Monday, December 31, 2007

DOES PSALM 145:9 TEACH COMMON GRACE?


God’s "tender mercies are over all his works," according to Psalm 145:9. Advocates of "common grace" reckon that "all [God’s] works" here refer to everybody head for head, including the reprobate.


But immediately the next verse declares, "All thy works shall praise thee" (Psalm 10a). The reprobate do not praise God, and so they cannot be the objects of God’s "tender mercies" (Verse 9). According to Hebrew parallelism, "thy saints shall bless thee" (Psalm 145:10b) defines God’s works here as His holy people created by His sovereign grace in Jesus Christ (Isaiah 19:25; 29:23; 45:11; Ephesians 2:10), the citizens of the gracious kingdom of God, the subject of Psalm 145.

Let us have the Hebrew parallelism of Psalm 145:9-10 clearly before us:

[Psalm 145:9a] The Lord is good to all:

[Psalm 145:9b] and his tender mercies are over all his works.

[Psalm 145:10a] All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord;

[Psalm 145:10b] and thy saints shall bless thee.

"All" (Psalm 145:9a) and "all [God’s] works" (Psalm 145:9b, 10a) and God’s "saints" (Psalm 145:10b) refer to the same group, God’s holy people who are new creatures in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10). The eternal, unchangeable and faithful Jehovah is good to "all" of them (Psalm 145:9a) and they are the objects of His covenantal "tender mercies" (Psalm 145:9b). Knowing God’s goodness and tender mercies, all of His holy people "praise" (Psalm 145:10a) and "bless" (Psalm 145:10b) Him, and "speak of the glory of [His] kingdom, and talk of [His] power" (Psalm 145:11).

Notice that Psalm 145 opens by extolling the ever-blessed God as "king" (Verse 1). Four times this psalm uses the word "kingdom" (Psalm 145:11-13) and once it refers to His "dominion" which "endureth through all generations" (Psalm 145:13). God’s "kingdom" is glorious, majestic and everlasting (Psalm 145:11-13). It is the topic of conversation and the subject of divine praise for the "saints" (Psalm 145:10) who "speak of," "talk of" and "make known" (Verses 11-12) the "glory" of God’s kingdom, yea, its "glorious majesty" (Verses 11-12). In this kingdom, God’s "power" and "mighty acts" (Verses 11-12) are known and revered.


Similarly, Jehovah’s "works," "mighty acts," "wondrous works" and "terrible acts" (Psalm 145:4-6) are also in the service of the "king" (Verse 1) and His kingdom (Psalm 145:11-13) and are so many reasons for the church of all ages to worship Him (Psalm 145:4-6): "One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts" (Psalm 145:4).


We gladly remember God’s "great goodness" and "sing" of His "righteousness" (Verse 7). We bless Him for his ethical perfections: "The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger of great mercy" (Psalm 145:8).

This is seen in Jehovah’s government of His "everlasting kingdom" (Verse 13), for He "upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down" (Psalm 145:14) and He "is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth" (Psalm 145:18).

Thus He fulfils the desire of, hears the cry of, and saves those "that fear him" (Verse 19) and provides food for all, to serve the interests of His kingdom (See verses 15-16).

Thus in the whole of Psalm 145, David (preface) and "all God’s works," that is His "saints" (Verses 9-10), praise God the king for the mighty acts and glorious majesty and tender mercies shown in setting up and maintaining His kingdom. This is the same kingdom that Jesus Christ preached in His public ministry and established in the blood of His cross and which He governs and defends from His throne at God’s right hand—the same kingdom more fully revealed in the pages of the New Testament. The context of Psalm 145, as well as the Hebrew parallelism in verses 9-10, ought to have kept some from reading "common grace" into Psalm 145:9.

Moreover, if we would follow the eisegesis of those who believe that "all [God’s] works" in Psalm 145:9 include every human being bar none, we would also be forced to conclude that the same would apply to "every living thing" in verse 16. But if we grant this, this would necessarily require us to believe that God "satisfies the desire" for food (Psalm 145:15-16) of every human being in the history of the world—yet we know that thousands have died, and still die, by hunger. Also, "every living thing" is said to "wait upon" God for food (Psalm 145:15). This may well include animals, birds and fish (Psalm 104:21, 25-28), as well as God’s children who seek from Him alone their daily bread. But the reprobate are unbelievers; they do not truly wait upon or pray to God for food in faith!

The exegetical method of those who hold to "common grace" leads to absurdities in Psalm 145, both as regards verses 9-10 and verses 15-16, as well as missing the meaning of the psalm as whole. Let us not isolate parts of verses to make them say what we think they say, but let us interpret Scripture with Scripture. If we do that with this psalm, we cannot but conclude that the theory of a "common grace" for elect and reprobate is not in view here at all. Instead, Psalm 145 praises God for revealing His might (See verses 4-6, 11-13) and goodness (verses 7-9) and nearness (See verses 14 and 18-19) in His glorious kingdom. Verse 20 summarizes for us God’s attitude and will towards the two antithetical, spiritual peoples: "The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy."


Why?

The holy and unchangeable God of the kingdom "is righteous in all his ways" (Psalm 145:17).

By Angus Stewart

WAS CAIN A RECIPIENT OF COMMON GRACE?


Reprobate Cain was a child "of the devil" (1 John 3:10), who "slew his brother" because his "works were evil" (1 John 3:12). Thus Cain was an "abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 3:32; 11:20; 16:5), as was everything about him: his "hands" (Proverbs 6:16-17), his "lying lips" (Proverbs 12:22), his "thoughts" (Proverbs 15:26), his "sacrifice" and his "way" (Proverbs 15:8-9).

God spoke with Cain (Genesis 4:6-7, 9-15) — a rational-moral creature—laying before him the ways of life and of death (see Genesis 4:6-7) and explaining his evil deed of fratricide (see Genesis 4:9-10), thus leaving him "without excuse" (Romans 1:20). So far was God from bestowing "common grace" upon Cain that He did not bless him, but cursed him (Genesis 4:11-12)!

God marked Cain so that no man would kill him (see Genesis 4:15). Cain’s prolonged life meant that he heaped up more wrath to himself (Romans 2:5). God willed Cain’s continuance on earth for some years so that the line of the reprobate would continue and develop in sin (see Genesis 4) over against the line of the elect (Genesis 5).

Nor were Cain’s city building (see Genesis 4:17) or the riches, artistic talent and technological advances of his descendants (see Genesis 4:20-22) signs of God’s love for the reprobate. God’s purpose "when all the workers of iniquity do flourish" (including Cain and his seed with their earthly prosperity) is "that they shall be destroyed forever" (Psalm 92:7). God does not immediately cut off the wicked for He is digging the pit for them (Psalm 94:13) — just as He did with Cain, that child of the devil, who killed the first martyr, Abel, his own brother
(1 John 3:10-12)!


By Angus Stewart

COMMON GRACE


We reject common grace on the basis of the Word of God. Common grace teaches that God loves the reprobate, but the Scriptures proclaim that “the Lord abhorreth” “the covetous” (Psalm 10:4). The Psalmist declares of God: “thou hatest all workers of iniquity” (Psalm 5:5).

God does not hate the sin but love the sinner!

Moreover, “the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth” (Psalm 11:5). Here is the intensity of God’s aversion to the reprobate: his very soul—all that He is—detests him. Thus Jehovah “shall rain snares, fire and brimstone” upon him (Psalm 11:6).

Common grace teaches that the good things which the reprobate receive in this life are proof of God’s love for them. This was Asaph’s mistake, and it is the mistake of many. In “the sanctuary of God” (Psalm 73:17), Asaph came to understand that “the prosperity of the wicked” (3)—their health (4), food (7), riches (12)—was “surely” God’s setting them “in slippery places” before He casts “them down into destruction” (18). God gave them good things in His providence, but He “despised” them (20) for their wickedness (8).

Solomon, the wisest of men, declared, “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked” (Proverbs 3:33). All the good things in his house—wife, children, possessions, food etc.—come not with God’s love but with His curse.

Some people say that we reject common grace on the basis of inferences drawn from the eternal predestinating council of God. But God’s revealed truth of predestination is not the only doctrine that militates against common grace. Against God’s unity (Deuteronomy 6:4), common grace teaches that God has two loves, two mercies, two lovingkindnesses, etc. Against God’s immutability (Malachi 3:6), common grace teaches that God loves the reprobate in time and then hates them in eternity. Against the divine righteousness, which is so great that God cannot “look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13), common grace says that God loves those who are completely evil (Romans 3:10-18). In short, common grace postulates a temporary, limited, changeable, unrighteous love of God (outside of Jesus Christ!) for the reprobate. But the Scriptures teach us that God loves Himself, and that He loves His elect church (Ephesians 5:25) with a particular (Romans 9:18), eternal (Jeremiah 31:3), infinite (Ephesians 3:17-19), unchangeable (Psalm 136) love in Jesus Christ.

This initial error of a love of God for the reprobate is being used by many (including professed Calvinists) to erode the antithesis (Genesis 3:15), to soften total depravity, to compromise particular atonement, to preach a desire of God to save the reprobate, to silence and (then) deny unconditional reprobation and election, to refuse to condemn Arminianism and its teachers, and to enable fellowship with Arminians.

By Angus Stewart