Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Common Grace (Part I)

"All People That On Earth Do Dwell"

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
Him serve with fear, his praise forth tell,
Come ye before him and rejoice

The Lord ye know is God indeed;
without our aid he did us make;
We are his folk, he doth us feed
and for his sheep he doth us take.

O enter then his gates with praise.
approach with joy his courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless him name always,
For it is seemly so to do

For why? The Lord our God is good,
His mercy is forever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
and shall from age to age endure.

William Keithe, 1561


"...for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:17)

Adam and Eve were warned by God that if they disobeyed and sinned against God they would die. This death was separation from God. Sin brings punishment. The punishment that sin brings is death. Paul made this quite clear in Romans 6:2, "...the wages of sin is death." When people sin they become subject to this awful penalty of God's justice. Sin requires people to be eternally separated from God. Sinners are actually separated from God and from receiving any good from him. We find in Scripture that these same sinners will endure an eternity of separation from God in hell, and the Lake of Fire.

We notice very quickly when we continue reading the account of the sin of Adam that neither he nor Eve died that very moment or that very day. As a matter of fact we discovered that Adam lived some 930 years after committing that very first sin. We do know from subsequent study of Scripture that they instantaneously died spiritually and they began to physically die that very moment. 

We also are aware of the fact that several million descendants of Adam and Eve are born, sin, and do not die immediately. As a matter of fact some descendants of Adam and Eve live quite well. They seem to be very healthy, very happy, very hardy, and even very (well-) heeled. Many of these individuals not only sin, but they sin openly, flagrantly, and without regret. They, as well as believers, enjoy the manifold blessings of God.

Why? Why do sinners, both notorious and commonplace, enjoy the blessings that come from God? Why don't they die immediately? Why don't they suffer rather than savor the good things of life? The answer is that God supplies common grace. 

Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology defines common grace as: "the grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation." We must note first, that this grace is common because it is bestowed upon or extends to all men on the earth irrespective of whether one is a child of God or not. This grace of God is not restricted or limited to just the children of God. Secondly, it is grace in the sense that all the blessings of God are unmerited and cannot be earned nor deserved. Hence, we categorize or classify these "blessings of God" as common grace. It must be noted that common grace is absolutely distinct or different than "saving grace." Saving grace is that grace bestowed by God to His elect by His Holy Spirit in His sovereign timing that regenerates and secures those for whom Christ died.

Grudem is quick to point out and therefore we must be aware that God does not possess two types of grace in God, it is simply that God extends and manifests his grace in this world in two different ways. I think we can safely summarize common grace in this manner. First, common grace flows from God freely, second, common grace does not bring about nor result in salvation, and third, common grace does not flow from the work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. 

Although the unsaved do not inherit salvation from common grace they do not die instantaneously the moment that they sin. They are permitted by the unmerited favor of God to live various lengths of life and with various degrees of prosperity in this life. The sinner can and often is happy and has great blessings. The sinner achieves great success in business, fame, and can accumulate great fortunes. This reason stands out quite emphatically as to why believers should not envy those who are unsaved and yet seem to be happy or prosperous. This may be all that they ever have. They may never be brought to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. They may never be brought to a knowledge of God and his glorious being. Would we really begrudge a man who is condemned to spend an eternity separated from God all the while suffering in a Lake of Fire simply because he has lived a long, happy, healthy, and prosperous life?

I caution you to not begrudge the blessings of sunshine, snow, hail, blue skies, painted deserts, full harvests, warm breezes, powerful horses, sleek ski boats, vacation homes, Beemers, and et cetera to those who are not part of the family of God through Jesus Christ and His atoning work - this may be all that they have. (portions of this original paragraph were missing when it posted this morning, I don't know what happened to the rest of the paragraph)

Keithe in 1561 in his first stanza called for the entire earth to sing to the Lord the praise God deserves. Why? Because of the common grace, those blessings that flow from the character of God which falls us upon every living human being!

What common grace of God did you experience today?

Has there been a time that you begrudged an unconverted individual of God's common grace due to their long life, prosperity, or material possessions?

Why should God bestow common grace on even the unconverted?


Seams Inspired said...

He sheltered me from a very nasty storm last evening...tornado warnings, lightning strikes, strong winds, and hail. I was covered by His grace. :o)

Excellent post, Gregg! Happy Tuesday! :o)

Anonymous said...

Warmer temperatures.
He shouldn't, but He does.

Excellent post Gregg.