Reformed Theology: God's Grace

JeffLogan's picture

This discussion will be limited to the discussion of God's grace as it pertains to Reformed Theology.

Barry writes,

I would like to suggest that we explore the topic of "God's Grace " as it relates specifically to the process of one's coming to salvation. I personally am particularly interested in the doctrine of "Prevenient Grace", however, at ElderDad's suggestion which points out our primary forum theme, addressing the RT position termed "Irresistible Grace" first is the more appropriate approach.

So, if this approach is acceptable, I would invite someone to begin this thread by first defining the term, then giving a brief re-cap of the history of "TULIP", and concluding with Scriptural references supporting the concept. That should get us rolling.

Barring objections, I would encourage someone in the Reformed camp to please begin.

Grace and peace to all.

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Suggested Structure: (Best if viewing options set: Threaded Collapsed | Oldest First | 200/page |)

(The first 3 headings are reserved for Reformed Theology Adherents ONLY)

Defining the terms (No opposing views here)
     Irresistible Grace
     Prevenient Grace
     etc...
Brief re-cap of the history of "TULIP" (No opposing views here)
     Early History
     Later History
     Unfolding History/Current Understanding
Scriptural references supporting the concept (No opposing views here)
     Irresistible Grace
     Prevenient Grace
     etc...
1st Discussion: Irresistible Grace
2nd Discussion: Prevenient Grace
3rd Discussion: etc...

bwarddvm's picture

God's Common Grace

Common Grace

Reformed Theology (RT) recognizes God's grace toward man in two distinct forms which He distributes to men in differing manners and are intended to be efficacious in two different ways. These are termed Common Grace and Special (or Particular) Grace. I would like to begin our discussion by attempting to explain Common Grace.

Common Grace is actually the simpler of the two for us to understand because its manifestations are self evident to all men in every day life. It is termed "common" because it is common to and enjoyed by all men to varying degrees as it refers to the benevolence of all that is true, good, beautiful and beneficial which even fallen man is able to comprehend. For example, we can all recognize that the unregenerate are often blessed with amazing talent in the arts and beneficial sciences in which they very often become most productive. This brings benefit and joy to all mankind. Romans 2:15 tells us that God's law is written on the hearts of all men, thus they have a knowledge of the truth. We find this truth piques their consciences to varying degrees. Haven't we all known unbelievers who hold to and live by relatively high moral standards? All of these things are true manifestations of God's common grace which He apportions to all men in varying degrees according to the mysterious good pleasure of His sovereign will. In this way He restore a visible, though marred, image of Himself in fallen men even though their hearts remain unchanged. Also, I am sure we can think of many applications where unbelievers are blessed with enormous talent, beauty, and wealth. Many live apparently happy and contented lives of ease, enjoying excellent health. And as mentioned earlier many unbelievers supply their fellow man with many benefits and acts of kindness. I am sure you can think of many applications of the workings of common grace to both believers and unbelievers. Let us also remember the evidence of God's common grace as he gives his mercy to many in both man created and natural disasters where some are miraculously spared when many are left permanently impaired or suffer horrible deaths. Such mercy shown without discrimination is another evidence of common grace. And we can also state that anything "good" that springs from the unbeliever would fall under that category as well. That they are motivated to do anything "good" at all is a result of God's generous common grace which moves them to "good works". Apart from His restraining grace they (and we before we received His gift of faith) would be as those described in Romans 1 "24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them".

The mystery of how God chooses to whom He will give the benefits of common grace and to what degree is often a matter of great consternation to many of us. We see no sense of fairness in it to the extent that we understand "fairness". Certainly He does mete out common grace in an indiscriminate manner; that is to say that He does not discriminate between believers and unbelievers or for that manner discriminate in any particularly way that we are able to discern. Still the mystery abides and it shall this side of heaven.

*Take Note* Here is the primary truth that RT holds regarding common grace: It is not a form of grace that leads to regeneration and salvation. That form of grace in RT is Special Grace which will be discussed later. So, yes, common grace can lead to lives that are full of virtues, morality, acts of generosity, kindness and compassion. It can even be so motivating as to cause one to make a false profession of faith, become active in their church and even have a false confidence in their salvation. (See Matthew 7:21-23 and 25:31-44) With the unbeliever "good works" are never the result of a motive that's desire is to please and glorify the true God of Heaven and Earth.

As we have noted God's dispenses His common grace to the believer as well as the unbeliever. We who believe receive the same blessings as those previously noted and in the same differing manner as the unbeliever. However the great blessing and benefit that we enjoy is that we know that God always works for good in all things to us who believe and who are thus called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. So as to us, we should be rejoicing with the brother who receives a greater measure of the blessings of Gods common grace and rest assured that whatever God has given us is what is best for us in His eternal picture. This is, indeed, a discipline for us to maintain that attitude, but it is an undeniable truth that we should strive to understand and in which we should rejoice in humble faith.

We could go on at much greater length regarding examples of God's common grace, but I believe you have the general understanding of the concept. All of us can think of many applications of this truth in our own life observances. While the term "common grace" might be associated directly to RT, the concept, I would think, is universal among Christians.

A brief re-cap of Common Grace:

1) Common Grace is the form of grace that God extends to all creatures, especially mankind, in differing measures according to His perfect will.
2) Reformed Theology distinguishes between Common Grace and Special Grace in that Common Grace does not, and is not intended by God to, lead to salvation. Salvation requires the application of God's Special Grace.
3) The fruits of Common Grace are found in these universal benefits to varying degree:
a) The restraint of sin
b) The preservation of some sense of truth, morality and religion
c) The performance of outward good and civil righteousness
d) Abundant natural blessings

Comments and questions are now welcomed.

My primary reference resource for this composition is 'Systematic Theology' by Louis Berkhof, 1994 reprint, Eerdman's Publishing.

Following are Scriptural references to God's goodness and favorable disposition toward all men without discrimination regarding faith or the lack thereof:
Genesis 17:20

20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.

Genesis 39:5
5 So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field.

Psalms 145
9 The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.
16 You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Matthew 5:44-45
44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[a] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Luke 6:35-36
35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

Acts 14:16-17
16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

Proverbs 1:24
24 Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,

Ezekiel 18
23 Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?

Ezekiel 33:11
11 Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’

Matthew 5:43-45
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[b] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Luke 6:35
35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.

Romans 2
3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

Barry




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