25 August, 2016

Luke 6:33—“… for sinners also do even the same”

And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same (Luke 6:33).

This text is often appealed to in support of the form of “common grace” which speaks of a “gracious, inward operation of Holy Spirit in the hearts of the unregenerate, restraining their sin and enabling them to do good works that please God and that are worthy of His commendation.” For, so it is asked, how else can we explain Christ’s words that sinners “do good” among themselves, if, by nature, they are unable to do such? Surely something is needed to explain this phenomenon … such as … a gracious work of God in them? (i.e. a “common grace”!)


Prof. Herman C. Hanko

[Source: Common Grace Considered (2019 edition), pp. 269-270]

I am puzzled by the appeal to this text as proof for “the good that sinners do.” It teaches quite the opposite. Sinners “do good,” not to please God, but to please themselves and advance their own welfare. They invite people to their feasts so that they will in turn be invited by the high and mighty. They do good to others so that they may reap the fruits of having others do good to them. Pure selfishness can hardly be the fruit of the Spirit and pleasing to God. We are warned not to do good as the wicked do it.



Homer C. Hoeksema (1923-1989)

[Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 51, no. 11 (March 1, 1975), p. 249]

Q. “How do you reconcile Luke 6:33 which tells us that sinners do good to them that do good to them with the view that the non-elect cannot do any kind of good?"

First of all, I must emphasize, as I have so often done before, that you must never quote a single text from Scripture all by itself: then you can make Scripture “prove” almost anything you please. We must always quote and explain a given text in its immediate context as well as in the light of the “current teaching” of Scripture.

Secondly, therefore, let us get the immediate context before us:

But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them which curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smites thee on the one cheek, offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak, forbid not to take away thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be children of the highest, for he is kind to the unthankful and evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful (Luke 6:24-36).

Now does the text teach that the ungodly reprobate actually do good? Let it be a relative good, a lesser sort of good; but a good that is thankworthy, a good that meets a measure of our Lord’s approval?

The very contrary is true. The text plainly states that sinners “do good to those who do good to them.” They do not do good to all their fellowmen, but only to those to whom it is personally profitable for them. Is this good? Relatively good? Does our Lord recommend it? Of course not! Our Lord disapproves it and emphatically warns against it. Why? Because it is pure selfishness and self-seeking. Such men do not even do good in the so-called natural sense of the word, not even in a “humanistic” sense. They do not seek to “help their fellow man.” They seek themselves and please themselves. In this same sense the natural man “loves” those who “love” him. In the same sense they lend to those from whom they receive again. And their desperately evil character becomes evident in the fact that these are those who hate, curse, despitefully use, and smite God’s people.

… Nor, by the way, does it take any kind of grace to do this kind of “good.” The whole world is full of this. “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. That way we’ll both benefit.” This only requires the discernment of natural light.



Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)


[Source: The Protestant Reformed Churches in America (1947 edition), pp. 403-404]

5.   But does not the text from Luke 6:33 plainly state that sinners do good?
On the contrary, it states very plainly that they do no good. That synod could quote passages such as this only proves how desperately hard pressed they were for even a semblance of evidence for the truth of the third point. It appears that, in quoting this text, the learned committee that presented its report on this matter to synod were led astray by the mere sound of the word good, and, without even seriously reading the text, they concluded that here they had, indeed, an indubitable proof for the theory that the wicked can do good.
What does the text teach? That sinners can do good? That there is an influence of the Holy Spirit upon them by which they are somewhat improved? To be sure, there is not the slightest reference to these gross errors in the text. The Lord does not declare that sinners do good. He does not even state that they do good to man. Still more, He does not assert that they do good one to another. What He does state is that they do good to them that will reward them with good, that they love those that will love them. And what is this? Is it good? No, it is mere selfishness of the sinful man. He has no reward. And the Lord uses their examples to warn His disciples not to do good in like manner!


[Source: The Rock Whence We Are Hewn (RFPA, 2015), pp. 426-427]

… [The] Lord in these words does not speak of any ethical or moral good that sinners do before God, but only of the general practice of sinners to favor one another. They do good to one another, that is, they favor those who do good to them. Further, it is Jesus’ purpose to point out to his disciples that there is no ethical or moral value in this practice of sinners, for they do good only to those who favor them, which is pure selfishness and therefore ethically wrong. This morally and ethically wrong practice certainly cannot be ascribed to an influence of God on these sinners, nor is there in the text the faintest suggestion of such an influence.



More to come! (DV)

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