Friday, April 22, 2011

Grace in Christ Alone

"We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." - 1 John 5:19. The world does not lie in 'common grace', but in 'wickedness'.

Grace for sinners can only be found in Christ. And therefore, it is only ever particular to those who are elect in Him. Grace is only ever Almighty, because it is an attribute of God, and therefore all who receive the grace of God are certainly saved, as surely as God is God.

If the reprobate receive grace, from whence does this grace proceed? God Himself can only be righteously gracious to sinners because Christ has clothed us in His own spotless righteousness and atoned for our unrighteousness by His substitutionary atonement on the cross. And if Christ died as our fully atoning substitute, how can it be that His cross could do anything less than fully save all those for whom He died, and so how could His cross be extended to any other than the elect alone? The proponents of common grace end up therefore with only two alternatives; to say that there is grace for sinners outside Christ and God is unrighteous, or to say that there is some sort of universal atonement, and in so doing, they fall into the Arminian error, and are in great danger of making the cross of Christ of none effect.

Instead of such nonsense, hear Christ's words in the 69th Psalm:
"They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.
Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.
Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.
Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents.
For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded.
Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous."

This teaches that the good gifts which the wicked recieve are given in God's wrath and hatred, not in His love or favour. At least twelve times the NT applies the words of this Psalm to Christ (John 19:28; 15:25; 7:5; 2:17; II Cor. 6:2; John 19:29; Matt. 27:34; 27:48; Mark 15:23; 15:36; Luke 23:36; Matt. 23:38) and there are many more implicit references too. In Romans 11:9, the Holy Spirit also says that the inspired human writer was David, and quotes the Psalm to prove that God's attitude towards the reprobate wicked is not one of love or favour, but of hatred, especially in that David righteously prayed for their table (i.e. the good gifts, such as food and drink and earthly companionship at the table) to be a trap, a snare, a stumblingblock, and a recompense to them.

Now consider the example of the quails given in the wilderness, about which Psalm 106:15 says; "And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul."

He gave them the good gift of quails, but it was given in His furious anger, and brought them only destruction. So it is with all the good things the wicked receive. It is not that when we see the rich of this world that we should conclude that they have received more common grace or blessing from God (in this, the doctrine of "common grace" is as reprehensible as the "prosperity gospel"). In Psalm 73, Asaph was troubled by this when he said;
"Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children."

We must learn from Asaph also to go into the sanctuary of God, to humble ourselves and see their end;
"When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. 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. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee."

Let us put brutish thinking away, as Psalm 92:6-7 also instruct; "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:" Here we see that the purpose of God in giving prosperity to the wicked is to harden them in their wickedness, "that they shall be destroyed for ever".

Psalm 37 gives us the same warnings. It is not the blessing of God upon the house of the wicked, but rather, it is His curse (Prov. 3:33). Only the righteous in Christ know the blessing and grace of God. And this blessing and grace is not without effect, because it is God's blessing, and God's grace, and therefore we are saved to the uttermost.

I'll add yet another argument - if good gifts are supposed to be given in God's grace and blessing, and from an attitude of favour, surely the greatest good gift is for us to hear the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. Yet God knows and indeed has appointed beforehand who will believe it and who will reject it. And regardless God brings this Gospel to many who will not believe, knowing that in the way of their rejection, it will bring them greater condemnation on the day of judgment. If God sends this greatest good gift to those who will not believe it in order to bring them into greater condemnation, how can we deny this regarding all the lesser good gifts like food and drink? All these things can only bring greater condemnation because the reprobate employ them in the service of sin, and are unthankful. If He did not will to bring them into greater condemnation, surely He would not preach to them this Gospel! Yet Christ thanks His Father for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom to babes while hiding them from the wise and prudent, though the Gospel is preached openly to both:

Matthew 11:20-27
"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him."

It seemed good in God's sight, and Christ says "Even so." And we ought agree also with Christ. And if this truth still remains hidden from you also, I will assent with God, "Even so."

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