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Thread: Common Grace?

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    Common Grace

    Is the traditional reformed doctrine of common grace biblical? What do you think?
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    It's not traditional, it's not reformed, and it's not Biblical The modern notion of common grace finds its roots in the teachings of Abraham Kuyper, not the reformation. The only reformed confession that mentions common grace is the Cannons of Dordt and in that case it is attributed to the Arminians.

    Sola Gratia,
    WildBoar
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Hmmm

    Hi

    Is common grace biblical ?

    well if by common grace you mean the grace God uses to substain the world and keep it from reeling ino chaos and anarchy, then i would have to say, yes

    'God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous' Matthew 5:45

    'God did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness' Acts 14:17 ( Paul preaching to the gentiles in Lystra who had never known the true God).

    'The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works' Psalm 145 :9

    God it would seem from those scriptures does shower the world with common grace that NO ONE deserves.

    God it would read from these scriptures does give grace to a world that in most cases does not have faith in Him.

    The unmerited favour of God that makes the sun shine every morning to everyone, when because of sin all we should expect is judgement and all we can hope for is mercy, does seem to be a grace common to everyman.

    Cheers
    'As soon as we are incorporated in Christ, we have the certitude that in the end we shall achieve victory in the fight.' John Calvin - Romans 6v6.

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    Grace vs. Gift

    Prior to the adoption of 'common grace' theology in Protestantism, Luther wrote about the proper distinction in the New Testament between 'grace' and 'gift.' This has been forgotten, along with many other lucid insights of the great reformer.

    The New Testament never refers to 'grace' other than in salvific terms. It is never once used to refer to God's disposition of goodness towards the wicked and non-elect. God gives certain gifts to all persons, both elect and non-elect. But grace is always exercised in a special and exclusive dispensation toward those predestined to eternal life.

    The theory of common grace, in reality, is contrary to the immutability of God. According to the 'common grace' notion, God gives all mankind a bare second of gracious pleasure prior to eternal torture! How can this 'moment' of showering temporal gifts be termed 'grace'? The biblical fact is that God is always consistent in his desire to manifest both his attributes of kindness and severity. This never changes in this life and will not change in eternity either.
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    Alan:

    Grace is a display of God's love and favor to a person, it has to do with intent. Riches can be grace to a person while poverty can be grace to another. God provides what is necessary to draw His children closer to Him and to harden the reprobate. In Psalm 73, Asaph questions why it is that God generally gives far more riches to the wicked, he finally realizes that God does it to set them up on slippery places and bring them to destruction. If this is grace, I want no part of it. If God had any grace toward the wicked he would not create them at all. How is it a display of God's love to give good gifts to the wicked, just so they can suffer more throughout all eternity? The common grace theory creates a God with multiple personalities who really loves someone but does absolutely nothing to save them. The sun shining in the morning only hardens man in his sin.

    Sola Gratia,
    WildBoar
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    I think both BillTwisse and WildBoar make sense to me! Another objection in argument for common grace that has been brought up is the biblical command that we as Christians are to love everyone - that is we are to love our enemies. The objector usually states, well how can God expect His children to extend their love to people that He is not willing to extend?

    I have an answer, but I'd like to hear what others have to say first. Thanks!

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    Re: Grace vs. Gift

    Originally posted by BillTwisse
    Prior to the adoption of 'common grace' theology in Protestantism, Luther wrote about the proper distinction in the New Testament between 'grace' and 'gift.' This has been forgotten, along with many other lucid insights of the great reformer.
    it is interesting that the word XARIS is translated by both 'grace' and 'gift' in our english versions. but this doesn't help us here.

    The New Testament never refers to 'grace' other than in salvific terms. It is never once used to refer to God's disposition of goodness towards the wicked and non-elect. God gives certain gifts to all persons, both elect and non-elect. But grace is always exercised in a special and exclusive dispensation toward those predestined to eternal life.
    this is a good point. but, to be fair, many who claim common grace and use only the examples as Alan Stevens did mean by it that people are getting what they don't deserve, which by common definition is grace (usually defined as unmerited favor or getting what you don't deserve). i don't think people are thinking about whether the bible actually calls this grace specifically. but as i said, to be fair, many don't mean by the application of grace here as being salvific (though perhaps many do). to imply that they are saying or meaning this is a little unfair in my opinion.
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    Originally posted by Dr. Gill
    I think both BillTwisse and WildBoar make sense to me! Another objection in argument for common grace that has been brought up is the biblical command that we as Christians are to love everyone - that is we are to love our enemies. The objector usually states, well how can God expect His children to extend their love to people that He is not willing to extend?
    well here is the passage under discussion i believe:

    Mt 5:39 "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

    it seems to me that the whole point here is that we are not to love and be kind only to those who love and are kind to us in return. the implication is that just as God loves (in some sense) and is kind (in some sense) to those who are His enemies (i.e., unrighteous) so should we. the word XARIS is not used here but God causing the sun to rise and sending the rain is taken as an indication that He, in a certain sense (though definitely not salvific nor in an eternal sense here), loves/is kind to both friend and foe (though by no means that it is the same kind, manner, degree, etc. of love).
    When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.
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    I think both BillTwisse and WildBoar make sense to me! Another objection in argument for common grace that has been brought up is the biblical command that we as Christians are to love everyone - that is we are to love our enemies. The objector usually states, well how can God expect His children to extend their love to people that He is not willing to extend?
    This was brought up in the recent debate in Grand Rapids. The full debate can be read or listened to at http://www.prca.org/current/Articles...elsma-mouw.htm

    But in answer to this specific question Prof. Engelsma stated:

    Prof. Engelsma: God does indeed command us Christians to love people whom He does not love, but hates. The Bible teaches that God hates persons. God hates some persons. Psalm Five verse five says that God hates all the workers of iniquity. In Romans Nine [ verse thirteen ] as everybody knows, [ scripture] teaches that God hated Esau. At the same time, the Bible teaches Christians that they are to love their enemies who curse them and persecute them, who may very well be these non-elect, or reprobate persons whom God hates. We are commanded to love persons, whom God, for all we know, hates. The explanation of that is the difference between us and God. We are the neighbors of these ungodly persons, linked to them by a common humanity, a common blood. Besides, we’re commanded by Christ to view these people as originally created in the image of God, and to love them in the sense that we do good to them, pray for them, and bless them. God is not the neighbor of these persons. God is the Holy Judge of these persons. They don’t appear in connection with Him as their neighbor, but they appear before Him as guilty and as depraved, and therefore as worthy objects of His hatred. There is a ground in God for our love of the ungodly, pagan, idolatrous, and, for all we know, non-elect neighbor. That ground in God is not that God loves all human beings without exception. That ground in God for our activity of loving our personal neighbors, our personal enemies perhaps, is that the love of God is so wonderful, that the love of God is a love for persons who in themselves are His enemies. Not all persons who are in themselves His enemies, but persons, nevertheless, who in themselves are His enemies. I’m one ! I know the love of God, as the love of God for someone who in himself is a personal enemy of God, by nature hate Him and curse Him. And the love of God is so wonderful that it reached me. I show that by loving my own personal enemy , and thus I show the nature of the love of God. Not necessarily for that neighbor, but nevertheless the love of God towards people who were his personal enemies.
    Sola Gratia,
    WildBoar
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Just one small point.

    Wildboar said:
    The only reformed confession that mentions common grace is the Cannons of Dordt
    The term "common grace" also appears in a version of the London Confession of Baptist Faith (Chapter XIV Of Saving Faith #3) and the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order. It is used in connection with "temporary believers". Although, I do not have the original version so it could have been a later addition.

    Martin

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    Martin:

    That's certainly interesting. The two statements do seem to be in the orginals. I'm unsure exactly what the London Confession means by common grace though. It reads:

    III. This faith, although it be different in degrees, and may be weak or strong,[11] yet it is in the least degree of it different in the kind or nature of it, as is all other saving grace, from the faith and common grace of temporary believers;[12] and therefore, though it may be many times assailed and weakened, yet it gets the victory,[13] growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ,[14] who is both the author and finisher of our faith.[15]
    The proof text doesn't help at all.

    2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

    There seems to be a belief by the authors of the London Baptist Confession that some type of common grace was given to those who expressed belief for a period of time. I don't understand how or why they believed this. The Savoy Declaration says the same thing.

    Strangely, Schaff does not make note of this deviation from the Westminster Confession which reads:

    WCF 14:3 WCF 14.3 This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong;(1) may be often and many ways assailed and weakened, but gets the victory;(2) growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ,(3) who is both the author and finisher of our faith.(4)

    The Savoy declaration seems to believe there are many types of faith while the Westminster seems to take the position that there is only one kind that can be weaker or stronger.

    Sola Gratia,
    WildBoar
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Common Grace NOT Prevenient Grace

    This entire discussion on Common Grace seems to "hang" on some sort of assumed connection to salvation. In other words, the word "grace" has this "linkage" to salvation which, I think, is totally unjustified. Yes, we are surely and certainly saved by grace, but every occurence of the word does not link backwards to some issue of salvation.

    My point simply is this: God certainly gives to all people many things. None of these things does anyone deserve. We do not even deserve to live. Because these things are unmerited and even ill-merited, they reveal God's gracious character. I think that idea is present in Romans 1 in the phrase "...his eternal power and divine nature..." Creation reveals 1) the Power of God and 2) the Goodness of God.

    "... since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Ro 1:19,20

    The confusion seems to be that Arminians have appropriated the phrase "Common Grace" (much like homosexuals have redefined the word "gay"). For them this Common Grace is a counteracting to the depravity of man. God, in their man-centered theology, effectively neutralizes the Fall of Man so that man now has "Free Will". It is sometimes referred to as "Prevenient Grace" because it preceeds the Gospel call. So an Arminian can claim that he believes in the Fall of Man, and then say that it functionally has no impact on the ability to accept (or reject) salavation. It is this confusion between Common Grace and Prevenient Grace where all the heat has been generated.

    I do not believe that anyone can biblically say that God is not good to the lost in non-salvation items (sunshine, rain, etc.). If He is good to the lost, he has given them what they do not deserve. If He has given them what they do not deserve it is a gift. If a gift, then it is a form of grace. Grace is not always oriented toward salvation. It is revelatory of God's nature.
    2 Peter 3:13

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    well said, Jim, you have seen the confusion of those that link 'common grace' (God's goodness and mercy to all in a general sense (not salvation)) to Salvation. There is no connection in the thoughts of those that hold to common grace, it is just another revelation of God's Goodness to all His creatures and creations.
    For some reason, some are not able to distinguish between talking of the attributes of God, in an honorable way, without meddling into Arminian ideology.
    Pilgrim

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    holidayjim:

    In other words, the word "grace" has this "linkage" to salvation which, I think, is totally unjustified. Yes, we are surely and certainly saved by grace, but every occurence of the word does not link backwards to some issue of salvation.
    If the association of grace with salvation is unjustified, could you please provide an example where the Bible explicitly says that God bestows His grace upon those who later suffer eternal punishment?

    I do not believe that anyone can biblically say that God is not good to the lost in non-salvation items (sunshine, rain, etc.). If He is good to the lost, he has given them what they do not deserve. If He has given them what they do not deserve it is a gift. If a gift, then it is a form of grace.
    Those who deny common grace do not deny that God gives good gifts to the reprobate. However, giving someone a good gift is not the same as bestowing grace upon a person. If I know that someone is suicidal and I give the gift of a gun to that person. That gun is a good gift which can be used for hunting or self-defense. But it is not grace. It is actually a display of hatred towards that person because I know what they will do with it. Giving someone physical life who is going to suffer eternally in hell cannot be thought of as grace unless grace is something very terrible.

    It has been shown historically that those groups which adopt common grace, eventually end up on the road to universalism. Dr. Mouw has even suggested this in his book "He Shines in All That's Fair". He says that possibly all that we think of today as common grace, we might one day discover is actually saving grace.

    Sola Gratia,
    WildBoar
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Originally posted by wildboar
    If the association of grace with salvation is unjustified, could you please provide an example where the Bible explicitly says that God bestows His grace upon those who later suffer eternal punishment?...It has been shown historically that those groups which adopt common grace, eventually end up on the road to universalism. Dr. Mouw has even suggested this in his book "He Shines in All That's Fair". He says that possibly all that we think of today as common grace, we might one day discover is actually saving grace.
    i agree with much of what you say here. it is true that the word 'grace' (CARIS) is not applied to the unbeliever in Scripture. but to be fair, there are more ways of communicating the idea of God being kind to unbelievers and giving them good gifts that they do not deserve than just one term. language is 'bigger' than that. but your point is well taken.

    furthermore, in order to properly communicate and understand eachother, it must be recognized (and i think it has been) that when a calvinist uses the term "common grace" positively (referring to the goodness of God in giving unbelievers what they do not deserve while not meaning anything salvific about it) he does not mean the same thing as an arminian who uses the term (referring to some prevenient grace wherein God somehow prepares the hearts of all men to free their wills and give them all equally the ability to respond positively to the external gospel call). in order to pass through the eye of the needle of understanding, this must be recognized. only then will we not be talking past one another. it is quite true that perhaps the term shouldn't ever be used by a calvinist in order to avoid this confusion, but i believe that the one that investigates it a bit further is just trying to be fair by recognizing that God is good to unbelievers (though clearly not in any salvific sense). Mt 5 is crystal clear on this. i guess my reason for posting is to say that to ignore this distinction in meaning of usage of the term often results in calling these people hypo-calvinists and lumping them in with the arminians, as if they are on the road to universalism as well.

    in conclusion, i agree with what you're saying but i also recognize the difference in usage of the term between the calvinist who uses the term positively and the arminian who uses the term. and i think this needs to happen here and we need to see that we agree and are saying the same thing and there is no reason to argue. if you believe that no calvinist should ever used the term grace in the same sentence with unbeliever and that you recognize the distinction of meanings but believe that calvinists should refrain from using the term to avoid confusion then your point is well taken. but i just want to make sure that it is understood that what HolidayJim, PILGRIM313, and I are saying is not prevenient grace but common goodness/kindness a la Mt 5. i do not understand anything salvific by using the term common grace and i am not attempting to use it in its biblical sense but in its basic meaning (at least in english) of getting something you don't deserve. hopefully this helps the discussion out a bit.
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    Needed Clarification

    Universalism??? Nonsense! God gives life to all human beings. Most end in Hell. Does that make him cruel? So the only people that have any goodness from God are Christians? Hardly. In your desire to prevent universalism, you circumscribe the terminology, redefining it at will. The same could be said of general revelation and special revelation. Does God not reveal Himself in general revelation only to use that on Judgment Day against a person? Yes, He does. Does that mean, then, that only Special Revelation is "real" revelation? Of course not. Let's call it "general grace" and not "common grace" and let's call it "special grace" and not "saving grace" and we have the very same parellel issue. The scriptures clearly teach "common revelation". They say that this "common revelation" reveals the "general grace" of God. That is Romans 1:19,20, et al. Is "general grace" saving grace? No. Is "general revelation" saving revelation? No. What's the big deal??
    2 Peter 3:13

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    holiday:

    They say that this "common revelation" reveals the "general grace" of God. That is Romans 1:19,20, et al.
    Romans 1:19-20 do not say that general revelation equals general grace.

    19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; F6 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 F8 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, covenantbreakers, 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.

    Romans 1:20 flatly contradicts the notion that this was the purpose of the general revelation. The question is asked, Why did God reveal these things to them? And Paul answers with a purpose clause "so that they are without excuse." That is God's purpose in revealing these things to them. I see no grace here.

    disciple:

    I have yet to see anyone prove from Scripture that God has favor or love toward the reprobate. This is what must be shown if we are to use the term grace. Bestowal of good things is not the same as grace.

    There is a distinction, between Arminian and so-called reformed common grace, Arminian common grace is consistent. Reformed common grace is the acceptance of contradiction and moves closer and closer to Arminian common grace. People complain about recent events in the CRC, but they fail to realize they are all a direct result of the adoption of the Three Points of common grace in 1924.

    Sola Gratia,
    WildBoar
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Originally posted by wildboar
    I have yet to see anyone prove from Scripture that God has favor or love toward the reprobate. This is what must be shown if we are to use the term grace. Bestowal of good things is not the same as grace.
    i never said that He has favor or love toward the reprobate, especially in the salvific sense. i said that He is kind/good and gives good gifts to them. His action here is seen as a basis for us loving our neighbors (i.e., unbelievers and believers alike). you can't miss this connection. again, please let me remind you that no one here is using the term common grace in the arminian sense.

    also, i expressed that i'm using the term grace not in the biblical salvific sense, but simply as getting something you don't deserve. i am simply recognizing that i can understand why some calvinists would be able to see that God is gracious to all in some sense. i hope you can at least understand and appreciate this.

    i will refrain from using that term because of its confusion. instead i'll say common goodness/kindness. if this is all you are objecting to (using terminology which may be confused), then your point is well taken. we do need to be careful here.
    When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.
    --Erasmus

    A room without books is a body without soul.
    --Cicero

  19. #19
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    Misunderstood Again!

    Romans 1:19-20 do not say that general revelation equals general grace.

    I never said it did...the comparison is what I making. It is an analogous concept. General revelation does damn a person, yet God does reveal Himself in a general, non-saving way. Special Revelation is the vehicle for saving mankind, but General Revelation exists.

    The comparison simply is this:

    General Revelation is really from God...yet it does not save.

    General (Common) Grace is really from God...yet it does not save.

    Special Revelation is salvific.

    Special (Particular, Uncommon) Grace is salvific.

    Is General Revelation invalid because it does not save? Is General (Common) Grace invalid because is does not save?

    I care not what the Westminster Confession says on the issue. I am not bound by a "paper pope" but only the Scriptures. The WCF is wrong in many places, not the least of which is its view of the Covenants.

    Just because the Arminians abuse the term in no way precludes me from understanding it biblically. The term is offensive to some because they choose to see it that way.

    Do you deny that God is good (which is underserved and therefore gracious on his part) to the lost?
    2 Peter 3:13

  20. #20
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    Again

    Just because man turns the grace of General Revelation into damnation does not mean that God is cruel to give it any more than giving good things to men is "cruel" of God either.
    2 Peter 3:13

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