Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Why I Am Thankful for Common Grace

This year, my father will turn 76 years old and my mother will turn 71 years old.  According to Stats Canada, my father is just about to reach the average life expectancy for a man living in his geographical area.  My mother has had health issues of late, and I am mindful that they are not young anymore, and they won't live forever. Whenever I hang up the phone after talking to them, I am thankful for God's common grace.

What is common grace?  Is there more than one kind of grace?

Grace is a facet of God's character, and it manifests itself in different ways. This post does not attempt to highlight everything about common grace in all its ramifications. If you want to know more, do check our Rebecca's theological term page, especially the resources at the end of the definition of common grace.

Common grace is not saving grace.  Common grace is bestowed to everyone, regardless of whether or not he is redeemed.  It emanates from God's goodness, especially directed to his creation.  Wayne Grudem defines it this way:
The grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation.1
Michael Horton defines it this way:
God's bestowal of a variety of gifts and blessings on Christians and non-Christians alike, such as health, intelligence, friendship, vocation, family, government, art, science, etc.  Common grace upholds fallen humanity, but it is not saving.2
The word "common" refers to the very ordinary good things God gives us daily.  Psalm 145:9 tells us that "The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made" (emphasis mine).   God's common grace is seen abundantly through creation, how he upholds and sustains it.  Psalm 145 goes on:
The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works. (v.14-17)
Common grace manifests itself in many ways.  The beauty of the world is common grace.  Food to nourish us, beautiful music, literature, clean drinking water, warm homes in the winter, and the harvest in the fall are all evidences of common grace.  We could go on and on. We recognize that unbeliving people also enjoy these gifts from God daily. This is part of his goodness, but it is not saving grace.  It does not flow from the atonement, but rather, from his character.

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. suggests some further benefits of common grace:
Common grace curbs sin, it maintains moral order in the universe, it distributes gifts and talents among men.3
Another benefit of his common grace is in how it relates to sin.  As Johnson indicates, common grace restrains evil.  The world is not as bad as it could be. The conscience that lives within men and women is also part of common grace (Romans 1:19-20).  Authorities, governments, and rulers help restrain evil.  Living in a country with laws to protect people is common grace.

Another way common grace is seen in God's dealing with sin is the fact that God does not judge us immediately.  Adam and Eve, after they sinned, did not immediately die.  They did eventually experience physical death, but they were also allowed to live and enjoy the things that God created. In being given life rather than immediate judgment, we have the opportunity to hear the gospel and be converted.  By not judging us immediately, God extends grace. That the Lord tarries is not slowness, but grace. Second Peter 3:9 tells us:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
So, why, for the sake of my parents am I thankful for common grace?  My parents do not know the Lord, and they are both over seventy years of age.  Their continued good health is part of God's common grace extended to them. They have access to health care without fear of being turned away.  They have medication available to them when they do get sick.  They are retired, but have enough money to live on comfortably. 

I attend a church filled with many seniors.  I have seen and heard the health issues they have and the challenges that accompany them.  My parents have not had to deal with anything like that; things like heart disease, stroke, or cancer, the things that can kill.  When they have been sick, they have recovered.

God was gracious to them when I was a child.  Through God's grace, I had a home to live in, food to eat, protection, and love.  It was modest, but we were never hungry. I knew I was loved and cared for. His extension of common grace to them generated benefits that I shared in even before I was redeemed.

And now, God continues to extend grace.  There is still time for my parents to come to know Him.  Every day God gives them is another opportunity for them to respond to the gospel.  It isn't easy to be a witness to them, because they live across the country, but there are still opportunities.  It is a challenge to me, knowing that God continues to demonstrate this grace; a challenge to find ways to be a witness.

If you have unbelieving family members, thank God for his common grace.  When you share your faith with them tell them this undeniable truth:  God is good to you, but He's good to them, too.

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1.  Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p. 481
2.  Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, p. 992
3.  S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., The Doctrine of Common Grace

3 comments:

  1. This is really good, Kim. Blesses me.
    Grace and Peace,
    Jojo

    ReplyDelete
  2. Common grace is often overlooked, I think, but it's a wonderful gift to us.

    ReplyDelete