Again, we will take up the ever popular doctrine of reprobation. One of the more common ways of delineating the doctrine is to affirm something like this: Predestination of the elect is an intentional choice of God; whereas reprobation is merely a permissive choice, leaving them to their own devices with no active participation on the part of God in the preterition of the reprobate. In simpler terms, it is asserted that God actively chooses the elect for salvation, but the reprobate He merely passes over. I have long struggled to see the logic in such a suggestion. Some 1800 years ago, Tertullian wrote what seems to me to be the logical downfall of such an assertion. He says “for selection implies rejection.”
What could be clearer? If you are offered the chicken or the fish, and you choose the fish, you have ipso facto, rejected the chicken. What difference is there between rejecting it and passing it over? You have not chosen it. That is what rejection means: not choosing something. Again Tertullian says, “A preference for the one is not possible without slighting the other, and no choice can be made without a rejection. He who selects some one out of many, has already slighted the other which he does not select.”
So it seems rather impossible, in my estimation, flawed though it may be, to assert that God merely passes over the reprobate. The Bible unapologetically declares that God’s whole purpose for raising up Pharaoh was to condemn him as a demonstration of God's justice. Paul writes, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:17-23 ESV) The weight of Paul’s polemic is aimed at the natural assumption of fallen humanity that this is inherently unfair somehow.
But Scripture goes even further. We are told that God also hardens the reprobate and sends a spirit of delusion to them: “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess. 2:11-12 ESV)
And then going one step further, the Bible declares that God has predestined that they would stumble: “And ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” (1 Peter 2:8 ESV)
Consonant with this are the two related statements of Jude: (a) “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1 ESV) (b) “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4 ESV) Jude puts the choice of the elect and the choice of the reprobate in the exact same relationship: God’s sovereign choice.
Lest we fall into the Arminian error that puts the cart before the horse by claiming that God foreknows what man will do, and then tailors His reactions to this, God informs us that He hated Esau before he was born and before he did good or evil: “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” (Romans 9:11-13 ESV)
At bottom, it would appear to be a question of God’s sovereign control over all things. What advantage do we gain by saying that God is active in the choosing of the elect, but passive in the damnation of the reprobate? The very term reprobate implies their being the passive recipients of some judgment. Why isn’t it more consistent to say that if the elect are predestined to salvation that logically the opposite is also true?
Commenting on Proverbs 16:4, Matthew Henry writes: “Note, 1. That God is the first cause. He is the former of all things and all persons, the fountain of being; he gave every creature the being it has and appointed it its place. Even the wicked are his creatures, though they are rebels; he gave them those powers with which they fight against him, which aggravates their wickedness, that they will not let him that made them rule them, and therefore, though he made them, he will not save them. 2. That God is the last end. All is of him and from him, and therefore all is to him and for him. He made all according to his will and for his praise; he designed to serve his own purposes by all his creatures, and he will not fail of his designs; all are his servants. The wicked he is not glorified by, but he will be glorified upon.”
On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23 ESV)
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ (Acts 2:27-28 ESV)
If ever there was a reprobate, surely this was Judas Iscariot. In reference to him, we are told: Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him. (John 6:70-71 ESV)