Common Grace-Pt. 1

As those who trust in Christ, we should regularly reflect on the wonder of redemptive grace God has given us in his Son. Though our offenses against God deserve eternal punishment, Christ has paid our penalty in full through his death on the cross. God has therefore declared us pleasing in his sight. Not only that, but we are in the process of being remade to resemble Christ more and more, and will one day be with him in glory forever.

Certainly these central truths should often be the cause of our thankfulness, joy, and peace. Even so, our preoccupation with the grace God exercises in saving his people should not cause us to lose sight of other ways in which demonstrates his graciousness. In fact, the Bible shows that God’s gracious activity has always been extended even to those outside of his people. Theologians have often called this common grace. Consider a few examples:

1. Even though they are now marred by sin, fallen human beings still retain the image of God (Gen. 9:6, James 3:9), i.e., they still reflect something of who God is.

2. David, addressing God in Psalm 8, writes: “You have made [man] a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet” (Psa. 8:3-6). That God still intends for fallen people to reign over his creation supports the fact that they retain some of their ability to exercise many gifts and skills.

3. God continues to provide the essential gifts of light and heat from the sun and sustaining rain to those who continue to disobey him: “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mat. 5:43-45).

4. Jesus notes that those rebelling against God are capable of demonstrating positive character traits (see Luke 6:32-34). In fact, a moment’s reflection will remind most Christians of non-believers they know who show exemplary character in various ways.

5. Wisdom is another gift that God dispenses liberally. For example, Proverbs 8 asserts “all who govern justly” ultimately do so because of the wisdom God provides (see vv. 15-16 in particular.

6. Finally, the book of 1 Kings tells us that Solomon, when making preparations to build God’s temple, sent to Hiram, king of Tyre, saying: “Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. And my servants will join your servants, and I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set, for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians” (5:6). Note that Solomon here asserts that in the skill of woodcutting the craftsman of Tyre exceeded those belonging to God’s own people. And he willingly employs them in the service of building Israel’s place of worship.

In my next post, I’ll share some practical implications the doctrine of common grace should have for our lives.

(My thanks to Jerram Barrs for his unpublished lecture entitled “Common Grace,” which provided some of material in these posts.)

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