All people live under God’s common grace as recipients of certain blessings outside of the boundaries of salvation.
Two affirmations provide a basis for understanding God’s common grace and our calling in relation to it.
1. God’s ownership
- Deuteronomy 10:14 – “To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it”
- Psalm 24:1 – “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
- Job 41:10-11 – “Who then is able to stand against me? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.”
- Acts 17:24-25 – “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth…he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”
- “Missions is an authorized activity carried out by the tenets on the instructions of the owner of the property” (The Mission of God by Christopher Wright).
- If God owns everything, there is nowhere we can step off His property into some sphere of private ownership.
- The whole earth belongs to Jesus by right of creation, redemption and future inheritance (Jn. 1:1-3; Colo. 1:15-20).
- There is not an inch of the planet that does not belong to Christ. We are always walking on His property.
Key question: How does the affirmation that, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” shape my calling as a servant of God?
2. God’s image in humanity
“God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26).
Scripture does not precisely qualify what constitutes the image of God in man yet from the following passages (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-2; 9:6; Acts 17:28; I Cor. 11:7; Ja. 3:9) we learn that:
- The image of God distinguishes man within God’s creation.
- All humans are in the image of God.
- The fall of man does not remove the image of God from man.
- The image of God gives sanctity to human life.
“Every human being on the planet is known by God, considered and evaluated by God, called to account by God” “To be human is to be addressable by one’s Creator—with no regard for ethnicity or covenant status. God can speak to an Abimelech or a Balaam or a Nebuchadnezzer as easily as an Abraham, a Moses or a Daniel.” (Christopher Wright)
Key Question: How does an affirmation of humans made in God’s image effect the way I view those who live in the world?
“….there is a world that God created that is shared in common by believers and nonbelievers alike. … the goodness of creation is fundamentally and ubiquitously marred by sin but it is not negated by sin. It may be fractured, incomplete, and corrupted, but his goodness remains in it. The gifts of God’s grace are spread abundantly among the just and unjust in ways that support and enhance the lives of all.” (James D. Hunter).
“… there is a natural life originating in creation and a natural order in things that can be understood, developed, and enjoyed. The dazzling processes of growth in a tree or a bug or a newborn baby, the intricacies of molecular biology, the stunning ordered-complexity of mathematics, and the underlying logic of music all speak of an order that God has created and that has not been effaced by the fall, that people can discover and take pleasure in as well. These things too, Christians should neither dismiss nor disparage but rather be grateful for and be delighted by because they are gifts of God’s grace meant for their benefit and the benefit of all.” (James D. Hunter).
“We proceed with caution, knowing that the rebellious manifesto of our first parents — ‘We shall be as gods!’ — still echoes all around us. (and within us) — But we also know — and this is an important message for common grace theology — that the Spirit of the reigning Lamb is indeed active in our world, not only in gathering the company of the redeemed from the tribes and nations of the earth, but also in working mysteriously to restrain sin in the lives of those who continue in their rebellion, and even in stimulating works of righteousness in surprising places. And so, while we proceed with caution, we also go about our business in hope.” (Richard Mouw)
Three deeper questions:
- Are salvation categories adequate to cover all of God’s dispositions toward human beings, both redeemed and unredeemed?
- How do we remain serious about the lines between belief and unbelief, between those who live within the boundaries of saving grace and those who do not, while at the same time practicing active appreciation for all that is good, beautiful and true that takes place outside of those boundaries?
- How should our knowledge of God’s common grace and revelation of Himself through creation be reflected in the outreach ministry of the church?Steve Cornell