Friday, January 29, 2010

...the unfathomable riches of the Potter's freewill and sovereignty over all His creatures for eternity

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part?
By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy
on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up,
that I might show My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed
in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills,
and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault?
For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?

Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump
one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power,
has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy,
which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

-Romans 9:13-23

Reprobation is the antithesis to election and necessarily follows from it. If God does not elect a person, He rejects him. If God decides not to convert a sinner into a saint, He decides to let him remain a sinner (1). If God decides not to work in a man to will and to do according to God's will, He decides to leave the man to will and to do according to his own will. When God effectually operates upon the human will, it is election. When God does not effectually operate upon the human will, it is reprobation. Election is the expression of divine mercy; reprobation of divine justice. Paul teaches this in Romans 11:22, "Behold the goodness and severity of God (divine compassion and divine justice) on them which fell severity; but toward you goodness."

Reprobation relates to regenerating grace, not common grace. It is an error to suppose that the reprobate are entirely destitute of grace. All mankind enjoys common grace. There are no elect or reprobate in this refernece. Every human being experiences some degree of the ordinary influences of the Spirit of God. St. Paul teaches that God strives with man universally. He convicts him of sin and urges him to repent of it and forsake it (Roms. 1:19-20; 2:3-4; Acts 17:24-31).

Reprobation comprises preterition and condemnation of damnation. Preterition is a sovereign act; condemnation is a judicial act. God passes by or omits an individual in the bestowment of regenerating grace because of His sovereign good pleasure (eudokia). The reason of condemnation is known: sin is the reason. The reason for preterition is unknown: it is not sin, because the elect are as sinful as the nonelect. In preterition, God’s action is permissive; inaction rather than action. In condemnation God’s action is efficient and positive.

Preterition is “letting things stand” as they are. To omit or pretermit is to leave or let alone. The idea is found in Luke 17:34, “The one shall be taken, the other shall be left…”

Preterition in the bestowment of regenerating grace is plainly taught in Scripture (Isaiah 6:9-10*; Matt. 11:25-26; 13:11; 22:14; Luke 17:34; John 10:26; 12:39; Acts 1:16; 2 Thess. 2:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:20; 1 Peter 2:8; Rom. 9:17-22; Jude 1:4).

*Isaiah 6:9-10 is quoted more in the N.T. than any other O.T. text (4x’s in the gospels; 1x in Acts; and 1x in Romans). He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.' "Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed."

Source: William G.T. Shedd - "Dogmatic Theology"-third edition; P&R Publishing, 2003 - p. 333-336

1. Shedd is not implying here that Christians are not any longer sinners. He is using the term to describe nature (unregenerate, sinner; regenerate, saint.) Saints are still sinners (Prov. 24:9) saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 4-6). Our old nature has been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20-21; 2 Cor. 5:17). Though we have been completely delivered from the penalty of sin (salvation), we have not been delivered from the presence of sin (glorification) nor entirely from the practice of sin (sanctification) (Titus 2:12) until we are home with the Lord (Roms. 8:29-31; Titus 2:13). None of us have arrived to the fulness of our sanctification in this life... have we? (Eph. 5:23-27; Rom. 12:1-2). We all still struggle with sin and its desires (Rom. 7:7-10).

But, as new creations in Christ, a genuine Christian will not be given over to the constant "practice of sin" without any repentance or conviction of conscience (Gal. 5:16ff). We will ultimately desire to please the Lord by turning from those things which do not honor Him and then doing the things that do bring Him glory and delight. This is a constant struggle that all of us face - even the Apostle Paul faced it daily in his own life (Rom. 7:14-20). But when we do sin, our hope is that we have an adovate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous who intercedes for us (1 John 2:1-2). We are still sinners, that by God's grace are now made saints--His brethren (Heb. 2:11). We are new creatures, but incarcerated in unredeemed flesh (Rom. 8:23) and that is the source of the battle that rages within each day as we daily walk in the Lord (Col. 3:1-14).

BUT, there is "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus the Lord" (Rom. 8:1). I hope this helps clarify the distinction of what I believe Shedd is saying.


Anonymous said...

We are all "subjects of His high decree" and I "trust His sovereignty!" Thanks for the exhortment toward the unfathomable riches of a Holy, Sovereign God!

SJ Camp said...


Anonymous said...

Don't get it,will never get my head round it...

Your saying people are created into a sinful state not of their choosing (afterall they didn't ask to be born), then their judged for being in that sinful state,then to top it off some people have no chance of getting out of the sinful state they had no choice being in grrrrrrrrrrrrrr madnessssss

Darrin said...

Andy, the issue you have appears to be the very thing Paul is answering in verses 19 and following, as quoted in this excellent post.

It is tough to accept, but certainly biblical.

If Adam had not fallen and we inherited his righteousness, we wouldn't complain, would we? He was our representative head, unless we are transferred to Christ's family.

If we desire free will, here it is: Men freely hate God, openly defy Him and selfishly seek their own all their days. God is perfectly just in condemning them: they and their wicked nature are quite happy together.

And such were we, but for grace. Let's not complain, but rejoice.

SJ Camp said...

It is a mystery isn't it? The one thing we can be assured of and find our eternal rest and assured hope firmly anchored to, is there is no injustice with God. He is perfectly holy ordering all things after the council of His will for His pleasure and glory. (Eph. 1:4-14).


SJ Camp said...

Amen my friend! A great word of encouragement. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Amen Stephen & Darrin its not that i wouldn't accept it if God made it real to me,its just i can't get my head round it

Steven & Faith Long said...

Andy, I heard a helpful illustration that helped me grasp this concept. I hope it will help you as well. It is an illustration of students in a university who start with the assumption that the paper they will be graded on will start with an A and then points will be deducted to reach the final grade. In reality, the teacher is starting with the assumption that they all will start with an F and work their way up.

So too, with us, we should not start with the assumption that God owes or is obligated to ANYONE in regards to ANYTHING, including salvation. We all start with an F in regards to righteousness and when God elects individuals to salvation is purely by His grace and mercy. The fact that he leaves sinners in a reprobate state is not unfair to the individual because they were guilty from square one. Their condemnation is deserved, not because they are not elect, but because they have chosen to continue in their rebellion against God and reject the provision found in Christ. It is the same with the elect. We started out under condemnation, by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:3). God has, as Steve so eloquently stated it, chosen to leave the lost in preterition.

Anyway, the school might be a lame example but it sure helped me to view God's sovereignty a little bit differently. Hope this helped a little :)

Steven & Faith Long said...

okay, I think I spelled it wrong: it's preterition not preteriton, LOL

The Pilgrim said...

I know it's off topic, but did you know that The Manhattan Declaration was drafted by a member of the CFR who serves UNESCO? Check out the evidence at

Jade said...

Andy wrote:
Amen Stephen & Darrin its not that i wouldn't accept it if God made it real to me,its just i can't get my head round it.

Andy, there's a lot of things that we can never "get our head around it", but that's why we're down here and the Lord is up there. :o) As the Lord stated:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
“ For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."

And like Job, we can only reply:

I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.

You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

Listen, please, and let me speak;
You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.

Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.”