Pristine Grace

Is it common....
Part 4
by Eileen Beckett

Is it common....

Scripture

There are two scriptures that most defenders of ‘common grace’ use in support of their view of ‘common grace’ and they actually lean towards the same thought, at least in my mind.

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

Matthew 5:45 “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.”

We know without a doubt that God is kind to the unthankful and evil because the Scripture tells us that so the question then becomes, what is meant by this kindness. In my studies I have come across several different interpretations and different nuances within the same interpretation and will briefly put them down here to the best of my ability.

Dr. Mouw interprets the Luke text as teaching that ‘God has a positive, albeit non-salvific, regard for those who are not elect, a regard that he asks us to cultivate in our own souls”. So he believes that God shows this kindness to every human being without exception, especially those who God has eternally reprobated and this is ‘common grace’.

In ‘Common Grace Revisited’ by David J. Engelsma the interpretation of the Luke text is quite different. Mr. Engelsma believes that what needs to be proved is that God is kind to ALL unthankful and evil people, including the reprobate. He believes that, in context, those that God is kind to are the same that He is merciful to because of verse 36; “be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful”, speaking of the elect only. For we know that God has said “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” and God has said that in regards to the mercy He has on His elect. He goes on to say that if the scripture is talking about God being kind to ALL the unthankful and evil people, seemingly then He is kind in the same way of saving grace to all, having a kindness that desires to save all.

I don't believe that I would fall within either of these views. I researched the word used for kindness ‘chrestos’ which is from the root Greek word ‘chraomai’, a verb which can also mean to furnish what is needed or to act towards one in a given manner. This is what I believe the Scripture is teaching about God’s kindness to the evil and unthankful, it is teaching how He furnishes to the evil and unthankful good and needful things and, for me, this is not ‘common grace’, not an attitude of His favor, but instead would fall under His providence, His common provision.

HC #27 What dost thou understand by the providence of God?

The almighty, everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds heaven and earth with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things come not by chance, but by His Fatherly hand.

It is also teaching that we are to do the same to our seemingly reprobate neighbors. We are to do good to them, to lend if necessary, what is needful for them, not expecting any gain. We are to act towards them as God does, providing when we see a need. I believe this ties in with the verse in Matthew 5 which tells us that God gives sun and rain to all as a 'common bounty’. The sun is beneficial to the reprobate as well as to the believer. It warms the earth; it warms our very bodies; it grows a garden for both the elect and the reprobate alike and they both therefore enjoy the benefits of the sun, God's beneficial goodness. The same concept with the rain which falls on my ground and my next door neighbor’s ground. It is just as beneficial to their lawn, to their garden and flowers as it is mine. So what is the difference you might ask, what is the difference between 'grace and providence'? I think the next HC may have part of the answer to that.