Theology 101

What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?

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Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…

The opening line of the 1930 radio show “Detective Story”

We’ve discussed that common grace is God’s kindness and mercy toward all members of the human race regardless of their spiritual condition. It is, as theologian John Murray wrote, “every favour of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith firmly distinguishes between saving grace and common grace:

Although the works done by unregenerate men may in themselves be things which God commands and things which are useful to themselves and others, yet—because they do not come from a heart purified by faith, are not done in a right manner according to the Word, and are not done for the right purpose, which is to glorify God—they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God or make one suitable to receive his grace. Yet, neglecting them is even more sinful and displeasing to God.

The next question that needs to be asked is, for what purpose would God shower common grace upon humanity? The answer is threefold. Here we will address the first part of the answer. Parts two and three will be addressed in further articles.

The answer to why God gives common grace begins with an understanding that through common grace God restrains sin. The American evangelist Jonathan Edwards said, “If sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.”

God’s common grace prevents fallen human beings from doing all the wrong they could do. A few examples are the following:

  • God prevented others from killing Cain (Genesis 4:15)
  • God prevented Abimelech king of Gerar from sexual sin with Abraham’s wife Sarah (Genesis 20:6).
  • God prevented Sennacherib king of Assyria from doing all the harm to Israel that he had planned (2 Kings 19:27-28).
  • God protected His own Son Jesus from harm until the time for His death arrived. (Matthew 2:13-23).
  • God now restrains “the secret power of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
  • God holds even Satan in check, allowing him to go only so far and no farther (Job 1:12; 2:6).

Common grace keeps our depravity from becoming absolute; it keeps the world from falling into anarchy. It restrains the evil that lurks in men’s hearts.

Question: In what ways have you seen God’s common grace in your daily life? Leave a comment here.

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