The doctrines of 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)

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 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 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!

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