"My heart I give Thee, Lord, eagerly and earnestly." - John Calvin
Saturday, April 1, 2017
God's Common Goodness Is No Common Grace
In Matthew 5:45, Jesus tells us, "[God] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." This is a precious truth, that God is the source of all good things, and that He shares His gifts with all men. God is good to all because God is all good!
However, a problem arises when some people claim that God's common goodness is properly common grace. That is an idea that I cannot accept.
Consider the further words on Jesus in Mark 7:24-30: "He arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet He could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of Him and came and fell down at His feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And He said to her, 'Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.' But she answered Him, 'Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.' And He said to her, 'For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.' And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone."
Jesus was referring to His own comment in Matthew 15:24: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." During His earthly ministry, His focus was only on ethnic Israel. Of course, that expanded to the entire world after His ascension, but that was later. When this foreign woman came to Him, He was still in the transitional state between the Old Covenant focus on Israel and the New Covenant inclusion of all nations. Yet, the woman said, even when the chosen children are enjoying the feast, there are scraps which fall to the dogs. The Book of Ruth would be an expanded image of what she means.
The application here is the parallel between the children and the dogs in this vivid story and the children of God and the rest of the world in Matthew 5:45. The wicked, when they are enjoying the good gifts of God, are not enjoying God's favor to them, but are rather receiving the overflow from His blessings on His own people, His children, the church. Why isn't this grace? Because it is not to their advantage. Grace is God's favor, the application of Christ's merits, but that isn't what the reprobate are receiving (Romans 1:21):"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks
to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish
hearts were darkened." Is this blessing for them? Not at all. Rather, as Paul goes on to say, this arrogant and presumptuous use of God's gifts brings these unbelievers to grief (Romans 1:28-29): "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice."
My name is Chris Cole. I have lived in the Charlotte, NC, area for over thirty years, and have been an active Presbyterian during most of that time. I love the Westminster Confession of Faith as a beautiful expression of my own personal beliefs.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I prefer the English Standard Version of the Bible, and all quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise stated.
I have a number of reviews of Reformed books on Amazon. There is a link to them in the Reformed links below.
"Seeing [that] the Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus, is so ready (never was there king so ready to hear a subject as Jesus is), [even] if thou wert the vilest body that goes, a thief, a harlot, etc., yet if thou wilt say this, 'Lord, remember on me, and give me a part of thy kingdom'; - if thou prayest to him from a penitent heart, with confidence and assurance, I promise unto thee, heaven and earth shall go [fall] together ere thou wantest [lack] thine asking. Seeing [that] our Lord Jesus is so liberal [free-giving], then seek more than enough, more than a kingdom, and thou shalt get more. The only cause why we want [lack] is in us: we have no hearts to seek it." - Rev. Robert Rollock, Scottish Presbyterian minister, about 1590, in a commentary on Luke 23:42-43