05 March, 2016

Why Cannot We Call the Good Things in this World that the Wicked Receive “Grace” or “Favor”?


              Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema              

[Source: Unfolding Covenant History, vol. I, pp. 251–254]

If it is held that in a certain favor or grace over the reprobate ungodly God gives them the things of this present life, it is inconceivable that those very things could be the means for their destruction. If they are means for their destruction, then there can be no grace involved; if they are a matter of grace, then there can be no destruction involved. In other words, the old, unanswered question presses itself to the fore: What grace is there for the reprobate in the things of this present time?

It is destructive of the very idea of divine grace to present matters as though God bestows blessings into a curse. No more than a father in love bestows upon his child the very instrument that will be to his destruction does God bestow things in His grace when those very things are and cannot be anything else than means to grow in corruption and to become ripe for destruction. The very suggestion of this idea is preposterous with application to the living God and His grace. Nor do the scriptures teach anything like this. The contrary is true. What God’s word does teach is that we are by nature children of wrath, and that “the wrath of God abideth” on such as believe not the Son (John 3:36). It teaches that God hates all the workers of iniquity (Ps. 5:5). It teaches that “the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth” (Ps. 11:5). And with respect to the things that the wicked receive in this present time and the status of the wicked in this present time, the scriptures also express themselves in no uncertain terms. Here is the picture drawn in Psalm 37:35, 36: “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.” Similar language occurs in Psalm 92: 5-8: “O LORD, how great are Thy works! And Thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this. When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever: But Thou, LORD, art most high forevermore.” And Psalm 73:18 and 19 telling us what Asaph learned in the sanctuary of God when he was troubled by the prosperity of the wicked: “Surely Thou didst set them in slippery places: Thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors.” . . . .

. . . . Grace and providence are not the same, however. Whereas God’s grace is only and always the manifestation of His favor and love toward His elect in Christ, the operation of God’s providence is motivated either by His faovr or His wrath, according to the purpose of election and reprobation. . . .

We declare without hesitation that the ungodly are indeed the recipients of the good gifts of God, not as evidence of His grace, but according to His providence. To be sure, unless the ungodly receive all the gifts of God, they could never sin, and they could never increase their guilt and fill up the measure of iniquity and become ripe for destruction. These very gifts constitute, as it were, the capital wherewith they sin and develop in ungodliness. We must understand, therefore, that these things are a means both for God, who sovereignly executes His purpose, and for the wicked, who act as responsible, moral agents. The wicked employ God’s gifts knowingly and willfully in the service of sin and corruption; thus they are responsible and harden their hearts unto their own destruction. God uses these same means according to His sovereign counsel and in His wrath over the ungodly, thus fitting them as vessels of wrath unto destruction. Thus the greater gifts and talents, the more means the wicked have wherewith to sin and to develop in sin, and the more swiftly they run to destruction.



Prof. David J. Engelsma

“[Since some mean] by common grace merely the good gifts that God bestows upon the reprobate wicked and a work of the law written in the hearts of the ungodly that causes them outwardly to conform to the law for selfish reasons, [they] should give up the terminology, "common grace". [Their] usage is not the common usage. The Bible does not use the term. Nor do the Reformed creeds (the only time that the "Three Forms of Unity" speak of "common grace" they attribute the belief to the Arminians in the Canons of Dordt, III/IV, Rejection of Errors 5). [The insistence of some] on employing the term to refer to the gifts that God gives the wicked, while rejecting any attitude of favor on God's part toward the wicked, results in paradoxical, confusing statements.

Instead of speaking of common grace, [we] should speak of the bounties, or gifts, of God's Providence. With the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord's Day 50, [we] should distinguish between the "gifts" of earthly necessities that God gives men and the "blessing" that believers request from God with these "gifts", without which blessing the gifts do not profit.”



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