Thursday, 8 March 2012

Common Grace and Evangelism (2): A Gracious God

If sin has affected human beings right down to the core of who they are, then why is there so much good in the world?

This is the question we were left with at the end of the previous post. Over the next couple of posts we are going to answer this crucial question as we explore the Bible's teaching on common grace. In a final post we shall tie things together by looking at the implications our answer has on how we do evangelism.

The first thing we need to do is to establish an important truth about God. That God is a gracious God.

God is Gracious to All
As we turn to the pages of the Bible we see that God is a God who is gracious to all that he has made.

Psalm 145:9 tells us: "The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made." That’s pretty comprehensive! He is good to all, to all people. More than that, He is good to all of his creation. He has compassion on all that he has made. Notice that this is a goodness that he shows both to those who are his people, and to those who are not.

Consider Matthew 5:45, where Jesus tells His disciples that "your Father who is in heaven...makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." God gives the blessings of sun and rain to the righteous and the unrighteous. Sun and rain are a sign of God’s goodness and favour. Notice how he shows this goodness and favour both to those who are his people and those who are not his people. He is gracious to both the Christian and to the non-Christian.

There are plenty more passages we could look at (such as Luke 6:35; Acts 14:17; 17:30). What we see, from this short study is that the Bible affirms that God shows undeserved kindness to all people. This includes both those who are his people and those who are not.

An Important Distinction
Now, we need to be clear here. The fact that God is gracious both to the believer and the unbeliever does not mean that all people will be saved. The Bible does not teach this.

Before the world was created, God chose some to be saved and others for destruction (See Romans 9:21-23; Ephesians 1:3-10). This means that some receive the special grace of God’s salvation, and others do not. However, at the same time we must affirm that he is gracious to all, even to those who will eventually end up in hell.

This means that we need to make a distinction: A distinction between what theologians call ‘common' grace and ‘saving' or 'special' grace. Common grace is a grace that God shows to all people whether Christian or non-Christian, saving grace is a grace that only those whom He has chosen will experience. Our focus in this series of posts is on ‘common grace’.

In this post we’ve laid an important foundation, and have shown that God is gracious to all people (and indeed all of his creation) with a common grace. In the next post I shall look at one particular aspect of how he shows this common grace. It is there that we shall begin to see more clearly the answer to the question of how totally depraved people can do so many good things.