Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Common Grace (John Murray)

John Murray, Collected Writings, vol II, Systematic Theology, 93-122

I. Definition -- “every favour of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God.”

II. Nature of Common Grace

A. God restrains sin – man is restrained from reaching the potentiality of his sin nature.
i. Jonathan Edwards “if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone” (pg. 99)
ii. God removed Adam and Eve from the garden to prevent them from eating from the tree of life (Gen. 3:22-23).
iii. God prevented others from killing Cain (Gen. 4:15).
iv. God prevented Abimelech from sinning against God (Gen. 20:6).
v. Sennacherib's rage was restrained by God (2 Kings 19:27, 28).

B. God restrains His wrath – if God did not restrain His wrath, the unrighteous would be immediately consigned to everlasting condemnation.
i. Before the flood God determines that His Spirit would “not always strive with man” and His wrath was restrained for one hundred twenty years (Gen. 6:3) and Peter said of that time that God was “longsuffering.” (1 Peter 3:20)
ii. Paul says that God “overlooked the times of ignorance,” referring to the past generations (Acts 17:30).

C. God restrains evil – by placing restraints on the consequences (effects) of sin.
i. Though the ground is cursed due to the sin of Adam, it does bring forth enough to sustain mankind (Gen. 3:17).
ii. The destructive tendencies of animals (as a result of the fall) towards man is restrained (Gen. 9:2).

D. God bestows his bounty through creation on men (Psalms 65:5-13; 104; Psalm 145:9, 15, 16; 136:25).

E. God bestows his blessings on the unregenerate.
i. The Lord blessed the Egyptian overseer's house for Joseph's sake (Genesis 39:5)
ii. God “doing good” and giving rain and fruitful seasons were a witness to the nations (Acts 14:16,17).
iii. God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. Christ's disciples are to emulate the Father who is kind to those who do not appreciate His kindness. In the same way the disciples are to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44,45;Luke 6:35, 26).
iv. The rich man received good things will Lazarus received evil things (Luke 16:25).
v. Those who received God's good gifts but without thanksgiving are under a greater condemnation (Luke 12:48).

F. The Scriptures speak of unregenerate men doing good.
i. Though Jehu did not depart from serving golden calves in Bethel and Dan (2 Kings 10:29), God says to him “because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes” (2 Kings 10:30). Since he did what was good (executing God's justice on the house of Ahab), God gives him a temporal reward.
ii. There is doubt that Jehoash feared the Lord, yet it is written that “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 12:2).
iii. Jesus says that the publicans love and that sinners do good (Matt. 5:46; Luke 6:33).
iv. Paul says of the unregenerate that the “work of the law is written on their hearts” (but not on tablets of stone) (Rom. 2:14,15).

G. The unregenerate receive “operations and influences of the Spirit in connection with the administration of the gospel,” yet do not result in conversion.
i. Those who had knowledge and rejected it cannot be restored. (Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-29; 2 Peter 2:20-22)

H. The civil government restrains evil and promotes good (1 Peter 2:14; Rom. 13:3,4; 1 Tim. 2:1,2)

III. Purpose of Common Grace

A. “[C]ommon grace serves the purpose of special or saving grace, and saving grace has as its specific end the glorification of the whole body of God's elect, which in turn has its ultimate end in the glory of God's name.” (pg. 113)

B. Without common grace there could be no redemptive grace because there would be nothing left of the human race in which to make children of God. Common grace is necessary for man to come to faith. “Faith does not take its genesis in a vacuum. It has its antecedents and presuppositions both logically and chronologically in the operations of common grace” (pg. 115).

C. God's redemptive purpose is not the only reason for common grace, though Murray concludes that “What other ends promoted by common grace may be it might be precarious to conclude” (pg. 116).

D. “Of one thing we are sure that the glory of God is displayed in all his works and the glory of his wisdom, goodness, longsuffering, kindness and mercy is made known in the operations of his common grace” (pg. 117).

IV. The Practical Lessons

A. We should appreciate common grace because it is from God (Jas. 1:17).

B. We should appreciate all that is good and noble in this world.

C. All of life can be seen as in service to the Lord as our King of kings.

D. We are not isolationists while waiting for the world to come (Ps. 24:1; 104:24; 1 Tim 4:4,5).

E. We should not make war on the things created by God. “Sin does not reside in the creatures and institutions of God but rather in the hearts of men and demons” (pg. 118) (Ps. 145:10-13).

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