The Lord’s Purpose for the Wicked
“The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”- Proverbs 16:4
Divine election unto salvation is one of the most comforting doctrines for the believer. It assures those of us who are in Christ that God is for us, and that He will keep His promise never to separate us from His love (Rom. 8:28–39). However, there is a side of election that many Christians do not like to talk about, or even believe. We are talking about reprobation—the Lord’s passing over of the non-elect, thereby rendering their damnation certain.
This can be a difficult topic. We do not like to think of God as passing over anyone for salvation. Yet if we are to be Christians who believe what the Bible says and not what we would like it to say, we must affirm the doctrine of reprobation. Logically, it follows that if election to eternal life is necessary for salvation (Rom. 9:1–18; Eph. 1: 3–10; 2:1–10), then those whom the Lord has not chosen to redeem will certainly not be redeemed. But Scripture also tells us directly that His predestination of all things includes damnation. Today’s passage, for example, explains that all things have been made for a specific purpose, even the wicked. God has made the wicked for “the day of trouble,” the day on which He will judge everyone in heaven and on earth (Dan. 12:1–2). Nothing lies outside of the Lord’s decree, not even the wicked and their deserved end.
While reprobation is predestination to damnation and election is predestination to salvation, reprobation and election are not parallel in every way. Romans 9:10–13 indicates that both are unconditional; it is not because the elect are better than others that they are chosen, nor because the reprobate are worse than others that they are passed over. In fact, God passes over some incredibly nice people and saves some awful scoundrels. However, it does not follow that the reprobate do not merit their judgment. The elect do not deserve their redemption; it is all of grace (11:6). They cannot merit their righteous status before the Lord in any way; it is by grace alone through faith alone. But the elect are chosen out of the fallen lump of clay that is humanity, and the reprobate come from that same clay (9:19–25). Humanity stands before God already condemned, and in salvation, the Lord must intervene and change hearts to make people willing and able to serve Him. They deserve condemnation, but He rescues them from it. The reprobate likewise deserve condemnation for their sin. In not saving them, God is not being unjust but is giving them what they have earned.
In keeping with Romans 9, Matthew Henry writes that the wicked exist to reveal the glory of the Lord’s justice. “[God] made all according to his will and for his praise; he designed to serve his own purposes by all his creatures, and he will not fail of his designs; all are his servants. The wicked he is not glorified by, but he will be glorified upon.” God will be glorified in the reprobate. Though they do not praise Him now, He will be praised for His justice to them on the last day.
Passages for Further Study