Reprobation is a theological concept that deals with God’s eternal decree regarding the final state of certain people. It refers to God passing over some individuals and ordaining them to be condemned for their sins. The doctrine of reprobation is closely related to the Calvinist doctrines of unconditional election and predestination. Here is an overview of what the Bible teaches about reprobation:
1. God Has Foreknowledge of All Things
The Bible teaches that God is omniscient and knows everything – past, present, and future (Psalm 139:4, Psalm 147:5). As the all-knowing God, He foreknew and foreordained everything that would come to pass, including the salvation or condemnation of every person. God declared “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). This means God foreknew the eternal destiny of every person even before creating the world.
2. Some Are Unconditionally Elected to Salvation
The doctrine of election teaches that God, in eternity past, unconditionally chose some people out of His grace and mercy to receive salvation in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-6, Romans 8:29-30, Romans 9:6-24). Election is according to God’s sovereign will and good pleasure, not anything good in the elect themselves. The elect are chosen by grace alone.
3. The Rest are Passed Over and Reprobated
Just as God unconditionally elected some to salvation, He also sovereignly passed over the rest. He withheld His saving grace from them, and they are left in their fallen sinful condition. In time, those passed over demonstrate their sinfulness and rebellion against God. Yet, their condemnation is not because of their future sins, but because of their names not being written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8, Revelation 17:8). God predestined the reprobates to disobedience and condemnation (Romans 9:22, 1 Peter 2:8).
4. God is Active in Reprobation
Some argue that God is passive in reprobation – He simply withholds saving grace and leaves the reprobates to their sin. But Scripture indicates God has an active role in the reprobation of some. God blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4), gives people over to their sin (Romans 1:24,26,28), and hardens their hearts to prevent repentance (Exodus 4:21, Joshua 11:20). God decreed the reprobates’ unbelief and destined them for wrath (1 Peter 2:8, Jude 1:4).
5. The Number of the Reprobates is Unknown
Only God knows whom He has predestined to salvation or condemnation. From man’s perspective, it is impossible to definitively know if someone is among the reprobate. Christians should preach the gospel indiscriminately and call all people everywhere to repent and believe in Christ (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 17:30). No one should presume to know who is reprobate and neglect to share the gospel with them.
6. Reprobation Highlights God’s Justice and Wrath
Reprobation magnifies God’s justice, holiness, and hatred of sin. Even sinless creatures like angels fell under God’s wrath when they sinned (2 Peter 2:4). How much more will God judge unrighteous sinners who rebel against His clear revelation with no excuse (Romans 1:20, Romans 2:1)? Reprobation reveals God’s righteous anger against sin and His commitment to punish all disobedience (Nahum 1:2-3).
7. Reprobation Is to the Praise of God’s Glory
Some object that reprobation portrays God as unjust, cruel, or unloving. But Scripture says God’s will is for His glory (Ephesians 1:5-6,11-12). Even the election of some and reprobation of others serves God’s glory and reveals aspects of His nature that would otherwise not be seen. God’s wrath against sin magnifies His justice. Election magnifies His grace. Both bring Him maximum glory.
8. Reprobation Should Humble and Magnify Grace
For Christians, the doctrine of reprobation should cultivate humility and thankfulness for God’s grace. We should marvel that God had mercy on spiritual dead sinners like us and predestined us to life (Ephesians 2:1-7). Reprobation reminds us salvation is wholly of God’s grace alone, not human merit. We should long for God’s grace to be shown even to the reprobates currently under condemnation (Romans 9:1-3).
9. Reprobation Does Not Excuse Human Responsibility
Some argue that reprobation makes God unjust for condemning people for what He predetermined. But Scripture maintains that God’s reprobation does not excuse the sins of the reprobates. Though God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh was still accountable and “dealt wickedly” of his own accord (Exodus 9:34-35). God’s sovereignty does not absolve humans of responsibility for their willing sins.
In summary, reprobation refers to God’s sovereign choice to pass over some sinners and ordain them to condemnation for their sin. Though a difficult doctrine, it upholds God’s holiness, highlights His grace to the elect, and should stir humility in Christians. The doctrine does not make God unjust or take away human responsibility to repent and believe the gospel.