Providence And Common Grace
[God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.- Matthew 5:45b
Reflect on God’s works of creating and preserving the universe for any length of time, and it will soon become apparent just how gracious He is. Since God is not dependent on anything outside Himself, He did not create the universe by necessity, nor can His creation obligate Him to preserve its existence. That the universe continues on at all is entirely the result of His free choice to sustain and preserve it. Because of His promises, we can trust that He certainly will preserve His creation (see Gen. 8:22, for example). But His promises are gracious promises. He did not have to make them, so He sustains His creation entirely by grace.
God’s preservation of His creation is part of His work of providence, but it also reflects what theologians have called His common grace. In general, grace can refer to anything the Lord does for His creatures that they do not deserve. Most commonly, we speak of grace in a salvific sense, in a manner that refers to God’s gift of salvation to undeserving sinners. However, our Creator also shows grace in a non-salvific sense. He gives gifts to undeserving sinners that do not result in their salvation. Such gifts are bestowed by His common grace.
In today’s passage, Jesus references God’s common grace by telling His disciples that He “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45b). Whether we have been reconciled to our Creator or not, as creatures we are owed nothing from our Creator. We take the regularity of nature for granted, the sun and the rain that make it possible to grow crops that allow us to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves. But the sun and the rain should not be taken for granted, for they are gifts from God’s hand. And He is so exceedingly gracious that He gives these gifts to people regardless of whether He has adopted them as His children in Christ.
God’s common grace is just that—common. Unlike the special, saving grace that God bestows on those whom He has chosen for salvation, common grace is indiscriminate. This grace is what leaves all people without an excuse. No one can stand before the Lord on the last day and claim that they do not owe Him thanks, for God has given even the basest sinner the gift of life. That human beings made in His image ignore and reject Him even after being shown common grace shows us just how desperate our condition is apart from His special grace.
Many people rail against the Lord, believing that they deserve a better life than the one they have received. God’s common grace, however, reminds us that as creatures we are undeserving even of our very existence. May that lead us to a more sober reflection on who we are and to greater humility when we approach our Maker in prayer
Passages for Further Study