“What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election is the express testimony of sacred Scripture that not all, but some only, are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible, and unchangeable good pleasure, has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but, permitting them in His just judgment to follow their own ways, at last, for the declaration of His justice, to condemn and punish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. This is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the Author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares Him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous Judge and Avenger thereof” (Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine, Article 15).
It follows from what has been said that there is also a doctrine called reprobation. This refers to the fact that there are those that God has not chosen, who are called “reprobates.” Whether we say that God has “passed by” some or that He actually chose some to be reprobates has little distinction. The fact is that God has not chosen all men to be saved and has left some in their misery which they were born and have willingly placed themselves. Some people have insisted that we must call this “double predestination” since some were predestined to life and others to death. Because all things are determined by God, this is certainly true.
Paul speaks about this in II Cor. 13:5,6 where he says, “Examine yourselves, as to whether you are in the faith; Test (Greek – “dokimazete”) yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? unless you are disqualified” (“adokimoi,” from the same root word as “test”). But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.” The Greek word translated by some as “disqualified” (KJV, “reprobate”) is the word “adokimos” which literally means “not standing up to the test,” “disapproved,” or “rejected.” In English, “probation” is a test given to man. So then, “Re-probation” is a failure of the test. Hence, we arrive at the noun “reprobate.” It is always used in the passive sense in the New Testament.
In II Cor. 13:5, the test is whether Christ dwells in the people. In Titus 1:16 the test is the works of men, which when put to the test of faith, are “disqualified.” Notice from the NKJV the various translations of this same word from the Greek: Hebrews 6:8 (“rejected”); Rom. 1:28 (“debased”); I Cor 9:27, Titus 1:16 (“disqualified”); II Tim. 3:8 (“disapproved”). The NKJV and the NIV have chosen not to use the word “reprobate,” but in each case it refers to those who are lost.
Arminians have rejected the doctrine of unconditional election mainly because of the teaching of reprobation, because it does not seem “fair.” It does not allow room for their teaching of the free will of man. Since God is loving, they say, God would not choose to have some of his creatures damned to hell. It is true that God is loving, but God is also a God of justice who does punish every sin, either in man or in the Son of Man (see Heidelberg Catechism Q.s 11, 12). His love and His justice are seen simultaneously as Jesus died (justice) on the cross as a substitute (love) for the elect.
No man has the inherent right to the gift of grace. The difficult thing for people to accept is that salvation is in God’s sovereign control – He can save whomsoever He wills. He is not forced to bypass His justice in order to show His love. To say that if God has chosen some to salvation by grace, that then he is obligated to make the same gesture to all men is a denial of the concept of “grace” which is unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor. The Scriptures make this distinction clear in reference to Jacob and Esau: “(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, The older shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Rom.9:11- 15, emphasis mine).
It is hard to see how the Arminian is not making the accusation of “unrighteousness” against God. By altering the clear teaching of the Bible and making salvation rest on the choice of man for the sake of making this doctrine more “fair,” it seems that they are actually calling into question the “right” of God to act according to His own good pleasure. It would be far better to just let “God be God” and “man be man” as Scripture teaches us.
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism, available for purchase. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author.
If you’d like to read the blog series from the beginning, start here.