Theology 101

God’s Eternal Love and Restraint

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We have asked, “for what purpose would God shower common grace upon humanity?” First, God’s common grace prevents fallen human beings from doing all the wrong they could do.

The second answer is that through common grace God restrains his wrath against sinful humanity. In his book The Doctrine of God, theologian John Frame notes it is surprising that human beings receive any blessing from God at all:

God would have acted justly if he had destroyed the human race after the Fall. But instead he allowed human life to continue, promising redemption by the offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15). And throughout Scripture we see that God does not give people the awesome punishment they deserve. [John] Murray points out that God restrains the painful effects of the curse: of the thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:17) and of the wild beasts (Gen. 9:2, 5). God sometimes “overlooks” disobedience (Acts 17:30; cf. 14:16; Rom. 3:25). In the Old Testament period, he permitted divorce because of Israel’s hardness of heart (Matt. 19:8), even though he hates divorce (Mal. 2:16).

We dedicated an entire series to talking about the kingdom of God, and we looked at how we are living in a time where the kingdom is already here but has not yet come in its fullness. At the end of this age Christ will return and usher in the fullness of the kingdom. This is when all wrongs will be righted, and God will punish all sin, either by punishing the offender or by placing the offender’s sins on Jesus.

The fact that this final judgment is still to come is another example of God’s restraint through his common grace. He postpones his judgment in order to give people an opportunity to repent. As Peter says in 2 Peter 3:9: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God’s eternal love is seen in his restrained wrath redirected towards the cross. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

He is not only restoring our relationship, but is restraining his wrath toward us and offering us salvation. This is demonstrated in and accomplished through common grace.

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