Common Grace, 1.54

Common Grace, 1.54 June 2, 2020

This post is part of a series walking through the first volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace.

Kuyper begins this chapter with five points about the Word, as drawn from John 1:1-14:

  • The Word was
  • The Word shines
  • The Word has come
  • The Word is witnessed to by John the Baptist
  • The Word has become flesh

But, he asks, what do these mean?

In short, they mean that God is now dwelling with man and will forever be man in His human nature. The is a change from the way God had dealt with His people in the past under the Old Covenant with Israel. As a transition point between that old way and the Incarnation “stands the testimony of John the Baptist.” (476) John the Baptist rises above Israel as a transitional figure, as Jesus Himself says he [John the Baptist] is greater than all previous Israelites. That is why John the Baptist comes before Israel in John 1.

What Jesus meant by highlighting the importance of John the Baptist, which seems weird given how little we know about John and given the fact that he apparently did no miracles, is that John was important because of his “mission”, rather than because of his “person.”

  1. John’s mission, unlike that of Moses or Isaiah, was foretold.
  2. His birth was announced by an angel and the Holy Spirit filled him in the womb.
  3. John believed that Jesus was the Messiah immediately.
  4. John stood out to the religious and political leaders of the time.
  5. John changed the mission of the Jews, so that they too needed to be baptized in order to join the new kingdom.

So John is above Moses and the rest because he ends their work and points to the new work of Christ that came into the world. Christ’s coming was not through the Virgin Birth: Jesus was already the Light and shines on everyone. John 1 is clear about that. What’s less clear is that this pre-Incarnate shining was the light of common grace.

All of which to say that John 1 is about, in part, the ongoing function of common grace. The dwelling among us is the beginning of particular grace, but it is not the beginning of the work of the Light/Word. Obviously there is overlap between particular and common grace. Mankind rebels against and resists both, for example. But there is also a distinction made between them in John 1.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

"That'll teach those dead babies and orphaned children who's boss."

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