Doctrine of Reprobation

Romans 9:22. What if God, willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

1 Peter 2:7-8. But for those who disbelieve, The stone which builders rejected, this became the very corner stone, and, A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

Jude 1:4. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The decree of reprobation is the free and sovereign choice of God, made in eternity past, to pass over certain individuals, choosing not to set his saving love on them, but instead determining to punish them for their sins unto the magnification of his justice.

L. Boettner excerpt:

 It is obvious that this part of the doctrine of Predestination which affirms that God has, by a sovereign and eternal decree, chosen one portion of mankind to salvation while leaving the other portion to destruction, strikes us at first as being opposed to our common ideas of justice and hence needs a defense.
 The defense of the doctrine of Reprobation rests upon the preceding doctrine of Original Sin or Total Inability. This decree finds the whole race fallen. None have any claim on God's grace. But instead of leaving all to their just punishment, God gratuitously confers undeserved happiness upon one portion of mankind, an act of pure mercy and grace to which no one can object, while the other portion is simply passed by. No undeserved misery is inflicted upon this latter group. Hence no one has any right to object to this part of the decree. If the decree dealt simply with innocent men, it would be unjust to assign one portion to condemnation; but since it deals with men in a particular state, which is a state of guilt and sin, it is not unjust.

 The conception of the world as lying in the evil one and therefore judged already (John 8:18), so that upon those who are not removed from the evil of the world, the wrath of God is not so much to be poured out but simply abides (John 3:36, cf. 1 John 8:14), is fundamental to this whole presentation. It is therefore, on the one hand, that Jesus represents Himself as having come not to condemn the world, but to save the world (John 8:17; 8:12; 9:5; 12:47; cf. 4:42), and all that He does as having for its end the introduction of life into the world (John 6:33, 51); the already condemned world needs no further condemnation, it needs saving.

 Guilty man has lost his rights and falls under the will of God. God's absolute sovereignty now comes in and when He shows mercy in some cases, we cannot object to His justice in others unless we would call in question His government of the universe. Viewed in this light the decree of Predestination finds mankind one mass of perdition and allows only a portion of it to remain such. When all antecedently deserved punishment it was not unjust for some to be antecedently consigned to it; otherwise the execution of a just sentence would be unjust.

 When the Arminian says that faith and works constitute the ground of election, we dissent. But if he says that foreseen unbelief and disobedience constitute the ground of reprobation, we assent readily enough. A man is not saved on the ground of his virtues, but he is condemned on the ground of his sin. As strict Calvinists we insist that while some men are saved from their unbelief and disobedience, in which all are involved, and others are not—it is still the sinner's sinfulness that constitutes the ground of his reprobation.

 Election and reprobation proceed on different grounds: one the grace of God—the other the sin of man. It is a travesty on Calvinism to say that because God elects to save a man irrespective of his character or deserts, that therefore He elects to damn a man irrespective of his character or deserts.

 This reprobation or passing by of the non-elect is not founded merely upon a foresight of their continuance in sin; for if that had been a proper cause, reprobation would have been the fate of all men, for all were foreseen as sinners. Nor can it be said that those who were passed by were in all cases worse sinners than those who were brought to eternal life. The Scriptures always ascribe faith and repentance to the good pleasure of God and to the special gracious operation of His Spirit. Those who conceive of mankind as innocent and deserving of salvation, are naturally scandalized when any portion of the race is antecedently consigned to punishment. But when the doctrine of Original Sin, which is taught so clearly and repeatedly in the Scriptures, is seen in its proper setting—the objections to predestination disappear, and the condemnation of the wicked seems only just and natural. Thus salvation is of the Lord alone—and damnation wholly from ourselves. Men perish because they will not come to Christ; yet if they have a will to come, it is God who works the will in them. Grace, electing grace, both draws the will and keeps it steady—and to grace be all the praise.

 Furthermore, out of a world of sinful and rebellious subjects, none of whom were in themselves worthy of saving, God has graciously chosen some, when he might have passed by all as He did the fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). He has taken it altogether upon Himself to provide the redemption through which His people are saved. The atonement, therefore, is His own property; and He certainly may, as He most assuredly will—do what He pleases with His own. Grace is given to one and withheld from another—as He sees best. It is to be noticed also that the withholding of His grace from the non-elect is but the negative cause of their perishing, just as the absence of a physician from the sick man is the occasion, not the efficient cause, of his death.

 "In the sight of an infinitely good and merciful God," says Dr. Charles Hodge, "it was necessary that some of the rebellious race of man should suffer the penalty of the law which all have broken. It is Gods prerogative to determine who shall be vessels of mercy—and who shall be left to the just recompense of their sins."

 Since man has brought himself into this state of sin, his condemnation is just, and every demand of justice would be met in his punishment. Conscience tells us that man perishes justly, since he chooses to follow Satan rather than God. "You will not come to me, that you may have life," said Jesus (John 5:40). And in this connection the words of Prof. F. E. Hamilton are very appropriate: "All God does is to let him (the unregenerate) alone and allow him to go his own way without interference. It is his nature to be evil, and God simply has foreordained to leave that nature unchanged."

 The picture often painted by opponents of Calvinism, of a cruel God refusing to save those who long to be saved, is a gross caricature. God saves all who want to be saved—but no one whose nature is unchanged wants to be saved. Those who are lost, are lost because they deliberately choose to walk in the ways of sin; and this will be the very Hell of hells, that men have been self-destroyers.

 Many people talk as if God would be unjust if He did not give all guilty creatures an opportunity to be saved.

 No one with proper ideas of God supposes that He suddenly does something which He had not thought of before. Since His is an eternal purpose, what He does in time—is what He purposed from eternity to do. Those whom He saves are those whom He purposed from eternity to save, and those whom He leaves to perish are those whom He purposed from eternity to leave. If it is just for God to do a certain thing in time, it is, by parity of argument, just for Him to resolve upon and decree it from eternity, for the principle of the action is the same in either case. And if we are justified in saying that from all eternity God has intended to display His mercy in pardoning a vast multitude of sinners—then why do some people object so strenuously when we say that from all eternity God has intended to display His justice in punishing other sinners?

 Hence if it is just for God to forbear saving some persons after they are born—then it was just for Him to form that purpose before they were born, or in eternity. And since the determining will of God is omnipotent, it cannot be obstructed or made void. This being true, it follows that He never did, nor does He now, will that every individual of mankind should be saved. If He willed this, not one single soul could ever be lost, for who has resisted His will? If He willed that none should be lost, He would surely give to all men those effectual means of salvation without which it cannot be had. Now, God could give those means as easily to all mankind as to some only, but experience proves that He does not. Hence it logically follows that it is not His secret purpose or decretive will that all should be saved. In fact, the two truths, that what God does He does from eternity, and that only a portion of the human race is saved—is enough to complete the doctrines of Election and Reprobation.

Purposes of the Decree of Reprobation

 The condemnation of the non-elect is designed primarily to furnish an eternal exhibition, before men and angels, of God's hatred for sin; or, in other words, it is to be an eternal manifestation of the justice of God. (Let it be remembered that God's justice as certainly demands the punishment of sin, as it demands the rewarding of righteousness.) This decree displays one of the divine attributes which apart from it could never have been adequately appreciated. The salvation of some through a redeemer, is designed to display the attributes of love, mercy, and holiness. The attributes of wisdom, power and sovereignty are displayed in the treatment accorded both groups. Hence the truth of the Scripture statement that, Jehovah has made everything for its own end—Yes, even the wicked for the day of evil, Proverbs 16:4; and also the statement of Paul that this arrangement was intended on the one hand, to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He afore prepared unto glory—and on the other hand, to show His wrath, and to make His power known upon vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction, Romans 9:22, 23.

 This decree of reprobation also serves subordinate purposes in regard to the elect; for, in beholding the rejection and final state of the wicked:
(1) they learn what they too would have suffered—had not grace stepped in to their relief; and they appreciate more deeply the riches of divine love which raised them from sin and brought them into eternal life while others no more guilty or unworthy than they were left to eternal destruction.

(2) It furnishes a most powerful motive for thankfulness that they have received such high blessings.

(3) They are led to a deeper trust of their heavenly Father who supplies all their needs in this life and the next.

(4) The sense of what they have received furnishes the strongest possible motive for them to love their heavenly Father, and to live as pure lives as possible.

(5) It leads them to a greater abhorrence of sin.

(6) It leads them to a closer walk with God and with each other as specially chosen heirs of the kingdom of Heaven.

 Under No Obligation to Explain All These Things

 Let it be remembered that we are under no obligation to explain all the mysteries connected with these doctrines. We are only under obligation to set forth what the Scriptures teach concerning them, and to vindicate this teaching so far as possible from the objections which are alleged against it. The "Yes, Father, for so it was well pleasing in your sight," (Matthew 11:26; Luke 10:21), was, to our Lord, an all-sufficient vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil—in the face of all God's diverse dealings with men. The sufficient and only answer which Paul gives to vain reasoners who would penetrate more deeply into these mysteries is that they are to be resolved into the divine wisdom and sovereignty.

 The words of Toplady are especially appropriate here: "Say not, therefore, as the opposers of these doctrines did in Paul's days: Why does God find fault with the wicked? for who has resisted His will? If He, who only can convert them, refrains from doing it—then what room is there for blaming those who perish, seeing it is impossible to resist the will of the Almighty? Be satisfied with Paul's answer, 'Nay, but, O man, who are you that replies against God?' The apostle hinges the whole matter entirely on God's absolute sovereignty. There he rests it—and there we ought to leave it!

 Man cannot measure the justice of God by his own comprehension, and our modesty should be such that when the reason for some of God's works lies hidden, we nevertheless believe Him to be just. If anyone thinks that this doctrine represents God as unjust, it is only because he does not realize what the Scripture doctrine of Original Sin is—nor to what it commits him. Let him fix his mind upon the existence of real ill-desert antecedent to actual sin, and the condemnation will appear just and natural. The first step mastered, the second presents no real difficulty.

 It is hard for us to realize that many of those right around us (in some cases our close friends and relatives) are probably foreordained to eternal punishment; and so far as we do realize it we are inclined to have a certain sympathy for them. Yet when seen in the light of eternity, our sympathy for the lost will be found to have been an undeserved and a misplaced sympathy. Those who are finally lost shall then be seen as they really are—enemies of God, enemies of all righteousness, and lovers of sin, with no desire for salvation or the presence of the Lord. We may add further that, since God is perfectly just, none shall be sent to Hell except those who deserve to go there; and when we see their real characters, we shall be fully satisfied with the disposition that God has made.

 As a matter of fact the Arminians do not escape any real difficulty here. For since they admit that God has foreknowledge of all things, they must explain why He creates those who He foresees will lead sinful lives, reject the Gospel, die impenitent, and suffer eternally in Hell. The Arminians really have a more difficult problem here than do the Calvinists; for the Calvinists maintain that the ones whom God thus creates, knowing that they will be lost, are the non-elect who voluntarily choose sin and in whose merited punishment God designs to manifest His justice—while the Arminians must say that God deliberately creates those who He foresees will be such poor, miserable creatures that without serving any good purpose, they will bring destruction upon themselves and will spend eternity in Hell in spite of the fact that God Himself earnestly wishes to bring them to Heaven, and that God shall be forever grieved in seeing them where He wishes they were not. Does not this represent God as acting most foolishly in bringing upon Himself such dissatisfaction and upon some of His creatures such misery, when He could at least have refrained from creating those whom He foresaw, would be lost?

 Perhaps there are some who, upon hearing of this doctrine of Predestination, will account themselves reprobate and will be inclined to go into further sin with the excuse that they are to be damned anyway. But to do so is to suck poison out of a sweet flower, to dash one's self against the Rock of Ages. No one has the right to judge himself reprobate in this life, and hence to grow desperate; for final disobedience (the only infallible sign of reprobation) cannot be discovered until death. No unconverted person in this life knows for certain that God will not yet convert him and save him, even though he is aware that no such change has yet taken place. Hence he has no right to number himself definitely among the non-elect. God has not told us who among the unconverted He yet proposes to regenerate and save. If any man feels the pangs of conscience working in him, these may be the very means which God is using to draw him.

 We have given considerable space to the discussion of the doctrine of Reprobation because it has been the great stumbling block for most of those who have rejected the Calvinistic system. We believe that if this doctrine can be shown to be Scriptural and reasonable the other parts of the system will be readily accepted.