How does Scripture describe God's benevolence to believers and unbelievers alike?

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Answer

Scripture describes God's benevolence both within the covenant community and outside. Within the covenant community, there are believers and unbelievers; it's assumed from the very beginning, at the Old Testament all the way through the New. There are people who profess faith who are genuinely Christians, who are genuinely born again, and there are those people who profess faith who, in the end, appear not to be. But it's important to recognize that within the covenant community, God blesses all, regenerate and unregenerate. Often the benevolence of God within the covenant community is the means by which the unbeliever comes to faith. For example, in the covenant community you have a priority on common relationships, on providing for people in need. The church is a society which is different than the world outside, where it's a safe place, where people value the things that God values, and the unbeliever can benefit from those things just as a believer can. And, it's good to remember, those are often the means by which people come to true saving faith. Outside the church, we can speak of what theologians call "common grace," which is the rain that falls on the just and the unjust. All people alike experience beauty and goodness in creation. Although, as we learn from Romans 1 that the blessings on those who never turn to God in thanks actually accrue to their debt rather than to their benefit. But God's kindness within the covenant community assumes that there are people who will be, for lack of a better expression, "tares among the wheat," and we don't know until the final harvest who is truly to be gathered in.

Answer by Rev. Michael J. Glodo

Rev. Michael J. Glodo is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL.