God's Grace and Goodness are Always Particular
God's grace and goodness are always particular. That they are particular means that certain specific persons, the elect, are the objects of God's grace and goodness. God's grace is never general, indefinite or common. This is the express teaching of God's Word.
This is true of God's gifts in creation:
- Of the things of this life given by God's providence to the wicked: "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction," Psalm 73:18
- Of the things of this life given by God's providence to his elect: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose," Romans 8:28
This is also true of God's grace in Christ and the preaching of the gospel.
- Of God's purpose in the preaching of the gospel and why the cities of Galilee did not repent: "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes, Even so Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight," Matthew 11:25, 26
- Why Jesus preached in parables,"And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them," Mark 4:11, 12
Underlying the truth of particular grace is the fact that man stands fallen in sin and is worthy in himself only of God's just wrath upon sin.
- This is true of man in general, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one...For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" Romans 3:10, 23
- This is true of the whole human race in Adam, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" Romans 5:12
- This is true of the smallest infant, who is conceived and born in sin, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity ; and in sin did my mother conceive me," Psalm 51:5
Over against that reality of sin stands the righteousness of God. God judges the sinner in time and eternity both in the things of this earthly life and in the day of judgment.
- In this life, "...God is angry with the wicked every day," Psalm 7:11
- In death, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, But after this the judgment," Hebrews 9:27
The wonder is not that some men perish, but that any are saved. Salvation and its blessings are a matter of mere grace, rooted in Christ crucified and His righteousness alone.
- In Christ alone man is free from condemnation, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," Romans 8:1
This blessing comes upon those for whom Christ died, His sheep given Him of the Father, which are God's elect.
- Jesus came to give eternal life effectually, by His power, to the elect, "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." John 17:2
- For His sheep He died, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep." John 10:14, 15
That elect flock is a spiritual seed gathered by the power of grace through faith, born by the wonder and power of grace.
- "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed;..." Romans 4;16
- "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8. 9
- "Now we, brethren , as Isaac was, are the children of the promise." Galatians 4:28
That grace of God is also shown to His people in their generations to gather of the children of believers, a spiritual seed born of the power of God's grace, so that also to the children of believers, the grace of God is particular and for the elect alone.
- "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and thy seed after thee." Genesis 17:7
- "...For they are not all Israel , which are of Israel," Romans 9:6
- "That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of promise are counted for the seed," Romans 9:8
- "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Acts 2:39
Hence grace is always particular. It is so in the creation and the world, in God's providence and His work of salvation, in the church among those who profess Christ, and also in their children. Grace is never common, general, or impersonal. This truth needs to be defended against all kinds of Pelagian and Arminian errors, as well as subtle modifications of them that have crept into the Christian church, also among those who are called Calvinistic, Reformed or Presbyterian.
For Further Study:
The truth of particular grace needs rightly to be understood and studied over against various forms of confusion and error.
Confusion concerning this truth arises in a three-fold way:
- When the truth that God, by His creation and providence reveals Himself as a good God Who does good, and does so without respect of persons, (for man can merit nothing) is confused with an attitude of grace or favor toward all who receive rain and sunshine. Grace is not in things.
- When the truth that the gospel is preached to all who hear, that all are seriously commanded to repent and believe and that the promises are published to all who hear, is confused with the false idea that God's intention is to save all who hear. Preaching is not itself grace, nor an offer of grace, to all. It is the means and power of grace to save the elect and bring them to faith
- When the truth of baptism as a sign of the washing away of sins and spiritual birth, administered to adults or infants, is confused with the grace represented by it, which is a spiritual blessing for the elect only. Grace is not in the water of baptism nor does receiving baptism, whether as infant or adult, mean that all the baptized are children of the promise, true believers, or saved. Baptism is an outward and visible sign and seal of an inward and invisible grace of God which God works in the elect, also in the generations of believers. The Roman Catholic doctrine of baptismal regeneration, the Baptist "believers only" position, and the idea of conditional covenant promises are all forms of the same error which corrupts the truth of particular grace.
While many of these errors are addressed elsewhere on this site especially under the sections on Calvinism and the Five Points of Calvinism, the following material specifically discusses aspects of this subject or errors connected with it.