Baskets of Fruit and Buckets of Rain; Thoughts on God’s Common Grace to Man
In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” – Acts 14:16-17
There is a difference between saving grace and common grace. Obviously we are more familiar with saving grace. Saving grace is what the believer experiences at conversion. But common grace is different from saving grace in the fact that it does not bring about salvation.
Wayne Grudem defines common grace as “the grace of God by which He gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation.” I believe that to be a very accurate definition of common grace. Common grace is the grace of God that everyone alive gets to experience, even lost people. That is why it is referred to as “common.” It is “common” because it is not simply restricted and limited to only believers to experience. It is grace that is “common” to all people. Let us explore this a bit further.
It is only by the grace of God that you and I have air to breathe. This is true for everyone. It does not matter if you are saved or lost; every human on planet earth gets to partake of the oxygen provided only by the graceful hand of God. Air certainly is an example of God’s common grace, considering the fact that we all deserve death and not life (Romans 3:23). Also, because of God’s common grace to all of mankind, we get to experience the beauty of His creation. All people are the recipients of the beauty of the world around them. Unbelievers can even experience common grace from an intellectual standpoint. Many lost people have a plethora of knowledge at their disposal, and it is only by the grace of God that they have the knowledge that they do. Any enlightenment of knowledge they have originated in God and that is why the apostle John spoke of Jesus as “the true light that enlightens every man” (John 1:9). The doctrine of common grace to all of man is further illustrated in the very gifted and talented unbelievers around us. From the skills of craftsman, to the creativity of artists; to scientists, inventors, and athletes; any abilities that they have been given, were given to them by God as an act of grace.
In our passage above, Barnabas and Paul tell the Greek residents of Lystra of God’s encompassing goodness experienced by all men. For example, the rain that falls upon all men; the vegetation and seasons experienced by all people; these are examples of God’s common grace. Psalm 145:9 says, “The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.” The psalmist points to the encompassing goodness of God to all of His creatures. Notice that God’s goodness is all inclusive. It is not just for His children; it is for every breathing thing.
Common grace differs from saving grace because it does not save you. Common grace will not transform the heart of man. Common grace does not bring people to genuine faith and repentance. Only saving grace will do these things. Yet it is worth noting that common grace can be used by God as a tool to draw men unto Himself. The beauty of creation is enjoyed by all people, and it just might be the beauty of God’s creation that opens the door for someone to acknowledge a Creator, which in turn could lead that individual through the door of saving grace. Now I am certainly not suggesting that there are two different types of grace. But what I am suggesting is that God’s grace will manifest itself in the world that we live in through these two very different ways.
In what ways do you experience God’s common grace? Could the truth of God’s common grace to man be a tool for you to use in witnessing to someone? Has this devotional thought helped you see the grace of God in a different light? Take time out today and think about how you personally benefit from God’s common graces, and then thank Him.
– Pastor Eric