What is grace? Grace is the extending of God’s goodness to mankind. This goodness comes to us in two divergent ways- common grace and saving grace.
Common grace is best described as God’s indiscriminate goodness extended to all mankind regardless of their sin. We see Jesus speak of this goodness in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:45, “he [God] maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Jesus clearly teaches that God sends good things to all people regardless of what they have done.
Here we must stop to remember that an omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), all-wise God has purposes for everything that He does. His common grace to all of mankind is not meaningless. Instead, it is sent to accomplish a multitude of purposes. The greatest of these purposes is explained by Paul in Romans 2:4, “despistest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing not that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Paul explained that God’s purpose in extending far-reaching goodness to all men is to draw all men to the God who is the source of all good things. Common grace is God’s loving way of gently wooing rebellious sinners.
Saving grace is defined as God extending His goodness through the work of his Holy Spirit in the hearts of the non-believing to draw them into a saving faith in the work of Jesus. This is a very particular type of grace, a special grace that only comes to those God has chosen to be His children. Paul explains this very specific, personal, saving grace in 2 Timothy 1:9, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Here Paul explains that to some God extends a very particular, salvific (saving) grace. This grace ensures those who believe that God has not only saved them from hell, but has also saved them to receive his goodness and blessings in heaven forever.
At times, things don’t seem to go well for us. We see the troubles of life coming down on us. It seems that God’s common grace is not upon us, and that perhaps He has forgotten us. In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7 Paul tells his Thessalonian friends that God still loves them. While the persecution may seem overwhelming, they can rest assured that the God who extended His saving grace has promised His eternal goodness and blessing to them. Those that persecuted them would be punished by this good God. Even though some of the persecutors seemed prosperous now, their wasting of the common grace that God was extending to them was only guaranteeing their punishment by God. The believers had nothing to be cast down about. God was still good, and Paul didn’t want them to lose sight of God’s goodness through the thick haze of their pain.
Food For Thought: Where are some areas of God’s common grace in your life? What is saving grace?