Is Grace Common?

    Is Grace Common?  What is Grace?  Does God love everyone?

    Those of the free will persuasion will most undoubtedly answer that last question in the affirmative, that yes indeed, Grace is common to all men.  They will affirm that God loves everyone - so much so that he sent His only begotten son to live and die for everybody who will ever live.  They will quote John 3:16 ad nauseam thinking it makes their case for them.  But their argument is strictly emotional and not grounded in the reality of Scripture.   But the Scriptures clearly lay out the truth of the matter - that Christ came into this world to save his people from their sins.  The freewiller believes that Christ came into this world to save everybody from hell and that the only reason people go to heaven is because they exercise a work of faith to accept an "offer of salvation."   This is so far removed from the actual truth - it's like it's another Gospel - another religion all together.  And indeed it is.  It is foreign to Scripture.  But those who have not been given eyes to see will continue to cling to it - to embrace it in spite of all evidence to the contrary that they are shown.   Most will not listen to any argument.    But I'm not going to focus on freewillers in this paper.  I will save that for another time.  I want to make the case against some of those who call themselves calvinists - or who call themselves sovereign grace believers.  I do not intend for this paper to be polemical or even judgmental at all.

    So I repeat.... What is Grace?   The Hebrew word for Grace is "Khane."  The greek work for Grace is "Charis."  And a gift of grace is "Charisma."  And in the Scriptures, Grace is always particular.  It is always discriminatory.  It is unmerited favor toward a certain group of individuals.  It is never aimed at everyone in the world - or everyone universally.  In fact the word "Grace" could be retranslated as favor.   "May the Grace of God be with you," could be stated as, "may the Favor of God be with you."   And with this favor, God's love is always implied.  God loves that which He favors.

    But if one preaches free or well-meant offers of salvation, then the doctrine of common grace necessitates being another component of that theological construct.  The theology of offerism is one of salesmanship, one that revolves around adding numbers to a group.  And the surest way to turn anyone off of what one believes is to say that Christ died only for His people - that He doesn't love or favor everyone, and that salvation is only for Christ's special people.  It's a message of exclusion instead of one that is inclusive of everyone.  Inclusion sells.  Exclusion...  not so much.  

    So the lie continues.  The backstory is different, but the sales pitch is the same.   In order to sell offerism, the doctrine of common grace is added into the mix.  However, it is tweaked a bit from the doctrine of universal atonement.  The free offer preacher will say that yes, Christ did indeed die only for the elect with the caveat that there still is a sense in which God loves everyone.   And it is this "love" that gives God the capability to offer salvation to everyone, even if salvation is not intended for everyone within their formulaic construct.  So what do offerists call the doctrine of common grace?  They state that it is this love of God that enables God to permit everyone to live, to enjoy fresh air, health, and prosperity.   It is this common grace that gives everyone good things.  It is this so-called common grace that sends rain and sunshine on all men, regardless if they be elect or non-elect.

    But is rain and sunshine really an expression of God's love for everyone?  I don't deny that these things are good gifts and expressions of God's love for His people who are in Christ, for those whom Christ came and gave His very life.   But what about those who aren't His?  What about those who will not be in heaven and gathered around the throne?  Are these things really an expression of God's love for them?  Does God love them by putting them in the presence of Gospel preaching?   Is it really GRACE to put them within earshot of the good news of eternal salvation for Christ's people?  Is this really an expression of love for those who will never believe?

O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.  A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.  When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:  But thou, LORD, art most high for evermore. - Psalm 92:5-8

    I would enjoin the reader to take a brief look at all the people in their lives.  I'd enjoin them to take a look at all the people who are enjoying their prosperity.  I'd remind them that it's only for a little while.  And then they will perish.  Those who are living their good life now - enjoying a fine suburban home with a two car garage, a nice 401K, yet know not Christ?  Many, or dare I say most, will soon perish, and they will be destroyed forever.  They flourish now only to perish.   Many live now only to be destroyed.  That's what the Psalmist said!    But hey, if someone wants to call that love or grace  in order to sell their snake oil (which is offerism), go right ahead.  I simply cannot do so.  

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13

    Oh the wonderful message of Grace in the Scriptures!   1 Pet 1:2 says that we who believe are "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: GRACE unto you, and peace, be multiplied."   This love of God, it is particular.  It's for God's friends.  It's not for His enemies.  In fact, God actually HATES those who aren't His own.  

For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;  It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.  As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.  What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. - Rom 9:11-14

For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no FAVOUR, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses. -  Jos 11:20

    God actively hardened the hearts of the Gentiles.  And he had no favor or grace toward them.  Why?  It's not because the Gentiles were any more wicked than the Jews.  But it was so God would keep His covenant with Israel.  God had no desire whatsoever to give the gentiles any favor and He wanted to destroy them forever.  So He hardened them.  

    But free-offer preachers?  They want to sugar coat it all.  The truth doesn't sell very well.  No, they need the doctrine of common grace because it helps them sell their "offers" of salvation.  I wouldn't mind the doctrine of common grace so much if it wasn't combined with offerism in order to destroy the Gospel.  So instead of allowing the Scriptures to stand alone, preachers and theologians will ignore the hard fact of Scriptures and redefine reprobation to be passive.  They'll just say that God loved these gentiles that He hardened, and that He didn't actively harden them, He just withdrew His grace over time.  That doesn't sound like grace to me.  Romans 9:22 doesn't sound like common grace to me.

What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.  - Romans 9:22

certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. - Jude 1:4

    Is that common grace?  I don't buy it.

The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. - Proverbs 16:4

    These people that the Lord made - did He love them even in a "general" sense?   The proposal seems strange to me.  I have yet to see a single scripture that proves that grace is common.  But to be fair, here are the passages that the offerists use to make their case.

The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made - Psalm 145:9

He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. -  Mat 5:45

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. - Luke 6:35

    I agree that yes, God is temporarily good to those who aren't His people.  But do we really want to call this Grace or Favor?  Do we really want to call this love?   If you're selling salvation through offer preaching, I suppose that one almost has to call that love.  I can't agree with that.  All that rain and sunshine God sends down on this world is not an expression of His love for them.  This is an increase of His wrath against those fitted for destruction.  Each day that a reprobate person experiences this goodness and this rain and sunshine, or that jeep in the driveway, or that fancy iPhone, or the steak dinner recently eaten, this is not a result of love.    This goodness is actually bad.    God's wrath may actually be abiding on these individuals.  His wrath against the reprobate is increasing.  Those marked for destruction will continue to enjoy this goodness, but spit in His face.  They hate the message of free and sovereign grace.  They want to be on the thrones of their own lives.  They want to be in control of everything.  They love their supposed free will.    And most of all, they don't want a salvation that is completely dependent upon an absolutely sovereign God.   And one day they will pass from this world and will face the absolute terror of an angry God.  And they still won't want anything to do with Christ and His Gospel.  But they will want things to be the way they used to be.  They will yearn for the good old days when they lived their lives according to the desires of their flesh.  They will yearn for the good old days when rain and sunshine came upon them.   They will yearn to re-live their best life now - just one more time.   

    But to the offer preachers, all I can say to them is to go ahead and call that love.  Go ahead and call that grace if it helps you in your so-called soul winning.  Me?  I'll have none of it.  Because that's not Grace.  That's wrath.  And because it's not Grace, I think that's what bothers me.  I wouldn't mind if this doctrine was called "Common Bounty" or "Common Goodness" or maybe even albeit a stretch, "Common Mercy."   God does cause the wicked to prosper.  I don't deny that!  But this prosperity is not an expression of His love.  God's love - His Grace - His favor for the elect is special.  It accomplishes salvation - so it's effectual.    

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. - Eph 5:25

    Yes, that is the type of love God has For us!  That is the type of love Christ has for His church, the same kind of love that a husband has for his bride!  But common grace combined with the well-meant offer teaches that Christ loves all people, and even desires the salvation of those that hear the so-called Gospel offer.  But does a husband say to his wife, "I love you babe... I love you so much.   But I also love that woman over there too, and even desire to marry her and take her to bed with me...;  But please remember that my love for you is special!"  Well I can tell you if I told my wife something like that, there would be serious trouble for us!  There would be serious trouble for me.  Why?  Because it devalues the love that I have for her.  It makes our marriage bond less meaningful.  It cheapens it.  It is infidelity and in reality it destroys marriages.  And that is what the doctrine of common grace does to the doctrine of special and effectual Grace that is taught throughout Scripture.  It cheapens it.  It profanes it.   It destroys it.   But offer preachers need it to increase their numbers.

    But shame on them!  God's people don't need to be told that God loves them (in a general sense) and that God earnestly desires to save them if they will let Him.  God's people need to have their eyes opened.  They need to see the depravity of their souls - their total inability to please God in and of themselves.  They need to see the hopeless state of their souls.  And they need to know they can't do anything to merit salvation.  They can't run for it, they can't will it, and they can't conjure it.  There is Nothing... Nothing they can do!   God's people need to hear that Christ already did it all.  The need to hear that He accomplished Salvation on behalf of His people;  on behalf of his bride - the Church.  And their ears need to be opened to the fact that much needed rest for a weary heart can only be found in Christ, and His righteousness alone.

    But this message is not popular.  It doesn't appeal to the sensibilities of the average Joe out there.  It's much more exciting to go to the church on the corner that's having a trivia night or a rock concert.  This message - this true Gospel message isn't popular with a largely unconverted church world because it doesn't bring in lots of money.  And it won't inflate the egos of religious shysters because it takes all conversion out of the hands of men.  It won't help them affect the numbers because salvation resides solely with God.

    The doctrine of common grace is a doctrine that I did not understand when I first heard it.  As a stand alone doctrine it doesn't seem all that harmful at first.  It's deceptive though because it's really part and parcel with offer preaching.  And I was first exposed to this doctrine when sitting in my old church one day a long time ago when my pastor said in a Sunday school session that God loves everyone.    I was kind of surprised to hear him say that!  I raised my hand and said, "yeah, I thought God died only for His sheep - that the L in TULIP was for limited atonement - therefore he doesn't love everyone."  And this highly respected man in my life proceeded to tell me that this was true - but that God loves everyone in some sense.   And then I learned what he meant by the free offer.  Up until this point, I thought the phrase free offer meant that God presents the Gospel freely to weary sinners!  But that's not what he meant by the word "offer."  He meant something else entirely different.   He meant something more akin to the word proffer.  And I found out he viewed salvation as something significantly different than what I thought it was.  I found out he was really just another formulist masquerading as a sovereign grace preacher.   His theology was very similar to the freewiller - he saw salvation in a formula to be followed.  He saw salvation almost entirely in conversion - in acceptance of the offer.   

    And then I learned that he represented the majority of so-called sovereign grace preachers.  The vast majority of reformed baptists and presbyterians believe in the free offer, duty-faith, and common grace.   There is much darkness in this land - much darkness in the pulpits across this world.  You sometimes have to drive long distances to see and hear real Gospel preaching in person.  But the people of God, once they hear it, they will continue to seek it out.  The Gospel in reality is just food for the sheep.    It's special food for them.  It's the food they need to eat.  It's the good news they need to hear.   They don't need to hear of duty, or offers, or what they need to do to get something.  They just need to be fed.  They need good food.  They need good news to digest and delight their soul.  They need  Gospel food.  Goats however, they will eat any old slop.  They'll engorge themselves on duty, obligation, acceptance of offers, and common grace - common food to sooth their soul so they think.  In my opinion though it's often just goats being fattened on self-righteousness.  They're just goats being fattened with free offers for the slaughter.  

    I cannot condemn anyone for holding to the doctrine of common grace as the typical understanding I've run across, meaning it's common love.  However, I would warn anyone that still holds to the doctrine that it is usually tied in with well meant /  free offer preaching.  It's the free offer / well meant offer that destroys the Gospel message in my opinion.  I've met several men and women that claim to believe in the doctrine of common grace, but what they often mean by that is common bounty.  I'm ok with that, however, I just think it cheapens the word, grace.  As students of God's word, I believe it is important that we try to understand and adapt our language to that of Scripture.  Let us continue to learn, and may God grant us that ability to change our convictions as necessary to conform as necessary.  God will be glorified in His particular and effectual grace!

Topics: Pristine Grace Hyper-Calvinism Gospel Distinctives
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