Common Grace

Posted: December 18, 2008 in Uncategorized

If you’ve been following my run through Grudem’s Systematic The0logy (or if you’ve heard me preach or teach on the message of Jesus) then you know that Scripture teaches that any time we sin we deserve eternal punishment.  Yet, even if a person doesn’t come to Christ, he or she does not automatically die and fall into hell after they sin, why?  Theologians refer to this state as “common grace.”

Wayne Grudem defines common grace as follows: “Common grace is the grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation.” 

For example, the fact that all people, whether they follow Jesus or not, continue to exist in this physical realm and enjoy it (Ps. 145:9, 15-16).  All people also enjoy the intellectual realm (i.e., “even unbelievers…are not totally given over to lying, irrationality, and ignorance.”), the moral realm (i.e., an inate sense of right and wrong even if it skewed by sin), the creative realm (i.e., the arts), the societal realm (i.e., governments, institutions like secular non-profits, etc.) and even the religious realm.  After all, we probably all know those outside of the faith who do good things for others.

Now, to be clear, common grace does not save people even though it enriches and influences all of us. 

So, why does God bestow common grace? Grudem lists four reasons: (1) to redeem those who will be saved (2 Peter 3:9-10); (2) to demonstrate God’s goodness and mercy (Ps. 145); (3) to demonstrate God’s justice; and (4) to demonstrate his glory.

What is the proper response to common grace? Grudem lists three (1) “Common grace does not mean that those who will receive it will be saved” (I think that’s a “duh” at this point); (2) “we must be careful not to reject the good things that unbelievers do as totally evil”; and (3) “the doctrine of common grace should stir our hearts to much greater thankfulness to God.”

The last one is the one that resonates with me the most.  One of the objections I constantly hear about orthodox Christianity is that a loving God would not send anyone to Hell.  Now, I could go on about this forever but suffice to say that God is loving to the point that despite the fact that many of the people he knitted together himself essentially spit in his face, he still grants many of them a life full of riches such as good food, a first kiss, great music, etc.  That is common grace.

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