Dear Friends of Hope Biblical Counseling Center,
Here at Hope Biblical Counseling Center we counsel many people about many serious spiritual issues of life. Fundamentally everything in life is a spiritual issue. Rarely do I send out articles by others through Hope Biblical Counseling Center. However, when I do read something helpful I want to share it. One of the great desires here at Hope Biblical Counseling Center is to encourage people in real Biblical truth. We desire to help people to have a real, intimate, personal, and passionate relationship with God. Part of that is to learn to submit ourselves to God and humble ourselves. Without humility in our lives we will fail in many different ways. There can be no pretense in a real walk with God.
James 4:6-10, But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (7) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (8) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (9) Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. (10) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
The other area that is so important is to desire to glorify God in your body and spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (20) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
We live in a day of much failure in this area. The article below is by my friend, Dr. Rick Carter, and is being sent out with his permission. This is an excellent treatment on, What Makes Someone Reprobate?” I hope it will be helpful and give better understanding of this important subject.
Dr. Terry Coomer
Director, Hope Biblical Counseling Center
What Makes Someone Reprobate?
By Dr. Rick Carter
One of the questions that has been going around for some time now is whether or not a person who is reprobate can be saved. However, it would be impossible to answer such a question from the Bible without first asking what constitutes being reprobate in the first place. To say that a reprobate cannot be saved without first defining what reprobate means is useless.
There are some who would interpret reprobate as simply someone who is involved in unnatural lifestyles. They use Romans 1 as their foundational text and then run to the extent that those who have engaged in same sex relations are always reprobate and therefore cannot be saved. This position ignores a significant amount of scripture, and while I want to be clear that I am not taking the position that a person involved in same sex relations is never reprobate, I do believe that a thorough examination of scripture is necessary to determine where the line is.
The word “reprobate” is used seven times in the Bible with three of those times being plural usages. There is only one use of the word in the Old Testament, and it is used six times in the New Testament. Let’s take a moment to examine each of these uses in Biblical sequence for the sake of order.
Jeremiah 6:28-30 “They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters. 29 The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away. 30 Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them.” The words “reprobate” and “rejected” are both translated from the same Hebrew word in verse 30. Take note that unnatural sexual relationships are not mentioned in these verses, and they are not mentioned in the entire chapter, as a matter of fact. The issue that God is addressing concerning people being called reprobate here is first that of being “grievous revolters”, in other words, people who will not submit to authority. The second offence listed is “Walking with slanders”. Notice it doesn’t even say that these are the slanderers, but rather, they keep company with slanders.
The problem here, though, starts earlier in the chapter, when the prophet says in Jeremiah 6:10, “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.” The problem that caused them to become reprobate appears not to simply be that they were sinners, but that they had refused to receive the warning of the man of God.
As a matter of fact, just a few verses later, that is exactly what God says in Jeremiah 6:16-17 “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. 17 Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.” God says, “I called for you to turn from your sin and walk in the truth but you refused. I sent watchmen to warn you but you said that you would not listen.” Again, in all of this, there is not one word about the sin of unnatural relationships, but only the sin of refusing to turn away from that which God condemns.
The next passage is the one most often cited in this discussion: Romans 1:18-32. For the sake of understanding, I am going to include the scripture 10 verses ahead of the word in question also. “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
The verses most often made an issue over here are two verses prior to the word “reprobate”, which do clearly speak about unnatural physical relationships termed here (and for the remained of this article) as “vile affections” in verse 26. Notice the overall question of this passage. The issue here is not to simply call out vile affections, but rather the primary theme is the rejection of God. Verses 18-20 speak about the fact that God has revealed Himself to all men, but in verse 21 we see that though they by natural revelation knew who God was they refused to glorify Him as God.
This is the first step of a progression that continues through the rest of this chapter. The result of not glorifying God as God is that they became vain in their imaginations, their hearts were darkened, and they became fools. They also changed the glory of God into an image to resemble men and animals. There is no doubt that this is a description of idolatry. In other words, what we see taking place here is men rejecting the natural revelation of God, and instead, beginning to worship idols. The result of this step is that God gives them up to uncleanness to dishonor their own bodies between themselves. This need not be a direct reference to vile affections; any fornication is dishonoring the body as God intended for it to be used properly only in the confines of marriage.
The progression does not stop there, however, because these rejecters of God go on in verse 25 and change the truth of God into a lie. They deny the truth, not just worshiping an idol, but going further and calling God’s truth a lie. This offence causes God in verse 26 to give them over to vile affections. It is at this point that we find the description of vile affections which we commonly call homosexuality today. There can be no doubt this is what Paul was speaking of. He directly says that it is against nature, and it is most definitely called out as sin. Let me make clear here that these vile affections are sin. No preacher that I know disputes that in any way.
The final progression, however, given in this chapter is found in verse 28. This moves us to the question at hand. Because “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” This sounds much like the passage of Jeremiah, they rejected God, they refused to receive His Word and they refused to retain Him in their knowledge. Notice however, this comes after the description of vial affections and it begins to pour out a list of sinful behavior that is certainly not exclusive to vial affections. These are behaviors that I have seen in every man and woman in some fashion. Look at the list, “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:”
While vile affections are listed in this passage in leading up to being reprobate, they are in no way exclusively listed. Can a person who is given to vial affections be reprobate? Without question, the answer is yes. Can a person who is a fornicator be reprobate? Can a person who is a whisperer be reprobate? Can a person who is a backbiter be reprobate? Can a person who is proud be reprobate? Can a person who is disobedient to their parents be reprobate? The answer to all of these questions is the same, YES.
Reprobate in this passage is not a question of the particular sin but rather of the attitude toward God. If a person refuses to glorify God as God, if they insist on worshiping the creature instead of the creator, if they refuse to retain God in their knowledge, they will become reprobate. There is a progression given here, and in that progression, there is a dire warning. The content of the passage must be seen for any of it make sense. The context here is not vile affections, which is a consequence within the larger framework of the context. The context of the immediate passage is the rejection of God.
Additionally, the passage must be understood in regard to the overall context of the chapter, and as such, there is an argument to be made that this passage is not speaking of the individual offenders so much as the larger culture. The pronoun “they” is a plural pronoun in the scriptures. The progressive nature of this text indicates that it isn’t simply the progression of an individual such as “a man” who didn’t glorify God, so God did this to him, and then “the same man” did not like to retain God in his knowledge, so God turned him over to vile affections, then the same man became a reprobate. Rather, culturally, this progression can be seen in our own nation.
When the American culture did not glorify God as God, we became vain in our imagination and our hearts were darkened. When we changed the glory of God into the image of man and began to worship man rather than God, He gave us up to uncleanness. The so-called sexual revolution followed shortly after some landmark decisions were made to turn away from God in our nation. Since we, as a culture, changed the truth of God into a lie, we have been turned over to vile affections which have become normalized within our culture. We are quickly on the road to reprobation as a culture because, on the whole, we do not like to retain God in our knowledge. This same progression can be seen in the collapse of every human culture. Consider Greece, Rome, and many others for whom a rejection of the true God brought the same moral and spiritual decay. Within each of these cultures, however, individuals have always had the ability to repent and trust in God, reject the cultural drift, and accept the truth of God’s Word.
That very thought is continued in the next chapter, clearly indicating that in spite of the sin of others, the answer for the individual is repentance. Romans 2:4 says, “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Paul said to the elders of the church in Ephesus that his message was the same to every man. In Acts 20:21, he clarifies that message, “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are warned several more times of the necessity of changing our attitude toward God lest we should also become reprobate. Notice the following passages.
2 Timothy 3:1-9 “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. 9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.”
This is a similar list to the one which followed the term “reprobate” in Romans 1, and it clearly says that they are reprobate concerning the faith. Their attitude toward God has been turned so that they are against Him. They present themselves as having a form of godliness, but they deny the power of godliness. This would be indicative of those who deny the power of God to save anyone who will repent of their attitude toward God and turn to Him for salvation.
Titus 1:10-16 “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. 15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”
Here, Paul warns Titus about those who claim to be prophets but are reprobate. These people profess that they know God but their works deny Him. Yet, notice that they present all their works as though they were religious and even give warning to others about the danger of a certain class of people who they have deemed unsalvageable. In this case, it is the Cretians who, according to their teachings, are not reachable, but Paul says it is those who preach such a false doctrine that are in danger of becoming reprobate.
In 2 Corinthians 13:5-8, 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? 6 But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. 7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. 8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.”
Again the context here is that of being in the faith. Your actions will show whether you are or not, but the thing that makes us reprobate is whether we are in the faith, and then our actions follow.
“Reprobate” and “rejected” are the same word here. Webster’s dictionary defines this word as “not enduring proof or trial; not of standard purity or fitness; disallowed; rejected.”
That is it, all of the passages that deal with the word translated directly as “reprobate” in the Bible. In all of those passages, the only time that unnatural relationships is used is in Romans 1, but in every instance, the same issue of a person’s attitude toward God and His Word is addressed. From a Biblical perspective, there is no doubt the thing that makes someone reprobate is not whether they are a sinner, but whether they will accept the Word of God about their sin and turn from, and acknowledge that God is right and they are wrong. In that, we can conclude that anyone who is willing to acknowledge the truth of God’s Word and repent of their sinful direction has not yet personally become reprobate, regardless of the sin that they have engaged in. Those who refuse God’s Word and will not retain Him in their knowledge are in danger of becoming, if not already, a reprobate. Now, it is easy to see how such a one would never get saved.
Remember that Romans says that God turned them over to a reprobate mind, that is, He let them have the mind they wanted. They wanted to reject God and so He turned them over to their desires. They get what they want. They don’t want God and so He lets them go. This is the true and Biblical understanding of what a reprobate is. Let us all heed the warning that Paul gives to examine ourselves in the faith and make sure that we are not in danger of becoming reprobate.