Election & Reprobation
Defended

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 44b of 83


11  (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12  It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13  As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14  What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15  For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16  So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 17  For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18  Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.… ” (Romans 9:11-24)

2. Sovereign Election: Defended

If it is true that only the elect will be saved while the reprobate will be condemn, wouldn’t God be unfair?

Paul anticipates the question:

14 What shall we say then?  Is there unrighteousness with God?

In other words, “Isn’t God unfair?” If God loved Jacob and hated Esau even, before they had done good or evil, then wouldn’t God be unfair?

b.  How does Paul reply?

14b God forbid.

No, not at all! Absolutely not! And why not? Paul quotes God’s words to Moses from Exodus 33:19 to show us why.…

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Why? Because all are guilty, and since all are guilty, all do not deserve God’s mercy, compassion or love.

It is beyond the question of fairness when God shows mercy and compassion to some. The fact is that if we want fairness, none of us deserve to live. We all deserve to be hated and to die. We should all perish.

If there are ten prisoners in the death row, all having committed treason and murder, and the king decides to pardon two of them, then what right do the other eight prisoners have, to complain that the king is not fair? If they want fairness, all should be executed.

But God in His mercy has chosen some to be saved. He will save them not according to their will and effort, not according to how well they run, but according to His own will and mercy, verse 16—

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

The fact is God has the sovereign right to show mercy to whom He wills and to condemn whom He wills.

In fact, He has the right not only to condemn who He wills, but also to harden the heart of whom He wills,—so that he will remain in sin.

The Scripture makes this very clear:

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

Paul is quoting from Exodus 9:16. A little background will help us understand what God is saying.

God had sent Moses to speak to Pharaoh to let His people go. We read in Exodus 4:21—

“And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.”

This is amazing isn’t it? God would enable Moses to do wonders before Pharaoh, but He himself would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh would not be moved to let the people go.

We will take another message to talk about this work of hardening, but for now, take note that the book of Exodus repeats ten times that God would or had hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh would not let the people go (Ex 4:21; 7:3, 13; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8).

Why did God do so? The text quoted by Paul in verse 17, which is God’s words to Pharaoh after the seventh plague makes it very clear: God raised Pharaoh specifically for the purpose of showing in him His great power that His name might be declared throughout all the earth (Ex 9:16). God hardened Pharaoh’s heart for the same purpose, namely His own glory.

It is very clear, is it not? God’s purpose in election and salvation is not dependent upon man’s free will. “It is not of him that willeth” says Paul in verse 16. If it were dependent on man’s free will, then God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart would make no sense.

Let me put it this way: Suppose you are an employee in a company. Your boss tells you and your colleagues that at the end of the year he will give some of you a raise. He does not tell you the basis for choosing who to get the increment. But, during the year, it becomes clear that he favours some of you and does not favour others. And not only so, but it appears that he would give opportunities for some to do well, while he apparently put obstacles in the paths of others.  

Then at the end of the year, those whom the boss favours get the increment and others get the sack. Now, what would you say? Would you say that you and your colleagues were assessed based on your performances?

Of course not! Would you not rather say that the assessment was not fair! It was not based on merit.

Well, this is exactly what the apostle Paul is trying to show us! No, he is not trying to show that God is unfair. When the boss in the company favours some and blocks the progress of others, it would be unfairness. But in the case of God, as we have shown, there is no unfairness. The fact is: none of us deserve anything good from God, and none of us has the ability to do good. There is none that doeth good, no not one.

What Paul is trying to reiterate, rather, is that God’s choice of whom to save is not dependant on man’s free will.

Since God raise up Pharaoh for His own glory and hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that He would not let His people go, it is clear that God’s election and salvation is not dependant on man’s will. It is rather dependant on God’s sovereign choice and mercy:

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

God has the sovereign prerogative to show mercy to whom He will and to harden whom He will.

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim