Here we will consider the two branches of God’s sovereign predestining decree – election and reprobation. Instead of offering extensive commentary, here we just want to list the pertinent texts. I will put the phrases that relate immediately to predestination in bold. These are not texts for us to grind with in theological debates; they are texts for us to cherish, texts for us to nourish our souls with. We should read the following texts and simply ask, “Have I humbled myself to this truth?”
“Predestined to election“
The following passages clearly and undeniably teach God’s unconditional election of a people for His glory. “Unconditional election” means that God chooses His people on the basis of His free mercy alone, not on the basis of any foreseen merit or work they would do.
2 Timothy 1:8–10
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
1 Peter 1:2
“…elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace be multiplied.”
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
This passage should be read in full. Paul’s purpose in Romans 9 is to show “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls” (Romans 9:11). Paul’s argument is that God’s sovereign decree of “predestination unto election and unto reprobation” is based on God’s sovereign free will and mercy. This passage puts the final nail in the coffin for those who are trying to deny God’s sovereignty in predestination.
The center of Paul’s argument is in 9:16–18: “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharoah, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’ Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.”
“Predestined to reprobation“
In the above texts, we have seen that God predestines people to election. Here we will think through the passages that mention God’s predestining people to reprobation. Consider the following texts:
“The LORD has made all for Himself; yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.”
“So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharoah, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’ Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.”
“Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
2 Timothy 2:19–20
“Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’ But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.”
1 Peter 2:8
“…and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.”
Jude v. 4
“For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Reprobation means that God predestines people to be condemned and punished in hell, as the above Scriptures teach. This doctrine often makes people throw up their hands in disbelief – “How can it be?! That just seems unfair!” But this is not an unfair doctrine. It is rather a just doctrine. It is just on two accounts.
First, when God sends sinners to hell, He is entirely just, because all humans are both sinful by action and sinful by nature (see Romans 5:12–21). So while God has reprobated people before the world was created, all humans are sinful because of Adam’s sin, so no one ever goes to hell unjustly. Moreover, all people who have been reprobated play out their reprobation in real time, in their actions, and by unrighteously exercising their human responsibility.
Secondly, when God predestines sinners to hell, He is entirely just, because His sovereign decree is perfect, and God alone has the prerogative to “do whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). Remember here that God’s sovereignty means not only that He is in control of everything, but also that He is the only being who truly has free will. God and God alone can “do whatever He pleases.” He can have mercy on whom He will, and He can harden whom He will. Who are we to question our Creator? (See Romans 9.)
If we see the doctrine of reprobation (or “predestination unto reprobation”) as unjust and unfair, it is usually for two reasons:
1) First, it is because we don’t think humans are very bad. We don’t understand that humans are sinful both on the basis of their actions (Romans 5:12) and on the basis of their nature (Romans 5:19). That is, humans are sinful through what they do, and are also sinful because they have inherited a sinful nature from Adam. In light of this fact, God would have been perfectly just to predestine all fallen humans to condemnation.
2) Second, we may see reprobation as unfair because we are not viewing God as God. If another human were to sovereignly decree that I am a reprobate and am destined to hell, this would be not only unjust, it would be insane. But God is the sovereign Creator and Redeemer. Our God is in the heavens; He does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3). We make the mistake of thinking God is just like us (Psalm 50:21).
Moreover, the person who denies God’s sovereign reprobation needs to grapple with the texts listed above. While these texts should be weeped over, these texts cannot be ignored.