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Tuesday, June 13, 2017


In Psalm 15 David asks, "O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?" (Psa 15:1) The rest of the chapter is his answer (and it's only a total of 5 verses). Among the characteristics of those who will live with God is this interesting phrase:
in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD (Psa 15:4)
"Vile person", eh? What ...? Well, that was the ESV; let's look at some other translations. What do they say is a "vile person"? King James uses the same term. The Douay-Rheims version says "the malignant". The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (LITV) uses the term "the reprobate". Wait ... "the reprobate"? What ...?

It turns out to be a single Hebrew word, מָאַס -- mâ'as. It doesn't actually translate directly to either "vile person" or "malignant", but means "to spurn". It is a reference to that which is cast away. So Young's Literal Translation (YLT) refers to "a rejected one". That's more like it. The notion appears in Greek form in places like 1 Cor 9:27 and 2 Cor 13:5-7. That word is ἀδόκιμος -- adokimos. This word is literally "not approved" or, therefore, "rejected". And, again, the King James translates this word in the 2 Cor 13:7 text as "reprobate".

We think of "reprobate" as someone who is unprincipled. (In fact, some use the term as humorous affection -- "You old reprobate.") That's today; that's not the original. It refers to being rejected. In theology, it refers to one rejected by God. Now that's a chilling thought.

The doctrine of reprobation is a formalized version of the idea, but I'm not going there. I'm just asking what the Bible says. Does the Bible say that there are people that are not simply "bad people", but who are rejected by God. I think it is unavoidable. Does the Bible say that God chooses people to reject? I think that you won't find that one in Scripture. Biblical election is about God's choice of you (1 Thess 1:4). It is repeated ... multiple times (Col 3:12; Titus 1:1; Rom 8:33). It is undeniable that He "chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." (Eph 1:4) How He made that choice is something that we debate among ourselves, but that He made it and made it "before the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8) is undeniable. Biblical election, then, is God choosing whom He will save (by whatever means He chooses) and, of course, actually accomplishing that act. The objection comes, then, over this whole "reprobation" question. If He chooses whom He will save, does He choose whom He will not? Is His rejection of some an active rejection? Are people forced to choose Hell?

Nothing in Scripture speaks that way. One reference is in Jude. He writes about certain people who "have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation" (Jude 1:4). The phrase, "long ago were designated" is a tricky phrase, and you'll find different translations of it in different Bibles. The King James says "before of old ordained". The NASB says they were "long beforehand marked out for". But the term itself isn't obscure. It simply refers to being written beforehand. So the LITV says "having been written before to this" and the YLT says, "having been written beforehand to this." What can we conclude from this? There are a couple of clear things. First, it is clearly in advance. This judgment is known before it happens. And, if God is God (Omniscient), then what He knows before it happens is accurate. However, it is equally clear that it is not active. One term is to "write out before" and the other is to "destine before" (predestine). One is passive and the other is active. When Isaiah recorded his messianic prophecies (e.g., Isa 53), he "wrote out before" what would happen, but there was no causal connection. Isaiah recorded it; he didn't make it happen.

Both "election" and "reprobation" are clearly biblical. This is the difference between the "elect" and the "reprobate". In the case of the elect, God takes an active role to choose them (John 15:16) and draw them to Himself (John 6:37,44,65). He takes no such role in the case of the reprobate -- those whom He rejects. They earn that all on their own (Rom 6:23). He just documents it in advance. I think that there well may be people in heaven that wonder, "How could it be that I made it here?" but there won't be a single one in Hell that wonders, "What did I do to deserve this?"

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