One theory that has gained wide acceptance in recent years is common grace. This teaching holds that God gives good gifts to the wicked out of some type of favor He has toward them and restrains sin in them to such an extent that they can do God-glorifying works without faith. This means that an actor can use his talents in films or on stage in spite of impenitently living a life of sin. Or a baseball player can honor God by making a home run while destroying the body God gave him with steroids and desecrating the Lord’s Day. The teaching of common grace has led many to the conclusion that there is so much good in the world that we can allow rock music to be played in church or movies to be shown in a worship service, perhaps even in the place of preaching. How do they justify this teaching? Often such Bible passages as Matthew 5:45 are mentioned: “…for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just an on the unjust.” Does this text indicate that God has favor to the wicked? It does not. Matthew 4:45 simply teaches that while God does give things to the wicked, those things are given for their destruction. The wicked don’t acknowledge that the rain that falls on their crops and other blessings they enjoy come from God’s hand. It’s not the case that a righteous, God-fearing farmer gets his field properly watered and the wicked farmer experiences a constant drought, rather the difference lies in the fact that the righteous farmer thanks God for the gifts He provides, whereas the wicked farmer does not. Another passage used to prove common grace is Psalm 145:9: “The Lord is good to all and his tender mercies are over all his works.” God is good to His creation, a fact we appreciate especially at this time of the year when farmers harvest their crops. But that does not mean that He sets His tender mercies upon the wicked who willfully rebel against Him and scorn His commandments.
Why should we care about this doctrinal concept today? Common grace is important for us to understand today because it is, in large part, the cause of the spiritual deterioration in many churches today. If God’s grace is common and allows the wicked to do God-glorifying deeds, then the line of the antithesis between the church and the world is erased. How do we avoid this? We must read the Bible and sound books that interpret it. We must know “this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”(II Peter 1:20,21). Secondly, we must believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word to us that we must unquestioningly obey. Thirdly, we must make sure, as much as we are able, that the preaching in our churches is sound and biblical. Finally we must continually pray to God that we and our churches be kept faithful. He will do this by His grace and Holy Spirit. May God give us the grace to live this way!