Election and Reprobation

by Mike Ratliff

13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13. 14 NASB)

We have come to the Doctrine of Unconditional Election in our exposition of the Doctrines of Grace. A few years ago before I began working from home fulltime and was still working from an office outside of our data center, a fellow from another department who I was working with on an issue made a comment about some of my devotional stuff and my small ESV Bible that I carried in my computer bag, which were laying on my desk. I knew that he had at one time been a Methodist pastor, but had left the ministry. I have no idea what the history of that was. The comment he made was an incredulous statement in which he questioned how I would ever find the time to spend “doing that” as busy as I was. I told him that I did that when I first got to work in the morning before anyone else was there after I had done all my server checkups. At that time I was working my way through R. C. Sproul’s book Chosen By God and it was lying there as well. He asked when I read that. I told him I did that as I ate lunch. He picked it up and read the back cover and then put it down quickly like it burned his hand then made another incredulous statement, “You’re a Calvinist!” 

The conversation we had after that was not anything approaching spiteful, but he made quite a few uneducated and ignorant statements about election and reprobation that echoed much of what I have heard from the likes of Emir and Ergun Caner. The natural man simply cannot conceive of a god who is sovereign. Since the Great Downgrade of Spurgeon’s day through the 20th Century until our day in the early 21st Century Evangelicalism has lost its way, its depth, and its breadth. It has been taken over by those who seek to make it pleasing to men and non-threatening to society. When people say that the Holiness of God’s Law is offensive to them, most in today’s form of Evangelicalism go out of their way to be politically correct. Why is it that it they never occurs to them to have a some backbone, be bold, and stand for God’s truth in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?

So many Christians are afraid to use the term “election” or to refer to the Body of Christ as “the elect.” The Bible does not have this problem. To “elect” means to select or choose. The Bible clearly says that before creation God selected from the human race those whom he would redeem, justify, sanctify, and glorify in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-39; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14; 2 Timothy 1:9, 10). The divine choice is an expression of free and sovereign grace. It is not merited by anything in those who are chosen. God owes sinners no mercy of any kind only condemnation; so it is a wonder that he should choose to save anyone.

Like every truth about God, the doctrine of election involves mystery, and it sometimes stirs controversy. But in Sacred Scripture it is a pastoral doctrine, helping Christians to see how great is the grace that saves them, and moving them to respond with humility, confidence, and praise. We do not know what others God has chosen among those who do not yet believe, nor why he chose us in particular. We do know that we believe now only because we were chosen, and we know that as believers we can rely on God to finish the good work he has begun (1 Corinthians 1:8, 9; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24; 2 Timothy 1:12; 4:18). For these reasons the knowledge of election is a source of gratitude and confidence.

10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Peter 1:10, 11 NASB)

In 2 Peter 1:10 we read that we should “be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing” us. Peter is telling us to make sure that it is “certain to us” personally. Election is known by its fruits. Paul knew that the Thessalonians had been chosen because he saw their faith, hope, and love, the transformation of their lives brought about by the gospel (1 Thessalonians 1:3-6).

Reprobation is the name given to God’s eternal decision regarding those sinners whom he has not chosen for life. In not choosing them for life, God has determined not to change them. They will continue in sin, and finally will be judged for what they have done. In some cases God may further remove the restraining influences that keep a person from extremes of disobedience. This abandonment, called “hardening,” is itself a penalty for sins (Romans 9:18; 11:25; cf. Psalm 81:12; Romans 1:24, 26, 28).

Reprobation is taught in the Bible (Romans 9:14-24; 1 Peter 2:8), but as a doctrine its bearing on Christian behavior is indirect. God’s decree of election is secret; which persons are elect and which are reprobate will not be revealed before the Judgment. Until that time, God’s command is that the call to repent and believe be preached to everyone.

O the deepness of the riches, both of the wisdom, and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!… For of him, and through him, and for him are all things; to him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33, 36 Geneva Bible 1560)

Soli Deo Gloria!

9 thoughts on “Election and Reprobation

  1. Yes, I go to a forum that doesn’t like Calvinism. I didn’t know it at first until I brought up an R.C. Sproul quote and then one of the Mod’s who was kind informed me that Sproul was a false teacher. I’m like no, he’s not.

    I’ve also had discussions on that same forum where I explain God electing people and then people make snide comments like God is a monster? No he’s not a monster…

    Some people don’t want to know the wonderful truth of election like it’s some hideous plague

    For us who believe what the word of God actually teaches about election, it’s the most freeing, meaningful and wonderful truth you can sink your teeth into. When all life falls apart, “BUT GOD”~~ hallelujah!, HE has to keep his promises he elected me he chose ME.
    I’ve gotten upset with God-(imagine that) but I’ve reminded him-(not that he needs reminding) but I do, that I’m holding him to the fact that HE chose me. Okay Lord YOU chose me, now you have to fulfill your promises and your calling in my life because your word of truth says so. For your name is at stake Lord. That’s such a solid reality that helps me move forwards when I’m in a quagmire. All the reminding was not really for him but for my benefit. God is always good!!

  2. Another good post Mike. This is a touchy and much debated subject, but only because it is approached with human wisdom. If one understands their own radical depravity, then these doctrines are not difficult to grasp. God owes us nothing, except wrath. It is a miracle that He saves anybody, for we all deserve eternal damnation. I like how Dr. James Boice puts it in his book ‘the doctrines of grace-rediscovering the evangelical gospel’ he says- “as soon as we begin to think that God owes us something or that God MUST do something, we limit Him and diminish His glory. Election and reprobation surround and protect God’s glory, for they remind us that God is absolutely free and sovereign. God does whatever He wants with His universe. He is glorified in the damnation of the reprobate as well as in the salvation of the elect; His justice and His mercy are both glorious because they both demonstrate His divine sovereignty. Election alone starts with all people at the same point and on the same level, all of them deserving hell. Then it saves some and passes by others, entirely apart from anything in the elect or reprobate persons themselves.”
    God’s attributes are displayed – wrath, power, patience, glory, mercy – both in election or in reprobation. Again, quoting Dr. Boice, “God considers the display of His attributes to be worth the whole drama of human history; to be worth creation, the fall, election, reprobation, and everything else. From God’s point of view, the revelation of His glory {meaning the revelation of His glorious attributes} is the grand priority”.

    May our Great and Awesome God bless you dear brother

    Lyn

  3. Linda, I used to do that, but they know who I am now so I’m not welcome there. :-) You did hit the nail on the head though. Their view of God and man is backward. Their view of Christianity is that is all about man, while the Bible shows us that it is all about God and his glory. When you get that right then Reformation Theology lines up perfectly.

  4. Thanks Lyn! The next post will be on that very thing, our “radical depravity.” It looks like you also surmised from where I got much of the material for these posts. I have Dr. Boice’s book as well as Dr. James White’s book The God Who Justifies and most R.C. Sproul’s books on the Doctrines of Grace. Thank you for the blessing my sister!

  5. Pretty clear to me, a former Catholic from birth, who was called and grew a little in the Charismatic movement. Moved to an AG church, but got tired of showing what the bible says, and folks saying, “But that’s not what the pastor teaches!” The Holy Spirit lead me out and the wife agreed. (That in and of itself is an amazing blessing based on the number of mixed marriages I encounter where spouses attend different denominations.) We spent a very brief time at a mixmash theology where I was again saying “No that isn’t what the bible teaches.”
    All that was over 5 years ago, and since then we have sat at His feet learning of Him from Him by being in the Word, as revealed by the Holy Spirit. We claim no denominational affiliation, rather referring to ourselves as disciples of Christ Jesus. We conform ourselves to His Word. Label me not after dead men but rather the Living God and Our only Lord and savior Jesus Christ. But IF I were labeled, I am a Monergist, Reformed, Lordship Salvational, Amillennialist… I think!
    “How bout dem apples!.” LOL
    Actually that makes me a critical, judgemental,narrow minded, religious zelot, Hypocritical dadgum calvinist heretic. To many folks, and I havn’t even sat under no “Calvinist Preachers!”

    Mike, you couldn’t have said it more clearly.
    It drives home these words I got from my morning devotional time with Him the other morning.

    “We don’t need to be relevant to speak to the world today, we need to be
    biblical, and make the biblical christian reality of denying self picking up our
    cross and following Him, relevant again. We can not be that by trying to buddy
    up to the world so they will like us…The Word (of God) calls that being a harlot!!!

  6. OK I am a Monergist, Reformed, Lordship Salvational, Amillennialist…Who hears extrabiblical but not literal voices in my devotion time! I test them by the Word of God, and I think you will agree that this one passes the biblical test. :)

  7. Now I see why get along so well Mickey :-) . You are right. Our commission is to call people OUT of this world and we can’t do that if we are doing all we can to mimic it. Also, it sure helps if our Theology is God-centered rather than man-centered.

  8. It is such a sweet surrender to the Lord that his calling is effectual and sure. My life from time to time becomes so totally inadequate and bankrupt from trying every single angle to make certain things work in my life I’ve been praying for so long without intentionally doing anything wrong. It causes me to stop struggling. I get to that point with issues in my life of finally giving up. God will not let me squirm out of the dilemma I face just like an oyster is irritated by that grain of sand cannot get rid of it. But ends up secreting fluids and makes that beautiful pearl that’s become a part of the oysters life.

    Just like Paul with the thorn in the flesh. God’s GRACE is sufficient! For his power is made PERFECT in WEAKNESS.~~~carry on with the calling my precious brothers and sisters and do not think it STRANGE–the many disciplines of the Lord.I long to see the Joy of the Lord in all of YOU. I get the greatest delight in such a thought. Jesus is tenderly calling us heavenward and out of this world it’s subliminal, it’s powerful, and His calling is eternal life because we find the greatest joy in calling out his NAME- “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe”-Proverbs 18:10.

    It’ the most glorious nudge –The Calling of the Lord, the welling up of a verse out of utter despair

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