Theology 101

How Common Grace Sustains Culture

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We have been taking about the three reasons God showers common grace upon humanity. The first two that we have discussed are:

  • First, God’s common grace prevents fallen human beings from doing all the wrong they could do.
  • Second, through common grace God restrains his wrath against sinful mankind.

The third reason why God has given humanity common grace is that through common grace God bestows his blessings, both physical and spiritual, on all of mankind, including those who will reject Christ. We see many examples of this in the Bible:

  • “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45).
  • God blessed the Egyptian overseer’s house for Joseph’s sake (Gen. 39:5).
  • Paul preached to pagan worshipers, “In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: 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” (Acts 14:16-17).

In Psalm 65:9-13, David marveled at God’s bounty in creation:

You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.

God has also placed a bounty of blessings within each of us. Theologian John Murray wrote that God not only restrains evil in unredeemed men, he also endows them with:

Gifts, talents, and aptitudes; he stimulates them with interest and purpose to the practice of virtues, the pursuance of worthy tasks, and the cultivation of arts and sciences that occupy the time, activity and energy of men and that make for the benefit and civilization of the human race. He ordains institutions for the protection and promotion of right, the preservation of liberty, the advance of knowledge and the improvement of physical and moral conditions. We may regard these interests, pursuits and institutions as exercising both an expulsive and impulsive influence. Occupying the energy, activity and time of men they prevent the indulgence of less noble and ignoble pursuits and they exercise an ameliorating, moralizing, stabilizing and civilizing influence upon the social organism.

It is God’s common grace that makes all of what we think of as culture possible. What very few Christian seem to appreciate fully is that institutions such as the state, the family, and culture are common grace institutions.

Common grace is the explanation of the widespread presence of goodness in a fallen world.

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