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In this installment we continue our critique of the views of Dr. A. Konig, of South Africa, with respect to the doctrine of sovereign reprobation. He pays special attention to various passages in Romans 9; and in his treatment of these passages he makes it very plain that he wants nothing of the sovereign reprobation which is so plainly taught here. 

As might be expected, attention is given to Romans 9:10-13: “And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” 

Here is what Dr. Konig says about this passage:

Immediately Paul follows with another example to point out once more that God freely chooses the real (true) Israel. Even before twins were born to Rebecca, God, contrary to the custom, chose the younger above the elder (v. 10-13), and this He confirmed by distinguishing the peoples who proceeded from them. Verse 13 no longer refers to the persons of Jacob and Esau, as is clear from

Mal. 1:24

from which v. 13 is quoted. In Malachi “Edom” (v. 4) is the nation that proceeded from Esau, and Jacob is Israel.

In the next paragraph he goes on to speak of the principle which motivates the Lord in His decision; but he speaks in this connection only of the motive of election, not of reprobation. 

Notice the following in connection with the above quotation: 

1. Dr. Konig is completely silent with respect to the hatred of Esau. 

2. He denies that vs. 13 refers to the persons of Jacob and Esau. He always wants to minimize any personal predestination and to stress instead the election and rejection of nations. But, in the first place, this is plainly contrary to the passage in Romans and, in fact, to the whole purpose of Romans. The concern here is exactly with the fact that many individuals among the Jews (the vast majority of them) are outside of Christ. Not only that, but the apostle Paul quotes Malachi exactly in confirmation of God’s election of Jacob and reprobation of Esau. And even in Malachi, which admittedly is concerned with the nations of Edom and Israel, the primary reference is nevertheless to the persons of Jacob and Esau. It is evident, however, that Dr. Konig wants nothing of the individual and sovereign reprobation of Esau. 

3. Later in the discussion of Romans 9 Dr. Konig boldly denies that the salvation of Jacob and Esau was at stake in this sovereign action of God: “In Rom. 9:6-17 thesalvation of Pharaoh is no issue at all, but this passage is concerned with their place and function in the history of salvation, i.e. the place they take in the history in which God reveals Himself unto the salvation of all nations—the history which culminates in the birth of Jesus Christ. When God sovereignly chooses between Isaac and Ishmael, it does not mean that Isaac will be saved or Ishmael lost, but it does mean that God’s covenant people will proceed from Isaac and not from Ishmael. The same applies to Jacob and Esau. Their salvation is not at stake, only their place and function in the history of salvation. The same applies to Pharaoh.” (pp. 30, 31) How it is possible to make a statement like this in the light of the fact that the whole concern of this chapter is with the fact that many of Paul’s brethren according to the flesh were not saved and that all of the apostle’s argumentation is addressed to this fact is a riddle to me. But Dr. Konig simply makes loose statements, without ever offering any Scriptural and exegetical proof.

When it comes to the example of Pharaoh in Romans 9:17-18, it becomes abundantly plain that Dr. Konig simply wants nothing of God’s sovereignty with respect to reprobation and hardening. This is all the more strange in the light of the fact that he seems to want to hold on to the sovereignty of God’s mercy. Referring to vss. 15, 16, he writes (p. 29): “Paul then quotes a word of the LORD to Moses: ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’, and he then concludes that election does not depend on any merit on man’s behalf, but exclusively on God’s mercy.” However, he does not and will not make the same statement with respect to hardening, which is spoken of in the same terms in the same context, “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth,” (v. 18). What happens to this passage in Dr. Konig’s treatment? Note the following, pp. 29, 30:

God is so completely free in His election that He can even allow one, who by his own obduracy and sin deserves to be delivered to perdition (via Pharaoh), to continue in order to show His power and glory to His chosen people, Israel (v. 17, 20-23). This example becomes more meaningful when one keeps in mind that

Rom. 9:17

is a quotation from

Exodus 9:16,

and refers to God’s allowing Pharaoh to recover and to continue after the first six of the plagues, although he deserved to die. God’s dealings with Pharaoh are not primarily aimed against his person or his royal office, but against his continued resistance after the first plagues.

Rom. 9:17

could also be translated: ‘For this very reason I let you rise again’ (viz from the preceding plagues). 

Verses 18-21 state God’s freedom to choose bluntly. He is God. He works teleological, i.e. to achieve His purpose. In this, Pharaoh cannot thwart Him. If Pharaoh is not willing to listen, to allow the people to depart, and thus to become serviceable to the honour of God, God will harden him, will allow him to offer resistance, and yet He will lead forth His people in order to show that He is stronger than Pharaoh (v. 17).”

. . . But—and this is the striking turn he takes when he deals with salvation—the “vessels of wrath” are not instantly destroyed, but like Pharaoh, they are endured with much patience. (But the patience, or longsuffering, in this passage does not refer to the vessels of wrath; it refers to the vessels of mercy. God endures, or forbears, the vessels of wrath in His longsuffering toward the vessels of mercy. HCH) Notice that v. 22 does not say that God has prepared these “vessels of wrath” for destruction (something which is said of the “vessels of mercy” in v. 23, though), but mentions “the vessels of wrath made for (fitted unto, HCH) destruction.” This can also be translated by (note. this, HCH): “who (through their disobedience and sin) are ripe/ready for destruction”. It is their own fault that they are objects of wrath, not God’s eternal and unalterable predestination. It could not be otherwise, for Paul is not dealing with “people” in an abstract-theoretic way, but with Israel in a concrete and practical way—and Israel is the chosen people who by their own fault, viz by their rejection of the Messiah, ended up outside of the church and rejected. That against which Israel has been cautioned in the Old Testament, now happens, viz that God would reject the chosen people. (p. 31)

Notice again that at every point where Scripture speaks of the work of God in reprobation, Dr. Konig very deliberately changes the plain teaching of Scripture. It simply is not true that the words in question can be translated by, or even paraphrased by: “who (through their disobedience and sin) are ripe/ready for destruction.” This is nothing less than a deliberate changing of the teaching of Holy, Scripture. This is especially true in the light of the reference in verse 21 to the potter who makes vessels unto dishonor. The “fitted unto destruction” can only refer to an action of the Divine Potter. 

If there is left any doubt as to whether Dr. Konig denies sovereign reprobation, the following statements will remove that doubt:

. . .He does not elect because of any merit on the part of man, but He rejects because of sin, disobedience and hardening on the part of man. The cause of election resides in God, the cause of rejection in man. (p. 56) 

. . . The inequality between election and rejection is of utmost importance. The testimony of the Bible is, clear. According to

Matt. 25:31-46

God has prepared for his sheep a kingdom to inherit from the foundation of the world (v. 34). When He comes to the goats, however, He—with due respect—sits with His hands in His hair not knowing what to do with them, because He has not prepared a place for them from the foundation of the world. Then He sends them (as an emergency measure!) “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”. Expressions like “hands in His hair” and “an emergency measure” are not meant to infringe upon the glory and sovereignty of God (But they do, and they are blasphemous. HCH), but are intended to shed light upon the radical difference between election and reprobation. The same situation is found in

Rom. 9:22, 23,

which has already been dealt with. God has not determined the “objects of wrath” beforehand; they are “prepared” not only by God but by their own sins. On the contrary, He has prepared “the objects of mercy” to enjoy glory. (pp. 59, 60)

But if reprobation is of man’s determination, then it must needs follow that being elect, as well as being non-elect, is also of man’s determination. Man is on the throne, and God is humbly bowing before Almighty Man! 

If this poison is not dealt with promptly in the South African church—if it is not already too late—it will surely be fatal to the Reformed churches there.