Jehoash, Amaziah and Common Grace
(II Kings 12:2; II Chron. 25:2)?
(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
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
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."