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.


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
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
1st Discussion: Irresistible Grace
2nd Discussion: Prevenient Grace
3rd Discussion: etc...

michael_legna's picture

A few questions about the idea of common grace

bwarddvm said -
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.

What happens if we do not maintain that attitude? Does that mean we lose our salvation? If we do lose our salvation does that mean the special grace we received which accomplished our salvation somehow reverts to common grace retroactively?

bwarddvm said -
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.

Certainly not universal since the idea of God granting less than perfect gifts to His children is not a universally accepted notion.

bwarddvm said -
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.

How does He make this decision with regard to differing measures, because if it is without consideration of the difference between men or their actions, then isn’t it arbitrary? If it is based on something the men have done or will do then it is based on judgment of merit and is no longer unmerited favor or grace.

bwarddvm said -
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.

Where does scripture distinguish between common and special grace? Is there anywhere the two are mentioned and then contrasted in the same section of verse?

bwarddvm said -
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

Where does scripture attribute these fruits to common grace but not to special faith?

bwarddvm said -
Comments and questions are now welcomed.

Is there any verse in scripture which makes a clear and concise statement which both admits to there being two types of grace and lays them out as common and special grace? I realize these two terms are never actually used anywhere in scripture but then neither is the word Trinity, still I expect the concept must at least be presented. If it is only done by expressing the concepts obliquely how are we to know it is really just two versions of grace and that there is not further division into more forms or even sub forms of the two main types.

bwarddvm said -
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.

All this says is that God in His justice granted a blessing to Ishmael because he was the born to Abraham’s first wife by promise (though not his firstborn because of Abraham and Sarah’s impatience). It does not say this unmerited favor (if it was that) is a lesser form of grace. That conclusion can only be come to by implication and so the development of the doctrine of special grace really needs to be presented side by side so we can see if they really fit together and are self supporting and consistent.

bwarddvm said -
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.

All this says is that the Lord grants grace to men when they conform their lives to His will. It makes no distinction as to this being a common form of grace. In fact this does not even go far enough for us to know if the Egyptian and his house were saved or not so (even if we accept the two forms of grace as defined by RT) how do we know this is not special grace referred to here?

bwarddvm said -
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.

Again this says that God gives His grace to all men but it does not say this grace is of a form that is separate from other forms of His grace.

bwarddvm said -
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.

So one wonders if the common grace (which you admit leads us to restraint of sin and the preservation of some sense of truth, morality and religion and finally the performance of outward good and civil righteousness) would make us sons of God by loving our enemies since it does all the things you admit it does and the above scripture tells us that these acts of love are required to be sons of God. If this is so then what you want to label as merely common grace does have a saving aspect to it and so is indistinguishable from what you call special grace.

bwarddvm said -
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.”

And what point was the witness here if not to lead men to God and what is the point to leading them to God if not to believe and be saved. This does not sound like what you would call common grace as it has an aspect of salvation to it.

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

Here it does not appear that the verse is speaking of common grace either since there it refers to God offering His hand and calling these individuals, which anywhere else in scripture we would recognize as references to salvation. Or maybe it is just grace and the distinction being made is simply fictitious.

bwarddvm said -
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?’

How can this be an example of common grace when God is clear He desires the wicked to turn from their evil ways, which you claim is only possible based on special grace? It seems the line of distinction is difficult to identify even for those who follow this theology. Isn’t it just simpler to admit that God’s grace for salvation is given to all men so we can take God seriously when He says He desires the wicked to turn from their ways and be saved.

bwarddvm said -
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.

While this shows God as being merciful to the just and unjust alike and could be construed as common, we have to remember that he did the same thing for us, the believers while we were yet His enemies by sending His Son to die for us,

Eph 2:4-5 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

…and that grace led to our salvation so to say this mercy is common in one case and uncommon in another appears quite arbitrary.

bwarddvm said -
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?

If we accept the idea that the goodness mentioned here is His grace we still have to wonder how can this be a reference to common grace as it refers to the leading to repentance which is not possible for those who are not believers? It appears the distinction devised by RT is blurred at best.