Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Jehoash, Amaziah and Common Grace
(II Kings 12:2; II Chron. 25:2)?

Herman Hoeksema

(Originally published in the Standard Bearer, 15 February, 1964, vol. 40)


And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him (II Kings 12:2).
And he (Amaziah) did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did (II Kings 14:3).
And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart (II Chron. 25:2).

These were some of the scriptural passages to which the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church referred to as proof for the "Third Point." These passages were quoted (without any interpretation) to prove that the natural man can do good.

The Christian Reformed Synod, in the Third Point makes a distinction between saving good and civil good. Let that be as it may, although I do not want to subscribe to the distinction. Any act of man is either good or evil, i.e., in the moral or ethical sense of the word.

Good is an act when it is motivated by the love of God and of men; evil an act when in its deepest root it is motivated by hatred of God and our fellow men. There is nothing else. There can be nothing else. Now, according to the Synod of Kalamazoo, 1924, the unregenerate man can do what is called civil good. Hence, the Synod maintains that a man that is not motivated by the love of God and of the neighbour, who, in fact, in his deepest heart is motivated by enmity against God and against the neighbor, can do good. You may call it natural or civil good—to me that makes no difference—it is not sin but good, in the moral and ethical sense of the word.

1. As to Jehoash we read that he did right, not from the love of God, nor from the motive of a certain "common grace"; but he was under the influence of Jehoiada, the priest. And when the priest had died, the king, as is evident from the record we find of him in II Chronicles 24, forsook Jehovah and became wicked.

2. To Amaziah applies the same thing. Of him we read, too, that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord (II Kings 14:3). Thus also in II Chronicles 25:2: "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord." We must understand, in the first place, that this "right in the sight of the Lord" refers to that which he did as king, particularly, to certain reforms he brought about. But, in the second place, he did this "not as David his father," and he did it not 'with a perfect heart." Whatever his motives may have been, he did it not from "a perfect heart," not from the love of Jehovah his God and, therefore, whatever he did was not good, but was sin. That this is true is evident from what we read in II Chronicles 25:14ff.: "Now it came to pass, after Amaziah had come from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the children of Seir, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense before them." And when a prophet of God came to rebuke him, he said to the prophet: "Art thou made of the king's counsel? Forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten?" (v. 16).

I say again that the mere fact that a man can and does something right is no proof at all that so-called "common grace" restrains him from sin. On the contrary, at the same time that he does well, he sins against God.

Westminster Confession 16:7: "Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God."

For more, see "The Curse-Reward of the Wicked Well-Doer."