Calling attention to the counsel in the general sense of the word we, in our previous article, defined God’s counsel as referring to the eternal thoughts, wisdom, knowledge of God, whereby He eternally and sovereignly willed, foreordained, prescribed the existence and being and development of all things in heaven and on earth and in the waters under the earth, of the things rational and irrational, animate and inanimate, organic and inorganic, the life of man and beast, of tree and plant, of all things that move and have being, and that of the entire creation. We also called attention to the fact that this is everywhere taught in Holy Writ. We did this deliberately. We did this to show that the Word emphasizes everywhere the eternal and unconditional and sovereign counsel of the Lord. It has been said of our Protestant Reformed Churches that we, in our thinking and preaching, proceed from the counsel of God. Indeed, worse things could be said of us. However, “cor ecclesiae” is indeed the heritage of our churches. And, let us understand that, doing so, we surely stand solidly upon the revealed and infallible Word of God. And therefore we shall continue, the Lord willing, to quote abundantly from the Divine Scriptures in this series of articles on the Counsel of God.
God’s Counsel In Specific Sense.
When we speak of the counsel of God in the specific sense we refer to this counsel of the Lord as it determines the eternal destiny of all His moral creatures, angels and particularly men. This phase of God’s counsel is commonly known among us as predestination. The word, “predestination”, means literally that the Lord has predestined, determined beforehand the eternal destiny of all His moral-rational creatures. This predestination, as having for its objects God’s chosen heirs of eternal life, is known as Election. And the other aspect of this phase of the counsel of God, as it concerns those that perish, is called reprobation.
The concept, predestination, consisting of election and reprobation, is thoroughly Scriptural. First, the doctrine of election is everywhere taught in the Word of God. This is true, on the one hand, of the Old Testament. Of Israel we read that they have been chosen of God to be His peculiar possession. We read in: “Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but Me: for there is no Savior beside Me. I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.” In and we read: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. . . . The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works.” In we read: “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee . . . Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord.” Notice also how the sovereign and unconditional love of God toward His own, as well as the significance of the word, covenant, is set forth in : “Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, And say, Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and they mother an Hittite. And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitieth thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments : thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest Mine. Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through My comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.”
Also in the book of Deuteronomy do we have repeated references to God’s election of His people. Inwe read: “And because He loved thy fathers, therefore He chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in His sight with His mighty power out of Egypt.” In we read: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” And in and we read: “Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that He may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people . . . Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.”
And, finally, the doctrine of election is beautifully expressed in the prophecy of Isaiah, as in: “But now saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior; I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee; therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.”; in : “Yet now hear, O Jacob, My servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, My servant; and thou Jesurun, whom I have chosen.”; and in : “For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel Mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me. I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside Me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside Me. I am the Lord, and there is none else.”
On the other hand, the doctrine of election is also clearly taught in the New Testament. “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”—; “Knowing, beloved brethren, your election of God.”— ; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:”— ; “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”— ; “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowel§ of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; “— ; “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”— ; “Paul, servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;”— ; “The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.”— ; “The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth . . . The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.”— ; “And except those days should be shortened there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened . . . For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect . . . And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”— ; “And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them?”— ; “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.”— ; “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but raise it up again at the last day.”— ; “Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in My Father’s Name, they bear witness of Me. But, ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear My’ voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”— ; “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with Me hath lifted up his heel against Me.”— ; “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”— .
Also reprobation is taught in Holy Writ. In the first place, we may certainly say that the doctrine of election necessarily implies that of reprobation. This lies in the very nature of the case. That the Lord elected surely implies that He elected some and not others. To maintain the one means that one must maintain the other. We must either maintain both or deny both. And this implies not only that if we deny the doctrine of election we must also deny the doctrine of reprobation, but also that if we deny reprobation we must repudiate the doctrine of election. A church which fails to emphasize the truth that the Lord has rejected men from before the foundation of the world also fails to stress the Scriptural teaching that God has elected some in distinction from others.
Secondly, the doctrine of reprobation is taught in Holy Writ, either by implication or directly. Thus we read in, a passage which we have already quoted: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people. But because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Especially in the gospel of John is the truth of reprobation emphasized. The fact that, according to , it is the Father’s will that Christ should lose nothing of all which the Father had given Him, certainly stresses the truth that not all have been given unto Christ, and that, therefore, He came into this world with the specific intention and calling to save some and that in distinction from others. In we hear the Savior say unto the unbelieving Jews that they believe not because they are not of His sheep. This is truly a terrible word. Jesus does not say that they are not of His sheep because they believe not, but that they believe not because they are not of His sheep. Hence, from before the foundation of the world they were not appointed to be Christ’s sheep. And in , another passage which we have already quoted, Christ declares that “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen.” Hence, Christ knows whom He has chosen, but He does not speak of all; among them was also Judas, the son of perdition.
Thirdly, the doctrine of reprobation is literally taught in the Holy Scriptures. Such is the undeniable teaching of the Word of God in, and we again quote these passages: “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated . . . For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew My power in thee, and that My Name might be glorified throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth . . . Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:” In this passage we are taught that the Lord hated Esau with a sovereign hatred, before he had done any evil, that He hardens whom He wills to harden, and that He endures with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, vessels, therefore, whom He has eternally willed to destroy.
And, finally, the doctrine of reprobation is taught in Holy Writ in all those passages where we read of the sovereign operation of the Lord in the hearts and lives of those who perish. Such, e.g., is the teaching of the Word of God in the well-known passage of sincere offer of salvation, our churches utterly fail to understand, yea, reject as preposterous and absurd. However, Holy Writ emphatically teaches the doctrine of predestination, and this includes election and reprobation.: “Now thanks be unto God, Which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” This passage of the Scriptures speaks for itself. We should note that the apostle declares here that God always causes them to triumph in Christ. And the reason why the preaching of the gospel always triumphs is because it is always successful, always does that whereunto it is sent, whether as a savor unto life or as a savor unto death. And we should note that, whether the gospel is a savor unto life or unto death, it is, in each instance, a sweet savor unto life or unto death. That God, through the gospel, quickens the one but also hardens the other surely presupposes the doctrine of reprobation. This is also taught in : “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it.” Notice, also in this passage, that the divine purpose determines the result of the preaching of the gospel, that it always accomplishes that whereunto it is sent. Well-known is the passage of the Word of God in (see also ): “But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed ? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again. He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him.” And who is not acquainted with the truly terrible word of God in : “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight. All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” In this passage the Lord Jesus Christ actually thanks the Father because He has hid the things of salvation from the wise and prudent. This action of the living God, hiding these things from the wise and prudent, must not be conceived of as merely a negative action, the “not-revealing” of these things unto them. This is indeed a positive action of the Lord, whereby He blinds the hearts and minds of these ungodly, and that, mind you, according to the sovereign purpose and counsel of the Lord, for, we read: “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” Hence, also this passage teaches the doctrine of sovereign reprobation, God’s eternal decree with respect to those that perish. The Lord, therefore, not only saves His own, but He, with equal divine sovereignty and deliberation, hardens the others through the same preaching. We will have more to say about this in this series of articles, but it is well to bear the truth in mind, that, through the same preaching of the gospel, the Lord works efficaciously, irresistibly, not only in the hearts of the elect, but also in the reprobate ungodly. To teach an offer of salvation to all implies, therefore, that, while the Lord offers the gospel of salvation unto them, He at the same time works in their hearts and makes it impossible for them to accept this offer. How this, on God’s part, can be a