Chapter Twelve Building a Biblical View of Double-Predestination Part 2: Reprobation In the previous chapter, we attempted to build a biblical

view of double-predestination with sin, grace and God’s glory as factors in the equation. We dealt with these factors from Romans 9. But there is one more text that provides another glimpse of the activity of God with regards to the sinfulness of man. In the previous chapter we discovered that both God’s common and special grace serve as means to restrain and exacerbate man’s sinfulness. This was seen specifically in the case of Pharaoh. In Romans 1, we see this put into action on a wider scale. This is the text that prevents us from seeing this more difficult side of doublepredestination as only applicable to special persons throughout history, like Pharaoh and Judas. Romans 1:18-32 demands that we see God’s active role in the lives of sinners everywhere. This activity has been called “reprobation” by theologians, and Romans 1 provides the best picture of this reprobating activity. The difference in Romans 1, however, is that God is seen not as leaving them to their sinfulness, but actually working in a sovereign and superintending way over their sinfulness in order to make their condemnation certain. This is shown in two ways. First, it is shown in verses 18-23. These verses simply provide another instance of God’s common grace exacerbating the sinfulness of man. Paul writes that God’s created world, invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature are all suppressed by the ungodly in the unrighteousness of their hearts. The result is that they became ungrateful, unholy, and stupid. The second way is found in a particular phrase Paul uses three times from verses 24-32. The English phrase is translated, “gave them over,” and comes from the Greek word paredoken (from paradidomi), which most translators have rendered accurately – Romans 1:24, 26, 28. A. T. Robertson has frightfully yet accurately described these three usages as words that “sound to us like clods on the coffin as God leaves men to their own wicked will.”1 As we did with the other passages, consider two key factors about this Greek word: its meaning and grammar. First, the word itself means “to give over into one’s power or use.”2 The word was used outside the Bible in the Greco-Roman world of that time to the act of delivering something or someone up, such as in
1 2

Romans 1:24. A. T. Robertson, in BibleWorks.

the case of surrendering oneself or one’s army, or turning oneself in to the authorities so that justice may be carried out.3 What is more, the grammar of the word puts God as the acting age in this giving or handing over. This is what makes this passage so bold. It cannot possibly be mistaken in this passage that God is not involved in their sin and condemnation. These verses reshape the God we may have fashioned after our own image. Paul used the same word in Romans 8:32 with reference to God handing His Son over for our sin.4 We love that part, don’t we? We don’t mind a reference to God giving up His own Son to be condemned for the forgiveness of our sin to His glory. And we don’t even mind a passage like 2 Peter 2:4 where the same word is used to describe God as the acting agent in handing over the disobedient angels to hell where they are to be kept until the day of final judgment, to His glory. So why then do we mind so much the thought that God gives up His human creations to their condemnation for His glory? After reading Romans 1:24, 26, and 28, as well as the way the word is used in other portions of Scripture, is there still any denying that God is presented here as a God who is actively involved in the sinful actions of unbelievers so as to ensure their condemnation? But there is also no denying another fundamental, exegetical component in these verses. The “therefore’s” that begin each of these verses indicate that what follows the handing over process, that is, what follows the Greek word paredoken, is a result of what came before. And clearly what came before are the sinful actions, activities, desires, words, and thoughts of unbelievers. In verse 24, for example, God gives them over because of what they did in verses 18-23. And in verse 26, God gives them over because what they did in verses 24-25. The same is also true of the phrase in verse 28. Because unbelievers love their sin so much, God just gives them over to the love of their life, letting them carry out their desires until they are condemned. Yet there is the flip side of this issue that truly complicates things for finite creatures like us. While the “therefore” indicates that what
Cf. Thayer. “Rom. 1:24; cf. Fritzsche, Rückert, and others at the passage (in this example and several that follow A. V. renders to give up); eivj pa,qh avtimi,aj, to make one a slave of vile passions, Rom. 1:26; eivj avdo,kimon nou/n, to cause one to follow his own corrupt mind -- followed by an infinitive of purpose (or epexegetic infinitive (Meyer)), Rom. 1:28; e`auto,n th/| avse,lgeia, to make oneself the slave of lasciviousness…” in BibleWorks. 3 See Liddell-Scott on Greek Word. “In Matthew 18:34 the same word is used here in a way that puts this understanding of the word into a real life setting.” BibleWorks. 4 See also Rom. 4:25 where God again is the agent in handing over Christ. Eph. 5:2, 25 where Christ is declared to be the acting agent in giving His own self up for us.

follows is a result of the sinfulness that came before, the sinfulness that comes after the “therefore – at least in the case of verses 26 and 28 – is caused by God giving them over. In other words, one reason for the fact that the unbeliever continues to degenerate in terms of sinfulness is due to the fact that God actively involved Himself in the matter by handing them over to their sinfulness. By not restraining their sinfulness, He effectively does in fact cause them to grow worse and spiritually degenerate. Yet at the same time, since restraining them would be an act of mercy – something undeserved by the sinner – God is just to leave them to themselves. But Paul doesn’t leave the matter there. He says God takes the extra step to aid them in their sinful desires by giving them more of what they want. This, in and of itself, is part and parcel of the wrath of God Paul began explaining in verse 18. Not only does God condemn the sinner at some point in the future, but He judges them now by sovereignly deciding not to restrain their sinfulness. And in not doing this He is working at the same time making it easier for them to sin more and more until their final condemnation is sealed. In the end, the sinner is actively pursuing his own sinfulness. Yet God is also active toward the sinner’s present and future judgment. Illustrated in Acts 2 and 4 The “giving over” in Romans 1 is most clearly illustrated in Acts 2 and 4, although the word paredoken is not used there. Based on the evil inclinations already inherent within those who killed Christ, God handed them over to their sinfulness so that they would reject and crucify Christ. It is only the restraining work of the Spirit, after all, that keeps any man from rejecting Christ and eventually desiring to kill Him. But God chose not to restrain them with His Spirit. Rather, He gave full vent to their wickedness. Yet we must face the fact that those evil intentions and wicked desires would not have resulted in the crucifixion of Christ unless those actions had been previously orchestrated – including every particular and minute attitude, decision, word, thought, etc. That’s my point here. God predetermined that the Jews and Romans who put their hand to killing Christ would, in fact, do just that and nothing more, nothing else. And this necessarily means He orchestrated every thought, word and deed of their entire lives to bring them to the point where they would crucify Christ. In this way, God caused the death of Christ. This is how Isaiah, for example, can say in 53:10 that “it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief…” (ESV, change to NET). It was God’s will to kill

His own Son. And according to Acts 2 and 4, God’s choice to do so was predetermined long ago. But He did not cause those who killed Christ to do so. He predetermined the event and the incredibly glorious riches that would flow from that act. And He even orchestrated every detail – major and minor – to bring them to do what they did. So while He did not make them sin, He did utilize the original sin that was already inherent in their hearts to bring about His own glorious purposes. But, lo!…there’s that voice of Alex behind me again asking another question: “How does this not make God the author of sin? Doesn’t James 1:13 say that God does not tempt any man to sin?” That’s a fair question, and I believe the previous explanation should be a suitable one. But I know it will not for some, so I’ll go the extra mile to answer this question. The passage in James is often cited in an effort to object to this biblical understanding of double-predestination. But James is teaching about sin with reference to temptation, not predestination. God is not tempted with sin, and He does not tempt others with sin. That’s what the verse says. The temptation to sin is already inherent within the human heart because of original sin. James is teaching, therefore, that the only person to blame when we fall to a temptation to sin is ourselves, and never God. This text then cannot be cited as a justifiable objection to this doctrine of doublepredestination. Rather, it tends only to support it. The end result is that while God is not the author of a person’s sin, in the sense that He makes or coerces or forces them to sin, He is the author of sin in the sense that He did not prevent them but allowed them in order to utilize them in His overall plan. (I just have this sneaking feeling that this sentence will be used out of context by someone in the near future to persecute me a little more!) The point here is that God could have prevented Adam from sinning, and He can prevent anyone else from sinning. But just because He did not prevent Adam’s sin nor anyone else’s sin does not mean He caused their sin. And the Scriptures are not only clear on this point, as I seem them, but on the why as well. He did it for His own glory. That’s as far as the train will take us. One writer concludes it this way: “…when properly understood, we find that the doctrine of predestination is consistent with all of God’s attributes. Indeed, it is necessary that, for God to be God, He would have to have planned the entire course of human history, including even the sins of men and their final destinies. Yes, we must affirm that men are fully responsible for their own sin…but this fact does not give us the right to deny God His sovereignty. The two truths are fully compatible, even if we

cannot sound the depths of this great mystery.”5 Conclusion It’s time for an attitude check once more. How are you doing? Are you hardened in your heart against this doctrine? If so, this is a heart problem and one that only the Spirit can correct. Are you confused? If so, so am I! Let this confusion humble you and lead you to the Almighty who cannot be explained completely in finite words with finite minds. I quoted a 17th century understanding of this truth earlier, and now I’ll quote a more famous 16th century understanding of it from the famous Martin Luther. It’s difficult to get since Luther would have failed grammar class because of his run-on sentences. But grapple with it for a moment and you will have mined a real treasure of a thought here. “Now, if you are disturbed by the thought that it is difficult to defend the mercy and justice of God when he damns the undeserving, that is to say, ungodly men who are what they are because they were born in that ungodliness and can in no way help being and remaining ungodly and damnable, but are compelled by a necessity of nature to sin and perish (as Paul says: ‘We were all children of wrath like the rest’ [Eph. 2:3] since they are created so by God himself from seed corrupted by the sin of the one man Adam) – rather must God be honored and revered as supremely merciful toward those whom he justifies and saves, supremely unworthy of his divine wisdom so that he may be believed to be righteous where he seems to be unjust. For if his righteousness were such that it could be judged to be righteous by human standards, it would clearly not be divine and would in no way differ from human righteousness. But since he is the one true God, and is wholly incomprehensible, as Paul also says where he exclaims: ‘O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible re his judgments and how unsearchable his ways” [Rom. 11:33]! But they would not be incomprehensible if we were able in every instance to grasp how they are righteous. What is man, compared with God?...What is our knowledge compared with his wisdom? In a word, what is our all compared with his?”6
Micahel Cervinka. “Double Predestination.” Internet article from A TwentyFirst Century Puritanism. See www.planetkc.com/puritan/Articles/DoublePredestination.htm. 6 Luther, Martin. The Bondage of the Will. From Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation, edited by E. Gordon Rupp and Phillip S. Watson. Philadelphia, PA: The
5

Include edited version of Zanchius chapter on reprobation after this section? Or as an appendix?

Westminster Press, 1969. Pages 329-30.

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