Every Square Inch: The Common Grace of God

Cornfield Theology
Cornfield Theology
Every Square Inch: The Common Grace of God

A Wise Friend FTW

It is not uncommon to hear another Christian pray about the common grace of God. It goes a little something like this. “Dear God, we pray for little Susie, who is in the hospital, and we thank you for the common grace of medicine.” These types of prayers are fine, but the common grace of God goes deeper and wider than the common grace of Advil or Tylenol, or essential oils, if you will. So what is the common grace of God, and what does common grace tell us about God? I think the answer is a direct application of this axiom. 

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!

– Abraham Kuyper

You can check out my other blog about Kuyper’s statement here

Common Grace Defined

Kuyper’s axiom got me thinking about the implication of the rule of Christ over all things. In what ways does the Bible tell us Christ owns every square inch? And practically speaking, how does Holy Scripture connect with creation? One point of connection is the common grace of God. Here is a solid definition of common grace. 

Common grace is God’s general favor by which he restrains sin and its consequences, maintains human life and culture, and bestows a variety of gifts and blessings to all people indiscriminately. Common grace is the grace by which God cares for creation and fallen humanity by upholding and providentially guiding creation despite the devastating effects of the fall.

– Gayle Doornbos

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches his disciples to love their enemies, and one of the points he makes is common grace.

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

– Matthew 5:45

I live a few minutes outside the Des Moines metro, and my home is surrounded by sow and corn fields. Farmers plant and harvest on those fields. And the rain falls, and the sun shines on those fields regardless of the religion of the farmer. Now, common grace points to the existence of a God, but that is another argument for another day. Staying on topic, we also read in Psalm 145,

The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

– Psalms 145:9

Every person on planet Earth does not deserve to wake up in the morning and breathe the air. But God’s common grace (and mercy) is given to all. Without a doubt, the common grace of God is a road sign pointing to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things. 

Upholding All Things

The component that allows common grace to be sustained is the authority of Jesus Christ. The common grace of God is seen in Hebrews 1:3. 

He upholds the universe by the word of his power.

– Hebrews 1:3

Christ is Lord, and it is the authority deriving from his Lordships in which the universe is upheld. The moment Christ does not hold up all things by the word of his power is when the world falls in on itself. Without God’s common grace, pagans will immediately be situated in one of Dante’s nine circles of hell. But as it stands, God’s common grace is more evident than an elephant at the dog shelter. 

Not Salvific Grace

I have one point of clarification. There is a significant difference between the common grace of God and the salvific (special) grace of God. The grace of God that saves is more profound and more significant than the type of grace that causes the sun to shine and the sky to open up with the rain. Universalists conflate common grace with saving grace. They march in the same band as the rest of the heretics of church history. The moment common grace and saving grace are conflated, we have a graceless gospel that is inadequate to redeem wretched sinners. We would have a listless and nurtured Lord. So, let’s never confuse the two, and let us go out of the way to ensure the two are never mixed.

Sodom and Gomorrah

In Genesis 18-19, we read about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I am not interested in this blog post to take up the central issue of Genesis 18-19. But I’ll sum it up. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were in sexual sin em masse. Moses pleads with God to spare the city if only ten righteous people lived in Sodmon (Genesis 18:27-33). Well, it turns out that there were not ten righteous people in Sodom. Therefore, the Lord rained down sulfur on the cities. The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were so grievous that everything needed to be burned to the ground. The Lord is righteous, and it was his prerogative to execute justice. But why does God not rain down sulfur on America? Is God unaware of what takes place in June every year (And the events of June have become a 365-day type of thing.) The reason rain still falls from the sky, and not sulfur, is God’s common grace. I am not entirely sure why God is patient, but if I had to guess, the Book of Romans gives us a hint.

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

 Romans 2:3–4

We should not be presumptuous, but perhaps he is patient because there are still more than ten righteous people in America. And at least ten people still believe in God’s common and saving grace. 

Worshiping for the One Behind Common Grace

So where are we at with the common grace of God? Because Christ is Lord over every square inch of the earth, the Lord can allow his common grace to prevail. But all of this should lead us to worship. We do not worship the sun in the sky or the rain that falls. Panthisism has been tried, and it has failed. True believers of Jesus Christ worship the Lord over all and bear witness to his power and might. Our worship is a testimony to a world longing for answers about their existence, and God’s common grace is an entry point into that conversation. 

The Conversation Is Not Over

This blog point is hardly a primer about God’s common grace. But, as I said, the reality of God’s common grace goes deeper and wider. It affects homes, communities, art, science, and politics. As Abraham Kuyper says, Christianity, particularly Calvinism, is a life system. I am currently reading Kuyper’s Six Stone Lectures, where he teases out more implications of God’s common grace. And I look forward to reporting to you some of the details of his findings.

Shawn Powers is the lead pastor of Redemption Hill Church. You can follow him on Twitter at shawn_DSM