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Does Proverb 16:4 Prove Sublapsarianism?

Posted by Job on February 15, 2012

For several years, I have considered myself to be a so-called “5 point Calvinist” (though Particular Baptist is more accurate), yet one who rejects what I understood to be sublapsarianism (often called double predestination, or hyper-Calvinism). My reason for so is not because of any belief that adhering to double predestination makes God cruel or otherwise unrighteous – for my acceptance of limited (or more accurately, particular) atonement precludes this thinking – but rather 2 Peter 3:9, which reads “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” and also Matthew 25:41, which tells that the lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. (More on this later.)

Therefore, I rejected the claims of some, such as the estimable Gotquestions.org, who claims that belief in limited atonement requires a belief in sublapsarianism. Instead, I felt that both limited atonement and infralapsarianism were Biblical, that Theodore Beza and  fellow travelers exceeded the evidence of the Bible in articulating sublapsarianism. That is, until – when going to a fast food restaurant to get a bite to eat (bad decision; it made my belly bitter, so to speak!) – I happened to listen to a bit of the Janet Mefferd radio show. Ms. Mefferd’s show frustrates me, as I find it to be a curious mix of religious right politics (which I detest) and very bold, principled theologians! It happens that this particular day, a particular theologian that she was discoursing with (and neither she nor he saw fit to reveal his name!) was discussing the nature of God’s divine love (in contrast with carnal emotionalism that is now taken by the fallen world to mean love) and in the process mentioned Proverb 16:4 and Romans 9:21-23.

First Romans 9:21-23. “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? [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: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory”? But Paul was merely asking a rhetorical question, as he is known to do from time to time such is in 2 Corinthians 11:23, right? Except that Proverb 16:4 reads “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” And that text appears in a passage that begins with “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, [is] from the LORD” in verse 1! My problem: I do not use the Proverbs as a source of theology I guess!

And Spurgeon.org gave 1 Peter 2:8 and Jude 4 for more information on the topic. (Note: Spurgeon.org, a 5 point site, corrects some of the faulty assumptions in Gotquestions.org, a 4 point site. Those texts read, respectively “And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, [even to them] which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” and “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” There it is, explicitly laid out. Where perhaps I can get a “pass” for not allowing texts from Proverbs to influence my theology to any great degree (then again I guess I cannot, because I allow Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon and Psalms to do so greatly), the meaning and application of the other texts simply flew past me. 1 Peter 2:8, I simply read the appointment of the wicked in that text apart from the appointment – the election! – of the righteous in 1 Peter 2:9-10.  “But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past [were] not a people, but [are] now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” Jude 1:4 … I just flat out missed the meaning of “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation.” But in light of those, how can the case for sublapsarianism be denied?

That gets me back to my reason for doing so: 2 Peter 3:9 and Matthew 25:41. Here is my problem – which I have just now realized – for many years I believed that “The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance for the hell was everlasting fire [was] prepared (as in only originally intended) for the devil and his angels” was a Bible text. Why? Because I have heard PLENTY of sermons where those two textual fragments were juxtaposed, so I erroneously believed them to form one text. It is only now that I for the first time know that they are portions of separate texts that are several books apart. And when evaluating these fragments individually, and in context, the problem is resolved. Matthew 25:41 reads “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”, and in it our Lord Jesus Christ is merely describing the final status of the wicked, with “prepared for the devil and his angels” as a descriptive clause. There is no way to assert from the context, either there or from the entirety of scripture, that the lake of fire was originally created only for demons, and that God adjusted His original plan to send men there too after the fall (and after an attempt at universal salvation failed?)! That exceeds even “predestined foreknowledge” Wesleyanism and fully into the camp of open theism, meaning that God was forced to react and adjust to circumstances that He had no knowledge of or control over. ‘Tis heresy that denies God’s omnipotence and omniscience!

2 Peter 3:9 is much simpler. Its context was people doubting the return of Jesus Christ because it had not happened yet: see “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation” of verses 3 and 4 of this same chapter. This text DOES NOT MEAN that God was attempting to save everybody, for being God and by definition omnipotent, God would not have TRIED to save everyone and FAILED. Had God TRIED to save everyone, THEN EVERYONE WOULD BE SAVED. Or had it been God’s WILL to save everyone, THEN EVERYONE WOULD BE SAVED. A fundamental, nonnegotiable fact of Biblical revelation is that God’s will shall come to pass! Otherwise, there is no point in even so much as saying the Lord’s Prayer! Faith would be pointless, because everything would be reduced to chance. Maybe God can come through for us this time, maybe He can’t! That would reduce religion to being a mere lottery, and it would confirm the false doctrines of the evolutionists and big bang theorists, who have created an entire religious, ideological, and pseudo-scientific system on the idea that chance, random uncaused events, is the creator and sustainer of all things!

Instead, Peter was informing the church that the reason why Jesus Christ had not yet returned was so that all of the elect, everyone predestined to salvation, would be saved! (Consider another problem with the alternative interpretation: if the return of Jesus Christ was delayed because God does not want anyone to go to the lake of fire, then why not begin human history with the atonement, instead of allowing many thousands of years to pass first? Also, no matter how long Jesus Christ’s return is coming, people are still going to the lake of fire, a fact that we know from the Bible! So, God would be delaying the return of Jesus Christ because of something that He already knows to be a failed hope! To put it another way, God is withholding the return of Jesus Christ to restore creation as a consequence of His own failure to save it! Again, a heretical, blasphemous thought that no Christian should have on his mind!) Peter is not an innovator in tying the return of Jesus Christ to the completion of God’s plan to convert sinners into saints. In the Olivet discourse, Jesus Christ stated that the end of time will not come until the gospel is preached to all nations (Mark 13:10, Matthew 24:24). Paul stated that the endtimes will not come until the Gentile mission is complete (Romans 11:25-26).

So, now that I know what the Bible actually says instead of what I believed it to say, I have no problems with accepting the doctrine of sublapsarianism. Further, allow me to say that knowing more about God and His plan to save His people should make you more willing to repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ instead of less, for you will know that your salvation and eternal fate is not your own doing or responsibility, but has been planned for you by an omniscient, omnipotent God who cannot fail! If you have not done so already, do so today!

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10 Responses to “Does Proverb 16:4 Prove Sublapsarianism?”

  1. I am myself a certain “infralapsarianism”, but like Calvin, who I believe taught that the Atonement is general, meaning however it is sufficient for all, but only efficient for the Elect. However, God certainly is fully sovereign, as He is God!

    • Job said

      Well, we are both Christians who worship a sovereign, holy loving God! My main thing is that I heard so many preachers juxtapose those two unrelated texts that I was convinced that it was a scripture, and based my beliefs on it. I wonder if I have any other aberrant ideas concerning scripture floating around my head. And I would have never investigated this particular one had I not heard a snippet of that radio show. I cannot help but see that as providential.

      P.S. Are you and your wife doing well?

  2. John said

    Wow, it sure is refreshing to see that someone gets it. I’m wondering though if your supralapsarianism goes in the same direction as mine. Case in point; the following statement was made by R.C. Sproul, whom I highly respect and admire, but who (in my opinion) stops just short of the biblical view of why God is justified in saving some and condemning others:

    “I would say that God’s decision to choose us was made prior to the fall of mankind but in light of the Fall. Let me say it again. He made the decision before the Fall, with the knowledge that the Fall will come and with the knowledge of its consequences. In other words, God couldn’t possibly make it his choice to save persons who were in no need of salvation. Only sinners are in need of salvation, so God must have considered us as being sinners and fallen as we were considered in the divine mind for salvation. Ultimately, the decision to save us was made in eternity, according to God’s divine knowledge of us.” ~ R.C. Sproul

    While the logic in this statement seems to be sound and well-reasoned it does not reflect certain teachings found in the word of God. It makes sense that God would consider the fact that man would certainly fall into sin (since He is omniscient) and that He would choose some of those who fell to be His elect ones who would receive salvation in time. Yet the bible does not teach that God makes His choice to save some nor to condemn others based on a view to the fall. Paul labors the point that God’s decision was not based on anything (mankind) had done or would do; either good or bad. His point is that God chose some to be the elect (vessels of honor) and the rest to be (vessels of wrath) according to the council of His own will -as He always does. This is also seen in (Eph .1:11).
    The goodness of God is not dependent upon whether or not He condemns some based on future sin (The fall) which He knew they would commit. If indeed God did base His decision to condemn some and to save others “with the knowledge that the Fall will come” then Paul’s statement concerning the fact that neither one (Jacob or Esau) had done any good or evil is made void since the fall was by definition an evil event.
    God condemns some and saves others before either had done any good or evil. It is an argument from Biblical silence to assume that “God couldn’t possibly make it his choice to save persons who were in no need of salvation. “
    -Prov 16:4 The LORD has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.
    -Rom 9:22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
    -1 Pet 2:8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
    -Jude 1:4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

    God is justified in condemning some according to Paul based solely on the truth that He is free to do as He sees fit with His creation as is also taught in Daniel 4;
    Dan 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
    It is neither wrong nor is it inconsistent with His nature for God to create some for destruction and others for salvation in order to display both his wrath and His mercy:
    Rom 9:22-24 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
    Reprobation would still be the other side of the (election) coin even with a view to the fall- since no one chose to be born as a member of a fallen race, or with a sin nature.
    For God to choose to save some of humanity and not all would still mean that he had chosen not to save the rest of humanity irrespective of the fall since no one chose to be born in a fallen state or with a sin nature, (with the possible exception of Adam). We are condemned in Adam as a result of the Divine decree, and not as a result of individual choice.
    Rom 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
    The statement ”We are sinners by nature and by choice” is only true in the sense that because we are born with a sin nature (apart from our individual choice) we consequently choose to sin, since apart from grace, we can do no other. As has been said; “We do not become sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.”
    Rom 7:18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. ..
    Rom 7:25 Thanks be to God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
    ondemning others: Looking forward to your reply.

    • Job said

      Hello:

      I am sorry that it took so long!

      The truth is that after I adhered to infralapsarianism a few years ago, I considered it truth and did not investigate the matter further. I only came to adopt sublapsarianism the very day that I wrote this, so I have not had a chance to consider its nuances. I will say that Sproul’s statement seems to be that of someone who professes sublapsarianism, but isn’t very “proud of it” and is trying to apologize for or soften it.

      “The goodness of God is not dependent upon whether or not He condemns some based on future sin (The fall) which He knew they would commit.”

      That is true.

      “It makes sense that God would consider the fact that man would certainly fall into sin (since He is omniscient) and that He would choose some of those who fell to be His elect ones who would receive salvation in time. Yet the bible does not teach that God makes His choice to save some nor to condemn others based on a view to the fall. Paul labors the point that God’s decision was not based on anything (mankind) had done or would do; either good or bad. His point is that God chose some to be the elect (vessels of honor) and the rest to be (vessels of wrath) according to the council of His own will -as He always does. This is also seen in (Eph .1:11).”

      You know what, I find myself agreeing with you. The reason is that the other view makes it appear as if God’s actions were dependent on the fall. Even though God knew in advance that the fall would happen, His acting based on the fall is more “predestined foreknowledge” than actual sovereignty. So, separating God’s decision to save some and condemn others – love Jacob but hate Esau – from the fall makes sense.

      “The goodness of God is not dependent upon whether or not He condemns some based on future sin (The fall) which He knew they would commit. If indeed God did base His decision to condemn some and to save others “with the knowledge that the Fall will come” then Paul’s statement concerning the fact that neither one (Jacob or Esau) had done any good or evil is made void since the fall was by definition an evil event.”

      Not just Jacob and Esau, but Adam also! It would mean that God would have decided to condemn Adam based on his personal actions.

      Still have some loose ends to tie up, though. There is “the soul that sinneth shall die.” Is it not more accurate to say “that soul is dead already by virtue of God’s election”? So then, why is it necessary for Paul to say that we are without excuse? For no excuse or reason other than God’s election is necessary for our destruction. I have to say that while the Bible does speak of sinners being destroyed as a consequence of God’s election, it speaks of sinners being destroyed as a consequence of their sins much much more. Perhaps it is an antinomy, but it is something that I do need to give more consideration to. Any pondering or exegesis that you have done on the subject would be helpful. Thank you.

  3. Personally I think that we fall into problems when we try to say too much here, I am infralapsarian. And reprobation lies in the sinful man, as we can see with Judas, (John 17: 12). But salvation lies with God. God does not give saving or regenerate grace to the reprobate. But even here, we must not press this to just some arbitrary will of God. This is always a biblical mystery, rather than a logic.

    • Job said

      Sorry it took me so long to get back to you! Yes, the Bible does tell us that God’s ways are too high for us. I was mainly motivated by the discovery of passages that I did not know existed, and discovering that texts that I believed to have existed actually do not. It might cause some adjustment to my theology, but it will not alter my orthopraxy.

  4. Marsha Barnes said

    Hello Job,

    On the predestination in the scriptures. What the Lord God is saying, He knew before the creation who would and who would not accept Him or His Son as the Messiah. Just like He knew the Jews would deny Him. The prophets prophesied 700 years before Christ that the Jews would not accept Him, although some have now. But He still has a heart for the Jews and us. He gives the call to everyone at one time or the other, and it is up to them what they do with it. He said that His choice would be that all where saved. But He gave us free will, it is just that He knew who would or not accept it.

    Sincerely,
    Marsha

    • Marsha Barnes said

      I am a Southern Baptist, but I am a Christian first. I have Huguenot ancestory. My gggggrand father John Lanier Sr. came from England to Virginia and settled there to get away from persecution for His beliefs. He was a part of the Huguenot group. They were also called the separist, because they believe that each person had the right to read the scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to teach them the things of God. They also believed that salvation is through Jesus Christ and accepting Him. They believed in the Trinity, of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In other words, they rejected the idea of Priest in the Catholic church, but that Jesus Christ is our High Priest. This is what Calvinism was founded on, they came from the Huguenots and many other religions came from them. Baptist came from the 1st century after Jesus Christ, they were called Ana Baptist, the rebaptisters. To inter into their fellowship from another religion, you had to be rebaptistized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or the Trinity. I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ when I was just 8 years old, now 62.

      Sincerely,
      Marsha

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