The Rhino Room | What is Common Grace?

Rhino Room

Rhino Room

What is common grace and how is it manifest?

Nicolas Alford (Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, South Carolina)

Common grace is the doctrine that God has a universal love for all mankind, and we who affirm it shouldn’t be afraid to say so. Similar to how I have different sorts of love for different things (how I love my favorite sandwich, compared to how I love my wife), God has different sorts of love for different people as well. He loves his elect in a special and redemptive way, but he still loves all mankind-elect and non-elect included.

It is manifest in his indiscriminate benevolence, his restraint of sin, and the reality of many blessings in the lives of people who will never confess faith in Jesus Christ (Gen 9:8-17, Matt 5:43-48). Common grace also is intended to lead men to repentance (Romans 2:4-5), a powerful argument for the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel.

Also, bacon is common grace.

Samuel Barber (Pastoral Assistant, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

Common grace is the reason why good things happen to bad people. Common grace is that undeserved favor, which God freely bestows upon all of fallen, sinful mankind (hence the word common). In Genesis 8:20-9:7, God makes a covenant with all of creation after the flood (with Noah as the federal head) where he promises general blessings for life to all of mankind. Jesus also addresses this concept in Matthew 5:45; here he tells his disciples that God gives good gifts both to wicked and to righteous men. The point is that God’s benevolence and kindness are not restricted simply to his elect people. God does not withhold good even from his enemies. Common grace is not saving grace, but it does reveal God’s general love for all of his creation, and it urges men to turn to God in repentance (Romans 2:4).

Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)

Common Grace is none other than the universal good that God manifests towards all men. In the Sermon on the Mount, God’s grace to both the evil and the good is clearly expressed in Mathew 5:44-45: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Common Grace reveals to us that God is not a malevolent God, but He is characterized by benevolence. This is even seen in the fact that He “does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11). That God is said to repent in Genesis 6 is best explained by common grace.

Robert Cole (Pastor, Berean Baptist Church of Modesto, California)

To witness and experience common grace, one need only to spend 15 minutes in your local Walmart. There you will find a wide array of people enjoying common grace. All people, regardless of their standing with God, are enjoying the fruits of their labor as they spend it on items both of necessity and pleasure. Many of these people live blatantly as if the God who has provided these things does not exist while others who do know Him (This observer included) either honor him there or live as if He has not given to them for His own glory. Like common grace, all of the items on the shelves have an expiration date. “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (‭1 John‬ ‭2‬:‭17, ESV).

Matt Foreman (Pastor, Faith Reformed Baptist Church of Media, Pennsylvania)

Common Grace is God’s general goodness, loving care, and providential influence for all of His creation, especially in humanity.  By common grace, God retains his image in humanity, influences their consciences, restrains their sin, and manifests his goodness and gifts in their lives, irrespective of their faith or its lack.  God can be at work, manifesting goodness, in and through even unbelievers and unbelieving cultures.  However, God only shows special, saving grace to his elect.

Dr. Bob Gonzales (Dean, Reformed Baptist Seminary)

The basic meaning of grace-vocabulary in Scripture is kindness or favor. Some favor is shown by God or man to the deserving and is, therefore, merited (Luke 2:52). More often, though, the favor God shows toward humanity is unmerited. To the elect he shows an exclusive favor that may be called “saving grace” (Eph 2:8). To fallen humanity in general God bestows an indiscriminate favor that may be called “common grace” (Luke 6:35).

Theologians usually classify the manifestations of common grace as (1) God’s restraint of human sin (Gen 11:6-9), (2) God’s conferral of temporal blessings upon humans (Matt 5:45), and (3) God’s endowment of humans with knowledge, capacities, and skills (Gen 4:20-22). While common grace by itself cannot effect the sinner’s salvation, it can serve to reveal God’s saving posture toward sinful men. In that sense, we may say common grace has a saving design (Rom 2:4).

Marc Grimaldi (Pastor, Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Merrick, New York)

Especially as a cursed, fallen and condemned people, under the judgment of God, mankind is never entitled to any form of benevolence from God.  And yet, God has chosen to exercise grace — His free favor and unmerited kindness — toward unworthy sinners.  This grace meets fallen man, in two ways:

  1. God exercises “special” or salvific grace toward His elect children, whom He has chosen to redeem, adopt and sanctify in Christ, before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1).
  2. God exercises “common” grace toward all of mankind, in that He provides man with various temporal blessings, in accordance with their needs.  In this sense, God exercises a general benevolence toward all, making “His sun rise on the evil and on the good, sending rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt. 5:45).”

God’s common grace also serves as a restraint for evil.  Without it, the world would immediately devour itself.

Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

Common grace is God’s unmerited favor and kindness shown to both believers and non-believers alike. My garden doesn’t grow any better than my non-Christian neighbor’s garden simply because I’m a Christian. God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). We all depend on common grace every day, usually without recognizing it, and should give thanks for things like doctors and medicine, beautiful music and art, and the restraint of evil. Cultures that place a higher value on biblical morality have greater measures of common grace, while those under God’s judgment experience very little. Unfortunately, many Christians seek to live all of life upon God’s common grace instead of partaking of the abundant riches of that which is only available to the Christian in God’s special, sovereign grace.

Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)

Common grace is really one of the most underrated doctrines we have, and its displacement has caused serious errors, like trying to make Plato or Confucius Christians. We have to acknowledge the reality of God giving good, temporal things to reprobates. There are two connections that I have not seen in writing that have always hung in the back of my mind. First, the concept of common grace is connected to God’s unique interplay between justice and mercy as he gives reward (their best life now, if you will) to the lost, because our best life is next. This is all the reprobate ever gets. The second connection that I see common grace as connected to or even a sub-category of secondary causes. Wealth, wisdom, talent, etcetera are given to the unregenerate as part of the secondary cause system that God works together for our good and his glory.

Chris Okogwu (Church Plant Coordinator, Sovereign Grace Bible Church of Abuja, Nigeria)

In God’s holy and wise oversight in ruling over all His creation in His exhaustive providence, “the Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made. . .the eyes of all look to You, and You give them food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psa. 145:9, 15-16); this is a glimpse of His common grace.

Common grace speaks of God’s indiscriminate or general benevolence/kindness to all (Matt. 5:45). It is God’s gracious bestowal of natural gifts, such as the breath of life (Isa. 42:5), intelligence and ability to make wealth (Deut. 8:18, Ecc. 5:19), food for consumption (Acts 14:17), and all perceivable and imperceivable good which men richly enjoy is received from Him (Psa. 85:12, 1Cor. 4:7, 1Tim. 6:17).

Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)

Common Grace is grace, just like Special Grace is grace. Same grace. This grace (either Common or Special) is not a “thing,” not a “substance,” much less are they two separate “things.” Grace is a disposition of kindness, love, and a willingness to save. Common Grace is “the tastes of God’s love” upon sinners.[1] It is the way God is operating towards unbelievers as he restrains their evil, preserves them, works through government, shows them mercy, patience, and favor with a view of winning them to repentance (Romans 2:4) through a well-meant offer of the Gospel. It is distinguished from God’s disposition towards the elect at a particular point in their lives on the earth when he operates in a special way because of his love of election via the Holy Spirit who quickens them and effectually brings them to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

[1] See Thomas Manton“A Practical Commentary, Or An Exposition with Notes on the Epistle of Jude,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet & Co. 1871), 5:62-63.

3 thoughts on “The Rhino Room | What is Common Grace?

  1. I think.of common grace as a limited gift of God’s goodness to all unlimited generations of human beings. It’s limits are in that it is not permanent and also in that it provides a limited amount of revelation of the person of God .

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