The Doctrines of Grace: Unconditional Election: Part 3
The main reason why people reject the teaching of God’s free sovereign and gracious election, is not so much because God is sovereign in showing mercy, but that He is sovereign not only in election but reprobation as well. Many can see the logic of God’s sovereign mercy for the elect, but the other side of election, the dark side, the side of reprobation, this is the main reason why people reject the teaching altogether. Some will accept single predestination, that God elects to have mercy on some; but will not accept what is known as double predestination, that God also elects to harden the reprobate. One of the key verses which catches in the throat on this issue lies before us, Romans 9:17-18, ‘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.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.’
Paul has clearly outlined the truth that God is the one who sovereignly decides who will be saved, and that this salvation is not because of any initiative in man but rests on God’s will. We have seen that this is an act of mercy because there is no human being who deserves to be saved, and any who are saved are saved by mercy. It is time for us to go where others fear to tread as Paul asserts that God is as sovereign in reprobation as He is in election. There is no part of the universe where God is not in control and this includes the eternal destiny of those who are not saved. Paul uses the example of Pharaoh as proof for the proposition that he is as sovereign in hardening as He is in mercy. God willing the hardening of sinners is the needle in the eyeball. It has been called the horrible decree and many have rejected it. To hear the words, God hardens whoever He wills sounds shocking and terrible and is rejected because it seems to contradict the picture we have of God from the bible in three ways. Firstly, if it is God who directly hardens the sinner in unbelief, then that would make God the author of unbelief and thereby the author of sin. Secondly, if God is the one whose will in hardening the sinner is determinative and secures the final destiny of the reprobate then this destroys the will of the creature. Please notice that this is exactly what Paul anticipates will be said in v19. Thirdly, this appears to contradict the love of God when it says that God hated Esau.
Today I want us to agree with Scripture that God is equally sovereign in hardening as He is in mercy. The objections that we have just noted are the most common perceptions about this doctrine and let me tell you from the outset that they are false, and all three of these objections are answered in a biblical understanding of double election. The one main assumptions that brings about a wrong understanding is that God works in the same way to harden as He does to save. That God’s sovereign determination to bring about His will is enacted in the same way in mercy and hardening. This is not the case. God does not create unbelief as He does faith in the believer. He does not act directly to make unbelief in the reprobate as He does in the believer. This true view has been called asymmetrical double predestination. And in seeing that God is sovereign to accomplish His will but in two different ways we will see that many of the misunderstandings are alleviated and the logical problems solved.
Today we will be looking firstly at the direct and immediate way in which God brings about salvation, demonstrating how God works His mercy in the lives of the elect. We will then look at the other side in hardening showing that God works differently but no less sovereignly, and in this avoids the charge of being the author of sin, unloving and overriding the will. We will see that God is active in saving, passive in hardening, He acts directly for faith but indirectly in unbelief, He works immediately in salvation but mediately in reprobation.