Common Mercy?

Some people who say they don't hold to common grace say they hold to "common mercy." They say things like, "God is not gracious toward everyone without exception, but He is merciful toward everyone without exception." They use Psalm 145:9 as a proof text.

Grace is "giving something someone doesn't deserve," while mercy is "not giving something someone does deserve." Thus, the advocates of common mercy say that God is merciful to the reprobate on the earth by not giving them what they deserve, which is immediate damnation in hell. But what does He give them instead? Life on the earth to enjoy. As you can probably immediately see, this starts overlapping with "common grace." If God doesn't give them immediate hell which they do deserve, He does give them life on earth, which they do not deserve.

Is life on earth, rather than immediate hell, a sign of God's mercy toward the reprobate? Does the fact that God has decreed that the reprobate enjoy life (sun & rain, etc.) rather than immediately go to hell, show that God is merciful toward them?

The answer is a definite NO. The Bible clearly shows that the reprobate's life on this earth is a preparation for hell! It is, in fact, part of God's curse on them that they would live on the earth and enjoy it, because each day they live, God hardens them more and more. No, this is no mere "passive hardening" ("leaving them in their sin"); it is active hardening. And they deserve to be actively hardened before they go to hell. It is like being fattened for the slaughter. God is showing no mercy by doing this; He is giving them what they deserve.

Look at Psalm 73: After Asaph describes the "good things" the wicked are given, he says, "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction." Those "good things" were "slippery places"! And look at Psalm 92: "When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever"! So why do the reprobate live on the earth? Is it because God is merciful? NO!! It is that they shall be destroyed forever! The reason that they live is that they shall be destroyed! No mercy here.

Some "common mercy" advocates go so far as to say that God is merciful the reprobate who hear the preaching of the gospel. Their reasoning goes like this: The reprobate don't deserve to hear the gospel. Thus, when they come under the sound of the gospel, this is God showing mercy to them. What they do not realize is that some of the reprobate come under the hearing of the gospel in order to further harden them for destruction! God is not merciful to the reprobate in the preaching of the gospel; instead, He uses the gospel as a "savor of death unto death" for them (2 Corinthians 2:16).

So what about Psalm 145:9? Isn't God merciful to all his works? And don't all his works include the reprobate? Well, as I hope you will see, "all his works" does not mean "every single work without exception." First, look at the context:

Verse 8: "The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy."

Grace and mercy are here tied together. If God is merciful to someone, He is gracious to someone.

God is "full of compassion." Is this talking about God's attitude toward the reprobate? Let's look at some other Psalms: "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision" (2:4). "The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming" (37:13). "But thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them; thou shalt have the heathen in derision" (59:8). No compassion here.

God is "slow to anger." Is this talking about the reprobate? Well, let's look at Psalm 7:11: "God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day." Slow to anger with the reprobate? Obviously not.

Thus, verse 8 is not talking about every human being without exception.

Verse 10: "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee."

If "all thy works" includes the reprobate, then the reprobate will praise God.

Look further down at verses 14 to 20. "Common mercy" and "common grace" advocates like to quote verses 14 to 16. "The Lord upholdeth all that fall ... thou givest them their meat in due season ... satisfiest the desire of every living thing." But look at verse 19: "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him." And verse 20: "The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy." Common mercy? Common grace? Hardly!

And think about this: If "his tender mercies are over all his works" means that He has mercy on all humans without exception, including the reprobate, giving them life and good things out of mercy toward them, then what of the reprobate Ethiopian who is dying of starvation? Is this mercy toward this reprobate? So what is God not giving this person what he does deserve? Is the fact that he is still living a proof of God's mercy toward that person? Of course not.

So, from all this, it is obvious that God's tender mercies that are over all his works do not include the reprobate.

Just as GRACE is tied to the gospel, so must MERCY be tied to the gospel. God does not show grace OR mercy apart from law and justice being satisfied for all to whom God shows grace and mercy. God's grace is His saving hell-deserving sinners based on the righteousness of His Son. God's mercy is His not sending some sinners to hell based on their character and conduct. Mercy and grace are inextricably linked. If you have uncommon grace, you must have uncommon mercy. If you have common mercy, you must have common grace.


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