What is Grace? It has been dumbed down by Modern Reformed Thought.

I am lifting this from an old Puritanboard blog I did a while back.
So this might not come out good for a few days as I have to rework it into this format. I wanted to respond to a few modern Reformed Perspective guys. Specifically a Reformed Prof at Westminster West and a Pastor in Florida.


One of the ways in which the evangelicals are following the mainliners is in the redefinition of “grace.” There is no such thing as “tough grace.” There is tough love and there is tough law but in the nature of things grace cannot be “tough.” Grace is the unmerited favor, approval of God. It is free. It is undeserved. It is transformative. It is sovereign. It is unconditional. It is relentless. It is many things but it is not “tough.” Indeed, the ESV translates Charis (or some word related to it) as “grace” 124 times in the NT. In not a single usage is there an obvious case where Scripture refers to or wants us (the reader/hearer) to conceive of grace as “tough.”
….Yes, there are moral implications for those who are the recipients of grace but it does not help us to re-define grace.

For some reason this doesn’t jive with me. Especially since I see God’s grace being more than just unmerited favor. ‘Unmerited Favor’ is a recently overly narrowed definition of grace. Grace or Charis is defined differently by the scriptures in my estimation. It is unmerited but it is not just unmerited favor.

Grace is more than unmerited favor although it is always unmerited.

In the old strongs greek a partial definition is ….5485
“the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”

Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language
Grace; (10) Theol. a) the unmerited love and favor of God toward man. b) Divine influence acting in man to make him pure and morally strong. c) the condition of a person thus influenced d) Special virtue given to a person by God.

Harpers Bible Dictionary
grace; The English translation of a Greek word meaning concretely, “that wihch brings delight, joy , happiness, or good fortune.” Grace in classical Greek applied to art, persons, speech, or athletics, as well as to good fortune, kindness and power bestowed by the gods upon divine men, moving them to miraculous deeds.

Webster’s 1828
grace 3) Favorable influence of God; divine influence or the influence of the spirit, in renewing the heart and restraining from sin 6) Virtuous or religious affection or disposition, as a liberal disposition, faith, meekness, humility, patience (proceeding from divine influence).

Examining a few scriptures will also tell you more about grace.

2 Corinthians 12:9 And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

As Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Grace and power are synonomous here in the Corinthian passages.

(Tit 2:11-12) For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

In Titus Grace teaches.

In short Grace can be monergistic or synergistic. In regard to regeneration it is monergistic. In reguard to the supernatural gifts it is probably monergistic. In relation to the Spirit influencing us to work out our salvation, endure chastisement and discipline, and endure hardship it is probably synergistic.

Also, I think it is gracious and influencing when God influences us by discipline. Discipline is a grace and a means of grace by His Spirit. It is hard when we are disciplined. It isn’t anything that we desire naturally. That is why the book of Hebrews states this….

(Heb 12:5) And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

(Heb 12:6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

(Heb 12:7) If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

(Heb 12:8) But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

(Heb 12:9) Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

(Heb 12:10) For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

(Heb 12:11) Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

(Heb 12:12) Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

(Heb 12:13) And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

(Heb 12:14) Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

(Heb 12:15) Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

Grace is much more than the watered down version of unmerited favor. In fact the reason I started studying grace was because we are saved by it through faith. The definition of unmerited favor alone was not what awakened this dead sinner from death. It is what I am kept by also. Yes, it is unmerited but it is also something much much more.

Just my humble opinion. And I aint always correct.

The grace (Charis) of God is prodding and influential. As our Lord said to St. Paul, “It is hard for thee to kick against the goads.”

I didn’t mention who wrote the quote because it jaundices the whole discussion. It becomes a personality issue. It gets sidetracked and the issues don’t get discussed. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful or uncaring of the author’s position nor his office. If he chose to chime in that would be his decision. I wanted to discuss the issue of grace and law. Not the personalities because the personality issue scews it so bad.

I have been thinking about this Law / Grace dichotomy thing a lot. Rich (a friend from afar) was the one who actually helped me out a whole bunch concerning this topic. We had a discussion on the phone one night that jarred my whole understanding. I was thinking like a Modern Day Particular Baptist which is still a far cry from the ‘Unmerited Favor’ only guys, but still very close to what is being taught concerning the Law / Grace issue being taught today. In my understanding I was even misrepresenting Charles Hodge and his thought that a lot of guys in my camp (Reformed) are using to promote the idea of this Law / Grace dichotomy.

BTW, now I prefer to use a different terminology and understanding between Law and Grace. Instead of seeing them as a dichotomy I prefer to see distinctions between them and their connectedness in the Covenant of Grace. They use the words distinction also but mean dichotomy. I prefer the word distintion. It kind of has to do with Calvin’s understanding of twofold grace in Union with Christ.

I was seeing the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace running through the Covenants side by side each other. I was so off base in my thinking I believe. Rev. Winzer tried to show me in a thread on the Puritanbord a long time ago that I was misrepresenting Hodge. Of course I couldn’t see it because I was so jaundiced in my Law / Grace dichotomy.

I am not very good at expressing myself on an intellectual nor scholarly level as some, so I make technical blunders grammatically and theologically. Some of that is because I didn’t retain the my College instruction and much of it has been forgotten after 30 years. So please bare with me.

I see something about the connection between the law and grace that I haven’t seen in the past. I use to see that the law was totally a thing that condemned. It had no redeeming qualities. Without grace that is totally true. But with Grace the law is used from the beginning of post lapsarian time to convert the soul and reveal the nature of God to those who are graced by God. Rich’s discussion with me on the Mosaic Covenant and Ruben Zwartman’s fine influence have completely changed my view of the Law of God when I take in the whole of scripture. Maybe I am not understanding them still but they have challenged my understanding. Even when a whole Nation like Nineveh only hears a strong proclamation of condemnation by God. God graced that King to seek mercy based just upon a pronouncement of condemnation. It was strong and tough for Nineveh to hear the pronouncement.

In the end Jonah was upset with God. Not because Jonah didn’t understand Grace. But precisely because he did and sin had hardened his heart against it for a people that he wanted to see judged for their wickedness.

Let’s play this out…..

(Jon 3:4) And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

(Jon 3:5) So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

(Jon 3:6) For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

(Jon 3:7) And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

(Jon 3:8) But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.

(Jon 3:9) Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

(Jon 3:10) And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

(Jon 4:1) But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

(Jon 4:2) And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil…

(Jon 4:4) Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?…

(Jon 4:9) And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

(Jon 4:10) Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:

(Jon 4:11) And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

In this instance God didn’t even use a pronouncement of repent and I will spare you. God by His grace just used a pronouncement of condemnation to turn a whole Nation from their wicked ways by His Grace. The Law of the Lord Converted a whole Nation. It greatly reminds me of Psalm 19.

(Psa 19:1) To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

(Psa 19:2) Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

(Psa 19:3) There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

(Psa 19:4) Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

(Psa 19:5) Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

(Psa 19:6) His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

(Psa 19:7) The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

(Psa 19:8) The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

(Psa 19:9) The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

(Psa 19:10) More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

(Psa 19:11) Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

(Psa 19:12) Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

(Psa 19:13) Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

(Psa 19:14) Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

The Mosaic and Abrahamic Covenants are purely an administration of the Covenant of Grace in my eyes now. The Grace (Charis) of God is something active and working in the heart of man. The discussion of whether it is earned or not is moot. Unmerited or demerited is not the issue but what it is is the issue for us when we think Covenantally and from a Covenantal framework. The First Covenant with Adam already settles that matter.

The Covenants proceeding after the First one with the First Adam offer hope and direction back to God. They influence the heart of those who are dead in sin to and called of God to return and have a circumcised heart. There is a constant call for repentance in them. That is totally of grace. The law (or declaration of condemnation) is a part of that influencing factor by Grace illuminating it.

Anyways, I know that I am probably not saying it as clearly nor as thought out as I should. Please bare with me in this. I just wanted to discuss this and put aside the personality factors.

BTW, there are many who do not believe Jonah is real. But Jesus said,”Mat 12:40    For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.Mat 12:41    The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.”

I believe Jesus that in the judgement they will judge.


One thought on “What is Grace? It has been dumbed down by Modern Reformed Thought.

  1. […] Favor vs. God's Influential Spiritual Influence. I have made a post somewhat about that here. What is Grace? It has been dumbed down by Modern Reformed Thought. | RPCNA Covenanter They are not opposed in Reformed thought as I understand them from reading William Gurnall and […]

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