Are Some Really Prepared For Destruction?

A go-to verse for Calvinists, and a problem verse for non-Calvinists, is Romans 9:22. The verse clearly exemplifies the premises of Sovereign Election and Definite Atonement in the plain reading of the verse.

  “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,

Romans 9:22, ESV

Vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. It is plain and simple. Not everyone is elect to salvation. Some, in fact, many, will be left behind in their own rebellion against God.

Non-Calvinists try many ways to explain away this verse but none of them are adequate. Of course, there is also burden on the Calvinist to provide evidence in the rest of Scripture for their position on the passage as well. Does this evidence exist? The answer is yes, it does.

First, the passage itself gives its own citations for this position. Malachi 1:2-3, Exodus 9:16 and Exodus 33:19. The pictures of Esau vs. Jacob and Moses vs. Pharaoh are vivid with relation to election. God has made the choices of those whom He will use for His purposes and those, in the case of Pharaoh, who will be used for His purposes and destroyed in the process.

But the second thing that should be pointed out is that we also see this principle in the conquest of Canaan. The Old Testament makes very clear that Israel was chosen, others were not and that they were meant for destruction. Consider Deuteronomy 7:2:

  “and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.

Deuteronomy 7:2, ESV

Israel was to devote these people, without discrimination, to destruction. These people were not given a chance to hear about Yahweh. Now, the argument will be made that they would have known about the God of Israel but that is not within the text. They were to be destroyed. That was their purpose. Men, women, children, animals, possessions. They were all to be destroyed. But it goes deeper than that.

To make the point, we see this idea of being devoted to destruction in many Old Testament Passages (Ex. 22:20, Lev 27:29, Num 21:2-3, Deut 2:34; 3:6; 7:2, 26; 13:15; 20:17; Josh 2:10; 6:17-18, 21; 7:12; 10:1 to name a few). The word used is ḥā·rǎm and it is used to say destroyed, utterly destroyed, as an offering to the Lord.

That is exactly what we see in Romans 9:22, vessels of wrath prepared for destruction and then verse 23 says that this destruction is to make known the riches of his glory.

It is understandable that this is a hard pill to swallow but it is truth. Some people were never going to be saved. That does not mean they are not at fault. They are still sinners. But God was never going to save them. He has a specific people that He has chosen to save for his glory.

Let’s Talk About John 3:16

John 3:16 is one of the most quoted and most beloved verses in all of Scripture. It is a defining verse that gives hope for humanity. Whoever believes in Christ will not perish. This is an amazing verse of strength, glory, and victory. But this verse is also misused regularly.

It is often stated that John 3:16 is definitive proof that God loves everyone equally and wants to save every individual. Further, it is argued that it means Christ died for the sins of every individual. However, none of these assertions are reality.

First, John 3:16 does not actually address who Christ died for directly. It only says that Christ came because of God’s love for the world and that those who believe in him will not perish. It states nothing about the extent of the atonement other than that those who believe will receive it.

But does John 3:16 say that God loves all with a “saving” love? I do not see how one can argue that from this text. Verses 17 and 18 negate this idea. They state that those who do not believe have been condemned already. They already stand condemned. They will not be saved. God has not chosen them to be saved. If God had a “saving” love for every individual, every individual would be saved. To believe otherwise would say that God cannot accomplish His will.

The idea that there is no predestination, that there is no election, is to say that God leaves everything to chance. We do not find that anywhere in Scripture. No, God chose and will save those who he has chosen. There are others that He has chosen not to save. That is what Scripture teaches.

Is this a hard pill to swallow? In some ways, yes. But in other ways it should be extremely comforting to know that God is saving anyone at all when we all deserve Hell fire.

Who Seeks God?

One of the classic arguments against election and predestination is the argument that we have free will and we all have the opportunity to come to God. But is that really true? This depends. It depends on what you mean by free will. Let’s look at what the Bible says about who will seek God.

First, let’s talk about free will. What is it? If by free will you mean every man is free to choose what he desires then, yes, I agree, there is free will. But if you mean that we have an equal choice with no influence or determiners then no, we do not have free will.

Does this align with Scripture? Yes. The proponents of free will, the humanistic definition of free will, suggest that people come to Christ on their own free will. They make this choice all by themselves. The problem is, Scripture says otherwise. Romans 3 clearly tells us that nobody seeks God.

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.

Romans 3:10-11 English Standard Version

Nobody comes to Christ on their own. They, that is we humans, in our natural state do not want God. We want to be left in our sin in our own ways. That is the reality of the human condition.

Jesus told us that nobody comes to him without the Father (John 6:65). The Father has to grant someone to come to the Son. It is the Father who has decided who will be saved, not us. We don’t want it. Jesus also said that the Father must draw the individual to him (John 6:44). The word for draw, literally means to haul or drag. It’s not a simple, “come to me” and we follow suit. It is something God has to change within us.

So is there free will? Again, that depends on how you define free will, but nobody comes to God without God.

Not Willing That Any Should Perish?

I often hear the argument from non-Calvinists that God is not willing that any should perish and therefore Reformed Doctrine is 100% wrong. But is it truly the case that God is not willing that any individual perish? Is it really his will that all would go to heaven and be saved? No, it is not. There are many problems with this suggestion, and we shall examine a few now.

First, let’s deal with the major elephant in the room. If God desired and, in fact, willed, that every person, individual, be saved, then all would be saved. But we know that is not the case at all. There are too many verses to name that talk about the damned being forever separated from God in Hell. So, if people are going to Hell, and they are, then either God does not will that everyone be saved, or he is too weak to accomplish his will. I choose the former.

Now, let’s deal with the not willing that any should perish idea. Where does this come from? The verse used to prop up this false idea is 2 Peter 3:9.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Pet. 3:9 (ESV)

If you take this verse out of context, as the non-Calvinist tends to do, and quickly read the verse without careful examination, then yes, you will probably come to the conclusion that God wants all to be saved and have nobody perish. But that is not what this verse states.

The verse states that the Lord is patient towards you. Who are the you? Who are these any that God does not want to perish? Context gives us the answer. If you look at chapter 3 in verses 1, 8, 14, 15, and 17, you see this is written to the beloved. That is, people who are already saved, the elect. That is who the you in verse 9 refers to. The you are the elect.

God is not willing that any of the elect, not all individuals, should perish. This is consistent with the rest of Scripture. God is the one who chooses who will be saved, not man (Romans 9:16, John 1:12-13).

Pharaoh and Sovereign Election

One of the challenged points of Calvinism is that of Sovereign (unconditional) election. This states that God has chosen some to be saved and passed over others. People challenge this as unfair, unjust, or just plain unbiblical. So do we see any examples of Sovereign Election in Scripture? Of course we do.

In the Exodus story we see the tenth plague, the plague of death. Exodus 11 says the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart against Israel and he did not let them go. Then, in chapter 12, he gives Moses, and by extension Israel, the instructions on how to be passed over by death. These instructions were not given to the Egyptians. They were not chosen to be saved.

The result of this was that the firstborn children of Egypt died that night. Paul even addresses this in Romans 9. Was God unfair? Was God unjust?

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Romans 9:14-18 ESV

God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. God chose not to have mercy on Egypt. The same way, God chooses not to have mercy on some people today but others he calls by his Sovereign choice to come to a saving faith in Him.