Election and Reprobation

Q – I was listening to Sovereignty 101 … now I have another question. Why would God create the people that are not chosen to be part of his elect? If they are not chosen, then they are destined for hell. If I understand this correctly, they have no hope of heaven. This is the one thing that I cannot figure out. God is all-knowing, omnipresent, and sovereign. I get that. I .just don’t understand where all the unsaved people fit in and why they were even created.

Jim – It’s good to hear from you again. As usual, I’m behind in my emails. It seems to go with the territory.

The hardest questions to answer, when speaking of God’s right to do as He pleases in the counsels of Heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, are the “why” questions. “Why” God does what He does the way He does it is not always apparent nor are we always able to give fully satisfying answers.

What we really need to ask first is – Does God in fact create people who remain un-chosen and therefore eternally condemned? If the answer to that question is provably affirmative, then we must accept that reality whether or not we can arrive at a comfortable reason why.

So, let’s start at the start. It is a fundamental Biblical teaching that all humans are born sinful. It’s our character, part of our intrinsic make-up. We do not become sinners when we sin; we sin because we are sinners. The ultimate proof of this fact is that all men and women die. “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) Ergo: death comes to everyone because everyone is guilty of sin. That’s our natural state.

Paul’s theology is that all of mankind would have perished eternally had God not chosen certain individuals and brought them to Himself. Follow his logic in Ephesians 2 –

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” (v. 1)

God in Christ “quickened” or “made alive” some people who were spiritually dead. What did that original state of spiritual deadness look like?

“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:” (v.2)

Without the quickening power of God’s Spirit indwelling us, we walked according to this carnal, fleshly world. But not only that, we walked in accordance with the will of Satan, “the prince of the power of the air.” In other words, we were not just “spiritually neutral,” but positively evil. And while we have been delivered from the grip of Satan’s evil influence, that same devilish spirit continues to work in “the children of disobedience.”

So, all of humankind is broken up into two camps – those who are indwelt by Christ and those who walk according to this world and the power of Satan. And, contrary to popular belief, we do not start off on the right foot. We start off spiritually dead and under Satan’s influence. Left to ourselves, we would be in desperate trouble. That’s why the grace of God is so necessary in raising us to newness of life.

“Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (v.3)

Notice Paul’s description of saved Christians. We were once naturally conversant with the children of disobedience, following the lusts of our flesh and fulfilling all our carnal desires. That’s how Paul describes every human “by nature.” But, he also adds a very telling phrase to that description. He says that we were by nature “children of wrath.”

In other words, God chose some for eternal life. He did not choose them because they were good. In fact, they were just like the rest of the evil world. The only difference was that God chose them “before the foundation of the world.” (Eph. 1:4) Contrariwise, the ones He did not positively elect are called “children of wrath.” The wrath of God abides on them.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36)

Now, the question you’re asking, Paul also addressed. He knew that his teaching would cause people to say, “But how can God condemn people when they were powerless to change? If everything happens according to His will, isn’t it unfair to judge them?” Here is Paul’s reply.

“Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Rom 9:19-24)

When asked to defend God’s judgment of those who had no choice in the matter, Paul resorted to God’s sovereignty and basically said, “Who are you to question God?” Just as a potter makes pots and jars any way he pleases, so God can make people any way that pleases Him. But look particularly at Paul’s description of the unsaved. He calls them “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” In other words, they were made for that purpose.

And God endures their sinfulness and constant affronts to His holiness for one reason: “… that he might make known the riches of this glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.

That begins to answer your question. God does what He does the way He does it in order to reveal certain aspects of His being to His creation. He is going to make Himself known as the merciful, loving, gracious God among those people whom He saves. And as they witness His judgment against people who are essentially no guiltier than themselves, they will realize the great love which He has poured out on them in accordance with His own reasons for His own glory.

But let’s be clear. God ordained both salvation and judgment. They both serve His glory and His revelation of Himself.

“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4)

It is important to point out that this idea was not unique to the New Testament writers. They gleaned their knowledge of God’s workings from the books we call the Old Testament. For instance –

“The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” (Prov 16:4)

“Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.” (Jer 17:18)

“For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isa. 45:4-7)

So, I must conclude that whatever happens, it is God’s hand and good pleasure that caused it. And that is the best vantage point from which to answer the question, “Why?” God does everything in order to bring glory to Himself.

“For by him (Christ) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Col 1:16-17)

It’s undeniable that He made all things and they continue to exist because they serve His purpose. The elect exist in order that God may demonstrate His wonderful mercy. The wicked exist so that God may demonstrate His awesome holy judgment. They both redound to His glory.

We humans have a natural (sinful) tendency to make ourselves the center of the universe. We think that mankind is the highest, most important part of creation. But, that’s wrong. God is the center of all existence and everything that exists does so in order to serve His purpose of glorifying Himself.

So, to make a long answer slightly shorter, we live and breathe at God’s command and for His purpose. Some of us humans will enjoy everlasting life in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Others will be eternally separated from Him. The deciding factor in that judgment is faith in Christ, which is a gift from God – God being the “first cause” in all things. God chooses. God elects. And God condemns. He does all these things in order that God may indeed “be all and in all.” (1 Cor. 15:28)

In the end, I resort to the same defense Paul used. We humans are not up to the task of putting God on trial and arguing that His judgment is somehow unfair. It is enough for us to know that He is in control and does whatever He pleases. Knowing that, we ought to never stop thanking Him for not passing us by, but for bringing us to Himself in Sovereign mercy.

Why does God do what He does? Because He’s God.

Yours in Him,
Jim Mc.