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a’ Brakel on Common Grace

September 27, 2007

1)

Grace can be defined as being a perfection of God’s character which has no relationship to an object that is, who God was and would be even if there were no creature; namely, a compassionate God who would be capable of manifesting His benevolence to creatures apart from any merit. Grace can also be considered relative to creatures in the manifestation of undeserved benevolence. Concerning the grace of God we distinguish between grace as a gracious gift, or grace o gracious receipt. Gratia gratis dans (grace as a gracious gift) relates to God’s perfection as being the fountain from which all His benefits issue forth. “For unto you it is given7 in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29)! “There is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works” (Rom. 11:5-6); “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). Gratia gratis data (grace as a gracious receipt), relates to the received benefits themselves. This is true for common grace of which unconverted persons are the recipients to which Jude referred, “Ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4). This is also true for saving grace which is frequently referred to as the gifts of grace (cf. Rom. 5:15-16; 6:23; 11:29). The following texts speak of this: “Through the grace given unto me” (Rom. 12:3); “That ye might have a second benefit” (2 Cor. 1:15);”For this is thank worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully” (1 Pet. 2:19). Both perspectives of grace, that is, grace as a gracious gift and grace as a gracious receipt, are often conjoined in the Pauline benedictions. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father” (Rom. 1:7); “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (1 Cor. 16:23). Wihlemus a’ Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans., by Bartel Elshout, (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publ., 1992), 1:124-125.

2)

Evasive Argument: God bestows external blessings upon many because of correct, external behavior. This can be observed in Ahab, the ungodly king of Israel. “Seest thou Ahab humbleth himself before me? Because be humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon him.

Answer: It is one thing to maintain that God, by his common grace and in certain situations, bestows external blessings upon the ungodly. This we readily admit, for, “The LORD is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psa. 145:9). Wihlemus a’ Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans., by Bartel Elshout, (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publ., 1992), 1:459.

3)

(1) There must be a distinction between the gift of grace and the given grace. The gift of grace is the goodness of God, the fountain from whom proceeds all the good which a man receives. Given grace refers to the benefits which man receives, has, and possesses. Concerning the gift of grace we read, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29). Concerning given grace we read, “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully” ( 1 Pet. 2:19).

(2) Grace is either common or special. God bestows common grace upon all men by granting them temporal benefits. “Nethertheless He left not himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven” (Acts 14:17). To this grace also belongs all the good which God bestows all who are called, by giving them the Word–the means unto repentance and salvation. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). In addition to this, God generally gives illumination, historical faith, convictions, and inner persuasions to almost become a Christian (cf. Heb. 6:4-6). Wihlemus a’ Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans., by Bartel Elshout, (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publ., 1992), 2:215.

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