The Doctrine of Redemption: Common Grace

Transcript February 09


Weekly Bible Study Tuesday, 9th February 2021 THE DOCTRINE OF REDEMPTION Topic: Common Grace Text: Matt. 5:44–45. INTRODUCTION We thank the Lord for the opportunity to begin our weekly Bible Study again though we shall still observe this in each family until the coast is clear for us to go back to our various House Fellowship Centers. We shall start this year by examining the general doctrine of Redemption beginning with the doctrine of Common Grace. Today, we shall look at the doctrine of common grace. COMMON GRACE: WHAT IS IT? Common grace is the theological description of the undeserved blessings that God gives to all people, both believers and unbelievers. Today, there are so many questions to ask. Do unbelievers deserve the ordinary benefits of the world around them? Does God often use the blessings of common grace as a means to prepare people to receive the gospel? Should we be thankful for the good that we see in the lives of unbelievers? What are different examples of common grace that we can see around? How does that make us feel? If one is kind to an unbeliever and he or she never comes to accept Christ, has it done any good in God’s sight? What good has it done? Why do you think that God is good even to those who will never be saved? Do we have any obligation to give more effort to showing good to believers than to unbelievers? When Adam and Eve sinned, they became worthy of eternal punishment and separation from God (Gen. 2:17). In the same way, when human beings sin today, they become liable to the wrath of God and to eternal punishment: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). This means that once people sin, God’s justice would require only one thing that they be eternally separated from God, cut off from experiencing any good from him, and that they live forever in hell, receiving only his wrath eternally. In fact, this was what happened to angels who sinned, and it could justly have happened to us as well: “God did not spare the angels when they sinned but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of neither gloom to be kept until the judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). But in fact, Adam and Eve did not die physically the same day but the sentence of death began to work out in their lives on the day they sinned. The full execution of the sentence of death was delayed for many years. Moreover, millions of their descendants even to this day do not die and go to hell as soon as they sin, but continue to live for many years, enjoying countless blessings in this world. How can this be? How can God continue to give blessings to sinners who deserve only death, not only to those who will ultimately be saved, but also to millions who will never be saved, whose sins will never be forgiven? The answer to these questions is that God bestows common grace. We may define common grace therefore as the grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation. The word ‘common’ here means something that is given to all people and is not restricted to believers or to the elect only. In distinction from common grace, the grace of God that brings people to salvation is often called “saving grace.” Of course, when we talk about “common grace” and “saving grace” we are not implying that there are two different kinds of grace in God himself, but only that God’s grace manifests itself in the world in two different ways. Common grace is different from saving grace in its results (it does not bring about salvation), in its recipients (it is given to believers and unbelievers alike), and in its source (it does not directly flow from Christ’s atoning work, since Christ’s death did not earn any measure of forgiveness for unbelievers, and therefore did not merit the blessings of common grace for them either). However, on this last point it should be said that common grace does flow indirectly from Christ’s redemptive work, because the fact that God did not judge the world at once when sin entered it was primarily or perhaps exclusively due to the fact that he planned eventually to save some sinners through the death of his Son. EXAMPLES OF COMMON GRACE. If we look at the world around us and contrast it with the fires of hell that the world deserves, we can immediately see abundant evidence of God’s common grace in thousands of examples in everyday life. We can distinguish several specific categories in which this common grace is seen. 1. THE PHYSICAL REALM. Unbelievers continue to live in this world solely because of God’s common grace— every breath that people take is of grace, for the wages of sin is death, not life. Moreover, the earth does not produce only thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:18), or remain a parched desert, but by God’s common grace it produces food and materials for clothing and shelter, often in great abundance and diversity. In Matt. 5:44–45 Jesus appeals to God’s abundant common grace as an encouragement to his disciples that they too should bestow love and prayer for blessing on unbelievers. Similarly, Paul told the people of Lystra, “In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways; yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:16–17). The Old Testament also speaks of the common grace of God that comes to unbelievers as well as to believers. One specific example is Potiphar, the Egyptian captain of the guard who purchased Joseph as a slave: “The LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had, in house and field” (Gen. 39:5). David speaks in a much more general way about all the creatures God has made: “The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. . .. 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” (Ps. 145:9, 15–16). These verses are another reminder that the goodness that is found in the whole creation is due to God’s goodness and compassion. We even see evidence of God’s common grace in the beauty of the natural world. Though nature itself is in “bondage to decay” and has been “subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:21, 20) because of the curse of the fall (Gen. 3:17–19), much beauty still remains in the natural world. The beauty of multicolored flowers, of grass and woodlands, of rivers and lakes and mountains and ocean shores, still remains as a daily testimony to the continuing common grace of God. Unbelievers deserve to enjoy none of this beauty, but by God’s grace they can enjoy much of it for their whole lives. 2. THE INTELLECTUAL REALM. Satan is “a liar and the father of lies” and “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44), because he is fully given over to evil and to the irrationality and commitment to falsehood that accompanies radical evil. But human beings in the world today, even unbelievers, are not totally given over to lying, irrationality, and ignorance. All people are able to have some grasp of truth; indeed, some have great intelligence and understanding. This also must be seen as a result of God’s grace. John speaks of Jesus as “the true light that enlightens every man” (John 1:9), for in his role as creator and sustainer of the universe (not particularly in his role as redeemer) the Son of God allows enlightenment and understanding to come to all people in the world. God’s common grace in the intellectual realm is seen in the fact that all people have a knowledge of God: “Although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” (Rom. 1:21). This means that there is a sense of God’s existence and often a hunger to know God that he allows to remain in people’s hearts, even though it often results in many differing man- made religions. Therefore, even when speaking to people who held to false religions, Paul could find a point of contact regarding knowledge of God’s existence, as he did when speaking to the Athenian philosophers: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. . .. What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:22–23). The common grace of God in the intellectual realm also results in an ability to grasp truth and distinguish it from error, and to experience growth in knowledge that can be used in the investigation of the universe and in the task of subduing the earth. This means that all science and technology carried out by non-Christians is a result of common grace, allowing them to make incredible discoveries and inventions, to develop the earth’s resources into many material goods, to produce and distribute those resources, and to have skill in their productive work. In a practical sense this means that every time we walk into a grocery store or ride in an automobile or enter a house we should remember that we are experiencing the results of the abundant common grace of God poured out so richly on all mankind.

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