Election and Reprobation

Transcript April 06


Tuesday Bible Study 6th April 2021 Topic: Election and Reprobation Text: Jude 3-4 When we understand election as God’s sovereign choice of some persons to be saved, then there is necessarily another aspect of that choice, namely, God’s sovereign decision to pass over others and not to save them. This decision of God in eternity past is called REPROBATION. Reprobation is the sovereign decision of God before creation to pass over some persons, in sorrow deciding not to save them, and to punish them for their sins, and thereby to manifest his justice. In many ways, the doctrine of reprobation is the most difficult of all the teachings of Scripture for us to think about and to accept because it deals with such horrible and eternal consequences for human beings made in the image of God. The love that God gives us for our fellow human beings and the love that he commands us to have toward our neighbour cause us to recoil against this doctrine, and it is right that we feel such dread in contemplating it. It is something that we would not want to believe, and would not believe unless Scripture clearly taught it. But are there Scripture passages that speak of such a decision by God? Certainly, there are some. In our text today, Jude speaks of some persons “who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ”. Moreover, Paul, speaks in the same way of Pharaoh and others: For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. . .. What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction? (Rom. 9:17–22) Regarding the results of the fact that God failed to choose all for salvation, Paul says, “The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened” (Rom. 11:7). And Peter says of those who reject the gospel, “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do” (1 Peter 2:8). 24 In spite of the fact that we recoil against this doctrine, we must be careful of our attitude toward God and toward these passages of Scripture. We must never begin to wish that the Bible was written in another way, or that it did not contain these verses. Moreover, if we are convinced that these verses teach reprobation, then we are obligated both to believe it and accept it as fair and just of God, even though it still causes us to tremble in horror as we think of it. In this context it may surprise us to see that Jesus can thank God both for hiding the knowledge of salvation from some and for revealing it to others: “Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was your gracious will’ ” (Matt. 11:25–26). Moreover, we must recognize that somehow, in God’s wisdom, the fact of reprobation and the eternal condemnation of some will show God’s justice and also result in his glory. Paul says, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction” (Rom. 9:22). Paul also notes that the fact of such punishment on the “vessels of wrath” serves to show the greatness of God’s mercy toward us: God does this “in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy” (Rom. 9:23). DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ELECTION AND REPROBATION We also must remember that there are important differences between election and reprobation as they are presented in the Bible. Election to salvation is viewed as a cause for rejoicing and praise to God, who is worthy of praise and receives all the credit for our salvation (Eph. 1:3–6; 1 Peter 1:1–3). God is viewed as actively choosing us for salvation, and doing so in love and with delight. But reprobation is viewed as something that brings God sorrow, not delight (Ezek. 33:11), and the blame for the condemnation of sinners is always put on the people or angels who rebel, never on God himself. So, in the presentation of Scripture, the cause of election lies in God, and the cause of reprobation lies in the sinner. Another important difference is that the ground of election is God’s grace, whereas the ground of reprobation is God’s justice. The sorrow of God at the death of the wicked (“I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live,” (Ezek. 33:11) helps us understand how appropriate it was that Paul himself felt great sorrow when he thought about the unbelieving Jews who had rejected Christ. Paul says: I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race. They are Israelites. . .. (Rom. 9:1–4) We ought also to feel this great sorrow as well when we think about the fate of unbelievers. But it might be objected at this point, if God genuinely feels sorrow at the punishment of the wicked, then why does he allow it or even decree that it will come about? The answer must be that God knows that this will ultimately result in greater glory for himself. It will show his power and wrath and justice and mercy in a way that could not otherwise be demonstrated. Certainly, in our own human experience, it is possible to do something that causes us great sorrow but which we know will result in long-term greater good. And so, after this faint human analogy, we may somewhat understand that God can decree something that causes him sorrow yet ultimately will further his glory PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION IN TERMS OF OUR OWN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. The doctrine of election does have significant practical application. When we think of the biblical teaching on both election and reprobation, it is appropriate to apply it to our own lives individually. It is right for each Christian to ask of himself or herself, “Why am I a Christian? What is the final reason why God decided to save me?” The doctrine of election tells us that I am a Christian simply because God in eternity past decided to set his love on me. But why did he decide to set his love on me? Not for anything good in me, but simply because he decided to love me. There is no more ultimate reason than that. It humbles us before God to think in this way. It makes us realize that we have no claim on God’s grace whatsoever. Our salvation is totally due to grace alone. Our only appropriate response is to give God eternal praise.

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