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God’s powerful grace – do you ever wonder what that means? My friend Dawn always makes me think hard and long about theological issues – I love that about her! That’s why I’m THRILLED to host her today for Summer Sizzle post #6 where she explains the difference between common grace and saving grace!
The mortgage was due on the 1st. It was the 3rd- and there sat the envelope on the front table, waiting to go in the mail. My heart sank. As a rule-following kind of girl, it really bothers me when I mess up like this. I expected a late payment would be incurred and that there would be a ding on my credit rating. I was upset with myself for forgetting to get the check in the mail before I left on vacation.
As it turned out, even though the check arrived late, I never had to pay anything extra and I never got a black mark on my credit. The bank had given me a “grace period”. Even though they were within their rights to impose a penalty, the bank chose not to.
Had I repeatedly been late with my check, I’m guessing it would be a different story. But this time, I received grace.
God’s powerful grace
We’ve all been there. When was the last time you messed up, knowing there were consequences, but instead you received grace?
How did it make you feel?
A late check is nothing compared to the reality of the debt every single person has incurred against God. God is holy and just. He doesn’t owe us anything. We’ve all sinned. We’re born with a sin nature and there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s favor.
“Life itself is grace” –Frederick Buechner
We ALL, whether we realize it or not, are living in a “grace period”.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they deserved the wrath of God. Justice would require that they are eternally separated from God. Being descendants of them, we’re born into sin. We deserve the same.
Because justice required a terrible price no man could pay, God became man and paid the price for us. That is what is known as saving grace.
Saving grace is not forced on us. We need to accept that gift, placing our trust in Jesus and choosing to follow him.
I want to make a distinction though, between saving grace and another kind of grace, something that every single soul on this earth is blessed with, which is common grace.
The definition of common grace, according to Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology) is:
“Common grace is the grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation. The word common here means that something is common to all people and is not restricted to believers or to the elect only.”
The world is full of God’s common grace. Here are 6 different examples of how common grace is seen (as outlined in Systematic Theology):
1. The Physical Realm
“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)
Every breath that people take is by God’s powerful grace. The beauty of the natural world, the food we eat…it’s all a testimony to the continuing common grace of God.
2. The Intellectual Realm
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:9
Science, technology, and rationality allow us all to enjoy many blessings. If it weren’t for God’s grace, we wouldn’t have those things.
3. The Moral Realm
“If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” Luke 6:33
God puts restraints on human behavior- and that’s grace. The inner sense of right and wrong is present in unbelievers as well as believers. Think about what the world would be like without that.
4. The Creative Realm
“If you have money, power, and status today, it is due to the century and place in which you were born, to your talents and capacities and health, none of which you earned. In short, all your resources are in the end the gift of God.”
― Timothy J. Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just
The ability to appreciate beauty, skills in music, art, writing, athletics, and so forth is not limited to believers.
5. The Societal Realm
“There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Romans 13:4
Human government is often flawed and it can be used for evil purposes but it’s also used for good- and it’s commonly used by God as a means to restrain evil.
6. The Religious Realm
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44
God’s powerufl grace means that unbelievers often benefit from the prayers of believers.
A special note about common grace:
Common grace does not save people. It can help prepare hearts but it does not change the human heart. That is done by saving grace: by the work of Jesus on the cross and the Holy Spirit.
4 Reasons for Common Grace (as noted in Systematic Theology)
- To redeem those who will be saved
- To demonstrate God’s justice
- To demonstrate God’s goodness and mercy
- To demonstrate God’s glory
How should we respond?
It’s important to remember that just because someone receives an abundance of common grace, it does not mean they’re saved. We ALL need the saving grace of Christ.
When we see good, even in the lives of unbelievers, we must remember that the glory goes to God.
Gratitude and thanksgiving should fill our hearts. God’s grace is all around us!
Dawn is a freelance writer and Christian blogger who loves encouraging women to keep their focus on Jesus. She’s the author of Look to Jesus: How to Let Go of Worry and Trust God. She’s a wife and mom to two teens. A Seattle girl, she loves books and coffee. You can find her at www.dawnklinge.com