WCF 3.7 — Pastoral Comments

Posted on May 20, 2018 by admin

3.7  The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.1

1 Mt 11:25–26; Rom 9:17–18, 21–22; 2 Tim 2:19–20; Jude 4; 1 Pet 2:8.

What is the difference between the way that God deals with the elect and the reprobate? We have already seen how He predestinated the elect unto life, provides all they need for their salvation, and sovereignly applies these benefits for their eternal enjoyment of Him. In other words, God deals with the elect according to the principle of mercy and grace. The elect does not at all deserve all the benefits bestowed upon them. All things are so provided and ordered for them unto “the praise of [God’s] glorious grace” (WCF 3:5).

By contrast, “the rest of mankind” or the reprobates are “[passed by and ordained] to dishonour and wrath for their sin,” unto “the praise of [God’s] glorious justice.” In other words, God deals with them according to the principle of strict justice. The reprobates, we may say, deserve what is meted out to them, even temporal and eternal punishment for their sin.

Take careful note that when our Confession says that the reprobates are passed by, it does not imply that God is inactive, for as soon as we are told that God passed by them, we are told that He ordained them to dishonour and wrath. They are passed by as far as the grace of salvation is concerned, but are not in any way left out of God sovereign decree.

Whatever God has decreed, He brings to pass by His sovereign providential power, which may in the case of the reprobate includes judicial hardening. As Paul puts it: “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Rom 9:18).

Think of a ball rolling down a hill. Is God inactive in its motion? No, gravity has no power apart from God’s sovereign superintendence. Now think of the ball getting stuck on a ledge. A wind blows on it and so it continues rolling down. Does wind blow by chance? No, it blows only according to God’s appointment and sovereign providence.

So it is with the reprobate. God, may be said to give them up to their sinful inclination, while at the same time pulling them down by His providential power. And not only so, but there are times when God, in His justice and wrath, sends, as it were, winds to nudge them in their downward slide.

How shall we respond to this doctrine? Paul says: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor 13:5). Though none of us can make ourselves elect or reprobate, the prospect of being a reprobate ought to provoke us to examine ourselves and to seek the Lord that we may enjoy all the benefits of salvation. Of course, one who is a reprobate would not be interested to do so, but then no elect of God will want to remain in sin once he hears the voice of Christ. Have you heard the voice of Christ, beloved brethren and children? Seek the Lord while He may be found! Seek Him with all humility acknowledging that He is right in all that He does; and thank Him for His mercy towards us who are but proud dust no different from the reprobate in our rebellion against Him.


Westminster Confession of Faith — With Brief Pastoral Comments
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