Election & Reprobation 
Upheld

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 44c of 83


18  Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19  Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20  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? 21  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22  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: 23  And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24  Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:11-24)

3. Sovereign Election: 
Upheld

If God hardens whom He will, then wouldn’t it be unfair for God to find fault with those he hardens? Paul anticipates this question in verse 19—

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

This is a legitimate question isn’t it? If God hardens my heart so that I cannot do good, then how can He condemn me? If as Paul suggests, God hardens the reprobate so that they sin, then how can God condemn the reprobate?

How does Paul answer? Does he say, no, do not misunderstand me. I do not mean to say that God actually hardens anyone, I do not mean to say that God actually elect anyone beforehand and reprobate anyone beforehand. If he actually elects anyone beforehand or hardens anyone’s heart, then of course, no one can resist His will and so it would be unfair for God to find fault with anyone.

Does Paul say that? No, no; he does not apologise. We heard him correctly. God does harden the heart of the reprobate. The Lord Jesus himself taught this truth on many occasions. He taught this doctrine more than any other persons in the whole Bible. For example, He told His disciples that He preached in parables in order that the reprobate might remain in their blindness:

“That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them” (Mk 4:12).

The apostle John commenting on the Lord’s teaching says that God had…

“… blinded [the] eyes [of the reprobate], and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and [God] should heal them” (Jn 12:40).

So Paul does not at all deny that God hardens the heart of the reprobate. And neither does he deny that no one can resist God’s will. But he denies that this mean that God has no right to find fault with anyone! 

Man is a proud creature. He thinks that God is accountable to him and owes him an explanation for all he does. But this is foolish thinking:

20 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?

What is man that we should talk back to God? What is man that we should ask God to explain Himself? How can the creature question his Creator, “Why hast thou made me thus?”

21  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

God is our Creator. We are but creatures of dust! We are just like the clay that a potter uses to make his vessels.

Does not the potter have the right to make a lump of clay into anything he wants? Does the clay have the right to question him if he should choose to make it into a spittoon or squat pan? Does not the potter have the unquestionable prerogative to make one lump of clay into a potty and another lump into a cup to be used by the king?

God, likewise, has the sovereign prerogative to mould some men into vessels of mercy and honour, and others into vessels of wrath and dishonour.

22 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:  23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

God has, from all eternity, appointed some men to be vessels of mercy. These are His elect in Christ. He has marked these out as vessels of glory. In the salvation of these, He would display the riches of His glory. These would serve for all eternity as the trophies of His redeeming grace, reflecting the brightness of His covenant loving-kindness forever and ever.

On the other hand, God has, from all eternity, appointed some men to be vessels of wrath. These may be known as the reprobate. These have been appointed before the foundation of the world to display God’s glory in His power and perfect justice and wrath against sin.

These vessels are fitted for destruction. These would be hardened by sin against righteousness. Like the vessels of mercy, these deserve to be destroyed; but God would withhold His destruction of them so that His justice and wrath may be seen the more clearly at the Last Day.

It is like a potter making a vessel out of a lump of clay. He has determined that he is making a vessel for the purpose of destruction. Now, He could destroy it at anytime. He could crush it before he completes moulding it. But he waits. He finishes moulding the vessel. The clay is still wet. He could crush it then. But he waits. He waits for it to harden. He waits for it to be used. And then he smashes it. And what a great noise the destruction of the vessel makes.

Can we question or fault God for doing so? He is the Potter, we are the clay. He is the Creator, we are the creature. What right do we have to question Him?

We have no right to question Him. But one thing, we know. All that He does is right and good.

Conclusion

What should we do with this doctrine?

First, let us be clear in our minds that the doctrine of God’s sovereign election and reprobation is an undeniable doctrine. Romans 9 makes it absolutely clear. Those who try to argue it away despite what the apostle Paul is teaching us end up carving an idol for themselves and rejecting  the living and true God of the Bible.

A god who leaves salvation entirely or partly in the hand of men is a powerless God, very different from the God of the Bible.

The God of the Bible is a sovereign God who does all things according to His sovereign will and therefore is able to do good to His elect for the sake of His Son.

This God of the Bible does not desire everyone to be saved or He would save everyone. He does not love everyone in the world. Indeed, everyone in the world deserves to be hated for our sin. But God in His mercy chose some to be united to His son. He loves them for the sake of His Son. They are “accepted in the beloved” says Paul in Ephesians 1. These, He would saved by divine power.

But the rest of mankind, God would punish. He had determined to condemn them. He would in His wrath harden their hearts and He would punish them for their sin.

Yes, many people would be offended when they hear us speak about God in this way. Yes, many professing Christian will be offended if we tell them their god is but an idol of their own imaginations. Yes, many professing believers will charge that if God is as we say Paul is describing, then He is a horrible tyrant.

But shall we please man, or shall we honour God by thinking and speaking about Him in the way that He has revealed Himself to be? We do not dare to say anything about God but what He has revealed about himself. We dare not misrepresent Him according to what we think He should be.  Let God be true and every man a liar!

But secondly, rather than questioning the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, and trying to probe into the intricate details surrounding the doctrine, we should be spending time making our calling and election sure.

How do we make our calling and election sure? Let us begin by meditating on the fact that we do not deserve God’s love. Think of the millions who are perishing. Consider for a moment how you are as wicked, if not more wicked than those who are perishing; and yet God in His mercy saved you.

Now, as your heart is filled with wonder at His grace, resolve to live gratefully for the Lord. Resolve to serve Him cheerfully. Resolve to keep His commandments out of love. Make a commitment to make use of the means He has appointed for our sanctification. If you don’t make a commitment, you will continue to excuse your selves and refuse to grow in Christ.

In other words, you can make your calling and election sure only by gratefully working out your salvation with fear and trembling. Unless you are grateful to the Lord for electing and saving you, you are not going to think that your salvation is important, and you are not going to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

And if you don’t work out your salvation with fear and trembling, you can never make your calling and election sure. Indeed, you will have very little reason to be sure you are a child of God!

Remember that you are not a child of God simply because you have been baptised and attend church. A person who is baptise and attends church merely to fulfil his obligations is like a woman who paints her face with makeup and puts on a beautiful dress but neglect her health and her soul.

A bar of brass made to look like a bar of gold does not make it gold. Even if it is stamped with a certificate of authenticity, it does not become gold. It remains brass.

Oh dear reader, take heed to your heart to make sure that it made of real gold. A heart of real gold loves the Lord, and all that is associated with Him—His worship, His Word, His Laws, His church, His ordinances, His people etc, etc.

Will you not strive to enter the kingdom of God, for many are striving to enter and are not able? Do not remain complacent and foolish.

But finally, let us not fall into the error of hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinists are those who believe that since God has elected and reprobated, there is no point in deliberately witnessing or preaching to the unconverted. If they are elect, they say, God will bring them to the church and He will save them. If they are reprobate, then if you witness to them, you will be casting pearl at swine.

But this is a very sad application of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty! No, no; in so far as God has not revealed to us who are His elect and who are reprobate, we must continue to witness and to preach to all.

Indeed, we ought to be more zealous in being the witness of Christ because God has elected some unto salvation. Because God has elected we can be assured that the preaching of the Gospel and our witness is not in vain. Those who are the elect will come to know the Lord. The Lord himself will ensure that. But faith comes by the hearing of the word. So we must continue to preach, so we must continue to invite them to come and hear the word preached.

So, contrary to not evangelising, we must re-double our effort. We must evangelise because our Lord has commanded us to do so. We must preach the Gospel to all the world. We must be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the world. We must preach to everyone without distinction because God has not indicated to us who are the elect.

We must go and preach knowing that God has His elect in the world. He will bring them in. So our efforts will not be in vain. So we shall bear fruit for Christ’s sake. Amen.

—JJ Lim