Sovereign Reprobation Harsh but True!
The Church of the Lord Jesus was meant to be the “pillar and ground of the truth” [I Tim. 3:15]. And just as He came to bear witness to the truth, even so, the ministers of God are commanded to preach the whole truth which is synonymous to sound doctrine. Like everything else sound doctrine has two sides to it, the sweet and the bitter. When the Word of God says that, “men will not endure sound doctrine” [II Tim. 4:3], it usually means the bitter side of sound doctrine. Men generally will most eagerly welcome the doctrine of election but will not endure its opposite i.e., reprobation. They will eagerly welcome a doctrine which emphasizes the Lord’s blessings but will want nothing to do with one that demands the cost of discipleship.
There are those who not only ignore the doctrine of reprobation but at times outrightly deny it. Take John MacArthur,Jr., for instance, he says,
John MacArthur wrote:
“You’ll never find any place in the Bible that God sends people to hell, you’ll never find any place in the Bible that God damns people. If men choose to go to hell, they go there because they pronounce their own sentence in rejecting Jesus Christ” (Tape GC 1746).
Well, that is true, but it is only a part of the truth. It is the truth from the human side. But there is a divine side too, and this side of the truth needs to be stressed or God will be robbed of His glory.
There can be no election without its opposite, reprobation. The very terms “elect” and “Election” imply the terms “non-elect” and “Reprobation”. Every choice, evidently and necessarily implies a refusal, for where there is no leaving out there can be no choice. If there be some whom God has elected unto salvation [II Thess. 2:13], there must be others who are not elected unto salvation. If there be some who are not appointed unto wrath [I Thess. 5:9], there must be others who are appointed to wrath. The Scripture speaks of those who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed [I Pet. 2:8].
Though the doctrine of reprobation is offensive to the carnal mind, there are those who are compelled to admit that the Bible does teach reprobation, only because there are explicit verses that establish this fact. But they subtly adulterate this biblical truth by speaking of it only as a judicial act of God. In other words, God, they say only hardens and reprobates those who have rejected His truth. Once again consider the words of MacArthur,
John MacArthur wrote:
“Those who perish and go to hell, go because they are depraved and worthy only of hell and have rejected the only remedy, Jesus Christ; not because they were created for hell and predetermined to go there.”
[MacArthur’s Commentary Bible 2 Peter 3:9].
While speaking on the doctrine of Reprobation, one fact needs to be established. i.e. that the cause of the divine decree of reprobation is not to be found in anything else other than the sovereign good pleasure of God. I quote below a commentary on Romans 9:18-20 by A.W. Pink.
A.W. Pink wrote:
“Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth”. The “therefore” announces the general conclusion which the apostle draws from all he had said in the three preceding verses in denying that God was unrighteous in loving Jacob and hating Esau, and specifically it applies the principle exemplified in God’s dealings with Pharaoh. It traces everything back to the sovereign will of the Creator. He loves one and hates another, He exercises mercy toward some and hardens others, without reference to anything save His own sovereign will.
That which is most repellant to the carnal mind in the above verse is the reference to hardening—”Whom He will He hardeneth”—and it is just here that so many commentators and expositors have adulterated the truth. The most common view is that the apostle is speaking of nothing more than judicial hardening, i.e., a forsaking by God because these subjects of His displeasure had first rejected His truth and forsaken Him. Those who contend for this interpretation appeal to such scriptures as Rom. 1:19-26—”God gave them up”, that is (see context) those who “knew God” yet glorified Him not as God (v. 21). Appeal is also made to II Thess. 2:10-12. But it is to be noted that the word “harden” does not occur in either of these passages. But further. We submit that Rom. 9:18 has no reference whatever to judicial “hardening”. The apostle is not there speaking of those who had already turned their backs on God’s truth, but instead, he is dealing with God’s sovereignty, God’s sovereignty as seen not only in showing mercy to whom He wills, but also in hardening whom He pleases. The exact words are “Whom He will”—not “all who have rejected His truth”—”He hardeneth”, and this, coming immediately after the mention of Pharaoh, clearly fixes their meaning. The case of Pharaoh is plain enough, though man by his glosses has done his best to hide the truth.
“Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will he hardenteth”. This affirmation of God’s sovereign “hardening” of sinners’ hearts—in contradistinction from judicial hardening—is not alone. Mark the language of John 12:37-40, “But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him: that the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe (why?), because that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts (why? Because they had refused to believe on Christ? This is the popular belief, but mark the answer of Scripture) that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”
Now, reader, it is just a question as to whether or not you will believe what God has revealed in His Word. It is not a matter of prolonged searching or profound study, but a childlike spirit which is needed, in order to understand this doctrine of Sovereign Reprobation.