This post is part of a series walking through the second volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace.
We have seen that God had prepared for Jesus by means of common grace:
- A body;
- An environment;
- A culture/society;
- A system of justice.
Now we move on to
5. The preparation of the world to hear the Gospel post-ascension, so that it might “make room for the world church” (189).
Christ comes only to ascend again, but He leaves behind “a trail of light”–a mystical or spiritual body. He continues to govern “only seeming to be interrupted” through the Spirit and the Church. (189) We don’t need to argue this too much, since Christ’s ongoing governance of the world is found throughout the New Testament.
In one sense, this really started after Pentecost when the Gentiles (i.e. ‘the world’) were brought in. This is His work in our lives, and it is an ongoing work. We’re not going to focus on that personal work here, however. Instead we need to see that Jesus’ work for the world involves a vertical particular grace and a horizontal common grace. To say this a different way, the flood of particular grace flowing from Christ flows into a field of common grace.
Even the church, which has been present since creation, was in the world until Abraham. Post-Abraham, while it is set apart, it is still tied to the whole of life. The church as a separate entity in any broad sense doesn’t exist until the Ascension of Christ. So we have to be flexible with our terms here–the church both did and did not exist pre-Pentecost.
Here (my comment, not Kuyper’s), this confusion of terms should make some sense. Just what is ‘the church’ in the Old Testament is a tricky question, and something not easily answered. So flexibility is probably the best approach… Anyway, back to Kuyper!
Luke 2:1 shows us the preparation of the world for Jesus and the church. This cannot be explained outside of the faith. Mysticism gives us no help here–Jesus must be as active now as He was then. Yet we see no similar results today. China and the East do not turn to the cross, nor does the Muslim world. This is explained when we see that there is a special preparation for the coming of Christ in that common grace moves times differently.
Specifically, we see three requirements for the early church’s rapid spread:
- “Community among the nations;” Rome ended tribal isolation and created a widespread common language and culture;
- historical ripeness; this was a time of peace rather than conflict, with ‘history’ resting in anticipation and without distraction.
- receptivity of temperament; closed and satisfied systems feel no need for the Gospel (which is one reason it has made no headway, according to Kuyper, against Islam and Buddhism). But when false religions stagnate and discord spreads….
These three requirements were planned and prepared in advance through the work of common grace. More on this in the next chapter.