Election & Reprobation
Explained

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 44a 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)

We have entered a section of the letter of Paul to the Romans which is considered by many to be perhaps the most difficult part of this letter.


In these three chapters, the apostle Paul will deal with the controversy surrounding the nation of Israel as well as the apparently controversial doctrine of sovereign predestination.

We saw previously how Paul entered into the subject. He assures us first of all, that he does not relish talking about the casting away of Israel. In fact, he could even wish that he were accursed from Christ if that might be a means to bring repentance to Israel.

Then he proceeds immediately to speak about how God had blessed Israel richly and had made covenants and promises with them.

But it is a well-known fact that the greater majority in Israel had remained in unbelief. Does that mean that “the word of God hath taken none effect”? Does it mean that the promises and covenants of God had failed?

Paul anticipates this question by showing that while God’s promises were given to the whole nation, His promises were not for the whole nation. For “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (v. 6). God’s promise was only for the elect in Israel. The promises were given to the whole nation only because the elect would be nurtured in her.

Israel was like a basket containing a mixture of granite and diamonds. God was carrying and caring for the basket not for the granite, but for the diamonds.

The same is true in the New Testament. God is carrying and caring for the church for the sake of the elect. His promises are given to the visible church only because of the elect in her.

1. Sovereign Election
Explained


Paul demonstrates this truth by showing that though Ishmael was a son of Abraham, he was not a child of the promise; and though Esau was a son of Isaac, he was not a child of the promise. God’s promise is not for Ishmael or for Esau; and neither is it for any who are not God’s children of promise.

But who determines who is a child of promise and who is not? It is God himself!

Paul says in verse 11 concerning Jacob and Esau:

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.

Now, the words quoted by the apostle “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” comes from Malachi 1. There, the LORD is saying through Malachi that Israel as a nation was favoured by Him because He loved their father Jacob; while on the other hand, Edom was accursed because He hated their father, Esau.

Whatever else may be said about this quotation, one thing is clear: God does not love everyone in the world. God loved Jacob, and hated Esau.

Why did God love Jacob but hated Esau? Was it because Jacob was a better man? Was it because he was more godly and would do more good works? Was it because Esau would be a wild and lawless man?

No, no; Paul makes it very clear: Even before the children were born, not to mention done any good or evil, God had announced to Rebecca that he favoured Jacob who would be the younger of the twins.

And it was not because God foresaw that Jacob would be godly and Esau would be ungodly. No, no; in fact if you read the life of Jacob, you will see that he grew up as a scheming liar. Why then did God favour Jacob over Esau? It was according to God’s sovereign election.

…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.

Nothing could be clearer. God loved Jacob and hated Esau not because He foresaw how good or bad they would be. He loved Jacob and hated Esau according to His purpose in election. That is, He loved Jacob and hated Esau according to His good pleasure and His sovereign will.

But is Paul only concerned about Jacob and Esau? Obviously not! He is using Jacob and Esau as an example of how God deals with everyone in the world, regardless of whether they are Jews or Gentiles (look at v. 24).

Everyone in this world is either God’s elect or a reprobate. The elect of God are those who were from eternity beloved in Christ (like Jacob) and chosen to be saved. The reprobate, on the other hand, are those who were hated by God (like Esau) and appointed to suffer His wrath before the foundation of the world.

God’s elect will be saved. God will ensure their salvation because Christ died for their sin. But the reprobate will be condemned for their sin.

That sounds unfair; but can it be true?

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim