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Grace of God

The unmerited goodness or love of God to those who have forfeited it, and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation. - Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology

How Grace is Different from Mercy

  • Grace is receiving what we have not merited.
  • Mercy is not receiving what we deserve.

The Scope of God's Grace (The Issue of Common Grace)

So called "common grace" is a phrase frequently used within the Reformed community. Common grace can best be described by the first point of the 1924 synodical meeting of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The CRC adopted what came to be known as the Three Points of Common Grace. The first point states "In addition to the saving grace of God, shown only to those who are elected to eternal life, there is also a certain favor, or grace, of God shown to his creatures in general."

Matthew 5:44-48 is often used as a "proof text" for common grace.
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, 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

This passage explains how we should emulate God in loving our enemies. God loved His enemies in that all of God's elect were "by nature children of wrath, just as the others." (Eph. 2:3)

Problems with Common Grace:
  • If rain is God's love and favor then droughts, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods must be God's hatred and anger. God's elect some times experience storms. Does that mean that God, at these times, is showing hatred toward His elect? Obviously this contradicts Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
  • Ps. 73 Explains that in a temporal sense, the wicked experience "no pangs in their death," and "Their eyes bulge with abundance". "Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain," thought the psalmist, "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end." We should not view God's grace in a temporal sense. God is eternal and His divine decree is an eternal unchanging volition of love and grace towards His elect and of wrath and judgement towards the reprobate.
  • Ps. 92:7 explains why the wicked receive "blessings" in a temporal sense, "When the wicked spring up like grass, And when all the workers of iniquity flourish, It is that they may be destroyed forever."
Discussion:
  • How does God use tornadoes to bless His elect?
  • How does God use rain to curse the reprobate?
  • Why do people defend common grace?
  • Why is the issue of common grace important? How does it impact our understanding of the gospel? If God is gracious to all and desires all to be saved, then what distinguished the saved from the unsaved?
Resources:

Characteristics of God's Grace

  • sovereign - God's grace is distinguishing. His love discriminates. There is nothing common about it. Ex. 33:19 (and Romans 9:15-16) says "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Amazing! When God is revealing to Moses the greatness of His glory (because Moses asked "Please, show me Your glory.”), he does so by emphasizing His sovereign grace.
  • irresistible - Eph 2:1 says "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins". How can a dead person resist being made alive? John 3:6-8 says "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Can a baby resist being born?
  • free/unmerited (diametrically opposed to works) - Romans 11:5-6 says "Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." This passage shows that works is diametrically opposed to any work. If salvation is dependent on any condition in the sinner, then it can not be said that salvation is by grace.
  • eternal - 2 Timothy 1:9 says "who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began"
Discussion:
  • How does the semi-pelagian/synergistic view of salvation distort the biblical view of grace? How do they turn grace into works?
  • Why does the natural man hate the doctrines of Grace?
  • Why do the regenerate love the doctrines of Grace?
  • How is God's saving grace related to the elect's "in Christ" relationship?
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