A neglected theme in the church


The theme of common grace has been neglected in the Church.

It’s time to correct this. The many challenges of our times call for an intense focus on the relationship between common grace and the common good.

Quotes for deeper discussions 

“The Bible consistently teaches what theologians have come to call ‘common grace,’ a non-saving grace that is at work in the broader reaches of human cultural interaction. This gift of God’s grace to humanity in general demonstrates a desire on God’s part to bestow certain blessings on all human beings, believer and non-believer alike” (Tim Keller).

“The term ‘common grace’ should be defined as every favor of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God” (John Murray).

“Common grace curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.” (Louis Berkhof).

“Understanding common grace provides the basis for Christians to cooperate with and learn from non- Christians.” (Tim Keller)

“God has indeed lawfully ordered his creation, and there are biblical passages that make it clear that all human beings have some sort of cognitive access to that lawfulness” (Richard Mouw).

“The standard formulations of common grace teaching have often had an unfortunate feel of passivity for Christians. They have depicted a transaction between God and unbelievers with virtually no attention to the active role of the Christian community in ‘delivering the goods,’ so to speak, of common grace” (Richard J. Mouw).

“I think God takes delight in Benjamin Franklin’s wit and in Tiger Wood’s putts and in some well-crafted narrative paragraphs in a Salman Rushdie novel, even if these accomplishments are in fact achieved by non-Christian people. And I am convinced that God’s delight in these phenomena does not come because they bring the elect to glory and the non-elect to eternal separation from the divine presence. I think God enjoys these things for their own sakes.”

“The above examples of God’s delight do not necessarily involve moral approval of the ‘inner’ lives of non-elect people. When an unbelieving poet makes use of an apt metaphor, or when a foul-mouthed major league outfielder leaps high into the air to make a stunning catch, we can think of God as enjoying the event without necessarily approving of anything in the agents involved—just as we might give high marks to a rhetorical flourish by a politician whose views on public policy we despise” (Richard Mouw).

“…because the cultural labor of unregenerate men is vitally important to the forward progress of the world, and to God’s long-range redemptive scheme, and because that labor stems from gifts that God has given, the product of unregenerate culture is pleasing to God. However, these observations do not lessen the “antithesis” Kuyper spoke of—the fact that there is, and always shall be, a fundamental difference between the Christian and the non-Christian cultural agent by virtue of the Cross” (John Barber ).

Think about it

All people live under God’s common grace and receive certain blessings outside of the boundaries of salvation.

  •  “In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:16-17).

“….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).

Called to be like our Father in heaven

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. …. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-28, 35-36)

Four shared contexts for common grace ministry

  1. Family
  2. Work
  3. Community
  4. Government

Two key Questions

Q. Can we engage together for the common good with non-believers?

Q. How do we engage together for the common good in ways that are consistent with the gospel and prepare a way for Christian witness?

Three bases for working together

  1. Common origin – God’s ownership and image
  2. Common Concerns – Stewardship of the earth as our dwelling place
  3. Common Connections – Truth about God, moral order, and transcendence (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Five examples of common grace

  1. Physical Realm – (Matt. 5:44-45; Acts 14:16-17; 17:24-28; Gen. 39:5; Ps. 145:9, 15-16).
  2. Intellectual Realm – (John 1:9; Rom. 1:21; science and technology).
  3. Moral Realm – (Ps. 81:12; Rom. 1:32; 2:14-15; Luke 6:33; 2 Kings 12:2; warnings of final judgment).
  4. Creative Realm – (skills, art, beauty, technology, architecture, culture, music)
  5. Societal Realm – (family – Gen. 5:4; government – Rom. 13:1, 4; other institutions) (from Wayne Grudem)

Answer these questions –

  1. 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 to serve God?
  2. How does the fact that all people are created in God’s image shape the way I view all people and my calling to serve God?
  3. Are salvation categories the only ones for understanding God’s disposition toward human beings?
  4. How do we remain serious about lines between belief and unbelief (between those who live in the boundaries of saving grace and those who do not), while at the same time showing active appreciation for all that is good and beautiful outside of those boundaries?
  5. How should our knowledge of God’s common grace and revelation of Himself through creation be reflected in the ministry of the church?

Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Common Good, Common grace, Disciple-making, Discipleship, Evangelism, Walking with God, Witness and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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