On God, His Word, His Church, and His World
On God, His Word, His Church, and His World
God’s Purposeful and Definitive Love
From Canons of Dort (1619), Head of Doctrine I, Article 7:
Election is God’s unchangeable purpose by which he did the following: Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them.
God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.
As Scripture says, “God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, so that we should be holy and blameless before him with love; he predestined us whom he adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, by which he freely made us pleasing to himself in his beloved” (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere, “Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).
Notice a few key characteristics regarding election.
The time of election: Before the foundation of the world.... (2 Tim 1:9; Eph 1:4)
The cause of election: by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will.... (Rom 9:15-18; Titus 3:4-7; Eph 1:4, 7; 2:8-10)
The proximate goal of election: he chose in Christ to salvation.... (Eph 1:4, 5, 7, 13)
The definiteness of election: a definite number of particular people.... (Mt 1:21; Jn 6:37, 39; Rm 8:28-30)
The diversity of the elect: out of the entire human race.... (Jn 11:51-52; Rev 5:9-10)
The necessity of election: which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin.... (Rom 5:15-17; Eph 2:1-3)
The unconditionality of election: Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery.... (Eph 2:3)
The foundation of election, chosen in the Chosen One: He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation.... (Heb 2:13; 3:2; 10:5-7; 1 Pet 1:20; John 6:37, 39; 17:2, 6, 9, 24; Eph 1:3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 13)
The working out of election in time: And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through his Word and Spirit.... (John 6:44; Eph 2:4-7; 1:13-14)
The certainty and fruit of election: In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them.... (John 6:37, 39; 10:28-29; Rom 8:28-30; 31-39)
The ultimate goal of election: God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.... (Eph 1:6, 12, 14)
From Canons of Dort (1619), Head of Doctrine I, Article 15:
Moreover, Holy Scripture most especially highlights this eternal and undeserved grace of our election and brings it out more clearly for us, in that it further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God’s eternal election– those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision:  to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves;  not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion;  but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice. And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God the author of sin (a blasphemous thought!) but rather its fearful, irreproachable, just judge and avenger.
There are differences between election and reprobation:
1. Election (predestination unto salvation) depends completely upon God, that is, monergism (singular operation).
2. Reprobation (predestination unto condemnation) depends upon God leaving man in his sinful state, acquiescing to man’s desire to not repent, and condemning man in what man has already chosen. In other words, reprobation is a work that depends on God and man, “but never takes apart from sin and culpability of those who are not saved.” It is concursus within God’s providence, that is synergism (co-operation).
Three aspects of reprobation:
A. “to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves...” In saving some, God passes over others by leaving them in the sin they have desired.
-Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:34 (Pharaoh hardens his heart): 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.... 32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go....34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
-Psalm 7:15-16: He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.
-Psalm 9:15-16: The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught. 16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.
-Psalm 69:22 (quoted by Romans 11:9-10): Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.
-Romans 1:18-32: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
-2 Thessalonians 2:11: The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
B. “not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion...” God withholds His mercy. That is His prerogative.
-Isaiah 6:9-10 (quoted in Matthew 13:10ff et al): And he said, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’ ”
-Matthew 11:25-27: At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
-Matthew 13:10-15 (cf. Mark 4:12; Lk 8:10; John 12:39-40; Acts 28:24-28): Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”
-John 17:9: I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.
-Romans 11:7-8: What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”
-Ephesians 4:17-19: Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
C. “but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins...” He ultimately hardens reprobate in their sin. God gives them what they want (cf. Rom 1:24, 26, 28).
-Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12 (The LORD hardens Pharaoh’s heart): 21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.... 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you.... 12 But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had spoken to Moses.
-1 Samuel 2:25: If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.
-Romans 2:5: But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
-2 Timothy 2:19-20: But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” 20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.
-1 Peter 2:8: So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
-2 Peter 2:12-13a: But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime.
-Jude 4: 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.
D. One of the most important text (has all three categories):
-Romans 9:14-24: What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 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.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 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?” 21 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? 22 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, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
E. Important clarifications regarding reprobation
1. The reprobation of the condemned is for God’s glory: “in order to display his justice.”
-Psalm 83:17-18: Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, 18 that they may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.
-Exodus 9:16: But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.
-Exodus 14:17: And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen.
-Romans 9:17 (quoting Exodus 9:16): 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.”
2. God is not morally culpable at all in the sin of man. He is not the author of sin: “And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God the author of sin (a blasphemous thought!) but rather its fearful, irreproachable, just judge and avenger.”
-James 1:13-15: Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
3. Man is condemned not because of God’s election but because of his sin. God does not prevent anyone from coming to Him. That is, He does not take away from man something he deserves (grace), not puts something in his life that wasn’t already there (sin). God gives man what man wants (cf. Rom 1:18-32).
-John 3:18-19: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
-Hebrews 3:19; 4:6: 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.... 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience,
4. Sinful man has no claim to God’s mercy whatsoever. Thus, all mankind (each individual) deserves God’s judgment.
-Romans 9:18: So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
-Titus 3:4-7: But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
5. We must careful to not question the generosity and mercy of God in election and reprobation, nor to give ourselves over, in pride or despair, to speculate on that which God has not revealed.
-Matthew 20:15: Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?
-Romans 11:33-36: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
-Deuteronomy 29:29: The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.