Does the Bible Teach Common Grace?

by | Nov 8, 2017 | Reformed Theology

Reformed Contentions

It is a popular assertion of those who oppose the doctrine of common grace to claim that in the Bible, the word grace only refers to God’s saving grace given to the elect and never to God’s common grace displayed to the reprobate. This is in fact what Ron Hanko, son of Herman Hanko and a minister in the Protestant Reformed Church, asserts. He says, “The word grace is used over 300 times in the Bible. . . . Never once in the Bible is it used in reference to the reprobate wicked. Never once. Go home and check it.”[1] If this wasn’t clear enough, he later emphatically declares that the term grace (as well as love) is “never, never used in reference to the reprobate wicked. Never.” Instead, Hanko unashamedly proclaims that “in all of His common providence [God’s] disposition toward them is unremitting and unchangeable hatred.” He likens the providential operations of God to the care of a meat farmer for his livestock: the farmer does not attend to the needs of his animals because he loves them but only because he is raising them for the slaughter. But the doctrine of common grace includes more terms than simply grace. Hanko admits that many more words are included under the general umbrella of grace when he says, “When we are speaking about common grace we are also speaking of common love, common mercy, common goodness, common longsuffering. They all go together. They can’t be separated. . . . They all stand or fall together.” If this is so, showing from the Bible that God displays any of these affections towards the non-elect will substantiate the doctrine of common grace. Unfortunately, the scope of this paper is limited to only the term grace. The question I set out to answer is simply this: “Does the Bible ever say that God shows grace to the reprobate?” If it does, common grace is a biblical doctrine, and its avowed enemies who condemn it should rightly be silenced.[2] If, however, the Bible does not use the term grace in this way, common grace can still be substantiated in other ways,[3] but its advocates should be willing to reassess their assertions in light of the biblical evidence. In what follows, I will endeavor to examine the word grace in both its Old and New Testament contexts in order to answer this question. I will only list and comment upon the verses that are relevant to this issue, i.e. God showing grace to those who will never be saved.

Precise Classification

Before we begin, the question must be asked, “What does common grace mean?” Richard Muller, in his Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, gives this historic, Reformed definition:

i.e., a nonsaving, universal grace according to which God in his goodness bestows his favor upon all creation in the general blessings of physical sustenance and moral influence for the good.  Thus, rain falls on the just and the unjust, and all men have the law engraved on their hearts.  Gratia communis is therefore contrasted by the Reformed with particular or special grace (gratia particularis sive specialis, q.v.).[4]

Though this explanation is adequate, I also believe that the doctrine of common grace includes what Muller calls gratia universalis,[5] or what Abraham Kuyper calls general grace,[6] i.e. God’s universal desire for all men to be saved. Nevertheless, the issue is whether or not God has a favorable disposition (or as Muller puts it, “God in his goodness bestows his favor”) to the wicked in this present life. Whether that disposition includes a desire to bless the reprobate with physical and/or spiritual good is an altogether different matter and should only be discussed by those who affirm the doctrine of common grace, since those who reject it deny that God desires to bestow any kind of favor on the reprobate.

I must also assert that the doctrine of common grace relates directly to God’s preceptive will and not to His decretive will. This dimension of God’s will truly tells us something about God’s heart towards His creation, although mystery abounds in attempting to harmonize His universal beneficence with His decree of predestination, election, and reprobation in eternity passed.[7] The fact is, if the Bible says that God pours out grace upon those that will never be saved, He is not pretending to do so; He really has a gracious disposition towards all who are created in His own image, sinner and saint alike. In giving providential gifts to the ungodly, God is not just displaying His “divine power” but in “back of the bestowal there is an attitude on the part of God, called love, which constrains him to bestow these tokens of his lovingkindness.”[8] Let us now examine the Scriptures to see if these things are so.

Biblical Concentration

Does the Bible ever use the term grace in a common or universal way? Even among those who affirm the doctrine of common grace, there is disagreement. For instance, the great Dutch theologian, Herman Bavinck, does not think so. He says, “Used with reference to God, however, its object is never creatures in general, nor the Gentiles, but only his people.”[9] Is he correct?

Old Testament Usage of Grace (???/ ?????)

The noun ??? is used 69 times in the Old Testament, and its verbal form ????? is used 78 times. It is the most common word for grace, favor, acceptance, and good-will. Virtually every example of God showing grace to people in the OT has to do with the elect.

God bestows grace on Noah (Gen. 6:8), Jacob (Gen. 33:5,11), Benjamin (Gen. 43:29), those whom God decides to be gracious to (Exod. 33:11), Moses (Exod. 33:12,17), the people of Israel (Num. 6:25; Ps. 67:1; 2 Kings 13:23), Gideon (Judges 6:17-18), David (2 Sam. 15:25; Ps. 4:1; 6:2; 9:13; 25:16; 26:11; 27:7; 30:10; 31:9; 41:4,10; 51:1, 56:1, 57:1, 86:3,16; 119:29,58,132), those who walk uprightly (Ps. 84:11), Zion (Ps. 102:13,14), God’s servants (Ps. 123:2-3), those who never let steadfast love and faithfulness leave them (Prov. 3:4), the humble (Prov. 3:34), a people who shall dwell in Zion (Is. 30:18-19), Isaiah and those who wait for the LORD (Is. 33:2), those who survived the sword (Jer. 31:2), the remnant of Joseph (Amos 5:15), the finished temple/Christ (Zech. 4:7), and the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Zech. 12:10).

God’s grace is so bound up in His relationship with His people that in two places, David explicitly prays that the Lord would not be gracious to his wicked enemies. He says, “You, O LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel, Awake to punish all the nations; Do not be gracious to any who are treacherous in iniquity” (Ps. 59:5). Again, he says, “Let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him, Nor any to be gracious to his fatherless children” (Ps. 109:12). More than this, God actually commands the Israelites to show no grace to “the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you” (Deut. 7:1-2). Instead, these nations were to be devoted to complete destruction. Additionally, Isaiah prophesies that God will not be gracious to Babylon when He destroys her in the eschaton. He proclaims, “When its limbs are dry, they are broken off; Women come and make a fire with them, For they are not a people of discernment, Therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them. And their Creator will not be gracious to them” (Is. 27:11). Even though God is their Maker and Creator, He is under no obligation to show grace to rebellious sinners. It is all freely given to those whom He desires to be gracious to.

However, there is one place in the OT where God is said to show grace to the wicked. Isaiah 26:10 reads, “Though the wicked is shown favor, He does not learn righteousness; He deals unjustly in the land of uprightness, And does not perceive the majesty of the LORD.” The ESV, HCSB, ISV, and the NET Bible all use the word if: “If favor is shown to the wicked . . .” This would seem to imply that Isaiah is giving a hypothetical scenario whereby grace is really not shown to the wicked.[10] The meaning would be, “If grace were somehow shown to the wicked, they would still not learn righteousness.” But I do not believe this verse should be understood as a hypothetical scenario divorced from reality. What Isaiah is saying is a statement of fact: God shows grace to the wicked, though it does not make them any better off. Why do I think this? First, the word if is not found in the original Hebrew. The text literally reads, “Show favor to the wicked.” If is supplied by these versions primarily as a matter of interpretation, not translation. Other versions such as the NIV, NASB, and KJV omit this word. Secondly, the context suggests the reality of God being gracious to the wicked. In this passage, Isaiah is stressing the importance of God sending His judgments on the earth. “All the inhabitants of the earth” learn righteousness when God’s judgments are displayed (v. 9). Isaiah says this as a matter of fact. God’s uplifted hand against sin causes both the righteous and the wicked to fear Him and turn away from evil, even if for the wicked it is only an outward reformation of their lives. Matthew Henry comments,

It is God’s gracious design, in sending abroad his judgments, thereby to bring men to seek him and serve him: When thy judgments are upon the earth, laying all waste, then we have reason to expect that not only God’s professing people, but even the inhabitants of the world, will learn righteousness, will have their mistakes rectified and their lives reformed, will be brought to acknowledge God’s righteousness in punishing them, will repent of their own unrighteousness in offending God, and so be brought to walk in right paths.[11]

But Isaiah correctly observes in verse 10 that when only grace is shown to the wicked, they will not learn righteousness but go on in their evil and corrupt ways. As Calvin points out, “. . . the wicked cannot be brought in any way to love God, though he endeavor, by every sort of kindness, to draw and gain them over . . . whatever may be the acts of kindness by which God draws the wicked, they will never learn to act uprightly.”[12] Although God’s grace is meant to lead them to repentance, they abuse it and distort it by going on in their sin. Therefore, they store up for themselves justly-deserved wrath (Rom. 2:4-5). And that fiery wrath will fall upon their own heads if they continue on in their rebellion (v. 11). Verses 9 and 10 then demonstrate realities which produce separate and polarizing results for the enemies of God. Though God shows grace to the wicked, the wicked show disrespect to God, and their hearts are given fully to do evil (Ecc. 8:11). Therefore, as God pours out grace upon evildoers, God must also unsheathe His iron rod of judgment in order to restrain their sins and teach them righteousness.

New Testament Usage of Grace (?????/?????????)

The noun ????? is used 157 times in the New Testament, and its verbal form ????????? is used 23 times. HELPS Word-studies says that grace is “preeminently used of the Lord’s favor, freely extended to give Himself away to people (because He ‘ever leans toward them’).”[13] Bavinck adds, “. . . subjectively, it means favor, a positive disposition on the part of the giver, and gratitude and devotion on the part of the recipient. Ascribed to God, grace is the voluntary, unrestrained, and unmerited favor that he shows to sinners and that, instead of the verdict of death, brings them righteousness and life.”[14] By his definition, Bavinck seems to assert that all grace in the New Testament is saving grace. Is he correct? Here are my findings:

God bestows grace on Mary (Lk. 1:30), the young Jesus (Lk. 2:40,52), the children of God (Jn. 1:16), the apostles and the whole church (Acts 4:33), Stephen (Acts 6:8), Joseph (Acts 7:10), David (Acts 7:46), the new converts in the church at Antioch (Acts 11:23), newly converted Jews and God-fearing proselytes (Acts 13:43), Paul and Barnabus (Acts 14:26), Silas (Acts 15:40), believers in Achaia (Acts 18:27), the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:32), Paul (Acts 27:24, Rom. 1:5; 12:3; 15:15; 1 Cor. 3:10; 15:10; 2 Cor. 12:9; Eph. 3:2,7,8; 1 Tim. 1:14), saints in Rome (Rom. 1:7; 16:20), all believers (Rom. 3:24, 5:2; 5:15,17; 6:14; 8:32; 12:6; 1 Cor. 2:12; 2 Cor. 8:9; Eph. 1:6,7; 2:5,7,8; 4:7,32; Col. 2:13; 3:13), 2 Thess. 1:12; 2:16; 3:18; 2 Tm. 1:9; Tit. 2:11; 3:7; Heb. 2:9; 1 Pet. 1:10,13; 1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:12; 2 Pet. 3:18; Rev. 22:21), a believing remnant of Jews (Rom. 11:5), saints in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:3,4; 16:23; 2 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 9:8,14; 13:14; Gal. 1:15; 2:9), Paul and Timothy (2 Cor. 1:12), new converts (2 Cor. 4:15), the churches of Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:1), the churches of Galatia (Gal. 1:3,6; 6:18), Abraham (Gal. 3:18), the saints in Ephesus (Eph. 1:2; 6:4), the saints at Philippi (Phil. 1:2,29; 4:23), Paul and the Philippian church (Phil. 1:7), the exalted Jesus (Phil. 2:9), the saints at Colossae (Col. 1:2,6; 4:18), the church of the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:1; 5:28; 2 Thess. 1:2), Timothy (1 Tm. 1:2; 6:21, 2 Tm. 1:2; 2:1; 4:22), Titus (Tit. 1:4), Titus and the Cretan believers (Tit. 3:15), Philemon (Phlm. 1:3,25), the Hebrew churches (Heb. 13:25), the humble (Jam. 4:6), the elect exiles of the Dispersion (1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 1:2, those who suffer for righteousness’ sake (1 Pet. 2:20). Christian husbands and wives (1 Pet. 3:7), the elect lady and her children (2 Jn. 1:3), and the seven church in Asia (Rev. 1:4).[15]

As it was in the OT, so it is in the New: virtually all NT references to God’s grace concern God’s favor towards His people. But there are a few places that seem to say otherwise.

1.) The Blind

Luke 7:21 reads, “In that hour He healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind He bestowed sight.” Jesus did this to demonstrate to John the Baptist and his disciples that He was the promised Messiah who would bring about cosmic restoration to a world shattered by sin (vv. 22-23). In verse 21, the verb “bestowed” is the Greek verb “to show grace.” It was Jesus who “graced” sight on many of the blind. His gracious disposition toward them moved Him to heal them of their physical infirmities. Now I think most would agree that during His earthly ministry, Jesus performed physical miracles upon some who never experienced the spiritual miracle of regeneration.[16] If this was the case, we have good reason to believe that from this passage Jesus showed grace to some who were never saved. Unless one will argue that all those who received their sight were the elect, here is an instance where the God-man gave gracious blessings to some who would never have the eyes of their hearts opened to behold His glory.

2.) Unloving Debtors[17]

In Luke 7:41-42, Jesus tells this parable: “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” The phrase “graciously forgave” is the Greek verb “to be gracious.” Both of these debtors were “graced” of their debts by the moneylender. The one who had a lesser debt was Simon the Pharisee, and the one who had the greater debt was the woman crying at Jesus’ feet. Jesus refers to Himself as the moneylender. Both Simon and the woman had their sins “graced” by Jesus, yet only the woman went home that day forgiven and justified.[18] Granting that we must be careful in our interpretation of parables, this parable still teaches us something about the disposition of Christ to sinners. We learn that Jesus can be gracious and merciful to some who are never truly forgiven. He can show grace to Pharisees, although not all Pharisees thank and love Him for it.

3.) All Professing Believers

There are several interesting passages that speak about God’s grace to those who are in danger of falling away or who have already apostatized. They are 2 Corinthians 6:1, Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 10:29, and Hebrews 12:15. In 2 Corinthians 6:1, Paul says, “Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” Similarly, Paul says in Galatians 5:4, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” In Hebrews 10:29 he says, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” And again, in Hebrews 12:15 he says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” How do we understand these passages? Does God give His grace (and even the Spirit of grace) to those who eventually fail to obtain salvation? Is Paul saying that someone can receive the grace of God in vain and so be eternally lost? Paul seems to think that this was a real possibility! Calvin did too. He said that sinners could “willfully render useless [God’s] grace, by which they had been favored.”[19] Of course, I am not referring to the efficacious grace of God. If a professing believer would perish in his sin, it would only prove that these passages were talking about the offer of grace or the common gracious operations of the Holy Spirit upon the reprobate, i.e. resistible grace, not effectual saving grace to the elect. But the fact remains, Paul taught that there is some sort of grace in the outward call of the gospel that professing believers could receive in vain, profane, fall away from, or fail to obtain through their own slothfulness and hardheartedness. He can only give these exhortations because God is really offering and holding out grace to everyone who hears the gospel. But, as John Gill points out, even this “declaration of the love and grace of God to sinners” can be resisted and received in vain “when it is but notionally received, or received in word only: when it is abused and perverted to vile purposes, and when men drop, deny it, and fall off from it.”[20] God, then, shows grace to those who finally prove themselves to be goats amidst the sheepfold.

Concluding Comments

Are the PRC and other Hyper-Calvinists correct in saying that the term grace is only reserved for the elect and their salvation? Not entirely. Hanko’s assertion that in the Bible the word grace is never used in reference to the reprobate wicked is not biblical. There may be only one reference to God showing grace to the non-elect in the Old Testament (Is. 26:10), but it is an important one. In the New Testament, however, there may be several places where God shows grace to those who finally perish in their sins. I admit that if this word study teaches us anything, it is this: God has a special, saving grace reserved only for His people. Nearly every reference to the term grace refers to God’s special favor and love for the elect. Both Old and New Testaments seem adamant about jealously reserving the grace of God for the people of God and no others. But there are exceptions to the rule. Isaiah 26:10 affirms that God shows grace to the wicked, Luke 7:21 and Luke 7:41-42 imply that Jesus showed grace to some who were never saved, and passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:1 and Hebrews 10:29 teach us that God offers grace through the gospel to all professing believers, even those who eventually fall away. These usages are by far rare, but from examining how the Bible uses this word, we stand on sure and steady ground to declare that common grace is a biblical doctrine. The Bible proves God shows grace to the wicked. And if space were permitted, the same could be said for God’s common love,[21] steadfast love,[22] mercy,[23] goodness,[24] compassion,[25] longsuffering,[26] and blessing.[27]

[1] Ron Hanko, “Common Grace: Is it Biblical?” (audio of sermon, Loughbrickland, Northern Ireland, February 3, 1995), tinysa.com/sermon/22706142927.

[2] For instance, David Engelsma, in his book Christianizing the World, says, “The theory of common grace is not only condemned by scripture, but also is refuted by history and experience.” See David J. Engelsma, Christianizing the World (Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2016), 133.

[3] Even if the Bible never used the precise terminology of common or universal grace, the concept could still be encoded in the pages of Scripture. We must not commit the word/concept fallacy. We recognize that the words Trinity, the hypostatic union, the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, and amillenialism are not found in the Bible, but the concepts are present. Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:27-36 do not explicitly say that God is loving and merciful to the reprobate, but sound exegesis of these texts proves that these concepts are certainly implied.

[4] Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1995), 130.

[5] Ibid, 133. Muller defines universal grace as “that grace of God in the universal call of the gospel according to which salvation is offered to all.”

[6] Discussed by Engelsma in Christianizing the World, 164.

[7] One way of reconciling this blessed paradox while upholding God’s simplicity and impassibility is differentiating between God’s will of propension and God’s will of volition/purpose. R.L. Dabney states, “. . . God does have compassion for the reprobate, but not express volition to save them, because his infinite wisdom regulates his whole will and guides and harmonizes (not suppresses) all its active principles.” In other words, God can possess “natural propensions of pity towards persons whom his wisdom restrains him from ever purposing to save.” See R.L. Dabney, “God’s Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy, As Related to His Power, Wisdom, and Sincerity,” The Princeton Review (1878), accessed September 21, 2017, http://www.romans45.org/dabney/mercy.htm.

[8] John Murray, “The Free Offer of the Gospel” (report presented to the Fifteenth (1948) General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Wildwood, NJ, May 1948), accessed September 13, 2017, http://opc.org/GA/free_offer.html. Engelsma argues in Christianizing the World that providence is not grace but divine power. He goes on to say that “God’s providence is his power upholding and governing the creation he made in the beginning. In his providence, God maintains even the ungodly in their humanity, so that they can develop the creation, uncovering and using its bounties; order their society, especially by government; and in general direct their life together in such a way as to benefit themselves and avoid many evils. But providence is not inherently grace and blessing, not even in the instances in which providence provides the ungodly with many good gifts, for example order in society, or health, or nourishing food. The things themselves are good, but if God gives them to a man or woman in his wrath and if the man or woman uses and enjoys them without acknowledgement of God the giver, without gratitude to God, and without a use of them that serves God, the things are a curse to the one who so misuses them. . . . To the reprobate unbeliever, all the good things of providence are a curse in divine wrath, exposing his inexcusable wickedness and increasing his guilt (135-6). I agree that the wicked twist and distort the good gifts of God to their own destruction. But their intentions and motives are not the issue. Our concern has to do with the disposition of God in giving these things. If the Bible specifically says that God shows grace to the wicked, His providential gifts of “health, earthly riches, a good job, and the order kept by civil government” flow not from divine power or wrath but are “inherently, necessarily, and always grace and grace’s blessings” (70). It would be a contradiction in terms if God “graced” the reprobate out of His wrath and hatred for him!

[9] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (1895; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 2:214.

[10] This is in fact how Franz Delitzsch interprets Isaiah’s words: “???? ??? is a hypothetical clause, which is left to be indicated by the emphasis, like Nehemiah 1:8 (Ewald, 357, b): granting that favour (che?n equals “goodness,” Romans 2:4) is constantly shown to the wicked man.” See Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Isaiah, trans. James Martin (repr., Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1991), 7:446.

[11] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 4, Isaiah to Malachi (repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 109.

[12] John Calvin, Commentary on Isaiah – Volume 2, trans. William Pringle (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2005), 178-79, accessed September 14, 2017, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom14.pdf.

[13] HELPS Lexicon, s.v. “Charis,” accessed September 14, 2017, http://thediscoverybible.com.

[14] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:214.

[15] God bestowing grace on Christians is a rather broad category. To be more specific, BDAG states, “The context will show whether the emphasis is upon the possession of divine grace as a source of blessings for the believer, or upon a store of grace that is dispensed, or a state of grace (i.e. standing in God’s favor) that is brought about, or a deed of grace wrought by God in Christ, or a work of grace that grows fr. more to more.” See Walter Bauer et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed. (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), 878.

[16] A prime example of this would be what happened to the large crowd of 5,000. Jesus had compassion on them, healed them, and fed them (Matt. 14:13-21; Jn. 6:1-15). They both witnessed and experienced physical miracles. But later on Jesus told them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set his seal” (Jn. 6:26-27). What was the result of this conversation? “After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him” (Jn. 6:66).  Many of the same disciples who partook of Jesus’ physical miracles (restored physical health) did not partake of Jesus’ spiritual miracles (eternal life). They were blessed materially, not spiritually.

[17] It is interesting to note that in another parable about debtors (The Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor in Matt. 18:23-35), the king/master, who represents Jesus’ heavenly Father (v. 35), shows patience (??????????) (v.26), compassion (?????????????) (v.27), and mercy (?????) (v. 33) to one who eventually ends up in jail for the rest of his life due to his unforgiving heart. This parable teaches us that God shows patience, compassion, and mercy to sinners who are eventually thrown into the dungeon of hell for all eternity.

[18] Calvin comments that Simon was probably not forgiven: “From the words of Christ, therefore, we are not at liberty to infer, that Simon had been a debtor to a small amount, or that he was absolved from guilt. It is more probable that, as he was a blind hypocrite, he was still plunged in the filth of his sins.” See John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke – Volume 2, ed. William Pringle (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2005), 115, accessed September 14, 2017, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom32.pdf.

[19] John Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews, ed. John Owen (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2005), 218, accessed September 13, 2017, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom44.pdf. Here is the full quote: “Hence learn that all who willfully render useless his grace, by which they had been favored, act disdainfully towards the Spirit of God.”

[20] John Gill, “The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians,” in The Baptist Commentary Series Volume I: John Gill’s Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, vol. 8, John to Galatians (1809; repr., Paris, AR: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 2006), 793-94.

[21] In the OT, God sets His love on Cyrus (Is. 48:14) and the idolatrous children of Israel (Hos. 3:1). In the NT, Jesus as the God-man loves sinners and tax collectors (Matt. 11:19; Lk. 7:34) and the unconverted rich young man (Mk. 10:21), and God the Father loves sinful mankind in general (Jn. 3:16; Tit. 3:4).

[22] In the OT, God’s steadfast love fills the earth (Ps. 33:5; 119:64). If steadfast love only refers to God’s covenant love, how can God show hesed to sinners and saints alike? It may be that this love is displayed in the general blessings that come to the whole world due to the Noahic Covenant (Gen. 9:8-17). If this is the case, even the chief of wicked reprobates is a recipient of God’s hesed.

[23] In the OT, God shows mercy to the stiff-necked and hard-hearted people of Judah (2 Chron. 36:15-17). In the NT, God in Jesus shows mercy to a demon possessed boy (Matt. 17:14-18), the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18:33), and the ten lepers (Mk. 10:11-19).

[24] In a partial study of the OT, God’s goodness extends to Jacob’s family and the surrounding nations (Gen. 50:20), the nation of Israel in general (Exod. 3:8/Deut. 1:25; Exod. 18:9; Num. 10:29,32; Deut. 6:24/10:13; 8:10; 26:11; Josh. 21:45; 1 Kings 8:56; Neh. 9:20), and wicked men (Job 22:18). In the NT, God is good to those who labor and are heavy laden (Matt. 11:28-30), the hungry (Lk. 1:53), the ungrateful and the evil (Lk. 6:35), the rich man in hell (Lk. 16:25), those at the wedding feast in Cana (Jn. 2:1-11), pagans at Lystra (Acts 14:17), hypocrites (Rom. 2:4), those who do good and submit to civil authorities (Rom. 13:4), those who committed the unpardonable sin (Heb. 6:4-6), and everyone who receives something good from the hands of God (Jam. 1:17).

[25] In the OT, God shows compassion on the idolatrous and blasphemous Israelites (Neh. 9:19) and on all that He has made (Ps. 145:9). In the NT, God through Christ feels compassion on the crowds (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; Mk. 6:34; 8:2), the unforgiving debtor (Matt. 18:27), and the prodigal son (Lk. 15:20).

[26] In the OT, God exercises longsuffering toward the rebellious and stiff-necked Israelites (Neh. 9:17). In the NT, God is patient with a faithless and twisted generation (Matt. 17:17; Mk. 9:19; Lk. 9:41), the unforgiving debtor (Matt. 18:26), hypocrites (Rom. 2:4), vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom. 9:22), and the wicked who were destroyed by the Flood (1 Pt. 3:20).

[27] In the OT, God blesses Noah and his sons (Gen. 9:1), Ishmael (Gen. 17:20), and Laban (Gen. 30:27,30). In the NT, God in Christ blesses children (Mk. 10:16) and the Old Covenant Jews (Acts 3:26).

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Why is Theonomy Unbiblical?

Why is Theonomy Unbiblical?

Before critiquing theonomy, we need a good definition. Some people today who use the word “theonomy” don’t mean anything more than “God’s law” because the etimology of the word theonomy is “theos” which means God, and “nomos” which means law. They only want to affirm that God’s law is supreme over man’s law. And they’re right about that. God’s transcendent moral law is the norm that norms all norms. Governmental laws should always be consistent with God’s law and human law must never violate God’s law.

But in this post, I’ll be using the word “theonomy” in a more technical sense, which is rooted in the historic usage of the term.

A Post-Logue to #DatPostmil? Blog Posts

A Post-Logue to #DatPostmil? Blog Posts

It is always a humbling and learning experience to read the responses to a blog series on a controversial subject. Iron does sharpen iron, as the Bible says, and I learn much from those responses. Some postmils have taken a little umbrage at my description of Postmillennialism as a millennium involving a distinct, golden age following the one in which we live.

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