06 August 2007

Common Grace

by Phil Johnson

an we call God's merciful goodness toward the wicked "love"?

Yes. Matthew 5:45: showing mercy and goodwill toward enemies is Godlike. Jesus Himself called it "love" (v. 45). Cf. Luke 10:27-37. Also Psalm 145:9; Deuteronomy 10:18; Acts 14:17.

Phil's signature

65 comments:

Even So... said...

Well done...

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

John 3:16. So common to us, we forget.

Sewing said...

How are verse references being counted? For example, is Deuteronomy 6:4-5 two, three, or four words?

Just wondering....

YnottonY said...

NKJ Psalm 145:9 The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.

"Even the worst taste of God's mercy; such as fight against God's mercy taste of it; the wicked have some crumbs from mercy's table. "The Lord is good to all." Sweet dewdrops are on the thistle as well as on the rose. The diocese where mercy visits is very large. Pharaoh's head was crowned though his heart was hardened." --Thomas Watson

Found in Spurgeon's The Treasury of David on Psalm 145:9

"After these common mercies, I say, whereof the reprobate are often partakers, he openeth the treasure of his rich mercies, which are kept in Christ Jesus for his Elect ... Such as willingly delight not in blindness may clearly see that the Holy Ghost maketh a plain difference betwixt the graces and mercies which are common to all, and that sovereign mercy which is immutably reserved to the chosen children..."

The Works of John Knox, Ed David Laing, (vol. 5, Wodrow Society, Edinburgh, 1856), On Predestination, p. 87.

"There is a common and inferior sort of grace, which is made known to all the world. The whole earth is full of his goodness, but this grace that bringeth salvation, that is peculiar to the elect, to a few poor base creatures in themselves, a little handful whom God hath chosen out of the world; John 14:22, ‘How is it that thou wouldst manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?'"

Thomas Manton, SEVERAL SERMONS UPON TITUS 2: 11-14 (Works, vol. 16, Sermon 1).

"The benefits proper unto men are of two sorts: some are common to all men both good and bad, and some proper to the elect and faithful."

'An Exposition of the Creed' in The Works of That Famous and Worthie Minister of Christ, in the Universitie of Cambridge, M.W.Perkins, (John Legat, Cambridge, 1605), p. 324.

YnottonY said...

"The former, restraining grace, is a fruit only of general mercy over all God's works, Psal. cxlv. 9; common to good and bad, binding the hand, leaving the heart free; withholding only from some one or few sins; tying us now, and loosing us by and by; intended for the good of human society, doing no saving good to the receiver: in a word, only inhibiting the exercise of corruption for a time, without any real diminution or it; as the lions that spared Daniel were lions still, and had their ravenous disposition still, as appeared by their devouring others, although God stopped their mouths for that time."

William Jenkyn, An Exposition Upon the Epistle of Jude (James & Klock, 1976), p. 12.

YnottonY said...

“All preparations even wrought in us, by the common and general restraining grace of God, can have no effectual influence to produce our conversion.”

Samuel Rutherford, Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners To Himself (London, 1647), p. 240.

"1. He loves all that he has made; so far as to give them a being, to conserve them in being so long as he pleaseth: he had a desire to have Sun, Moon, Stars, Earth, Heaven, Sea, Cloud, Air; he created them out of the womb of love, and out of goodness, and keeps them in being…"

Samuel Rutherford, Christ Dying and Drawing, op. cit. p. 476f. (some copies, p. 440f., due to faulty numbering)

YnottonY said...

"...of men he loves some more especially and peculiarly than others; namely, those whom he loves with an electing, calling, redeeming, justifying, glorifying love. God loves all creatures, and among them the rational, and among them the members of his Son, and much more the Son himself."

William Jenkyn, An Exposition Upon the Epistle of Jude (James & Klock, 1976), p. 36.

centuri0n said...

Phil:

I hate to call fowl on the first post, but if we add your title you're at 52 words.

Let's call that a test case and let it ride. I don't want to miss out on a week of posts like these because we had a different understanding of the somewhat-ambiguous rules.

centuri0n said...

ynottony:

Nobody here is saying that God saves everyone -- we're saying that God loves everyone enough to show them mercy right now.

All your citations here say that God shows mercy right now to the wicked. Why would you want to class God's mercy as something other than a function of His love? And if you would, let us know what God's mercy to the wicked falls under if not because of His love.

YnottonY said...

Hi Cent,

Where did you get the notion that I thought, or that I thought you and Phil thought, that God saves everyone? I don't think that, and neither do I think that you or Phil think that.

Also, where did you get the idea that I class God's mercy as something other than his love? God's mercy to all is a loving and gracious thing.

All of my citations back up and support what you, Phil and Dan would say. God's common grace to all of humanity, including the non-elect, is loving and merciful. The quotes above show how some of the most staunch Calvinists affirm that God is gracious AND LOVING to all. In fact, all of those men (Manton, Rutherford, Perkins, Jenkyn, Watson and Spurgeon) affirm God's universal saving will, i.e. that common grace is granted because God wills all to be saved in the revealed will of God. What's funny is that I found another quote by a staunch Calvinist who refers to God begging, if you remember some complaining about that during the Chan squabble. Here's what Thomas Manton (in addition to Spurgeon and Rutherford who said the same) said:

"He beseecheth; God falls a-begging to his own creature, and deals with us as importunately as if the benefit were his own; thus doth he pray us to be reconciled."

Thomas Manton, Several Sermons upon Titus 2:11-14 (Works, Vol. 16, Sermon 2).

You may want to have another coffee and reread the quotes ;-)

Grace to you,
Tony

YnottonY said...

Hi Cent and Phil,

What will really bother some imbalanced individuals is if you both assert the truth that God's common grace or common love means that he seeks/wills/wants/desires the ultimate well-being of all of humanity. That's where the problem is. Some uber-Calvinists are willing to say that God loves all and is gracious in the sense that he delights in their TEMPORAL WELL-BEING. That's NOT MERELY what the classic doctrine of common grace is about. The benefits of common grace are also given so that men might be lead to repentance and be saved, according to Romans 2:4. So, in your brief entries on God's love for all humanity, you may want to point out that it involves God seeking the ETERNAL well-being of his creatures. If you do that, then the imbalanced and unbiblical individuals will want to surface. The spotlight of the word will be upon them.

Daryl said...

Umm, Tony? I think the point was that the spot-light was to be on God's love to all the world, not on certain imbalanced individuals.

We know God loves the elect, how good it is to be reminded of the ways in which he shows his mercy to all the world, elect or otherwise.

YnottonY said...

Hi Daryl,

I realize that the primary point is to spotlight God's love for all the world, but a secondary point must be to correct those that reject the truth. It seems to me that Phil and Frank not only want to warm our hearts by the broadness of God's great love, but to teach the church how to contend for this truth. Phil's post has a polemical point to it as well. He actually gives an argument, not merely an assertion about God's love.

Phil Johnson said...

Frank:

You're evidently using MS-Word's inferior word-count, which counts a single reference (like 14:17) as two words. WordPerfect counts those things more precisely, and by its count, I came in at 46, well under the limit.

Take it from me. I count words for a living.

Some technicalities to watch for:

Hyphenated expressions pose a particular problem. Two-word combinations, such as "two-word" or "God-Man" should count as two words. But re-read the post for hyphenated prefixes (like re-read). They count as one.

While the expression "14:17" is one word, "verse 17" or "v. 17" counts as two. Generally, you'e safe if you count everything between spaces and hyphens.

It's OK to count commonly-used coinages (such as "blogfight") as one word, but you can't putwordstogetherrandomly and count that as one.

Hope that helps.

centuri0n said...

Well. I've been "Franked" by Phil.

No wonder people don't like it when it happens to them ... anyone have an ice-pack?

centuri0n said...

Tony:

My apologies. Thanks for the clarification.

donsands said...

The Father loves His enemies, and that's why need to love them.

Phil Johnson said...

Frank:

"Ice-pack" would count as two words.

"I've" is a legitimate contraction and therefore counts as one.

See how it works?

Sewing said...

Beloved brother Phil:

I did a manual count several times, and including the title and counting each Bible reference as two words only (book title plus chapter/verse reference), the count appears to come in at 52 words.

This is a most egregious state of affairs! I am vexed!

But excellent teaching all the same. I would have thrown in Genesis 3:21 as well: "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them."

If that ain't his loving, common grace at work, I don't know what is!

Sewing said...

Solution: Get rid of the words "See also," and just have a run-on list of proof-texts. Nothing substantive thus lost, not least any reference to the Holy Writ.

SJ Camp said...

Phil, Dan and Frank:

Two quick clarifying questions on this subject:

1. Do you agree with this statement as it applies to every single person in the world at face value?: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life."

2. The phrase "common grace" has always bothered me. Is there anything "common" about God's grace? I know the theological definition for the phrase "common grace". But biblically does it square? In all the uses of grace in the NT is there any place biblically where grace is ever referred to or treated as "common" and therefore applies to the non-elect?

Stephen Garrett said...

Amen!

Everyday Mommy said...

Note to self: Never question Phil when it comes to word count and his beloved Word Perfect ;) Mine! Mine!

Love ya' Guys!

YnottonY said...

Though Mr. Camp didn't ask me, I will take a stab at his questions:

1) It would be biblically sound to say, "God loves you and wants to do wonderful things for you," in the sense that he wishes them to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth that is in his Son. The statement "wonderful plan for your life" may be ambiguous. Try "God has a wonderful purpose for your life" :-)

ESV Luke 7:30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)

2) It is biblical to refer to God's universal love, kindness and mercy as "grace." Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with calling it common, so long as one means that it something generally given to all, not that it comes to all equally or the same throughout time. Human beings "commonly" have air to breathe, so to speak. "Common" is a word to be set in contrast to "special" grace, which of course is given to the elect alone. As for the scripture passages that support the terminology, consider these:

NKJ Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them.

NKJ Nehemiah 9:31 Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; For You are God, gracious and merciful.

In other words, God was gracious or favorable towards these disobedient people, some of which, no doubt, were made up of the non-elect.

NKJ Jeremiah 16:13 'Therefore I will cast you out of this land into a land that you do not know, neither you nor your fathers; and there you shall serve other gods day and night, where I will not show you favor.'

The term "favor" is the same term used in the Hebrew for God's gracious disposition [see the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Zondervan, 1997), 2:203-206.]. So, whereas the Israelites formerly had God's "favor" in their land, they will be cast out for their disobedience and no longer be shown favor (i.e. grace).

NKJ Isaiah 26:10 Let grace be shown to the wicked, Yet he will not learn righteousness; In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly, And will not behold the majesty of the LORD.

God showed favor/lovingkindness/mercy and love to all of Israel, not just to the elect within Israel.

NKJ Psalm 85:1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. Lord, You have been favorable to Your land; You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.

NKJ Isaiah 60:10 " The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, And their kings shall minister to you; For in My wrath I struck you, But in My favor I have had mercy on you.

NKJ Jeremiah 16:5 For thus says the LORD: "Do not enter the house of mourning, nor go to lament or bemoan them; for I have taken away My peace from this people," says the LORD, "lovingkindness and mercies.

The theological term "common grace" is biblcally warranted (just as the term "Trinity," "Millennium," "aseity," "hypostatic union" or "perichoresis" is), given the biblical data. Usually when people have a problem with the terminology, it's really the case that they have a problem with the CONCEPT or IDEA behind it, i.e. they don't think that God actually loves the non-elect, or shows them any benevolent favor such that he seeks their well-being. God does do those things according to scripture.

centuri0n said...

| 1. Do you agree with this statement as
| it applies to every single person in the
| world at face value?: "God loves you
| and has a wonderful plan for your
| life."

Phil and Dan have passed out at such a suggestion. Rather than make a big thing of it, I'd simply say, "no," and move on.

| 2. The phrase "common grace" has
| always bothered me. Is there anything
| "common" about God's grace?

There is something common about grace: all men are exposed to it. That would be "common" in the sense of "of or relating to a community at large : PUBLIC", not "falling below ordinary standards : SECOND-RATE b : lacking refinement : COARSE".

You are misunderstand the word "common" here, and you are also confusing God's general love and kindness to all men (you know: because He doesn’t toss us all into hell upon our birth, or upon our first sin) with the superabundant kindness evident in eternal salvation.

| I know
| the theological definition for the
| phrase "common grace". But
| biblically does it square?

Why yes: yes it does.

| In all the
| uses of grace in the NT is there any
| place biblically where grace is ever
| referred to or treated as "common"
| and therefore applies to the non-elect?

Well, Steve, since you asked, in Acts 17 Paul tells the Athenians, "The times of ignorance God overlooked". Now, does God "overlook" this carelessly – is it an accounting mistake? No, I think it isn't because God is sloppy that God overlooks the times of ignorance.

How about because God is being patient -- maybe God is just waiting for the right time to punish these people for their ignorant idolatry, and he wants to make sure that they are not just guilty but sort of filled up to the top with their sin. Well, that could be true, except that God is overlooking not to punish but in order (as the rest of the verse says) that "all people everywhere ... repent". So God is not merely being patient but is actually offering forgiveness for the sake of unrighteousness.

So if we are to think about this in biblical categories, what is the name of the action God takes when He passes over wrath for the sake of offering forgiveness? We call it "grace". When God acts in love and actually pays the price in order to provide men with something they cannot do for themselves – something they do not deserve, and cannot demand – we call it "grace".

Thank you for asking.

Phil Johnson said...

Sewing: "I did a manual count several times, and including the title and counting each Bible reference as two words only (book title plus chapter/verse reference), the count appears to come in at 52 words."

Yes, now that I count it manually, I think you're correct, which means Frank was correct, which means I'm already disqualified and don't have to post again this week.

My appeal to the judges would consist only of this screen shot. Apparently, WordPerfect doesn't count numbers as "words."

My bad. I'll fix it after a ruling from the judges.

Who are the judges, anyway?

Phil Johnson said...

Campi: "Do you agree with this statement as it applies to every single person in the world at face value?"

Steve, you and I have had several very long conversations about this subject, going back nearly a decade, so you know the answer to that question. Alternatively, you could simply Google this blog for the phrase "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," and you would discover that each of us at different times have expressed disapproval of that formula.

As I have tried to point out to you before, the correct, and biblical, answer to the erroneous notion that God loves all people equally is not the to conclude that God is utterly devoid of genuine love for the reprobate.

Campi: "The phrase 'common grace' has always bothered me."

Yeah, I know. That bothers me. But it's a perfectly good expression with a long and distinguished pedigree.

The word common has more meanings than the spin you are trying to put on it. In the expression "common grace," it means "general; of or pertaining to the community, the general body of people." That's the first definition of the word in the Oxford English abridged, BTW.

Scripture clearly teaches that God's mercies are over all His works, and unless you want to argue that those mercies are either deserved or insincere, then you must acknowledge that they are gracious. Ergo, common grace.

centuri0n said...

Oh for heaven's sake. Nobody's going to pinch you for 2 words except maybe Steve Camp.

oh brother -- did I say that out loud?

Phil Johnson said...

There: 38 words.

Terry Rayburn said...

The 1st of the 4 Spiritual Laws *does not* say, "God loves you and *has* a wonderful plan for your life."

I would disagree with it if it did.

It *actually* says, "God loves you and *offers* a wonderful plan for your life."

I agree with that, as do many good [non-hyper] Calvinists who believe the Scriptures teach the "free offer" or "bonafide offer" of the gospel to all. You know, "Whoever will, may come," and "Whoever comes to me I will in no way cast out."

I've always thought that to twist John 3:16 to mean that "God so loved the world of the elect only" is as silly as it is exegetically unwarranted.

This is not a support of the whole of the "4 Laws" (it has other problems), but at least let's quote Law 1 correctly.

YnottonY said...

What's theologically wrong with saying, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life"?

We have established that the first proposition is true, i.e. we can boldly say that God loves everyone we talk to. But can we say that God has a wonderful plan for the lives of those we speak to? I think so. If God wishes to save the person we are talking to and wills to give them eternal life, then that is a wonderful plan.

I wonder if some Christians are bothered by that expression because they instantly imagine a cheesy and heretical smile like Robert Schuller's when they hear the expression. It would definitely be wrong if we thought that God EQUALLY loves everyone and that he EQUALLY wills the salvation of every human, and I suspect that we reject the words because they are commonly used by those who think that way.

Also, the expression by itself would be reductionistic. It doesn't communicate the totality of the gospel message by any means. While God loves all, most also abide under his wrath because of their unbelief. They are in desperate need of the savior to escape coming wrath. So, the "formula" is not theologically wrong, as I see it, but it may be used in such a way that other vital truths are neglected and/or misunderstood.

Is that how you view the use of the expression, Phil? If the first part ("God loves you") doesn't bother you, then what is it about the second part ("and has a wonderful plan for your life") that concerns you? If there isn't a theological problem with either of the propositions, then what is wrong with both of them put together?

NKJ Acts 17:26 "And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 "so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

According to these verses brought up in Frank's response, it sounds as if God has positioned various people in certain locations, at various times, and with certain boundaries so they might respond to his gracious acts and be saved when hearing the gospel. That sounds like a wonderful plan to me!

--------------
For Terry,

Moreover, to "offer" a wonderful plan seems to be the same thing as having a wonderful plan for their lives. It's just the case that they will not benefit from it (what is offered) unless they come out of their hostile unbelief and come to Christ for reconciliation.

p.s. I agree with your comments on John 3:16 :-)

DJP said...

Terry, I'm probably much older than you — but didn't it at least used to say "has a wonderful plan"?

Terry Rayburn said...

Dan,

Even if it used to say "has" (which I have been unable to verify with actual old copies), it doesn't anymore and hasn't for a long time.

centuri0n said...

Tony:

Not to speak for Phil here, but it seems to me that to say that God "has a wonderful plan (indiscriminately) for your life" veers into universalism.

Just because that's where my Bible is open, for example, when Paul tells the Athenian Philosophers, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead," there is no question that Paul is offering forgiveness to everyone who is listening. That's a pretty broad invitation, and in that broad invitation we should see the generosity of God.

But there's a flip side to it: if one does not take the command to repent seriously and do it, one is destined to be under judgment. That is, God certainly does have a plan, but by that plan some will be under judgment.

So in that, if we say, "God offers a wonderful plan for your life," we say what Paul and Peter said; if we say, "God *has* a wonderful plan for your life," we say *more* than they said, and it's not just some sort of emphatic turn of phrase: it changes the truth-or-consequences of the Gospel into a one-sided, all-gifts-and-puppies message which people do not see as serious.

Listen: there are lots of ways in which God says He loves all men -- some of them are somewhat open-ended, some of them are somewhat (a-hem) nuanced. We should be nuanced where Scripture is, and lavish where it is lavish.

Do you agree?

Phil Johnson said...

YnottonY:

First off, you're tempting me to impose a 25-word limit on all comments in these threads. I know this subject is of particular interest to you, but please don't hijack the blog with a flood of wordy comments and questions. If you want to have that much input into these threads, please take it to your own blog.

But here's my short answer to the issue you raised: While I strongly disagree with those who insist we should never tell an unbeliever "God loves you," neither do I think that's usually an appropriate intro to the gospel, especially for people who are unconcerned and unconvicted about their sin.

As for the second phrase, I don't even know what God's plan for anyone's life is—believer or no. Much less do I know whether (or by whose measure) it's "wonderful." God's plan for the life of the thief on the cross wasn't particularly "wonderful" by any normal sense of the word. His plan for the man's death and eternity is what was truly wonderful.

But the whole phrase "God. . . has a wonderful plan for your life" (whether technically true or not) strikes me as rather silly and peripheral to the real issues of the gospel.

First Chronicles 26:16-18 is true: "To Shuppim and Hosah the lot came forth westward, with the gate Shallecheth, by the causeway of the going up, ward against ward. Eastward were six Levites, northward four a day, southward four a day, and toward Asuppim two and two. At Parbar westward, four at the causeway, and two at Parbar."

But it would take a pretty unusual situation before I'd think of making that the starting point for a gospel presentation.

Connie said...

Dan: I also recall seeing/reading a "has a wonderful plan" tract. I saw it back in our seminary days--the seminary used to stock/promote/use it--and I remember it saying "...has a wonderful plan..." Surely I'm not losing my memory at THIS age!

Father of Eleven said...

The problem I have with the "God offers you a wonderful plan for your life" is that it does not communicate truth. While you may be able to make a carefully nuanced argument that what you are saying is technically true, the average hearer of it is going to think you played a bait and switch operation on him once you explain to him the true cost of discipleship. Taking up your cross daily, suffering persecution, the mortification of sin, sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and possible martyrdom are not what most people think of as "a wonderful plan." Not to diminish the joy of knowing Christ and the great expectation of our eternity, but these things are definitely part of "the plan," so the whole thing seems more like Madison Avenue marketing than the Gospel. Kind of like that squished flat hamburger you get at your local fast food restaurant that looked so thick and juicy on the commercial.

centuri0n said...

Let me say in an unqualified way that martyrdom for the sake of Christ -- if it is God's intention for one's life -- is categorically a wonderful plan.

To the unbeliever, I am certain it looks like foolishness.

And with that, I have other work to do today.

SJ Camp said...

Phil and Frank:
As always, it is good to dialogue with you.

While I do embrace fully the wonderful truth of, "the rain falls on the just and the unjust" as being God's providential benevolence to all, biblically - in specific, the word grace is never used to describe that benevolence.

In the some 124 mentions of the word grace in the NT (ESV) they speak to redemption/salvation, Christ's person or ministry, our sanctification, provision in and equipping us for ministry, the gospel, etc. But not once is grace directed to the unregenerate to speak of benevolence.

The Definition of Grace
Grace presupposes sin, guilt, and demerit; it addresses the fact that not only have we not earned the favor of God, we have earned the curse of God.

Grace means we don’t get the curse we deserve, instead, we get the blessings we don’t deserve, because Christ as our divine Substitute has acted fully in our place - imputing to us, by faith, the full merit of His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).

The Gospel is the message of the grace of God. The historically accepted definition of grace is: ‘Unmerited favor.’ Inadequate: This is a definition of kindness; but it doesn’t go far enough.

Illustration: A hungry hobo comes to your door asking for a meal. You give it to him freely, without him doing anything to earn it. This would be considered ‘kindness’, not ‘grace’.

Biblically Correct Definitions of Grace:
1. Grace- ‘God’s favor through Christ to those who deserve His disfavor.’

Note: This version is designed to compare/contrast to the historically accepted inadequate definition of grace above.

2. Grace- ‘God’s blessings through Christ to those who deserve His curse.’

This is the better of the two definitions.

Illustration of Grace: The hobo robs you after eating your free meal. He then returns one month later. Instead of calling the police, you give him another meal.

Key components of the definition:
1. ‘…through Christ’- Christ is the only basis for both our redemption from the curse and our attaining any of God’s blessings.

2. ‘…deserve His curse’- We have assaulted the holiness of God.

Illustration: This takes us from seeing ourselves as the hungry hobo to seeing ourselves as the robber.

IOW: grace is ‘God in action’:

Grace is not just a benevolent attitude on God’s part; Grace is always ‘God in action’ for our good.

Every time the Bible mentions ‘grace’ it is always associated with ‘God in action.’ He is: saving us, justifying us, empowering us, sustaining us, equipping us, etc. ‘by grace.’

One of the reasons I always enjoy reading your posts is that you place a high value on words.

And though the traditional definition of "common grace" means a common mercy or benevolence to which again I affirm, it seems there is a danger (even if ever so slightly) of weakening the high value and rich meaning of "grace" when we use it in a manner which Scripture does not.

By comparison, when we speak of general and special revelation - we clearly have Scripture to support that distinction (Psalm 19:1-6; and 7-9 respectively) without having to alter a biblical meaning of the word “revelation.”

Thank you for the continued ministry you provide through this blog to others and myself. May the Lord continue to honor your faithfulness to Christ and His Word.

Grace and peace to you brothers,
Campi
Col. 1:9-14

YnottonY said...

Hi Cent,

Telling people indisciminately that "God has a wonderful PLAN for their lives" only veers into universalism if you take "plan" in the decretal sense. I don't think we are talking about God's decretal or secret will when we share the gospel with people. "Plan," according to scripture, may refer to God's revealed will, as these verses seem to indicate:

NRS Acts 20:27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.

NRS Luke 7:30 But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves.)

In Acts 20:27, the "purpose" of God no doubt includes God's revealed will that all men be saved by means of the gospel concerning His Son. Therefore, I think one is biblically justified to indiscriminately tell people that God "has a wonderful PLAN for their lives," so long as we are talking about the revealed will of God set forth in the gospel.

Moreover, the decretal will of God does not negate the truths concerning God's revealed will. God has surely decreed to leave some sinners in their sin for all eternity, but it does not follow that he never willed their salvation.

I agree that we should be biblically nuanced, and I think that I am doing that. This is why I think the language "God has a wonderful plan for your life" articulates biblical truth, even though it is abused by some who use it in reductionistic ways that either excludes or misrepresents other vital truths concerning the gospel.

---------------------
Hi Phil,

If the "world" in John 3:16 references all humanity, then it seems entirely biblical to start a gospel message with the idea of God's universal love. Jesus himself did it in that instance, but not in a way that was reductionistic or imbalanced. I grant that we should stress some other gospel truths if we are talking to the indifferent and unconvicted, but we may still tell them that God loves them, as you know. In fact, when we tell them they are evil and need to repent, that is a loving act that involves the Spirit of God working through us.

You said:

"I don't even know what God's plan for anyone's life is—believer or no."

Again, if "plan," according to Luke 7:30 and Acts 20:27 can be taken in the revealed will sense, then we can know what God's "plan" is for their lives. He wishes to save them. Since we are talking about the gospel, I am perplexed why you and Frank automatically jump to a decretal sense of "plan."

You said:

"But the whole phrase "God. . . has a wonderful plan for your life" (whether technically true or not) strikes me as rather silly and peripheral to the real issues of the gospel."

I still don't see how it would be "silly" or "peripheral," unless one assumes that "plan" must have a decretal sense. I also don't see how your citation of 1 Chon. 26:16-18 parallels what I have stated.

"God loves you" is a true proposition. Indiscriminately telling people that "God has a wonderful PLAN for your life" is another true proposition, so long as we use "plan" in the sense of Luke 7:30 and Acts 20:27. God's preceptive will for all is for them to be saved, and that is "wonderful" and truly good news for all. Even though believers are predestined to suffer as we participate in the life of Christ, it is still wonderful, given the glory that shall follow. So, the conjunction of those two propositions does not entail a falsehood, even though it is used and abused by "silly" and imbalanced individuals.

I'm sorry if my posts have annoyed you guys. I can only imagine how frustrating it is to police and read through all of the comments you receive. This will be my last comment here, unless someone specifically asks me a question.

Grace to you,
Tony

p.s. What kind of "good news" would this be? (rhetorical question)

God may or may not love you and may or may not have a wonderful plan for your life, but I can't say that he does unless you believe and show yourself to be one of the elect. For all I know, the common bounties of providence may be given to you merely to heat your hell hotter.

David Ponter said...

Camp says: Grace presupposes sin, guilt, and demerit; it addresses the fact that not only have we not earned the favor of God, we have earned the curse of God.

David says: I hear this so many times. The word, grace, is used with reference to Christ, Luk 2:52.

The other problem is that if we take the whole Bible we see that grace and its hebrew cognate terms has been used with reference to the non-elect. See for example Jer 16: 5 with 13.

Camp also says: And though the traditional definition of "common grace" means a common mercy or benevolence to which again I affirm

David says: I am not sure what is going on there. But no. As YnottonY has already shown, its not good to pass this off like that Campi. The traditional view has been to use the term common grace, more so than common mercy.

I have begun collating some doctumentation for the "traditional" view here: Archive for the 'Common Grace' Category

David

David Ponter said...

And on General Love in Reformed theology, see 'General Love'

David

YnottonY said...

Ok, just one more dreaded comment :-)

Mr. Camp said:

"the traditional definition of "common grace" means a common mercy or benevolence to which again I affirm"

David replied:

"As YnottonY has already shown, its not good to pass this off like that Campi. The traditional view has been to use the term common grace, more so than common mercy."

Me now:
Frank, can you see the usefulness of my initial quotations by Rutherford, Manton, Knox, Jenkyn and others now? ;-) So many more could have been quoted to show that some just want to rewrite history, as well as reject the biblical language.

Neither did Mr. Camp address a single one of the biblical passages that I referenced, unfortunately. I avoided making systematic arguments (even though I thought yours were sound) so that there is no room for evasion. As Rush says, "I know these people like...." Well, you can finish it :-)

Sewing said...

Phil: Thanks. You did an admirable job of trimming it down to size. Even with room to spare!

centuri0n said...

Tony:

For the record, I'm not sure that I'd run somebody out of my church for using the 4 spiritual laws to make a Gospel presentation.

So all things being equal, I think we're talking about how fine-tuned a point we are willing to make inside the family of God, and I'm not really willing to say you're a black sheep for your opinion. It's a decent opinion, I disagree with it, and I can settle for that.

centuri0n said...

Steve:

I will be back later re-read your post here and deliver a reply.

SJ Camp said...

Tony:
Your examples in the OT you listed perfectly describe God's kindness and benevolence to all people. Grace in the OT speaks of favor, supplication, or approval. IOW, they speak of God's general favor upon all people.

I also understand the need to answer questions such as what Berkhof asks: How can we explain the comparatively orderly life in the world, seeing that the whole world lies under the curse of sin? How is it that the earth yields precious fruit in rich abundance and does not simply bring forth thorns and thistles? How can we account for it that sinful man still "retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior"? What explanation can be given of the special gifts and talents with which the natural man is endowed, and of the development of science and art by those who are entirely devoid of the new life that is in Christ Jesus? How can we explain the religious aspirations of men everywhere, even of those who did not come in touch with the Christian religion? How can the unregenerate still speak the truth, do good to others, and lead outwardly virtuous lives? and to answer them biblically.

I see the answers in God's universal providential benevolence--not in the phrase of "common grace."

I'm not sure what the argument is about. I affirm that God is kind and benevolent to all men reprobate or regenerate (Matt. 5:45).

But grace is not used in the NT to describe a universal ordinary benevolence given to all men. It is used in a more exalted way to describe God's work of redemption toward sinful men in the gospel (Acts 20:24; Roms. 5:15; 1 Cor. 1:4; Titus 2:11); and the person and ministry of Jesus Christ our Lord (John 1:14, 17; Acts 15:11; Roms. 1:7; Eph. 2:8-9). Even the Holy Spirit is called "the Spirit of grace" (Heb. 10:29).

This is a simple issue for me: when using biblical language, use it in the way that God has in describing the faith.

Can you demonstrate in the NT where specifically the word grace is used to describe a universal providential benevolence?

Steve.

Jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Johnson said...

Campi:

You could make an argument that our difference is largely semantical. I hope it is. You claim you don't object to the concept; just the terminology, and that you are merely determined to stick with exclusively biblical terminology. However:

1. There's a very important historical context for the debate about common grace, and those who have denied the concept most strenuously have been hyper-Calvinists. (Read Louis Berkhof's account of the controversy.) So it concerns me whenever someone bristles as predictably and as automatically as you do at the term.

2. Furthermore, let me suggest that your preference for biblical-only terms is highly selective. I've seen you use trinitarian terms that are nowhere found in Scripture. Moreover, I'm quite certain you would not accept the claim if T. D. Jakes tried to tell you he accepts an orthodox view of God in principle but merely objects to the extrabibilical terminology ("triune"; "Trinity"; "hypostatic union"; "substance"; "Persons"; etc.). As a matter of fact, Jakes does make precisely that claim. Arius likewise argued that if the Nicene Council had only stuck to biblical terminology and permitted no extrabiblical words, he could've affirmed (and did affirm) every creed extant at the time.

3. Even setting all that aside, as has been pointed out already, in the OT (e.g. Psalm 145:8-9) the benevolent kindness you say you want to label something other than "grace" is said to be a defining characteristic of divine grace. So the term is not as "unbiblical" as you want to make out.

4. Your hobo illustration actually proves the point. That's an excellent metaphor for exactly how God is gracious even to the reprobate, withholding what they deserve and giving them good things instead. That was Jesus' whole point in Matthew 5. It's not saving grace, but I think you denigrate and demean it by refusing to acknowledge that it is, in fact, gracious. Your refusal to acknowedge that it is gracious also plays into the hands of those who suggest God's "goodness" to the reprobate is a ploy to disguise God's anger or merely a means of intensifying the sins of the reprobate in order to make their punishment even worse. While you yourself might never question God's sincerity in the gospel offer, the line of argument you are using originated with people who were expressly denying that the gospel offer is well meant.

Phil Johnson said...

David Ponter:

Long time, no see. Welcome to our blog.

SJ Camp said...

Phil
Good thoughts--I expected nothing less and I appreciate your interaction here. Helpful.

1. I am not arguing for using only biblical terms; but keeping terms that are used in the biblical record true to their meaning and context... biblically. There is a difference. Grace is such a term that is part of the NT record and used in very specific ways over 120 times and carries with it a meaning that is lofty and profound.

Trinity is not a biblical term, but serves to concisely represent biblical truth. Terms such as "infralapsarianism", " the five solas", "Calvinism", etc. are not biblical terms, but they do represent biblical truth.

(BTW, I have spoken to Jakes's staff and have pointed them to the Word of God in unfolding the doctrine of the Trinity using both biblical language as well as classic Trinitarian nomenclature to explain this important doctrine to them.)

2. I like Berkhof very much on his treatment of this issue and agree with him.

2.a. One caveat here: the heritage of the phrase "common grace" is well documented and foundational for this issue. But the historical sense of it means little when the biblical record is so clear. IOW, I.e. - I wouldn't point to the rich reformed heritage of paedo-baptism to go against the clear biblical record of believers baptism--though our reformed brethren would stand on the historical record over and against the biblical record to justify their practice.

3. I honestly do think our differences here is primarily one of semantics--not of truth.

4. In the hobo illustration I do see the response as being gracious--but to me that's not an act of grace, but an act of mercy and benevolence. IMHO, those two things are different.

Gracious implies genial, affable, urbane, merciful, compassionate. The act of God's grace is redemptive, salvific. Maybe we're splitting hairs here, but I don't think it's ta-MAY-toe, ta-MA-toe.

5. Lastly, Psalm 145:8-9 that you site are some of my favorite verses on the benevolence of God. Spurgeon's commentary on these verses is profound. CHS does mention "his plans and his poses all manifest his grace, or free favour"; he does clarify it more as his commentary unfolds--the whole of it on these verses emphasizing God's mercy, longsuffering, and compassion.

Consider these words: "To all living men his aspect: he is gracious, or full of goodness and generosity. He treats creatures with kindness, his subjects with consideration, and his saints favour."

AND: "To the suffering, the weak, the despondent, he is very pitiful: he feels for them, he feels with them: he this heartily, and in a practical manner. Of this pitifulness he is full, so the compassionates freely, constantly, deeply, divinely, and effectually."

LASTLY: "What an ocean of compassion there must be since the Infinite God is full of Slow to anger. Even those who refuse his grace yet share in long suffering. When men do not repent, but, on the contrary, go from bad to worse, averse to let his wrath flame forth against them. Greatly patient and anxious that the sinner may live, he "lets the lifted thunder drop", and still bears. "Love suffereth long and is kind", and God is love. And of great mercy. This is his attitude towards the guilty. When men at last repent, find pardon awaiting them. Great is their sin, and great is God's mercy, need great help, and they have it though they deserve it not; for he is good to the greatly guilty."

Again, to me It comes down to a simple recognition that grace, biblically defined, does have a meaning well supported in over a 120 texts in the NT that doesn't carry with them the idea of benevolence or kindness; but something more powerful; redemption, salvation, conformity to Christ; justification; imputation; propitiation; and glorification.

It is also representative of God's character (the grace of God) and of Jesus Christ (full of grace and truth; the word of His grace; as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.)

This is the heart and soul of it... I more than think we are on the same page here--just using different phrases to express the same, important truth.

Bottom line, Phil I love you and treasure the iron sharpening the iron in each others lives on these things. You are my brother and yokefellow in the Lord; and continue to be one of my favorite preachers/teachers; and a faithful man of God.

I always want my interaction with you to reflect my heart towards you; and in the midst of this discussion I hope it has this evening.

Thank you for your encouraging, challenging, and thoughtful comments.

Campi
Col. 1:9-14

centuri0n said...

Steve --

Phil has about covered all the things I would have said to you if I had not fallen asleep after work today (for the invasively-curious -- that's after working 2 jobs), except one.

Your claim here is that the Bible only uses Grace in reference to the elect, and only in the soteriological sense. That overlooks two passages, one in the NT, and one in the OT:

from John 1[ESV]:
-----
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
-----

You might want to dicker a little over who "all" is here, and that's fine -- I'd like to focus on the italics. If there's only one kind of grace -- the kind which saves unto eternal life -- what exactly does "grace upon grace" mean? Doesn't this passage mean, in the very least, that even if the ultimate form of grace, the highest or most perfect form of grace, is salvation, there are many, many graces which are a consequence of that primary, eternally-consequential grace?

John says plainly that, at least, "we" (which I assume you'd argue is "we" the believers, vis. John 21:24, even though I would disagree with that interpretation) have received all kinds of grace from God because of Jesus who, himself, brought grace and truth.

The passage in the OT is in Ezra[NASB]:
-----
Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt, and on account of our iniquities we, our kings and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity and to plunder and to open shame, as it is this day. But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage. For we are slaves; yet in our bondage our God has not forsaken us, but has extended lovingkindness to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us reviving to raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.
-----

Now, think about this: while this passage certainly talks about the release from captivity -- and, systematically, we can see in the release of Israel from captivity a foreshadowing of the cross-work of Christ -- this is not soteriology, and not all of these people are saved unto eternal life. This is about God showing grace for the sake of (as the passage says) "a little reviving".

Grace, Steve: unmerited favor. I think it misses the boat on the scope of grace to say that only the great miracle of salvation is grace -- because there are so many things God has done for every single person in the world which we do not deserve.

SolaMeanie said...

As an aside to the very interesting back and forth above, mind if I throw in this little thing that nettles me immensely?

For today's generation, when you tell them that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life, know what their response typically is?

"Of course God loves me. What's not to love?"

Anymore these days, I'll get to the love of God eventually. But first I have to slap some attitude out of the listener.

David Ponter said...

Camp says this:

But grace is not used in the NT to describe a universal ordinary benevolence given to all men. It is used in a more exalted way to describe God's work of redemption toward sinful men in the gospel (Acts 20:24; Roms. 5:15; 1 Cor. 1:4; Titus 2:11); and the person and ministry of Jesus Christ our Lord (John 1:14, 17; Acts 15:11; Roms. 1:7; Eph. 2:8-9). Even the Holy Spirit is called "the Spirit of grace" (Heb. 10:29).

David: He has said that after saying that Grace in the OT, however, is: “Your examples in the OT you listed perfectly describe God's kindness and benevolence to all people. Grace in the OT speaks of favor, supplication, or approval. IOW, they speak of God's general favor upon all people.”

David: I have to say that sort of hermeneutic is very suspect. It would be being asked to prove the Trinity but only from the NT. I know it is doable, but that’s not my point. Its not an acceptable hermeneutic.

Secondly, this “hermeneutic” here contradicts the spirit of this: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

So the first objection is that it is false to insist that only the NT can be a source for constructing certain doctrines. For any Reformed guy, that’s dodgy.

Secondly, we have this: “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” Heb 10:29.

I see that Camp has already referenced this verse. I don’t know how he thinks that helps him. The context of the statement is that of the apostate, who treads the blood of the Son. The writer speaks of these apostates repeatedly in the letter. They are the ones who have tasted, have been enlightened, partaken of the heavenly gift, and who have who have shared in the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit of Grace they have insulted. That is, they have received grace and graciousness from the Spirit, which they now overturn and insult.

Further more, we also have this: For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 4. Someone would have to do a lot of text-stretching to make that not mean that these men were actual recipients of grace. Jude 4 parallels 2 Pet 2. The false teachers have secretly crept in. Peter goes on to say that they had escaped the pollution of the world, but have slipped back into their mire.

Camp says:
1. I am not arguing for using only biblical terms; but keeping terms that are used in the biblical record true to their meaning and context... biblically. There is a difference. Grace is such a term that is part of the NT record and used in very specific ways over 120 times and carries with it a meaning that is lofty and profound.

David: It is better to say Grace is used in many ways.

Camp says: Trinity is not a biblical term, but serves to concisely represent biblical truth. Terms such as "infralapsarianism", " the five solas", "Calvinism", etc. are not biblical terms, but they do represent biblical truth.

David says: And that is why common grace, as a term is perfectly acceptable; for not only is the idea expressed in the OT, but also in the NT.

Camp says: 3. I honestly do think our differences here is primarily one of semantics--not of truth.

David asks: Camp, do you believe that God loves all mankind with a non-electing love? And David asks, do you believe God desires or wishes the salvation of all men? I ask that because of your insistence on using benevolence, which means to ‘wish well’ or ‘wish good’.

Camp says: Gracious implies genial, affable, urbane, merciful, compassionate. The act of God's grace is redemptive, salvific.

David says: maybe you are splitting the Bible apart.

Cut

Camp: Again, to me It comes down to a simple recognition that grace, biblically defined, does have a meaning well supported in over a 120 texts in the NT that doesn't carry with them the idea of benevolence or kindness; but something more powerful; redemption, salvation, conformity to Christ; justification; imputation; propitiation; and glorification.

David: Sure thats why terms like effectual grace were coined, to cover that, as well as terms like common grace.

To Phil, is this some sort of dispensational hermeneutic that says that the OT cannot be allowed to inform and fill our doctrine of divine grace? What is that?

David Ponter said...

Hey Phil,

Thanks for the welcome. I dont normally like posting at blogs cos they are so impersonal and just become stomping grounds for rough turks and other spivvy sorts. :-) I prefer now to chat in contexts where there are also parallel relationships being developed. I suspect you are like me now, tired of the chest thumping that goes on online. :-)

But you do need to drop in at Theology Online more often.

I am still there over at Theology List; tho not as active anymore.

I also run another Yahoo list: Calvin and Calvinism list

I will give you a call sometime too.

Thanks,
David

SJ Camp said...

Frank:
Thank you dear brother for this thoughtful response. It brings joy to my heart to enter into discussion with you on things like this. AND I also thought you had some very helpful insights in some of yesterday's comments as well.

A few clarifying things:

1. I never claimed that grace is only used in a soteriological sense. That is the majority of its usage in the NT, but not its only usage. I listed yesterday that grace is used in matters of provision and equipping for ministry (2 Cor. 9:8; 2 Tim. 2:1) ; our sanctification (Col. 4:6; Titus 2:12); for the use and purpose of spiritual gifts (cp, 1 Peter 4:10); and also in relation to the character of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (cp, Col. 1:2; John 1:14-17; Heb. 10:29).

2. Grace upon grace. Literally "graced with grace." (cf, Eph. 1:5-8; 2:7). This is speaking to the super-abounding grace given to us. "Where sin once abounded, grace super-abounded..." IOW, I am a great sinner; but He is a greater Savior.

This "grace upon grace" reality flows from the "fulness of Christ." As Calvin says, "He begins now to preach about the office of Christ, that it contains within itself an abundance of all blessings, so that no part of salvation must be sought anywhere else. True, indeed, the fountain of life, righteousness, virtue, and wisdom, is with God, but to us it is a hidden and inaccessible fountain. But an abundance of those things is exhibited to us in Christ,"

This is the language of sufficiency.

Paul echoes this in Colossians: Col. 1:18 "He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. Col. 1:19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, Col. 1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven."

AND, "that is, Christ Himself, Col. 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Col. 2:9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, Col. 2:10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;"

If we look at the flow of this section of Scripture (John 1:14-18) the outline unfolds (Pink):

1. Christ’s Incarnation—"The word became flesh": John 1:14.
2. Christ’s Earthly sojourn—"And tabernacled among us:" John 1:14.
3. Christ’s Essential Glory—"As of the only Begotten:" John 1:14.
4. Christ’s Supreme excellency—"Preferred before:" John 1:15.
5. Christ’s Divine sufficiency—"His fulness:" John 1:16.
6. Christ’s Moral perfections—"Grace and truth:" John 1:17.
7. Christ’s Wondrous revelation—Made known "the Father:" John 1:18.

Therefore, I would conclude the "all" in verse 16 pertains to all believers; for no unbeliever is partakers of His fulness and recipients of "grace upon grace" -- with the exception, if you would like to make, being only the fulness of His wrath (which is not grace, but His inflexible judgement and justice of all the unregenerate).

It could also be argued, I guess, that the all could mean: "John appeals to all his own contemporaries as participants with him in the fulness of the Logos." (Robertson)

2. As to Ezra: the context is not the general pagan world, but to the people of God. We know this to be certain for Ezra writes in 9:8: "that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage." (emphasis mine) Ezra’s address is a penitent confession of sin, the sin of his people. But let this be the comfort of true penitents, that though their sins reach to the heavens, God’s mercy is in the heavens.

And part of that favor, as you say, is evidenced in releasing a remnant from captivity.

I won't speculate as to how many were actually "circumcised of heart" and part of His covenant community for eternity, but favor/blessing (grace) was given to His people.

You said "there are so many things God has done for every single person in the world which we do not deserve." Amen my brother! His providential kindness and benevolence rests on all the sons of Adam.

I appreciate you Frank and hope in some small way here I have been able to address your thoughts.

Keep on,
Campi
Col. 1:9-14

SJ Camp said...

David Ponter
Thank you for sharing your opinion.

Common grace to you,
Steve
Col. 1:9-14

YnottonY said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Ponter said...

Camp said:

David Ponter
Thank you for sharing your opinion.
Common grace to you,

David says:

Well 2 things:

1) I wondered tho if would actually interact with the argument I tabled. As far as I can tell, I cant see how your claims and hermeneutic can be sustained given what Scripture says on Grace, and given Scriptures own self-interpreting hermeneutic.

2) Could you answer the questions relating to God's desire that all men be saved by will revealed. And does God love all men by a non-electing love? Regarding divine love, if you check out the archives I have created here: General Love you will see that this is a standard Reformed idea, nothing to be embarrassed about

Take care,
David

centuri0n said...

Steve –

Thanks for all the discussion so far.

I take exception with your reinterpretation of John 1:16 as it really doesn’t serve the Greek very well. I will openly and flatly admit that I am not a sight-reader of Greek, and that when I open up the Greek I am at the mercy of people who do know the Greek, and I lean on the heavily.

That said, here's your first statement about the clause in question:

[QUOTE]
2. Grace upon grace. Literally "graced with grace."
[/QUOTE]

This clause says nothing like that at all. The phrase is "καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος", which the NetBible translators' note puts it this way:

[QUOTE]
The meaning of the phrase χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος ("carin anti carito") could be: (1) love (grace) under the New Covenant in place of love (grace) under the Sinai Covenant, thus replacement; (2) grace “on top of” grace, thus accumulation; (3) grace corresponding to grace, thus correspondence. The most commonly held view is (2) in one sense or another, and this is probably the best explanation. This sense is supported by a fairly well-known use in Philo, Posterity 43 (145). Morna D. Hooker suggested that Exod 33:13 provides the background for this expression: “Now therefore, I pray you, if I have found χάρις (LXX) in your sight, let me know your ways, that I may know you, so that I may find χάρις (LXX) in your sight.” Hooker proposed that it is this idea of favor given to one who has already received favor which lies behind 1:16, and this seems very probable as a good explanation of the meaning of the phrase (“The Johannine Prologue and the Messianic Secret,” NTS 21 [1974/75]: 53).
[/QUOTE]

I bring that up because if John is merely saying we are "graced with grace" as you are suggesting, this seems to be a rather grammatically-complicated way to get there. Rather, as all the formal translations in English suggest, all kinds of grace – all manner of blessing from God – through Jesus Christ.

Regarding whether John is talking to or about all men in this passage, I think it's an open discussion. I would be willing to stipulate your view – that "we" only means "the believers" – in order to point out that this doesn’t change the breadth expressed here. This is not merely "sufficiency" as you suggest, but in fact expressing that Christ gives us more than just enough: He is, as it says elsewhere, our all in all.

SJ Camp said...

Frank:
Thank you brother--well done.

I believe I heard Dr. MacArthur speak of this as meaning "graced with grace" during a preachment one time. I also like how Gill approaches this phrase when he says, "the meaning is, grace is for the sake of grace; for there is no other cause of electing, justifying, pardoning, adopting, and regenerating grace, and even eternal life, but the grace, or free favour of God;" "...I also think, the abundance of it, at first conversion, with all after supplies, is intended; and that grace for grace, is the same with grace upon grace, heaps of grace;"

The superabundance of grace that comes through Jesus. I'm certainly not married to the phrase "graced with grace" - but I thought it reflected well the "grace upon grace" plentifulness found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As you quoted "favor given to one who has already received favor" isn't bad either. Grace given; grace increasing. Grace not being static, but active. AT Robertson says, "Hebrews 12:2 where "joy" and "cross" are balanced against each other. Here the picture is "grace" taking the place of "grace" like the manna fresh each morning, new grace for the new day and the new service."

I know that Dan has an extensive knowledge of Greek and I would be interested on his thoughts as well. I'll defer to his wisdom on this.

But here's the wonder and majesty of this for me Frank. I awoke this morning worshipping the Lord and praising Him for His matchless, abounding, fathomless saving-sanctifying-glorifying grace.

This discussion with you and Phil has caused me a fresh to reverence God today with joy because He is a God of grace. Instead of His wrath He has given me His grace; instead of His justice, He has given me His mercy; and instead of His enmity, He has given me His unfailing love. Amen?

What hope, what promise, what forgiveness, what life and victory is given to us through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sufficiency = Christ our all in all... I couldn't agree more my brother.

Thank you for being iron in my life today.
Campi
2 Cor. 3:5

David Ponter said...

I just wanted to clarify this:

Camp had said 3. "I honestly do think our differences here is primarily one of semantics--not of truth."

David says: the reason I asked my questions as I wonder if the issue is semantics alone. I wanted to see if there is or is not a deeper underlying issue in Camp's theology.

David

donsands said...

Good debate with Campi and Frank and others. Good stuff.

Made me think of Joseph. The Lord was with Joseph, or in God's favor.Gen 39:1-6

Also Joseph found grace in the sight of Potiphar. ver.4

Here's the point, I think. Joseph was a man under God's grace, and the Lord greatly blessed him, and because this grace was upon him, even Potiphar was a receiver of God's grace indirectly.

Would this be a common grace and saving grace?

GeneMBridges said...

I realize that I'm the late comer here in the discussion, but it seems to me that the questions brother Steve has raised can rather easily be answered by reference to the covenant with Noah. As long as the earth continues, the sun will rise and set, the diurnal cycles will continue, etc.

Clearly, given the state of men's hearts and what was to come, this is a gracious covenant, and have not Reformed covenant theologians always maintained this is an administration of "the covenant of grace?"

Rather clearly, we all agree that "common grace" is a means to an ultimate end. On the one hand it is a means to sustain the world itself for the sake of the elect, the calling of the covenant community, the work of Christ, etc.

On the other, it serves to harden the hearts of the reprobate, for they worship the creature, not the creator.

At the same time, I might point out that the binding of Satan is an "already/not yet" phenomenon in the NT. In the OT, the pagan nations are left without hope, for God is only drawing near to Israel, and at that, the true Israel is the elect within Israel.

In the New Covenant era, surely we have a reversal of this phenomenon, for the kingdom of God expands beyond the borders of Israel to all the world. The Davidic King (Christ) conquers the world via the gospel. The land is exorcised. Healing is brought. Indeed, paganism is overthrown where the gospel takes root. Civilization comes and everybody benefits, even the nullifidians.

We could even say that, when the fullness of their sins had come, the Reformation and the Renaissance spurred the European mission enterprise. In South America, human sacrifice and all sorts of abominations were occurring at that time. The North American mission proceeded from Europe often with the desire for religious freedom, bringing the gospel with them over time and including many of the North American tribes, and Rome colonized the Southern continent, bringing death and destruction - judgment for the abominations of the peoples there - things they had done while rejecting natural revelation and the law of conscience. They were saddled with disease, and, until Protestantism finally started making inroads in later centuries, they were saddled there with a false gospel to boot.

So, common grace was and remains a means to an end, and special grace called the elect and brought judgment to others. This is the cycle, as it were, of the missions enterprise, an enterprise that could not occur apart from the Covenant with Noah, a covenant, I might add, that is given to all humanity, but via one elect person - Noah and his descendants, so we can say that even common grace finds its terminus in the covenant community and God's special grace toward it.

Patrick Durkee said...

For more discussion on the issue of common grace, see: www.theologyofomaha.com