I wish to congratulate our young people upon the choice of this subject. Do you, young people, realize that the Christian Reformed Church’s (our mother church) adoption of the Three Points in 1924, their choice of a common and a general grace of God, led very directly to their present sad and deplorable condition? Having been asked to write an article for our Beacon Lights on the subject: Common Grace versus TULIP, I gladly consent. Are you really interested in this subject? It is, of course, my desire that our Beacon Lights be read by our young people. After all, this is their periodical. And our young people should read it.
We are all. I am sure, acquainted with TULIP. It is the word which represents. symbolizes the Five Points of Calvinism. These Five Points of Calvinism are: Total Depravity, Unconditional Predestination (Election and Reprobation), Limited or Particular Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints. We prefer the term, Particular Atonement to Limited Atonement. We understand that the term Limited Atonement means that Christ’s atonement is limited only to the elect. Yet, in a certain sense Christ’s death is also unlimited, unlimited in the sense that it is boundless in its value. The word, particular, stresses that the sufferings and death of our Lord are intended, of God and of Christ, only for them given Christ of the Father from before the foundations of the world.
Our subject also speaks of Common Grace. I have already mentioned that the Christian Reformed Church, in 1924. adopted a common and a general grace of God. You see, we can distinguish between Common Grace and General Grace. Both, of course, are common, as intended for and bestowed upon all men and not merely upon the elect. The idea of Common Grace refers to the things of this present time. It means that the Lord bestows rain and sunshine, food and drink, health and strength, all the things of this present time in His divine love and favour. Common Grace refers to a universal love of God. It also means that, when Adam sinned, the Lord exercised a checking, restraining operation of His Spirit upon him so that the process of sin was checked in him. Adam did not become wholly corrupt. And it also speaks of a general operation of His Spirit whereby the sinner is enabled by God to do good in His sight in the midst of the world. This is what is commonly known among us as the theory of Common Grace. General Grace, however, also common to others besides the elect, refers to salvation. It emphasizes that God would save all men, that His predestination is conditional, upon foreseen faith and unbelief, that Christ died for every man, and that the preaching of the gospel is a general, well-meaning offer of salvation. in which God graciously offers salvation to all who hear the gospel. All men, of course, are not saved. Only some are saved. But that all men are not saved is not because of the will of God but because of the will of the sinner. God loves all men. He would save all men. If God “had his way” all men would be saved. But the will of God is thwarted, frustrated by the will of the sinner. It is the sinner who determines his salvation.
TULIP, symbolizing the Five Points of Calvinism, is surely thoroughly scriptural. Total Depravity is indeed set forth in the Word of God-see Ephesians 2:l-3, Romans 8:6-8, Ephesians 5:8 (We are by nature darkness, do not merely perform deeds of darkness and sin, but darkness is our very being). Unconditional Predestination (double predestination, election and reprobation) is also indisputably set forth in the Word of God. God has elected us unconditionally, not because of foreseen faith-see Ephesians 1:4. Notice in this passage that God chose us, not because of our holiness, but that we should be holy. And then there are passages such as Deuteronomy 7:7-8 and Romans 9: 11-13. Reprobation, too, is unconditional. There are those who would maintain that Scripture teaches election but not reprobation. How wrong they are! Reprobation, too, is surely scriptural. Notice what we read in Matthew 11:25-26. That these things are hidden from the wise and prudent is the Father’s good pleasure, for “so it seemed good in Thy sight.” And then there is also I Peter 2:8. This stumbling at the word, being disobedient, was according to divine appointment, even as we read: “whereunto also the): were appointed.” And Romans 9:11-13 teaches us that Esau was hated before he had done any evil. Limited or Particular Atonement is also thoroughly in harmony with the Word of God. How pertinent is what we read in John 10: 11, 15, 26-30 We must not overlook verse 26 in this chapter. Jesus does not say that they are not His sheep because they believe not, but that they believe not because they are not of His sheep. He, therefore, ascribes their unbelief to the fact that God has never chosen them. Pertinent is also a passage such as John 12:37-41. There we read that “therefore they could not believe because of what Esaias had said, namely, that He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart and be converted, and I should heal them.” And there is also John 6:39. Remember, the Father’s will which had sent Christ, the Father’s mandate to the Christ was not to save all but to lose nothing of all which He had given Him. Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ died only for His elect own. Irresistible Grace, too, is taught everywhere in the Word of God. We read in Psalm 138:8 and Philippians 1:6 of this irresistible grace of the Lord. Notice, too, what we read in John 6:44. If it be true, and it is, that no man can come unto Christ except the Father draw him, then it is equally and emphatically true that when the Father draws him he must come. Indeed, it is not of him that runneth or willeth but of God that shews mercy (Romans 9: 16. 18), and this mercy of God is efficacious and irresistible. Does the living God not raise the dead, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, walking to the lame, speech to the dumb? Is our God not the living God Who calls life out of death? And what shall we say about the Perseverance of the Saints? The Arminians deny this truth. The scriptures, however, teach it everywhere. The apostle, in Philippians 1:6, is confident of this very thing that He Who has begun a good work in us will perform, finish it until the day of Jesus Christ. The Lord will surely finish and complete what He has once begun.
And what must be our appraisal of the theory of Common Grace? Common Grace is indeed a theory. It is surely not confessional. It is nowhere taught in our reformed confessions. TULIP is God-centered, gives all glory to God. Common Grace is man-centered, does not glorify God, centers in the interests of man.
First, Common Grace sets forth a universal love of God. God loves all men, gives them natural things in His love and favour, has His gospel preached as a general well-meaning gracious offer of salvation because, in His love, He would save all. How contrary this is to the Word of God. Indeed, an attribute of the Lord which received very prominent mention in the Word of God is the attribute, the divine perfection of God’s holiness. We refer to Isaiah 6: l-7, Habakkuk 1:13, Hebrews 12:29. Notice how in Isaiah 6 the prophet is overwhelmed by the holiness of Jehovah. Indeed, according to verse 3 in this chapter our God is thrice holy. And Isaiah laments and bemoans his uncleanness and undoneness. God Himself is a holy covenant God. He is light and in Him is not darkness at all. Only he who walks in the light has fellowship with God, as we read in I John 1 :5-7. The theory of Common Grace, teaching a universal love of God, is surely in direct conflict with God’s perfect and infinite holiness.
Secondly, the theory of Common Grace teaches a checking and restraining operation of the Spirit of God within the sinner, restraining his sin and corruption and enabling him to do much good in the sight of God. We do not deny a certain civic good. A wicked baker can bake good and wholesome bread. A wicked farmer knows how to work his land. A wicked dentist and surgeon know how to perform their tasks well. But we deny that this civic good is good in the sight of the Lord. Nowhere do the scriptures teach such a restraining operation of the Holy Spirit within the individual sinner. O, he cannot do whatever he desires to do. His outward conduct and activity is surely held in restraint. A sinner knows it is wise for him to obey the law outwardly, so that he does not steal or kill or disobey the traffic laws. But Scripture nowhere speaks of an internal restraining operation of the Holy Spirit in the life of an individual sinner. On the contrary, the sinner is conceived and born dead in sin and in misery, is not subject to the law of God and cannot be subjected to it. How pertinent in this connection is Romans 8:6-8! He is dead, full of darkness, full of hatred of God and of his neighbor. This is his inner being and life. Indeed, if the Word of God teaches anything, it is surely that whatever is not of faith is sin, that he loves the darkness rather than the light.
Thirdly. the theory of Common Grace repudiates the Word of God when it teaches that God gives all men things in His love and favour. Notice what we read in Psalm 73: 17-19, Psalm 92:5-7, Romans 8:28. God loves the righteous, but the unrighteous and wicked His soul hateth and loatheth. Indeed, according to Proverbs 3:33, the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked, but He blesses the habition of the just. And this surely means that the curse of the Lord is upon the wicked and upon all that he has.
Finally, how contrary is the theory of a General Grace to the scriptures! The gospel a general, well-meaning gracious offer of salvation? God loves those whom He eternally hates? God would save those whom He has eternally reprobated? Indeed, the gospel is not an offer. It is the power of God unto salvation, as we read in Romans 1: 16. God would save all? The gospel is a savor of life unto life but also a savor of death unto death, as we read in II Corinthians 2:14-17. Indeed, the Lord’s counsel shall stand and He will perform all His good pleasure. Our God is surely God, God alone.
I have attempted to set forth in a brief article the wonderful truth of TULIP and how it is denied by the theory of a Common Grace and of a General Grace. May we as young people and as Protestant Reformed Churches never forget this truth, always remember it, and seal it with a proper walk.