The Benevolence of God

Yesterday we covered quite a bit in discussing the common misconceptions and misunderstandings of God’s love.  Just as we learned of God’s wrath toward the unrepentant sinner, we must also look at what the Bible says regarding the benevolence, or kindness, that God shows toward all of His creatures, whether they be redeemed or lost.  The classic passage for this subject can be found in Matthew 5:44-45, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  In the context of love in this passage, here we have Jesus describing the very benevolent nature of God who shows not only kindness towards the just, i.e. believers, but also the unjust.  It’s important for us not to confuse the source of God’s kindness with His salvific, redemptive love that He has for His children.  Described here is a general benevolence that has led many theologians to use the phrase “common grace”, meaning that God shows grace, without distinction, to all.  This can be seen in the blessings, happiness, even life that both believers and unbelievers experience.

In Psalm 145:9 we read, “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”  Again, let us not assume that God’s mercy here is contradictory to His justice, because He stated to Moses in Exodus 33:19, “…And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”   Later in Psalm 145 the psalmist writes, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.  You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.  The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.”  Psalm 145:15-17  We see the kindness of God toward the unbeliever again in Luke 6:35-36, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”  Finally, in the context of the “other nations” (aside from Israel, which we discussed yesterday) Paul is quoted in Acts 14:16-17 as saying, “In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.  Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

God is a gracious and good God.  He not only blesses believers, but also unbelievers.  It should not be left unsaid that believers face just as many trials, struggles, and hardships, just as the unbelievers.  But we must ask why.  Why would God, who is holy, have a righteous anger with the sinner everyday, but likewise show them kindness?  Just as we saw yesterday, God’s love is not incompatible with His wrath.  He is not emotional like we are going from anger to love and back to anger.  God shows forth kindness towards the sinner so that they may see He is a good God, repent of their sins, and turn to Him.  “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?  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:4-5 In God’s kindness and benevolence, He also puts His patience with sinners on display.  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9 God in His benevolence, flowing forth from His goodness has shown kindness to unbelievers.  He has been patient in withholding His wrath and longsuffering in delaying justice, but make no mistake about it dear reader, His wrath will not be withheld forever.  For those who do not repent of their sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, judgment awaits.  Don’t ignore the kindness and goodness that God has shown towards you, repent and believe the Gospel!

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