In Boettner’s chapter on “Efficacious Grace” we encounter the grotesque subtitle, “Common Grace”:
“Apart from this special grace which issues in the salvation of its objects, there is what we may call ‘common grace,’ or general influences of the Holy Spirit which to a greater or lesser degree are shared by all men. God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain upon the just and the unjust” (pp. 178-179).
Why does Boettner enclose the phrase “common grace” in quotes? Is it because he is suppressing the knowledge of the truth that those “who hold to ‘common grace’ must either believe that God shows grace at the expense of His justice or that Jesus Christ’s death in some way merited grace for everyone without exception”? (cf. “common grace?” article)
Contrary to the lie Boettner writes above, Scripture denies that an unregenerate person can be under the conviction of the Holy Spirit or receive “general influences” since the Holy Spirit only leads people to Jesus Christ and His righteousness as the sole ground of salvation:
“And when the Comforter comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, that One will witness concerning Me” (John 15:26).
“But when that One comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you into all Truth, for He will not speak from Himself, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will announce the coming things to you. That One will glorify Me, for He will receive from Mine and will announce to you” (John 16:13-14).
“If you are reviled in [the] name of Christ, [you are] blessed, because the Spirit of God and of glory rests on you. Truly, according to them, He is blasphemed; but according to you, He is glorified” (1 Peter 4:14).
[For further expounding on what true Holy Spirit conviction entails see the following link: https://agrammatos.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/holy-spirit-conviction.pdf]
Boettner alludes to Matthew 5:43-45, which is a text commonly perverted by Calvinists in an attempt to “prove” that rain and sunshine are expressions of God’s “common grace” or “benevolence” toward the non-elect (i.e., the reprobate wicked):
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy; but I say to you, Love your enemies; bless those cursing you, do well to those hating you; and pray for those abusing and persecuting you, so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven. Because He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Boettner believes this text reveals God’s “common grace” in causing the sun to shine and in sending rain on the evil and the good, the just and the unjust. But this is to commit eisegesis with a vengeance; this is to wrest the Scripture to one’s own destruction by reading into the text what is not there (cf. 2 Peter 3:15-17).
Let’s take a look at Matthew 5:43-45.
Matthew 5:43: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy;”
Leviticus 19:18 teaches that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Psalm 139:22 teaches that we are to hate the wicked (our enemy) with perfect hatred.
Matthew 5:44: “but I say to you, love your enemies; bless those cursing you, do well to those hating you; and pray for those abusing and persecuting you,”
Psalm 139:20-22 teaches that God’s enemies are our enemies — we hate those hating Him; we loathe those rising up against Him. Is this paradox? In no wise. May it never be. It is talking about two senses — two different considerations. We LOVE those whom we count as ENEMIES. We LOVE them when we do well to them and pray for them. We HATE them when we count them as the enemies of God and, by extension, our enemies.
Matthew 5:45: “so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven. Because He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust.”
Of primary importance is the interpretation of this passage in the true light of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16-17), rather than in the false light of the “gospel” of unregenerate man (Galatians 1:8-9).
In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus commands us to love our enemies NOT in the same context as the universal benevolence of God, BUT in the same context as the universal indiscriminateness of God in sending rain and sunshine on the just and the unjust. We are to be as indiscriminate in our well doing to the just and the unjust alike — although there is a preference to the household of faith (Galatians 6:10) — as God is indiscriminate in sending rain on the just and the unjust. And so I think that the passage teaches that we are to show an indiscriminate general benevolence to our enemies in the way God shows an indiscriminate choice in His sending of sunshine and rain. We are to love the just and the unjust in the manner that God sends rain. In light of the gospel and the many passages that show God’s hatred for the wicked reprobate (non-elect), Jesus is NOT teaching us that God demonstrates His love by sending rain, but that we are to demonstrate our love in a similar manner that God is sending the rain — and that is, indiscriminately.
Matthew 5:43-45 is cavalierly treated by those who read a general benevolence or favor in God toward the reprobate. Their impetuosity is on full display when they basically say,
“We express indiscriminate LOVE when we do well to them and pray for our enemies because God expresses indiscriminate LOVE when He sends sunshine and rain upon His enemies.”
This figment blatantly contradicts what God’s intention and purpose is in everything that happens in the non-elects’ lives which is to demonstrate NOT His “general benevolence,” “common grace,” or “indiscriminate love” but His power and wrath in hardening them for destruction (cf. Romans 9). Taking Romans 9 and Matthew 5:43-45 together we see the correct exemplary model:
Since God does not provide rain and sunshine (and other necessities of life) for the vessels of mercy ONLY, BUT ALSO provides these things for the vessels of wrath, we are not to love our spiritual brethren ONLY, BUT ALSO to love our spiritual enemies. God does not withhold rain so we should not withhold prayer. We are to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ AND for our enemies because God sends rain and sunshine to those whom He loves AND to those whom He hates.
God knows (while we do not know) which of our unregenerate enemies is among the elect and which one is among the non-elect. In time God will regenerate and save all His elect, but He will actively harden and destroy all the non-elect — the indiscriminate provision of things like rain and sunshine being an intended means of the non-elects’ destruction.
“And according as you desire that men should do to you, you also do the same to them. And if you love those who love you, what thanks is there to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks is there to you? For even the sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks is there to you? For the sinners lend to sinners so that they may receive the equal things. But love the ones hostile to you, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be much; and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the unthankful and evil ones. Therefore, be merciful, even as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:31-36).
Where does God display His mercy and kindness to the unthankful and evil ones? Not in the falling rain or in the shining sun, but in the propitiating cross:
” … but God commends His love to us in this, that we being yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even we being dead in deviations, He made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are being saved), and raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that He might demonstrate in the ages coming on, the exceeding great riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be a propitiation relating to our sins” (1 John 4:10).
The entirety of Romans 9 is an awesome description of the kindness of God shown toward the elect vessels of mercy and the just and holy severity of God shown toward the non-elect vessels of wrath fitted out for destruction. The indiscriminate provision of rain is one of the many means God uses to display His power and demonstrate His wrath in His fitting out and hardening of the non-elect for destruction.
For the regenerate vessels of mercy everything that happens to them is worked out by God for good (Romans 8:28). They have been eternally blessed in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3). If they contract any of the various forms of cancer they are blessed. In every trial, tribulation, sickness, and malady, they are blessed. If they are perhaps one of the minority with robust health they are blessed. Believers are blessed in the “pitter-patter” rains, and they are blessed in the torrential rains that destroys their property and even their lives.
As for the unregenerate non-elect they are cursed in everything that befalls them since they had not a Substitute and Representative to bear the curse in their behalf.
For us who are believers our focus on things like “common grace” and God’s unmitigated hatred for the non-elect is NOT some sort of inordinate fascination, but of extreme gospel importance that we may truly know “the riches of His glory” (Romans 9:23). God desires to make known to His elect vessels that grace is found exclusively in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ and that it is Christ’s work ALONE that makes the vessels prepared for glory to differ from the vessels prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22-23).
“There is a vanity which is done on the earth: There are just ones to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; and there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 8:14).
“For all this I gave to heart, even to explain all this, that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. Whether love or hatred, man does not know all that is before them. All happens alike to all; one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good, and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him who sacrifices, and to him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who swears is as he that fears an oath. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event to all” (Ecclesiastes 9:1-3).
“And my God will fill your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Even as it has been written, For Your sake we are killed all the day; we are counted as sheep of slaughter. But in all these things we more than conquer through Him loving us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
God will fill or supply our every need. But who ultimately decides what we need? Do we “need” famine, danger, or sword? Did John the Baptist “need” that beheading he received? It depends on how one defines “need.” As far as Philippians 4:19 is concerned it played a needful part in sending John to be with Christ which is far better:
” … according to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but as always in all boldness even now Christ will be magnified in my body, whether through life or through death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this to me is fruit of my labor, and what I shall choose I do not know. For I am pressed together by the two: having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:20-23).
John the Baptist was not ashamed; he magnified Christ in his body. Whether through life or through death, whether in rest or in tribulations, whether in cancer remitted or in cancer rebounded, may we continue to proclaim: To live is Christ, and to die is gain!
[It appears “easy enough” to admonish and encourage when one is not (at least not presently) experiencing any major trial, sickness, etc. And oh, how aware I am of that fact and I’m nearly brought to tears contemplating the sufferings of others as I admonish them with Scriptures like Philippians 1:20-23. Nevertheless, let us be bold and courageous in defending the honor of our King. Clearly He is more than capable of defending His own honor but this is a gracious privilege. Let us always remember and meditate upon the love of Christ and that to depart and be with Christ is far better.]