Understanding Common Grace vs Special Grace

common grace vs special grace

Key Takeaways

As we explore these common grace vs special grace, consider these foundational insights:

  • Holistic Understanding: Grace encompasses God’s lawdivine grace, and the covenant of grace, reflecting the goodness of God in spiritual and moral realms.
  • Hand of God: The hand of God actively extends grace to all, evident in daily blessings and the general offer of salvation.
  • Cosmic Intermediate State: The world exists in a state where grace and rebellion against God coexist, highlighting the tension between divine generosity and human resistance.
  • Unregenerate Contributions: Individuals not transformed by God’s special grace can still positively contribute to society through common grace.
  • Call to Repentance: Grace calls for repentance, a turning away from sin and embracing God, central to the Christian life and enabled by God’s grace.

The Meaning of Common Grace

Definition of Common Grace

Understanding the types of grace is fundamental in recognizing the multifaceted goodness of God. Common grace is a theological concept referring to the grace of God that is common to all humankind. It is not selective and does not lead to salvation but is rather a divine generosity shared universally.

This grace manifests in various ways, including the restraint of sin, the maintenance of civil order, and the bestowing of various talents and abilities to individuals irrespective of their faith or righteousness.

Implications of Common Grace

Common grace has profound implications on humanity and the sin-cursed world we inhabit. Firstly, it demonstrates God’s immeasurable goodness and kindness to the undeserving. Through common grace, all individuals, regardless of their spiritual state, can experience goodness and mercy in their lives.

Secondly, common grace serves as a restraint on sin and evil, preventing the world from plunging into utter chaos and depravity. This grace also provides everyone with a glimpse of God’s character, serving as a general revelation of His divine nature.

Examples of Common Grace in the Bible

Various biblical texts illustrate the presence and operation of God’s common grace:

  • In Matthew 5:45, Jesus notes that the Father causes the sun to rise on both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike. This underscores the non-discriminatory and generous aspect of common grace.
  • Genesis 39:5 shows God blessing an Egyptian officer’s household due to Joseph’s presence, highlighting that God’s blessings are not confined to His chosen people.

Through these examples and more, the Bible vividly depicts how God’s common grace positively impacts humanity, providing a foundational understanding for deeper theological reflection and appreciation of divine generosity.

Historical Figures and Their Views on Grace

Historical FigureViews on Common GraceViews on Special Grace
John CalvinSaw it as a universal grace, sustaining creation and humanityCentral to salvation, with an emphasis on predestination
Jacobus ArminiusAcknowledged it but focused more on the role of human free willBelieved it could be resisted or accepted by human free will
Louis BerkhofSystematically articulated and defended the doctrine of common graceMaintained a traditional Reformed emphasis on irresistible grace

The Meaning of Special Grace

Definition of Special Grace

Special grace, unlike common grace, is not given to everyone. This type of grace is saving grace, a divine empowerment bestowed upon sinners for salvation. Special grace is exclusive, transformative, and redeeming, offered only to those who have faith in Jesus Christ.

It is a particular act of favor that leads to eternal life, illuminating the hearts and minds of individuals, enabling them to repent from sin and trust in Christ for salvation.

The Role of Special Grace in Salvation

The pivotal role of special grace is evident in the salvation process:

  • Initiation: Special grace initiates the salvation journey, enlightening the sinner’s mind and convicting the heart of sin.
  • Empowerment: It empowers the sinner to repent and have faith in Jesus Christ and to trust the Holy Spirit, providing the necessary strength and conviction to turn away from sin.
  • Preservation: Special grace also preserves the believer, keeping them in faith and securing them until the final salvation.

This grace is indispensable, as it operates from the inception to the consummation of the salvation experience, showcasing the goodness of God in redeeming humanity.

Examples of Special Grace in the Bible

The Bible abounds with instances showcasing God’s special grace:

  • Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” This passage highlights the exclusive and unmerited nature of special grace in salvation.
  • In Acts 9, the conversion of the Apostle Paul is a dramatic illustration of God’s special grace, where God intervenes to transform a persecutor of Christians into one of its greatest apostles.

Through these biblical examples of common grace, we observe the transformative power of God’s special grace, underscoring its centrality in Christian soteriology.

Scriptural References and Their Implications

Scripture ReferenceImplication of Common GraceImplication of Special Grace
Romans 2:14-15Shows that Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law requires, reflecting God’s work in their heartsN/A
Acts 14:17Indicates that God provides for humanity, giving rains from heaven and fruitful seasonsN/A
John 6:44N/AEmphasizes the necessity of divine drawing or calling for a person to come to Christ, highlighting the role of special grace in salvation

Common Grace vs Special Grace

Distinguishing Characteristics of Common Grace

Common grace holds distinct features making it unique:

  • Universality: As the name suggests, common grace is common to all. It isn’t dependent on one’s faith or righteousness and is generously extended to everyone.
  • Temporal Benefits: This grace bestows numerous benefits, like talents, intelligence, and the capacity for moral action, which are temporal and non-saving but enhance the quality of life.
  • Restraint of Evil: It acts to restrain against the complete dominion of evil, maintaining a level of order and goodness in society.

Distinguishing Characteristics of Special Grace

Special grace, conversely, possesses different attributes:

  • Selectivity: Special grace is selective, given only to those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ.
  • Salvific: This grace is saving and redemptive, leading individuals to eternal life and spiritual enlightenment.
  • Transformative: It not only saves but also transforms lives, renewing minds and hearts, making individuals more like Christ.

Understanding the Relationship Between Common Grace and Special Grace

Understanding the relationship between common and special grace is crucial. While common grace is extended to all individuals indiscriminately, special grace is reserved for those who come to faith in Christ.

Common grace serves as a foundation that sustains life and society, whereas special grace builds upon this foundation to bring about salvation and transformation in the lives of believers.

Together, they demonstrate the comprehensive and multifaceted grace of God, revealing His kindness, mercy, and love towards humanity.

Forms of Grace in Theological Perspectives

Theological PerspectiveCommon GraceSpecial or Saving Grace
Reformed TheologyAcknowledged and emphasized, seen as God’s goodness to mankind in generalCentral to soteriology, highlighting God’s election and regeneration of the elect
Arminian TheologyAcknowledged but not heavily emphasizedSeen as resistible, offered to all but effective only for those who accept it

Recognizing the Goodness of God in Both Graces

God’s Goodness Displayed in Common Grace

Common grace is a magnificent display of God’s inherent goodness to all of creation. This form of grace illuminates the goodness of God, as it is generously and indiscriminately showered upon all individuals, regardless of their faith or moral standing.

Through common grace, every person experiences God’s unmerited favor and kindness in various aspects of life, such as enjoying the beauty of nature, possessing talents and abilities, and experiencing love and relationships.

God’s Goodness Evident in Special Grace

Special grace is another remarkable facet of God’s goodness, albeit more selective. This grace is God’s ultimate act of love and mercy, offered to humanity for salvation and reconciliation with Him.

Through special grace, individuals are not only saved from the wrath due to sin but are also adopted into God’s family, becoming recipients of His eternal love and blessings.

It is the means through which the spirit of God works to regenerate and renew the hearts of believers, leading them to a life of righteousness and godliness.

Appreciating the Unmerited Favor Found in Both Graces

Both common and special graces are unmerited and undeserved, highlighting the boundless generosity and favor of God towards humanity. While common grace provides general blessings and favors to all, special grace goes further to secure salvation for believers.

Recognizing and appreciating these graces instills a deeper sense of gratitude and love towards God, prompting individuals to live lives that reflect His goodness and grace. Understanding these graces fosters a heart of worship and devotion, leading to a life that is pleasing and honorable to God.

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The Significance of Grace in Our Lives

Understanding Our Undeserving Nature

Types of grace play a pivotal role in understanding our intrinsic value and undeserved favor received from God. Humans, by nature, are sinful and undeserving of God’s favor. Yet, through God’s common and special grace, we experience blessings and salvation respectively.

Recognizing that we are recipients of grace despite our undeserving nature fosters humility, gratitude, and a deeper appreciation for God’s unending love and mercy.

How Grace Transforms and Empowers Us

Grace is not merely a passive receipt of favor; it is transformative and empowering. Through special or saving grace, individuals are not only forgiven but also empowered to lead lives that reflect God’s righteousness and love.

This grace instills a new nature within believers, enabling them to overcome sin, pursue holiness, and engage in good works that glorify God. It is the divine empowerment that allows believers to navigate through life’s challenges with hope, strength, and resilience.

Embracing and Extending Grace to Others

Having been recipients of God’s grace, individuals are called to embrace and extend this grace to others. Understanding grace cultivates a spirit of tolerance, empathy, and love towards others, even towards those who may be deemed undeserving.

By reflecting God’s grace in our interactions and relationships, we become conduits of His love and mercy in a world desperately in need of hope and redemption. This practice of extending grace is not only a reflection of our transformed lives but is also a testament to the transformative power of God’s grace at work within us.

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The Aspects of Common Grace

Religious Tolerance and Freedom

Common grace plays a pivotal role in fostering a society marked by religious tolerance and freedom. This manifestation of God’s grace allows individuals from various religious backgrounds to coexist peacefully, respecting one another’s beliefs and practices.

Through common grace, there is a universal understanding and acknowledgment of certain moral and ethical standards that promote harmony, respect, and dignity among diverse groups of people.

Talents and Abilities Bestowed to All

One of the remarkable aspects of common grace is the distribution of talents and abilities to all individuals, irrespective of their religious affiliations or moral standings. Everyone possesses unique skills, talents, and intellectual capacities, which are gifts bestowed generously by God.

These talents are not restricted to the faithful but are spread widely, allowing for the flourishing of art, science, literature, and various other fields that enrich human existence and culture.

Provision of Basic Needs for All

Common grace is also evident in the provision of basic needs for all. God, in His mercy, ensures that all individuals have access to the resources necessary for survival and sustenance. The sun shines, the rain falls, and the earth produces its bounty for all to enjoy.

Through this universal provision, God demonstrates His care and concern for all of creation, underscoring the inclusive and generous nature of common grace.

This aspect of grace serves as a reminder of God’s continuous presence and activity in the world, sustaining and providing for all living beings in various ways.

Dr. John Jackson is the President of Jessup University. He’s the author of 10 books, the most recent being “Grace Ambassador”. He’s a transformative leader, committed to equipping believers and fostering change in their local communities… Read more