Jehu and Common Grace (II Kings 10:30)?
(Originally published in
the Standard Bearer,
15 February, 1964, vol. 40)
Howbeit from the sins of
Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu
departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that
were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. And the Lord said unto
Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which
was right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab
according to all that was in mine heart; thy children of the
fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel (II
This was one 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.
This, after all, is the
question. It is not the question whether Jehu was an able
general or whether he was zealous in the accomplishment of
the task assigned to him. All this may readily be granted.
Also today the natural man is often very able and ambitious.
But the question is whether he did good
in the moral, ethical sense of the word. That is a question
of motive. And motive is a matter of the inner man, of the
mind, of the will, of the heart.
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 [Heidelberg Catechism, Q. &
A. 91]. 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.
This I, and all Protestant
Reformed people, deny.
To me, and to all of our
people, an act of man is either good or it is sin.
But what, then, about
Did not God Himself say
that Jehu did well in executing that which was right in the
sight of God?
Concerning this I make the
1. Jehu was, according to
Scripture, a wicked man. Before and after the statement that
he had done well in executing that which the Lord had
commanded him, we read that "from the sins of Jeroboam, the
son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from
after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel
and that were in Dan" [II Kings 10:29, 31] Is it possible, then, that he could
do anything good in the moral, ethical sense of the word?
The answer to this question is and must be negative.
2. It is evident that Jehu
was a very able man. As a soldier and general, he was
courageous and undaunted in battle. He was thorough in all
3. It is very evident from
the entire narrative that Jehu saw in the command of God to
extinguish the house of Ahab a golden opportunity to further
his own cause—namely, that he might occupy the throne of
Israel. That was Jehu's sole ambition. And that was also the
motive for all that he did. His motive was not and could not
be the love of God. O, yes, he did well. Perhaps, we may say
that he belonged to those men that are mentioned in Matthew 7:22:
"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not
prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out
devils? and in thy name have done many wonderful works?" No
doubt, they did all these things. Jehu did the same things;
he also did wonderful works. But what did the Lord say to
them? He answered: "I never knew you: depart from me, ye
that work in iniquity" (v. 23).
4. Moreover, for the very
thing which Jehu did so well he was punished. For thus we
read in Hosea 1:4: "And the Lord said unto him, Call his
name Jezreel, for yet a little while and I will avenge the
blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and I will cause to
cease the kingdom of the house of Israel." Indeed, Jehu did
very well in destroying the house of Ahab, but in doing so
he was not motivated by the fear of the Lord, but his own
Hence, in doing well he
sinned. Hence, the text does not sustain the doctrine of the
third point that the natural man is able to do good, civil
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."