Thoughts on Reprobation

Affirmation and Definition

Election necessitates Reprobation. However, Reprobation is not the antithesis of Election. Wayne Grudem provides a rich definition: “Reprobation is the sovereign decision of God before creation to pass over some persons, in sorrow deciding not to save them, and to punish them for their sins, and thereby to manifest his justice.”[1] Scriptures pointing to Reprobation include the following: Matthew 11:25-26; Romans 9:17-20, 22-23; 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 4; Revelation 17:8.

Differentiation and Attitude

Reprobation is differentiated from Election in that God is passive toward the Reprobate and active toward the Elect. God’s decree of Election is His eternal choice to chase down and definitively redeem certain individuals from their sinful condition. God’s decree of Reprobation is His eternal choice to pass over and definitively “leave be” certain individuals in their sinful condition. Because of man’s will which is bonded in sin, all God must do to reprobate a man is simply leave him alone. All God must do is not actively pursue him unto saving faith.

Why do we make such a distinction? Isn’t the distinction between passivity and activity mute, considering that God actively made each decision in eternity past? First, the differentiation is in God’s accomplishment of His eternal purpose (ex. Ro 9:6-24), not simply in the decision. Second, it is not a mute distinction because it is a decision that God Himself makes in His Word. Numerous times we read of God’s electing, effectual, regenerating grace. Yet, never in the Bible do we see God effectually chasing the Reprobate into Hell.

The final thing to consider is the attitude in which Reprobation is presented. Scripture tells us that there is a true sense in which 1) God take displeasure in the death of wicked men (Ezek 33:11), 2) men and angels are responsible for their actions (Jn 3:18-19; 5:40). Paul expressed his own sorrow for these: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren…” (Ro 9:1-4).

Emboldened Grace and the Value of God’s Glory

The reader may want to understand why God would choose to pass over certain sinners and not save them. It is not necessary to know why, for “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?… Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:2, 4). Yet I submit that we are given two reasons why. First, to make known to His elect the riches of His glorious grace (Ro 9:23). God’s gospel grace is underscored, emboldened, highlighted, and further glorified, when God demonstrates through vessels of wrath that He truly does not have to save any of us (v.22).

Second, to glorify Himself. God’s glory is the most valuable thing imaginable. God being glorified is a better end than any other possible outcome. It is the superlative to even human well-being. If God was willing to destroy His Son in wrath (Isa 53:10a; Ro 3:23-26) for the greater purpose of glorifying Himself, why is it so unbelievable that He would not also be willing to pass over certain individuals for the greater purpose of glorifying Himself?


[1] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 684

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