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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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.