A Treatise on Sovereign
by Dr. Julian Kennedy
This article was called for in response to a popular Christian website
where the question asked in one of the many click-on boxes was 'Why did God create you?'
Had the answer been written solely for believers it would have been
acceptable, but I am sure the site's author knew some non-Christians would visit it. This being the case the answers
given by the site's author are false and misleading.
Listed below in italics are four of the eight reasons given by the
website's author as to why God created the curious web-surfer.
- 1) You were loved
with an everlasting love. This quote bases itself on Jeremiah 31:3 and reworded in Ephesians 1:4. In context these
verses plainly speak of the people of GOD.
- 2) You are to be
His bride. This
quote cites Isaiah 54:5 and Ephesians 5:25. Again these verses only apply to God's elect people.
- 3) You are created
to have fellowship with God. This quote cites 1 John 1:3. This verse is taken from an epistle to believers about believers.
- 4) You are God's
special people. This
quote cites Titus 2:14 and Matthew 5:16. Again the quoted verses are only applicable to the redeemed disciples
|There are many tracts that give as the 'first spiritual law'-'God loves
you and has a wonderful plan for your life'. All the above quotations and this last are true if and only if the
reader is an elect sinner or already a Christian -- someone whom God the Father has adopted as His child -- but
the statements are certainly not true nor to be said to someone still in unbelief who may remain that way till
Scripture and Reformed theology (Calvinism) stands against this wishful woolly thinking and absurd theology. I
am deeply indebted to A.W. PINK, chapter 5, in his 'Sovereignty of God' (1956 Baker edition) and to Herman Hoeksema's
'Reformed dogmatics' and booklet on reprobation which I have used as a basis for this treatise.
A few 'proof texts' alone are actually sufficient to expose these errors; e.g. Romans 9 where God the potter says
He has the right to make vessels of honor (the elect) and dishonor (the reprobate) and where He states He unconditionally
loved one twin (Jacob) and hated the other (Esau) before they had done anything in this world. But there follows
as full a proof as I can muster to prove that God has two decreed destinies for men.
God has decreed before time how things will be eternally. If, as Scripture teaches, a large proportion of human
beings are on the broad road and stay on it and are lost eternally, then it is quite logical to infer that (a)
they are responsible for their sin and doom and (b) God also decreed their destiny.
At this point a definition is in order:
- Reprobation means that God sovereignly decrees the damnation of fallen
angels and many fallen men to the praise of His glorious justice and power (Romans 3:8). They are vessels of wrath
fitted to destruction in the way of sin, appointed to damnation and for whom darkness is reserved.
It ought to be emphasized that it is of the Lord's mercy that any
men are saved, as all deserve damnation.
Alongside this it must be said that election is the primary decree
of God and reprobation is subordinate to it, and in a sense different, in that reprobation is not the cause of
sin and unbelief in the way that election causes faith.
The actions of the reprobate in life who constitute part of the antithetical
world that hates God and His people serve the purpose of sanctification in the elect. I will now illustrate this
- The reprobate exist for the sake of the elect -- Isaiah 43:4.
- Pharaoh and his host and the Canaanites perished for the salvation
of Israel (Joshua 11:18-20, Exodus 23:23, Psalm 136 and Romans 9:17)
- Babylon serves to chastise Jerusalem but thereby makes itself ripe
for judgment. (Proverbs 21:18 and 16:4)
- Over the centuries the seed of the serpent have persecuted the seed
of the woman. The reprobate serve the salvation of the elect unwillingly as godless and thus are guilty and worthy
of condemnation (Matthew 25:41-46).
- Judas and those who crucified Christ are a classic case: To save
and glorify the elect, Christ must suffer, bleed and die but the wicked reprobate (unrepentant) world are guilty
of the sin, serving God's counsel. Of Judas the Lord said it would have been better if he had never been born.
As the 'son of perdition,' Judas had a clearly mapped-out destiny as the name suggests.
Now to further proof of this doctrine:
- In the providence of God many people never hear the gospel (Paul
was stopped from going into Bithynia).
- Notwithstanding the great commission to go and make disciples of
all people, God ultimately is responsible if some never hear -- thus the means of grace is withheld.
- Furthermore God judiciously blinds and hardens people so they cannot
respond (they are stony ground hearers of Mark 4:8-12; see also Matthew 11:15,25-27 13:11-17 quoted from Isaiah
But why should this be? The answer lies in God's eternal decree of
election and reprobation.
- God either sovereignly loves or hates from eternity-this is stated
in Romans 9 quoted from Malachi 1:2-4. Note that in the OT verse it states that the reprobate are those against
whom the Lord has indignation forever! This is also what JESUS says is God's attitude to those who never believe
- In Matthew 7:23 Christ, looking forward to the day of judgment, says
of the reprobate 'I NEVER knew you'. Similarly He says of the religious leaders 'You are not my sheep' (John 10:26)
whereas His sheep hear His voice (the effectual call) and He knows them all by name. Similarly Christ says their
father is the devil and that they are not God's (John 8:44,47). In contrast God's people listen to Christ and love
- On this point also remember that there is in scripture clear teaching
on the Lamb's book of life and it contains the names of all the elect. Those not found in it CANNOT be saved.
- Christ's prayer in John 17:9 is oft quoted as additional evidence
for electing grace as the scope of His prayer is limited to his disciples.
- In Matthew 13:24-30 Jesus in the parable of the field teaches that
the visible kingdom (church?) has two kinds of plants in it -- those planted by God (the wheat) and those planted
by Satan (the weeds). They remain wheat or weeds till the judgment.
|Returning to the central passage on our theme, in Romans 9 and particularly
verse 17 we see Pharaoh as an example of the reprobate. Pharaoh had every opportunity to repent but in Genesis
15:13,14 and Exodus 7:3 it is clear God had a plan and He hardened Pharaoh's heart even before Pharaoh hardened
his own. The song that Moses and the Israelites sang at the Red Sea, repeated in Revelation 15:3, attributes justice
to all God did at that miraculous time.
Now I will discuss some NT verses that I believe clearly teach a DESTINY
for the reprobate.
- In 1 Peter 2:6-10 we read of those who stumbled over Christ (presumably
many Jews) who were disobedient but also APPOINTED to that disobedience! In contrast the elect (Gentiles in this
case) were chosen to obey and praise God.
- In 2 Peter 2:4,9,12 and 17 we read of reprobate angels and men for
whom judgment is RESERVED -- this word points to an inevitable destiny.
- Jude 4 and 13 similarly speak of an ORDINATION to condemnation of
- 1 Thess 5:9, speaking of God's people, says they were not appointed
to wrath but the clear assumption of the apostle is that others are!
- To any who would dispute that perdition is not eternal loss and damnation
I refer them to Revelation 17:8 and 11 and 2 Thess 3:3 where the antichrist/beast is called the son of perdition
and finally goes into perdition which is eternal punishment in the lake of fire (Rev 20:10).
- Interestingly the passage in 2 Thessalonians 3 speaks of them that
are perishing (v10) and that their destiny is damnation (v12).
- There is another Scripture (Phil 1:28) where the word 'perdition'
is used. In the context of persecution Paul encourages the believers to be bold, and that their brave stance will
witness to their persecutors of their lostness.
Naturally many reading these lines will retort that I have not taken
into consideration those verses that appear to express either a universal love of God for all men or a sincere
desire to save all men.
- It must be remembered when interpreting scripture that what is unclear
must be interpreted in the light of what is clear.
- Predestination and election and, I trust, reprobation are clearly
taught in scripture. Therefore these verses cannot contradict those truths as GOD HAS ONE WILL OF DECREE FROM ETERNITY
(Job 23:13 and Acts 15:18), and He cannot have a will in time that expresses a different desire. His perceptive
will is clear -- He commands all men to repent and believe.
- John 3:16 and the COSMOS that God loved (note past tense ) cannot
mean every man. A look in any concordance of the use of the word in the NT will reveal various meanings but none
in which it means every single human being. This COSMOS that Christ loved will be saved (v17) and it is the elect
among men and the created universe.
- 2 Peter 3:9 is easily refuted as the longsuffering of God is toward
'us' and He does not will that any elect perish -- cf John 17 where the elect are spoken of as given to Christ
and kept and none is lost. Inasmuch as these words were spoken, all believers are among the other sheep that Jesus
said HE MUST bring, in John 10:16.
- 1 Timothy 2:4 in context is speaking of men of all kinds and conditions;
e.g., kings and those in authority, etc. It is not speaking of all without exception but all without exclusion.
- Titus 3:4 speaks of 'man' generically and cannot be contorted to
mean all men.
- Ezekiel 18 and 33 are verses addressed to the chosen people of God,
the ISRAELITES, and cannot be pressed into service by those who would make out that God has no pleasure in the
death, physical or spiritual, of any man, as is proven by the examples of Nadab, Abihu, Uzzah, the sons of Eli,
Ananias, Sapphira, etc., and the testimony of Revelation 4:11.
|I shall now appeal to Calvin, and the canons of DORT.
In Institutes bk 3 ch 21 Calvin states that all are not created equal -- some are preordained to eternal life and
others to eternal damnation. Scripture clearly proves that God by His eternal and immutable counsel determined
once for all those whom it was His pleasure to admit to salvation and those it was his pleasure to damn to destruction.
Canons of Dort 1:15 -- 'He hath decreed to leave (them) and not bestow on them saving faith but permitted them
to follow their own ways, to condemn and perish them forever -- and this is the decree of reprobation which by
no means makes God the author of sin but an awful, irreprehensible and righteous judge and avenger thereof. To
those who murmur at the free grace of election and just severity of reprobation we answer with the apostle 'Nay,
but , O man, who art thou that repliest against God?' Romans 9:30 and the words of CHRIST in the parable 'Is it
not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?' (Matt 20:15) and Romans 11:33-36. Reprobation's place is to
illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election.
|Protestant Reformed Church in America publication 'Standard bearer' December
2000: 'reprobation is an eternal , sovereign, unconditional decree.' It will be surmised from the above that the
doctrine of preterition (simple passing by of sinners by God) that is held by many is found wanting of scriptural
warrant-rather we have a positive definite decree of reprobation.
If what I have purposed in this treatise convinces you, then it goes
without saying that certain other popular doctrines are FALSE, such as:
- 1) Common grace in which the preaching of the gospel is meant to
reflect a kind of love of God for all who hear it –His love (1 Cor. 13) is everlasting and saving.
- 2) A 'well-meant offer of the gospel' in which God is meant to sincerely
desire the salvation of all men. He cannot sincerely 'offer' what He does not decree to give.
|Finally all this is entirely consistent with the five points of Calvinism...
depravity -- no men of themselves seek God but rather naturally hate Him and deserve eternal damnation for their
sin and unbelief; but for grace all would be damned.
election -- God of his own good pleasure predestined in love a people for Himself and gave them to His son in eternity
atonement -- God sent Christ who undertook to die as a substitute for his people. There is no way He could be said
to atone for those destined to perish who will be punished for their own sin.
grace -- Only the omnipotent power and grace of the triune God can rescue sinners by drawing them, teaching them
and regenerating them by the Spirit granting them saving faith and repentance and the willingness to convert.
of the saints -- Just as the reprobate wicked have eternal damnation reserved for them, so the elect are kept by
he power of God -- Chosen to be conformed to the image of the Son and to be glorified with Him forever.
GLORY TO GOD FOR ALL HIS WORKS
Dr. Julian Kennedy , Bournemouth , April 2001
NOTE: The preceding article sets forth the theological views of its
author, and is quoted without comment.