Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, October 09, 2009

God is Kind to the Unthankful and the Evil, by Professor Herman Hanko

[The following comments are from the Common Grace Considered blog by Professor Herman Hanko, professor emeritus of the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary.  The issue of common grace cannot be taken lightly in view of its theological implications for the local congregations affected.  The temptation to move from a theocentric theology of God's absolute sovereignty is great.  If that is any question in the reader's mind, simply look at the results of such anthropocentric compromises in Van Til's theology of paradox, the neo-nominalism of theonomy and reconstruction, the Federal Vision/New Perspectives on Paul heresy, and Amyraldianism.  No, believing in the classic doctrines of Calvinism does not make one a "hyper-Calvinist."  Being faithful to Scripture and to the Reformed Confessions is not hyper-calvinism but true Calvinism.  What we are seeing today are seeds of compromise which inevitably lead to further decay of biblical and reformational Christianity as understood by the magisterial reformers during the Protestant Reformation.  Clearly Scripture is the final word in all matters of faith and doctrine and not popular opinions among neo-Calvinists who in essence compromise the truth, which in turn leads to the next generation being even more compromised and so on.  (See Exodus 20:4-6; 34:7; Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Chronicles 16:15; Psalm 105:8; Jeremiah 32:18). ]
by Professor Emeritus Herman Hanko
We will now consider the Biblical proof that is used to support the idea of God's general attitude of favor and love that He shows to all men. No confessional proof was offered in support of this point of common grace, but a few Bible verses were quoted in support of it. In the last installment, I considered Matthew 5:44, 45. In this installment I consider the second proof text, Luke 6:35, 36: "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful."

This passage in Luke is nearly parallel with the passage in Matthew 5 that we considered last time. The context also is very much the same. The Sermon on the Mount is recorded in Matthew 5-7, but here, though spoken on a different occasion, the subject is the same. The text is also very close to being the same, the only difference being that Jesus here speaks of God's kindness to the unthankful and evil, while in Matthew 5, Jesus speaks of the rain and sunshine God sends to the just and the unjust. Luke 6 therefore makes explicit what is implicit in Matthew 5: the reference to the unthankful and evil is, therefore, a reference to the unthankful and evil elect. Election is not based on works, but on the free and sovereign choice of God. Those who are eternally chosen are not chosen because of any good they did, nor because something was found in them that made them suitable to be counted among the elect. They were as evil as any in the world. They were as ungrateful for God's good gifts as anyone elsewhere. They were as deserving of everlasting condemnation as those who were not chosen. But they are in any case, citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and Jesus is giving them the principles by which the citizens of the kingdom live here in the world.

The elect who are the objects of God's mercy know with total certainty that they were not chosen because they were in any way better than those not chosen. The awesome character of election and its sovereign work of God is the reason for the humility of God's people. How can it be any different? It is not at all strange, therefore, that these people are admonished to be merciful to others. They are eager to love their enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again. They cannot help but be themselves kind unto the unthankful and evil, for this is the way God dealt with them.

There is no reason at all in the text to argue, as those who teach common grace argue, that God is merciful to all men. After all, Jesus is speaking here to His own disciples (verse 20) [Luke 6:20] and is describing the characteristics and calling of those who belong to the kingdom of heaven. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven are saved by grace; they are now to be gracious to those with whom they come into contact. In this way they manifest to others the grace God has shown to them. What could be more obvious?

To argue that because within the sphere of the kingdom of heaven, God is kind to unthankful and evil people can never be reason why we conclude that God is gracious to all men. One ought to re-read Psalm 73 and Proverbs 3:33 if he has any problem with this explanation.

* * * *

The last text that is quoted is Acts 14:16, 17: "Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."

This is an interesting text that requires considerable explanation, though not because it is difficult to refute those who want to thrust common grace on the text. Whatever the text may mean, it certainly does not say anything about a general attitude of favor and grace that God has towards all men. That seems to be clear on the very surface.

The context is clear enough. In his first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas came to Lystra. During the course of Paul's preaching in this city of Asia Minor, Paul healed a lame man. This startled the citizens of this city and they immediately considered Paul and Barnabas to be two of the gods that they worshipped and served. Under this erroneous conclusion, they prepared to make sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas. Paul was determined to prevent them from committing such a terrible sin. The passage is part of Paul's efforts to stop them from their horrible idolatry.

Even considering the text in this context and attempting to find common grace in this text, one would, it seems to me, immediately wonder why in the world Paul used the doctrine of common grace to prevent the heathen idolaters from worshipping him. But, apart from that, the text says nothing at all about an attitude of God's favor and grace towards all men, but merely speaks, as I have emphasized more than once, that God gives good gifts to men. His gifts are always good and never evil. He is Himself a good God, infinitely good in His eternal perfections. He cannot give anything but good gifts.

You say, Yes, but God also sends floods, tornados, famine and earthquakes. Is He good when He sends these disasters? Yes, indeed, He is good also when He sends catastrophes, for in His infinite holiness and perfect hatred of sin He sends judgments on the wicked in order that His goodness may be vindicated and His hatred of sin revealed. And surely part of the sin that He hates is the dreadful sin that man commits of despising God's good gifts and using them to oppose God.

And, we may mention in passing that when God sends catastrophes upon His people, that also is good, for God uses all the sufferings of this present time to sanctify His people and prepare them for glory.

* * * *

But the text in Acts 14 goes further. It gives a reason why God gives good gifts to men. That reason is not that God loves them and is kindly disposed towards them. The reason is that God does not leave Himself without witness. In the good gifts that He gives, God testifies of Himself. He even, Paul says, did this in the old dispensation when Christ had not yet come and when the gospel was not sent into the nations. Even in those days when the gospel was proclaimed only in Israel, the heathen who never knew or heard the gospel, nevertheless, were given a strong and irrefutable witness of God. The Jebusites, Moabites, Philistines, Ammonites and all the other heathen nations of the earth received that witness from God through the good gifts that God gave to them.

Paul explains this further in Romans 1:18ff, and this point is sufficiently important to devote some time to it, but let it be established now that when God gave good gifts to men, He gave them to show all men that He alone is God, that He alone is good, and that He alone must be served and worshipped.

Paul appeals to that truth in Lystra, because he underscores the fact that the wicked from the beginning of time and including the idolaters in Lystra knew and know that God alone must be worshipped and served. The people in Lystra, therefore, must not offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas, but to God alone.

This truth brings us to a discussion of Romans 1 and the truth of what is sometimes called general revelation. But all this must wait.

With warm regards to all,

Prof Hanko

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity.

The Collect.
LORD, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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