In the second subsection of of Church Dogmatics II/2, Barth considers the proper foundation for the doctrine of election. In his discussion he considers and rejects four approaches:

1. A pre-existing theological system. Barth is critical of Lorraine Boettner’s 1932 book “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” which set out to explain and defend the Reformed teaching on election. Barth argues that a truly Reformed doctrine will be based not on an established system, but on the Scriptures.

2. The usefulness of the doctrine. Barth argues that a doctrine of election may be pastorally useful in giving comfort and assurance to believers. However, any such usefulness should be the result and not the starting place of a biblical doctrine of election.

3. Experience. Some people accept the gospel with faith and others reject it. Barth argues that a doctrine of election based on this experience is actually based on a human decision of who is chosen and who is rejected rather than on God’s decision.

4. God’s freedom to do whatever he wants. Barth argues that this is a dangerous abstraction of the character of God. God’s true freedom is not demonstrated in a potential to make this or that decision, but in his actual decisions revealed in the Scriptures.

Having rejected these approaches Barth begins to lay the foundation for his doctrine of election based on the testimony of the Scriptures which point to the Word of God. Barth argues that God is not an abstract God, a God in general, but a quite specific and particular God who reveals himself in his choices. He has chosen to be the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. God has chosen this people to be a light to the Gentiles. The history of Israel, however, illustrates a number of further choices within this people: the tribe of Judah, the line of David, the coming Messiah. And at the end of this history is not a chosen race or a chosen family, but a chosen man: Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, the son of David. Barth concludes, “If we would know what election is, what it is to be elected by God, then we must look away from all others, and excluding all side-glances or secondary thoughts we must look only upon the name of Jesus Christ.”

This then is the foundation for Barth’s doctrine of election: Jesus Christ who reveals not only the God who chooses but also the humanity which is chosen.

(Part 4)

Barth titled this seventh chapter of his Church Dogmatics “The Doctrine of Election”. But is it more a doctrine of grace than a doctrine of predestination? Those who are familiar with the orthodox formulations of Reformed theology, represented by the Westminster Confession or by the Canons of Dordt, would argue that Barth presents more a doctrine of grace. It is a grace that demonstrates the initiative of God in salvation, but it is something that falls short of what should be expected from a doctrine of election.

However, those who are more familiar with grace as the loving kindness of God which motivates the atonement of Christ and the free offer of salvation by faith would argue that Barth’s presentation is more predestination than grace. Which point of view is more correct? Or does the answer only depend on the point from which each person views?

In a long historical survey in pages 60 to 76 of volume II/2 of his Church Dogmatics (half of which in my edition is either in Latin or medieval French) Barth reviews the Reformed, Lutheran and Arminian debates on predestination during the 16th and 17th centuries. It is significant to note that Barth sees in this debate the seed sown which grows into liberal Protestantism.

Barth laments the fact that in the generations after Calvin Reformed theology increasingly based its doctrine of election in an “eternal decree” of God, a decision of who would be saved and who would not, a decision which came before God’s decision to choose Christ as the executor of this salvation. Barth had two main complaints against this approach. Firstly, this “eternal decree” was a decision was made by a hidden God, an abstract, unfeeling, all powerful God behind and above Jesus Christ, not the true and living God revealed in Jesus Christ. Secondly, it reduces Jesus Christ to a mere instrument and the gospel as simply as a means to an end. Barth argues that whatever is meant by the doctrine of election, it must describe the gospel itself.

Barth acknowledges that the protest of the Remonstrants led by Arminius provided the Reformed Church with an opportunity to ground its doctrine of election more appropriately in Christ. Their opinion to the Synod of Dordt contained the remarkable phrase that “Christ the Mediator is not only the executor of election, he is himself the foundation of the decree of election.” However, Barth admits that the Remonstrants did not mean what it might have been hoped that those words might mean. Instead, their “opinions” in Barth’s opinion barely concealed a return to semi-Pelagianism. Their “opinions” were rightly rejected by the Synod of Dordt. In the process, however, the Synod also missed the chance to affirm the doctrine of election more Christologically and therefore more scripturally.

Barth admits that the Lutheran Church presented its doctrine of election in a Christ centered and gospel centered manner. However, he argues that as time passed the decision of God came to be understood as a foreknowledge of the future decision of faith in man. God’s choice in Christ became simply an anticipation of the future man’s choice of Christ.

Barth argues that the ultimate consequence of these debates was the rejection of the orthodox Reformed doctrine of election in favor of a theology that centered not on God’s choice of humanity, but on humanity’s choice of God. This was the first step towards the liberal Protestantism of the 17th century and beyond. Humanity’s choices and actions would no longer be under the judgment of God, but God’s choices and actions would be under the judgment of humanity. Human beings would decide what God could and should do according to human rational standards. This would lead then to the theology and religion that were centered not on God but on humanity.

This line of argument explains Barth’s presentation of grace as election. Grace is choice. Salvation involves a choice, or more broadly speaking, two choices – God’s choice of humanity and humanity’s choice of God. These two choices are centered in the God-man Jesus Christ. He is the electing God. In him we see the choice that God has made. God has chosen us. He has chosen us for himself. He has chosen life for us. He is ours and we are his. Jesus Christ is also the chosen man who bears the rejection that we have brought on ourselves. Jesus Christ then is also the man who chooses God. Our salvation then does not depend on our choice of God. In includes our choice of God. It calls for our choice of God in Christ. But our salvation ultimately depends not on God foreseeing in us our choice of him, but on his choice of us.

(Part 5)

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” It is no coincidence that every systematic theology has a system. The doctrines are arranged in a logical order. Every doctrine has its proper place. One doctrine leads naturally to another. It should not surprise us, however, that there are many different possible systems and many different actual arrangements. It will also not surprise those who know Karl Barth at all that his system is like nobody else’s.

In the third subsection of his doctrine of election Barth argues for its proper place in the scheme of his theology. Barth places it within his doctrine of God. God is the electing God, the God who chooses. He reveals himself as he really is precisely as the God who in Christ has chosen to be the God of humanity and has chosen us to belong to him. This is a natural consequence of Barth’s preference for the particular over the abstract. God is not some vague all-powerful deity who decides in advance everything that will happen according to the secret purposes of his mysterious will and then, to fulfill these secret purposes, chooses some people and rejects others. Instead, the true and living God is the God who has no other secret purpose than his actual, particular decision to give us life in Jesus Christ.

In hindsight it is easy to see that Barth’s whole discussion of the doctrine of God in the second volume of the Church Dogmatics has led to this very point. The God who loves in perfect freedom is the one who has freely chosen us because of his love. As well, the placement of the doctrine of election in his discussion of the being and nature of God will also profoundly affect Barth’s presentation of the nature of election.

However, to justify this placement of the doctrine of election in the doctrine of God, Barth must acknowledge that there are other alternatives and he must defend his own unique arrangement. Some theological systems like the Westminster Confession place the doctrine of election soon after the doctrine of God. This arrangement may seem the most close to Barth’s own. But in reality these systems understand election within a general view of God’s providence and for this reason Barth rejects them. Some systems place the doctrine of election straight after the doctrine of the person and work of Christ. However, Barth notices with regret that this arrangement seems only coincidental and the treatment of election is not grounded in Christ. Some systems place the doctrine of election within the doctrine of the church. Barth admits that the strength of this approach is that it makes clear that what God chooses is a people, a community, not just a collection of individuals. But for that reason Barth argues that the place for election is not within the discussion of the people who are chosen, but of the God who chooses. All other systems place the doctrine of election within the doctrine of salvation, either as the motive or purpose or summary of salvation. Barth acknowledges the importance of the doctrine of salvation within the whole system of theology. God is nothing if he is not the God who saves. But he argues that this is far too late in the scheme of theology to highlight the fact that the one thing that explains everything that God chooses to do, especially in his work of salvation, is that God is a God of grace and his grace is revealed in the choices he has made.

In rejecting all these different approaches and in presenting his own, Barth argues that God’s grace cannot be divorced from who God really is. Grace is not something that can be forgotten and then only picked up halfway through a theological system. Grace is not just a minor or secondary thought that is only necessary as a response to human sin. God is from first to last the God of grace and his grace is revealed in the choices he has made. Before all creation God chose us in Jesus Christ. He is the electing God.

(Part 6)

Those who have read Barth’s Church Dogmatics will know that it is at the beginning of a new section that he will often write most obscurely. Sometimes it is because he begins writing more generally on the topic before expressing himself more specifically. Sometimes it is because he wants to build suspense. At other times, it is because he is responding to currents of theology that flowed long ago in the German speaking scene that we are completely oblivious to.

However, it is also at the beginning of a new section that Barth will often write most clearly. As we begin a long section titled “Jesus Christ, Electing and Elected”, it is not only convenient but most helpful to let Barth speak for himself.

“Between God and man there stands the person of Jesus Christ, Himself God and Himself man, and so mediating between the two. In Him God reveals Himself to man. In Him man sees and knows God. In Him God stands before man and man stands before God, as is the eternal will of God, and the eternal ordination of man in accordance with this will. In Him God’s plan for man is disclosed, God’s judgment on man fulfilled, God’s deliverance of man accomplished, God’s gift to man present in fulness, God’s claim and promise to man declared. In Him God has joined Himself to man. And so man exists for His sake. It is by Him, Jesus Christ, and for Him and to Him, that the universe is created as a theatre for God’s dealings with man and man’s dealing with God. The being of God is His being, and similarly the being of man is originally His being. And there is nothing that is not from Him and by Him and to Him. He is the Word of God in whose truth everything is disclosed and whose truth cannot be over-reached or conditioned by any other word. He is the decree of God behind and above which there can be no earlier or higher decree and beside which there can be no other, since all others serve only the fulfilment of this decree. He is the beginning of God before which there is no other beginning apart from that of God within Himself. And He is the election of God. Before Him and without Him and beside Him God does not, then, elect or will anything…For it is God’s free grace that in Him He elects to be man and to have dealings with man and to join Himself to man. He, Jesus Christ, is the free grace of God.”

(Part 7)

In the section of his Church Dogmatics titled “Jesus Christ Electing and Elected” Barth’s thesis is precisely that: to show that Jesus Christ is both the God who chooses humanity and the human being who is chosen. This argument opens up one of Barth’s most disputed claims.

Reformed theology has long been familiar with the idea of Jesus Christ being the chosen human being. Ephesians chapter 1 verse 4 is normally the first place people look: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world.” It has been taken to mean that we (whoever “we” are – the elect? the Church?) have been chosen in God’s choice of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the agent of our salvation and our representative in our redemption.

Barth argues that this is not enough. Jesus Christ is not just the chosen human being, but the God who chooses humanity as well. He turns to John 1:1-2. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God.” Barth asks who the “he” is in verse 2. If “he” is the Word mentioned in verse 1, then verse 2 isn’t saying anything that verse 1 hasn’t already said. If it is saying something new and not just restating old news, “he” must be Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was in the beginning with God.

Of course, it must be admitted that in a very important, literal sense there was no Jesus Christ in the beginning. Jesus Christ, the union between the Son of God and humanity, was not born until 6 or 5 BC. But Barth argues that in another very important and just as true way, Jesus Christ did exist in the beginning, because it was in the very beginning, as the first of all God’s acts outside himself in time, the Son chose to be born as true God and true human in a future time. And so he existed, perhaps not literally, but more important in an anticipated form, in the very beginning.

From this line of argument Barth stresses the point that there is no eternal decree before this decision in time. There is no decree of God based on some mysterious reason for his own general glory that decided that some people should be saved and some should not. God’s first decree, his absolute decree that no other decree can overturn or contradict, was the decision of the Son of God to become Jesus Christ in order to give life to humanity.

(Part 8)

Having argued that Jesus Christ is the electing God, Barth goes on to show that he is also the elected human being. And Barth is most insistent that as a human being Jesus Christ has been chosen by grace. He is not simply the best example of humanity, the result of generations of slow improvement, the demonstration that humanity is finally ready and able to be united with divinity. But that as the being where God and humanity are united, as the chosen instrument of the revelation of God, his existence is a miracle, the result of God’s grace. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. His ministry was empowered by the Spirit. And he lived each moment “not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The Word became flesh. But flesh is humanity in rebellion against God. Flesh can only be united with God by God’s grace.

Barth is reacting here against two alternative theologies. Firstly, he is contradicting the liberal teaching that Jesus is the best of all people who reveals what the rest of us can be, that Jesus is the peak of human development and demonstrates the triumph of the human spirit over all the forces that threaten it.

Secondly, Barth is contradicting what he sees as a Lutheran and Arminian teaching that God’s election is based on his foreknowledge of our future choice of him by faith. Barth sees this as a contradiction of God’s grace which is prior to and independent of any choice we make.

As a result, Jesus Christ is the mirror of election. In God’s choice of his humanity we see the reflection of God’s choice of ourselves. If God chose him by grace, we cannot argue for any other basis for his choice of us. And in Jesus Christ we also see the life that responds to grace. For he lived his life under his Father’s authority in grateful obedience and according to his will. This is the life that we too have been called to live.

(Part 9)

Those who have read much of Karl Barth will know that he often writes in depth. Whether it’s eighteen pages on the supralapsarian versus infralapsarian debate, or Barth detailing the eight consequences of a particular doctrine, we are used to Barth not letting go of a subject until he has said everything that needs to be said (and maybe one or two pages extra). We are used to Barth writing deeply on any given subject. But in pages 121 to 127 in his Church Dogmatics II/2 Barth writes surprisingly quite broadly as he sweeps from beginning to end of all the ways and works of God in Jesus Christ.

In effect these pages provide not only a summary of what Barth has said in this particular volume, but also an outline of the next nine volumes. Among other things Barth presents:

i) His doctrine of election – Jesus Christ is the beginning of all God’s works. Whatever further God plans and does, its basis is his choice of Jesus Christ, and the existence of Jesus Christ as the choosing God.

ii) His doctrine of creation – God wills the existence of another, his creature. He did not need to create. He did not need a creature to be a God of love. God is love in himself, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And yet he did create motivated by his own grace.

iii) His doctrine of evil – evil is the impossible possibility. God has chosen the creature to live with him and for him. But this choice assumes the existence of a different choice, of rebellion and independence. This is the nature of Satan and his kingdom of evil.

iv) His doctrine of sin – on their own humanity is helpless to resist the temptations of Satan. They reject the God who has chosen them. They are determined to be independent of the creator they are dependent on. The consequences of sin are judgment and death. Humanity is under God’s wrath.

v) His doctrine of reconciliation – Humanity have been chosen in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the head and representative. He takes responsibility for their actions. He lives the life they were chosen to live. He resists Satan and obeys his Father. He suffers the judgment of their sin and rebellion. He chooses to suffer their rejection of God and their rejection by God. By his death on the cross, he affirms God’s judgment of death on humanity. But he also affirms God’s purpose of life for humanity. In Christ, humanity as sinners are put to death. In Christ, humanity is raised to life as the children of God.

vi) His doctrine of justification – In the cross of Jesus Christ God vindicates himself and his purpose. He justifies his judgment and the life of humanity. They are set free from the power of evil and for the life in the kingdom of God. The response humanity is called to is faith. They must cling to Jesus Christ by faith and to what he has done on their behalf. They love him. They praise him. And they honor him. This is the life they have been chosen for.

It is not saying too much to conclude that what we read in these pages is not just an outline of the next nine volumes. What we find here is the gospel according to Barth, the good news that announces that we have been set free for God. The good news that sets us free.

(Part 10)

There is nothing more inconvenient than waking up in a strange house and having to go to the bathroom. It’s dark, you can’t remember how to find the bathroom, you don’t even remember where the light switch is. It’s one of those times when you need a guiding light, some glow to help you find the way.

The doctrine of predestination is notoriously dark and obscure. The Bible provides very few clear passages on it. The explanations of even the great theologians of the past on the subject are controversial and not widely accepted. Many people have also questioned the benefit of such a doctrine, even if it is true.

Karl Barth finds his guiding light through the obscurity of predestination in the life and person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is for Barth the “mirror of election”, meaning that it is in who Jesus Christ is and what he does that we learn what it means for God to elect and for humanity to be elected. And for Barth this means three things:

Firstly, it means that God has chosen himself for humanity. God in Jesus Christ has chosen to share our life, our flesh. He took our sin, he bore our judgment, he suffered the wrath of God on the cross. Traditional approaches to predestination have taught that some people have been chosen for life, and some have been rejected to death. Barth sees in Jesus Christ that there is a rejection, but God has chosen that rejection for himself in his Son.

Secondly, it means that God has chosen humanity for himself. God in Jesus Christ has suffered the rejection for humanity’s sin. There is, therefore, no rejection left for humanity, only blessing and life. Barth rejects the idea that God chooses some, and rejects some, that some people receive life and some death. This would not be good news. Barth argues that predestination is the gospel, it is good news, it is life. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foretaste of this life. His exaltation to the Father’s right hand is the promise that just as God has been with us in Christ, so we will be with God.

Thirdly and finally it means that humanity can choose God. Jesus Christ himself became a human being who made choices. He resisted the devil. He healed the sick. He submitted his life to the Father’s plan. He chose the cross for the sake of the joy that lay beyond the suffering. Most clearly in his life of prayer, Jesus Christ the man chose God. He trusted God. He obeyed God. This is the life that through the gospel we as human beings are called to, the life of prayer, the life of faith, the life of obedience. Our flesh, our sin has been taken by Jesus Christ, and we have been made new by his Spirit. We are reborn. We are a new creation. It is a work of grace. Not just that it is undeserved but that God has taken the initiative in all his ways with us. But the purpose of his grace, the result of his initiative is that we have been awakened so that we may choose God.

For Barth what seems dark and obscure to some is only light, because it is lit by the glory of Jesus Christ. Predestination is not blind, saving some and damning others. Predestination is gospel, it is life, it is light, because the eternal will of God is revealed and made clear in the life and person and deeds of Jesus Christ, the God who chooses us, the man who chooses God.

(Part 11)

It’s not about you.

Do you know someone who makes everything about themselves? Someone else hurts them, and they make it all about themselves, how they feel, what they are going to do about it. They hurt someone else, and somehow miraculously they still try to make it all about themselves.

In his discussion on Israel and the Church Barth argues that election is not all about you, or at least not primarily. In the past this has been the great danger of the doctrine of predestination. In some people it has caused the anxiety over whether they are really saved, whether they are one of the chosen few. The answer has been that those who have been chosen show their genuine faith in a life of good works. This has led to some people trying to justify their salvation by their own efforts. Sadly, the very doctrine that was asserted to affirm grace has in some people destroyed grace.

Barth’s answer is that God’s election is not primarily about you as an individual and whether you are saved. But it is first and foremost about God choosing a group of people, a community, within the whole race of humanity. Although this community of God’s people seems to have two distinct forms, Israel and the Church, and both continue to exist side by side, Barth argues that there is only one community of God’s people united by the one person in whom they have been chosen, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the Messiah of Israel and he is the Lord of the Church. As a human being, he is a member of the community of God’s people. He was born from within Israel and shares their flesh and blood. He belongs to them. But because he is the focus of Israel’s hopes, as the son of Abraham, the son of David, the promised and anointed King, they also belong to him.

Jesus Christ is the Messiah of Israel, crucified by Israel and for Israel. As such, he testifies to the judgment of God on the stubbornness and rebellion of humanity. He takes that judgement in his body on the cross and he suffers and dies for it. And so Israel has been chosen to display our need for grace. Without grace we are unworthy, unwilling and incapable of justifying and saving ourselves. Even in their continued existence alongside the Church, Israel still fulfills this purpose for which God chose them.

Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Church, risen from the dead and Lord of heaven and earth. As such, he testifies to the mercy of God. The Church is the community of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. As the people of God gathered from both Jews and Gentiles they are given the task to testify to the goodwill and love of God revealed in the judgment of God in the death of Jesus and confirmed in his resurrection.

God’s grace, his election, is not about you. It is about the people of God whose purpose is to witness to the whole of humanity the judgment and mercy of God. The people of God exist in the world in the midst of humanity to confirm God’s promise that all have been chosen in Jesus Christ. It is not a cause for anxiety. It is a call to repentance, to faith, and to obedience.


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