The Covenant of Created Supernatural Special Saving Effectual Grace [Particular Voices]



In this post from Particular Voices, Sam Renihan uses John Norton’s meticulous definitions of the word grace to highlight the differences between Paedobaptist and Credobaptist covenant theology.

In case you missed it, maybe this will help:

  • Increated Grace: God willing Spiritual gifts to men.
    • –Special: Election
    • –Common: Spiritual gifts not restricted to the elect
  • Created Grace
    • –Created Natural Grace: The image of God at creation (The grace of nature is the remainder of the image post-fall)
    • –Created Supernatural Grace: Gifts unattainable by nature (thus supernatural) after the fall.
      • –Created Supernatural Common Grace: Gifts that are unattainable by nature but are not saving in efficacy. They are simply capacities beyond the natural fallen condition of man, and are not peculiar to the elect. Some are pure; some are fallen.
      • –Created Supernatural Saving Grace: Efficacious grace merited by Christ as Savior and applied by the Holy Spirit, enabling the soul to obey the commands of God
  • Free Grace refers either to Increated Free Grace which is Election or Created Free Grace which is the effects of Election (salvation applied).

What happens when we get these definitions wrong? Does God help us to earn our salvation? We must maintain the “special” character of saving grace or else the covenant of grace is not the covenant of grace.

12 Replies to “The Covenant of Created Supernatural Special Saving Effectual Grace [Particular Voices]”

  1. What if the very categories are wrong?
    Where is “grace” ever used of/ for the reprobate in Scripture?
    Ans: It isn’t; it is reserved for the Father’s adopted children alone.

    “Common” “grace” is an oxymoron, an impossibility. At least, biblically. Grace is by biblical definition, uncommon.

    1. While I don’t disagree with you, these are also just common theological terms used still to this day. If I had it my way I would call “common grace” what I think the Bible calls it “common love” (Matt 5)… either way the definition would be the same.

      1. Jason, if the biblical writers use “grace” terminology to refer to that which God shows toward the non-elect and which falls short of salvation, you need feel no shame in mimicking their example.

        1. Thanks for the feedback Dr. Gonzalez… Just to be clear, I don’t deny the theology, or the term, as far as I know though when people talk about common grace they talk about “rain on the just and the unjust” etc… Which in the context is referring to God’s love for all mankind. I understand that even that is of grace, but is there places in the Bible I am missing that specifically refer to that as grace as well? Thanks.

          1. Jason, good question.

            My point is this: those who object to using the phrase “common grace” to refer to God’s indiscriminate benevolence (love) and kindness toward the elect and non-elect alike usually do so because they allege that “grace” has a narrow definition that precludes such usage. “Grace,” in their minds, means “God’s saving favor toward the ill-deserving.” That is one way in which “grace” (or its cognates) is used in the Bible. But it is by no means the only way it’s used. Take, for instance, the following observation Luke makes about Jesus:

            “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor (χάριτι) with God and man” (Luke 2:52 ESV).

            Note carefully the following:

            (1) In this text χάρις, which is the common Greek term for “grace,” is directed toward the God-man Christ Jesus. How can the sinless Son of God be the recipient of “God’s saving favor to the ill-deserving“?

            (2) In this text χάρις, which is the common Greek term for “grace,” is predicated not only of God but also of sinful humans (ἀνθρώποις).

            (3) In this text χάρις, which is the common Greek term for “grace,” actually refers to merited favor rather than to unmerited favor. In other words, Jesus growth in wisdom and virtue solicited a response of favor from God and the people with whom he came into contact.

            Conclusion: the Greek χάρις has a much broader semantic field than “God’s saving favor to the ill-deserving.” This is also true of the corresponding Hebrew terminology as well as the very English term “grace.” Hence, there are no linguistic grounds whatsoever for objecting to the use of “grace” (or its cognates) to denote non-salvific favor. In particular, we are on solid linguistic and theological ground when using it to denote that divine benevolence or kindness which is extended indiscriminately to the elect and non-elect.

          2. This is precisely why it is important to clarify what we mean by sola gratia when dealing with Roman Catholics, Federal Visionists, etc. If salvation “by grace alone” is interpreted as salvation by merited (by us) favor, the gospel is lost.

          3. You are correct, Patrick. The Scriptures speak of both merited and also of unmerited grace/favor, just as they speak of both conditional and unconditional love. That’s a fact. Of course, the solution is not to deny the different the varied senses in which “grace” and “love” are used in Scripture. It is, rather, to apply the proper sense of the terms in each respective context in which they occur. And I would say the same about the need to distinguish “common grace” from “saving grace.”

          4. “gratis communis: common grace; i.e., a nonsaving, universal grace according to which God in his goodness bestows his favor upon all creation in the general blessings of physical sustenance and moral influence for the good. Thus, rain falls on the just and the unjust, and all men have the law engraved on their hearts. Gratia communis is therefore contrasted by the Reformed with particular or special grace (gratia particularis sive specialis, q.v.).” Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology by Richard A. Muller

          5. I think that there is a great danger in rejecting the terminology of “common grace.” For if the benefits and blessings that God bestows on all mankind isn’t of grace, then what is it of? Works? Either it is unmerited or it is based on ones merit, it is earned. Surely, it is not because the unjust earned rain therefore God made it to rain on them (Matt 5:45). While God does not give saving grace to all men, he is still gracious to all people. For each day that a man is not instantly condemned is unmerited from them, as that is what all sinful men deserve. While Romans 11:6 is specifically talking about saving grace, it still shows us the nature of grace as opposed to that which is earned by works,”But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Psalm 104 is a great testament to God’s providential care over his creation and lists many things which are provided, not only to God’s people, but also to those who are not, particularly verses 14-15.

          6. Amen, Eric. One text that comes to mind is Romans 2:4 – “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

    2. The biblical terminology as well as the English terms that translate it are used in both salvific and also non-salvific senses. Hence, the attempt to insist that all “grace” in the Bible must be of the special and salvific sort is linguistically and biblically naïve at best. The idea of “common grace” has semantic as well as theological warrant.

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