Little girl in raincoat playing in the rain outdoors

What is common grace?

Grace defined

Most would understand “grace” to mean some goodwill or favor that was essentially undeserved or unmerited.

In common parlance, it could mean “courteous goodwill.”

But, there are really two types of grace when it comes to God.

Common grace, to which the rain falls on all men equally, and salvific or saving grace, to which eternal life is graciously offered as a free gift.

Common grace is received by all of mankind and related to the overall goodness of God to man as Psalm 145:9 states “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”

Unfortunately, grace, as part of the offer of salvation, is too often rejected.

Benefits of common grace

They do relate, however, and common grace has three significant benefits for the human race.

Restrains sin and its effect

Since man is naturally sinful – as Romans 3:10 states “There is no one righteous, not even one;” and since II Timothy 3:13 claims “evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse…” restraints are necessary to prevent the damaging effect of sin.

Accordingly, God has instituted means to control this as follow:

  1. Conscience enables sinners to understand the difference between right and wrong.
    1. Romans 2:15 “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”
  2. Parental Authority to train and discipline children.
    1. Proverbs 13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”
  3. Civil Government to maintain societal order.
    1. Romans 13:1-5 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

Of course, it is easy to see that all of these restraints continue to be compromised in our current world. As our thinking becomes “futile and [our] foolish hearts [are] darkened…” Romans 1:24 states “God gave them over…”  This effectively is lessening the restraints.

Enables the enjoyment of beauty and goodness

Acts 14:17  shows that all that is good is from God – “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.”

Psalms 34:8 states “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Affords time to hear the gospel and repent

Man’s rebellion, however, is not without consequences. Perhaps the most significant aspect of God’s common grace is His patience in righteous judgment on mankind, which Romans 6:23 states “the wages of sin is death.”

Romans 2:4 gives this warning “…do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

Common grace is temporal – saving grace is eternal

It’s easy to accept God’s common grace – it is graciously and freely offered to all. No one rejects it.

Saving grace is also freely offered – yet many reject it as John 3:19 illustrates “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

God is gracious and good. He is also perfectly just and will judge all who reject him – John 12:48 “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.

Don’t make the mistake of accepting God’s common grace for a lifetime, only to reject his saving grace for eternity.

"It wasn't a potential atonement actuated by the sinner, it was an actual atonement initiated by the savior."

John MacArthur