West London Alliance Church

TBT@ITT: Sam Storms on Common Grace

First posted October 3, 2009:

This excerpt is from Sam Storm's website :
The common grace of God has been variously defined. According to Charles Hodge, the Bible teaches that "the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth, of holiness, and of life in all its forms, is present with every human mind, enforcing truth, restraining from evil, exciting to good, and imparting wisdom or strength, when, where, and in what measure seemeth to Him good. . . . This is what in theology is called common grace" (II:667).

Abraham Kuyper defines common grace as "that act of God by which negatively He curbs the operations of Satan, death, and sin, and by which positively He creates an intermediate state for this cosmos, as well as for our human race, which is and continues to be deeply and radically sinful, but in which sin cannot work out its end" (279).

A simpler and more direct definition of common grace is given by John Murray. Common grace, he writes, "is every favour of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God" (II:96).

I see common grace manifesting itself in at least four ways.

(1) The first aspect of common grace is what we might call negative or preventative. Its essential characteristic is that of restraint. Although the restraint that God places upon sin and its effects is neither complete (else no sin would exist at all) nor uniform (else all men would be equally evil or good), it is of such a nature that the expression and effects of human depravity are not permitted to reach the maximum height of which they are capable. Thus, the most obvious manifestation of common grace is God’s exercise of restraint on the sin of man.

(2) There is a second manifestation of common grace. Besides placing restraint upon the ungodly tendencies of the human heart, God freely suspends the immediate manifestation of his divine wrath due unto sin. That is to say, in common grace God not only restrains the sin of man but also the ready execution of the full measure of judgment which sin demands. This latter element of restraint is especially evident in such texts as Genesis 6:3; 1 Peter 3:20; Acts 17:30; Romans 2:4; and 2 Peter 3:9.

(3) In addition to the manifestation of common grace in the relationship God sustains to his creatures, he also holds in check the destructive tendencies that are part of the curse of sin upon nature... The question we should ask is not, “Why did this hurricane occur?” but “Why do not more hurricanes with even greater destructive power occur?”

(4) The fourth and final aspect of common grace is more positive in thrust. God not only restrains the sinful operations and effects of the human heart, He also bestows upon both nature (see esp. Ps. 65:9-13; 104:10-30; 145:1-16; 136:25) and humanity manifold blessings both physical and spiritual. These blessings, however, fall short of redemption itself.
Read the whole article here.

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