In the last four issues of the News, we have considered five Psalms (5, 11, 69, 73 and 92) which oppose the false doctrine of common grace. But the Psalms have a lot more to say in support of God’s sovereign, particular and uncommon grace. Given the importance of this subject and the considerable interest and support of our readers—some even mentioning specific Psalms they wanted included—I propose to treat more Psalms, beginning with the first and second Psalms.
The first word of the first Psalm, in both Hebrew and English, is “blessed,” a key word in the debate over common grace. A “blessed” man (Ps. 1:1) is one blessed and made happy by God’s bringing him into living communion with Himself. That God blesses us means that He has a favourable attitude of grace and pity towards us, that He inwardly and graciously restrains sin in us and that He enables us to do good works which are pleasing in His eyes through Jesus Christ. The way of blessedness and happiness for us as God’s people is that of practising the antithesis, spiritual separation from the ungodly—no “walking,” “standing” or “sitting” in fellowship with them (1). Verse 1 is contrary to the notion of many advocates of common grace that believers are to be friends with unbelievers and should cooperate with “non-Christians of good will” in building the kingdom of God on earth. Whereas verse 1 states, negatively, what the blessed man does not do, verse 2 sets forth, positively, his delight in, and meditation upon, God’s Word. Avoiding the wicked (1) and feasting upon the holy Scriptures (2), the faithful saint is likened to a well-watered, fruit-bearing tree (3).
The second half of the first Psalm turns to the wicked (4-6), beginning with the simple, devastating statement: “The ungodly are not so” (4). Contrary to God’s people (1-2), the unconverted fellowship together in their sin and despise God’s Word. Whereas the godly man is “blessed” (1), the “ungodly are not so” (4). God’s attitude towards them is not one of love and favour but of wrath. Jehovah does not work graciously in them to restrain sin and make their works partly righteous in His eyes. They bring forth no good “fruit” and do not “prosper” spiritually (3). There is no common grace here!
Psalm 1:6 observes that “the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” Obviously, the omniscient God “knows” the ways of both believers and unbelievers, if “know” here simply means “be aware of intellectually.” This text is, therefore, saying that Jehovah “knows [with the intimate knowledge of love]” the “way” (i.e., lifestyle, behaviour) of His saints. The Hebrew parallelism of Psalm 1:6 teaches us that God does not “know” (i.e., love) the “way” (i.e., lifestyle, behaviour) of the wicked; He hates their “way” because the reprobate are totally depraved, as are all their works (Prov. 6:16-19; Rom. 3:10-18). Thus not only will the wicked be condemned in the great judgment day (Ps. 1:5) and be driven away like chaff before the wind (4), but also God so detests their behaviour and lifestyle that even “the way of the ungodly shall perish” (6)!
Psalm 2 provides an excellent refutation of common grace and what it is supposed to be able to do. The “heathen,” the “people,” the “kings of the earth” and the “rulers” (1-2) are the Jews and the Gentiles and their leaders, Herod and Pontius Pilate, according to Acts 4:25-28.
According to the common grace theory, the Roman empire and people with their earthly dominion, military supremacy, material prosperity, superb roads, developed jurisprudence and high level of civilization were greatly blessed by God. Whereas the pagan Romans had the most common grace politically, the unbelieving Jews supposedly had the most common grace religiously (through their external possession of the law and their physical descent from Abraham, etc.).
But what did the ungodly Romans and Jews do with all this alleged love of God for them and towards them and upon them and in them? Psalm 2 tells that they attacked Jehovah and “his anointed” (2) or Messiah (from the Hebrew) or Christ (from the Greek) and nailed God’s incarnate Son to the cross! These supposed promoters of “natural law” (the Romans) and Old Testament law (the Jews) rejected God’s law and cast away His “bands” and “cords” (3). So much for the good works produced by common grace!
Did these wicked Jews and Gentiles thwart God’s purpose of saving His people and exalting his Son? No! “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (6). Is there any divine love for these unbelievers who had received so many good things in God’s providence (not grace)? No! The Lord laughs at them and derides them (4). He does not bless or speak good of, or to, them; He speaks to them “in his wrath” (5). He is in no way pleased with them or their works; He vexes “them in his sore displeasure” (5).
Christ’s crucifixion is followed by His resurrection (7; Acts 13:33) and session at God’s right hand (Ps. 2:6) and rule over all nations (8-9). And what about Christ’s providential government of the reprobate wicked? Is it partly a rule of love for them and partly a rule of holy wrath against them? No, it is entirely the latter: “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (9). In theological terms, the elect are under Christ’s reign of grace; the reprobate are under His reign of power (not grace).
The call of the gospel goes out in Psalm 2: “trust” in Christ (12), “be wise” and “be instructed” (10). “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (11). “Kiss the Son”—an act of homage and submission—otherwise you will “perish” under His anger and “wrath,” even when “kindled but a little” (12).
Psalm 2 ends the way Psalm 1 begins, with an affirmation of the blessedness of God’s elect people: “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Ps. 2:12). Those who do not believe are not blessed but cursed (Gal. 3:6-14; Deut. 27:11-28: 68).
- Volume: 12
- Issue: 7
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
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Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851