The Doctrine of Common Grace (Outline)


1. Definition: What is Common Grace?

2. Illustration: What does Common Grace do?

3. Limitation: What can it not do?

4. Intention: What is God’s purpose in Common Grace?

5. Application: What should we do with this doctrine?

DEFINITION: what is meant by Common Grace?

1. The problem with the term.

2. The justification for the term.  Lk. 6:32-34; Rom. 1:21.  All men, regardless of election to salvation, owe God thanks for his gifts which are freely given.

3. “God’s universal and undeserved goodness.”

4. Common Grace is “every favor of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God.” - John Murray

“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee.” Psalm 145:8-10

“We . . . preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:15-17

The backdrop of Common Grace is the doctrine of Total Depravity: TD both explains and necessitates CG.

1. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Rom. 3:10-12

2. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Eph. 2:1-3

ILLUSTRATION: What are some examples of Common Grace?

1. In the Physical Realm.  

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Mt. 5:45

See also Ps. 65:9-13; 104:10-30.

2. In the Intellectual Realm.

Science, mathematics, art, literature, music, etc., are all gifts of God to man in general, created and enjoyed by the godly and ungodly alike.

The verse that James Clerk Maxwell had over his laboratory: “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.” Ps. 111:2

“The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” Luke 16:8

3. In the Moral Realm

Evil is restrained and good order encouraged in multiple ways: through the conscience, government, the family.

“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” Rom. 2:14-15

4. In the Religious Realm

Grudem points out that even the ungodly benefit from the prayers of the righteous.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Mt. 5:44; see also 1 Tim. 2:1-2.

LIMITATION: What can Common Grace not do?

1. It does not save anyone (by definition).  Mt. 19:16-26; 1 Cor. 1:19-21.

2. It does not enable anyone to please God.  Rom. 8:7-8; Eph. 2:1-3.

3. It takes Special or Saving Grace to bring someone into a state of salvation.  Eph. 2:1-10.

4. However, this does not mean that Common Grace and Special Grace are at odds (see 2 Pet. 3:9!), or that God can’t use gifts common to all men as one of the means to bring about the conversion of his elect to Christ.

INTENTION: What is God’s purpose in Common Grace?

1. To redeem the elect.  2 Pet. 3:9

2. To demonstrate the glory of God’s goodness and mercy and justice.

APPLICATION: What should we do with this doctrine?

1. It should motivate us to love our enemies.  Mt. 5:45; Ezek. 18:32

2. It should act as a reminder that God is sovereign over all creation, not just the overtly spiritual.  Ps. 145; Gen. 20:6

3. It should act as a reminder that God is fundamentally good and that judgment is his “strange work” (Isa. 28:21).


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