Reprobation: In the Shadow of Election
When light shines on the object in its path, the dark side is behind the object. When the light of truth illumines the doctrine of election, the contrast made evident is the doctrine of reprobation. The Bible does not hide reprobation, but this doctrine manifests to the eye of the reader, as a foil to election, which is more visible and voluminous in text addresses.
Men and women were originally made in the image and likeness of God, but the fall of humanity into sin has led to death, via Adam and Eve. Following spiritual death came physical death, and then the judgment of God was known. In subsequent generations, the Bible reveals two distinct groups forming on the face of the earth.
One might assume that the difference between the wicked and the righteous is a mere matter of good and evil. The fact is that sinners are wicked and evil, and we are all sinners by inheritance, nature, and practice (Rom 3:23; 5:12). Only one person in the history of the world was deemed righteous in the judgment of God. That person was Jesus Christ, the righteous (1 Jn 2:1).
A reader of the Old Testament might inquire to the visible contrast between peoples, before Jesus the Messiah appeared. The fact is that before and after the first advent of Jesus, righteous people lived by faith in the only truly righteous God-man. The remnant of believers have always been sinners like the rest of humanity. The difference is their relationship to the Lord our righteousness.
Being in union with Christ defines the one who has been grafted into the true Vine (Jn 15). The life of sin is overtaken by the grace of God. This is done by the life of Christ being positioned in the soul of a man or woman. The life of Christ is new life to the sinner, but why is the Spirit of Christ present within some (the righteous) but not others (the wicked)?
Having established that all have sinned and are under the righteous judgment of God, we must explore the origins of salvation and damnation. Simply stated, all people would be eternally dammed if some people were not eternally saved.
Every person is condemned from conception, by reason of inherited sin (Ps 51:5; Rom 5:12–21). Some people are saved at the new birth by reason of imputed righteousness (1 Pet 1:3). The new birth is a work of the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13), who is sent to individuals by God the Father and God the Son (Jn 14:17, 26; 15:26). Again, we ask why one has the Spirit of God’s Son living in her heart and why another one does not have the Son (Jn 3:36; Rom 8:9).
The first answer is the election or reprobation of God in relation to each individual. Shining the light on election, we see reprobation in the shadows. Using a series of questions, the hope is that you will have answers and understanding.
Why does God elect some to salvation and pass over others with His saving grace? Remembering that God has the sovereign right to pass over every single sinner, it is His revealed will to have mercy on whom He wills (Rom 9:15). This means it is also His will to harden whom He desires (Rom 9:18). Thus, it is God’s will that is the determining factor in who is elect and who is reprobate.
It is futile for sinful people to argue with their Creator in this matter of His sovereign choice. The devil leads many into rebellious protest against the sovereign Lord of glory, whose first choice in election was Jesus Christ, His Chosen One (Lk 23:35). That is right, God’s only begotten Son is God’s first elect (Is 42:1; 1 Pet 1:20; 2:4). He is the Head of election.
God chose a people to give to His elect Son, which He did before the foundation of the world. This body of people are also called, “chosen” and “elect.” Because this election is an eternal event, it preceded Creation itself. We have already noted that there was nothing good in sinners that could possibly merit salvation. If there was, it would no longer be God’s grace that saves, which would then rob God of His glory, as the one and only Savior (Tit 2:13).
Who are the elect, in contrast with the reprobate? We have seen that God gave a select number of named people to His Son. Their names are in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world (Rev 17:8). The names of the reprobate are never once found there (Rev 13:8). Thus, the Lord knows those who are His (2 Tim 2:19), and He says to the reprobate on the day of judgment, “Depart from Me, I never knew you (Mt 7:21–23; 25:41).”
How does election and reprobation manifest in time? All are conceived into life, in a body, for a time. Sin pays its wages in the form of death, somewhere from the womb to a maximum of 120 years. During that time many will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. Many will not.
The means of salvation is a work of the Spirit in the preacher and in the chosen hearer. Many are called to come to Jesus and be saved, but only the chosen few are given the grace to respond in the right manner: faith. It is the Spirit who grants the believer her faith (Gal 3:22; Phil 1:29). What does the Spirit teach the receiver to believe?
The elect believer, who has received Jesus, that is, His Spirit, by the will of God (Jn 1:12–13), is believing the Gospel message, the Word of God, the Bible. This is where the elect learns about his or her election by God. The believer in Jesus is the believer in election because he is a believer in the Scriptures that reveal the doctrine of election and reprobation.
The reprobate does not believe the Bible, especially as it pertains to the doctrine of election and reprobation. The unbeliever is the reprobate who finishes his course without grace. God did not set His love upon the reprobate (Dt 10:15; Rom 5:5; 1 Jn 4:19), demonstrated by his being devoid of the Spirit (Rom 8:9).
The reprobate by definition, is one whose mind and heart are given over to sin, Satan, and the world. His deeds of darkness are only evil all the time (Gen 6:5). In other words, the reprobate does what he is in nature (Eph 2:3) and in practice (Rom 1:18–32). He is a son of disobedience (Eph 2:2), a child of the devil (1 Jn 3:10), a child of wrath (Eph 2:3), being disobedient whereunto he was appointed (1 Pet 2:8).
What is the end of God’s choice in election and reprobation? Everything is to the glory of God, which includes election and reprobation. God is glorified in election. Those whose names are written in heaven (Lk 10:20), who are appointed life (Acts 13:48), are vessels of mercy prepared for glory (Rom 9:23). The elect, who were redeemed by Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, worship the One who forgave them of all their sins (Rev 1:5), by His precious blood shed on the cross of Calvary (1 Pet 1:18–19).
God is praised for His grace, which is called, “glorious,” by those who receive it (Eph 1:6). However, even the wicked bring praise to God, who made the wicked for the day of evil (Prv 16:4). The way that wicked reprobates glorify God is by His execution of justice.
The display of God’s grace and God’s justice are the end result of His election and reprobation. God is praised for both His grace and His justice. The elect, who have been given His Spirit and who believe these things revealed in the Bible, do indeed worship God in Spirit and in truth, the truth which includes election and reprobation.
The reprobate loathe the doctrine of election and reprobation, making all kinds of judgments against the Holy God. In this, the reprobate fulfills the very role he was given, following in the footsteps of the iconic reprobate, Judas Iscariot, denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 4). As a vessel of wrath, prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22), the hard-hearted impenitent treasures up to himself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom 2:5).
In conclusion, the reprobate can deny God, His sovereign choice in election and reprobation, even His very existence. By doing those very things, he himself proves the biblical doctrine of reprobation, as a shadow of election, by living out the very appointment for which he was made, to the praise of God and His justice. Walk in the Light, and you will surely see both election and reprobation.
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 18, 2021