Grace, that is. Some say that there is a ‘common grace’ of God to all of mankind; some say that Grace is sovereign & particular, only for the elect. I have been studying and reading on this for over a year now because I do think it is of great importance, at least for me and so although I am not a theologian in even the smallest sense of the word, I do have a studied conviction on the issue. Most understand grace as just a word and say that we shouldn’t make too much of a word and yet I know that words have meaning. Words such as the atonement, salvation, justification and yes…..grace. There is meaning in the words that scripture uses, meaning for our understanding, edification and for our knowledge so to study the depth of what they mean can only lead to further our understanding of the scriptures they are used in.
I listened online to a sermon recently and the speaker said this: “Preaching is really the defining of our biblical terms and we need to define our terms by scripture…..scripture defines scripture” and I think he is right. Take for instance the word ‘justification’. The more we study it, the more we come to know the deeper meaning, the more it is burned into our heart, the more we rejoice in it and the more we come to know what God has done for us in Christ. For me, the same is true of the word ‘Grace’. I remember the first time I heard the phrase ‘common grace’ I knew then I would have to search it out and it has been a tremendous edifying and blessed search.
Many people use the term ‘common grace’ and use it more than likely in the context of proclaiming that God is good. All that God created is good (Gen 1:31) and what He chooses to do with His creation is also good, because He is good. Jesus told the rich young ruler “there is none good but one, that is God” (Mat 19:17) so it isn’t ever His goodness that comes into play in the controversy over common grace. With some it may be just semantics, but the true controversy isn’t just semantics at all as it assigns a grace to the reprobate that tries to bridge the gap between the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God, the Reformed doctrine of the antithesis, which was a new word for me although the principle itself certainly wasn’t new.
A classic scripture that presents to us the principle of the antithesis is 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”).
Scripture tells us in the very beginning in Genesis 3:15 (“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed, it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel”) that there is a gap; there is enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. That gap is pictured in scripture as the distinction between light and darkness, sin and grace and that is what ‘common grace’ tries to bridge. God calls His people out of darkness and into the light (1Pe 2:9); are we to bridge the gap with ‘common grace’; that appears to be the true question behind the controversy.
to be continued......