"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:44-45).
Of the few texts which are cited in support of common grace with any plausibility, Matthew 5:44-45 perhaps occurs the most frequently, though usually without any supporting exegesis. All agree that God does give good things to the reprobate in this life. But does this text really teach that the earthly good things given by God to the reprobate are given by God out of love for the reprobate?
The common grace interpretation of Matthew 5:44-45, of course, creates several serious problems, problems which are largely ignored by the theory’s advocates. How can the one and undivided God love and hate the same people at the same time? How can the eternal, unchanging God have a temporal, changeable love for the reprobate? Remember this alleged love of God for the reprobate begins with their conception (unless it is posited that God eternally loved the reprobate) and ends with their death (unless it is posited that God loves the reprobate in Hell). Various evasions, such as "paradox," have been made but no proper response has been given. In the meantime, the churches and individuals who hold this theory (and those who follow them) go further away from the truth of Calvinism (which they profess to hold) and deeper and deeper into Arminianism, protesting all the while that they are Reformed.
But aside from these wider issues, we must examine the text itself. Its subject is the Christian’s treatment of his "enemies," who are also called "them that curse you," "them that hate you" and "them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Christ tells us here that we must do four things with respect to our enemies: we must "love," "bless," "do good" and "pray for" them. Our motivation for loving, blessing, doing good and praying for our enemies is "that [we] may be the children of [our] Father which is in heaven." For there is a likeness between our righteous actions and those of our Father who "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." To put it differently, the text makes a comparison between what believers are called to do (44) and what God does (45), for in our doing these things (44), we show ourselves to be His children (45). Thus we need to consider the similarities and dissimilarities between what we must do towards our enemies and what our Father does towards the "evil" and "unjust." What exactly is being compared? Does Christ do any of the four things ("love," "bless," "do good" and "pray") for His enemies that we are to do to our enemies? Christ most certainly does "love," "bless," "do good" and "pray for" His elect enemies. His doing these very things for us is our salvation through the blood of His cross. But does Christ do any, all or some of these things for His reprobate enemies? And does God do any, all or some of these things for His reprobate enemies? To these questions we will turn next time (DV).
- Volume: 9
- Issue: 21
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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