REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 14: God’s common grace: another reason to rejoice.
For many years we have enjoyed watching, and been greatly humbled by Landline on Sundays. The lock down has meant that we are always home for the 12:30 pm start. A couple of weeks ago, was no exception as we recognised afresh, God’s common grace to us all through the enterprise and perseverance of farmers across our nation.
Wayne Grudem defines common grace as: the grace of God by which He gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation. The word common here means something that is common to all people and is not restricted to believers only… (Systematic Theology page 657).
The farming enterprise is one such manifestation of this grace which enables us, especially in our land, not only to eat, but enjoy & export many kinds of food. Our Lord’s words in Matt 5:45 are a reminder that God is kind to all people in sending sun and rain. Here is a reason why believers ought to pray for and love our enemies (44) thereby showing distinctive Father like kindness to all people (46-47). Common grace enterprises like farming and the kindness of non-Christians will not save nor even merit grace for salvation (Article 13 & Eph 2:8-9), but is an opportunity for us believers to be grateful to God for their kindnesses and skills. It is a stimulus to be quick and ready to work hard, and show kindness that accords with our calling to be salt (5:13), Christlike and Father-like (5:44-45).
I have been reminded of common grace during the pandemic in a number of ways including:
- The welcome and unusual bi-partisan leadership. One of the classic means of common grace we all enjoy in Australia is the stability of government. The water flows, the electricity works, villains are usually brought to justice, people normally drive on the left and stop at the red light. We take it for granted, and even when we see political point-scoring, we rarely experience lawlessness on a macro scale. This is why we happily pay taxes and pray for our leaders, Christian or otherwise (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1-8).
- The remarkable fruits of scientific research and analysis that has helped leaders make informed decisions remind us that God’s common grace gifts are given to believers and unbelievers alike. This is a creation gift (Gen 1:28), and when used unselfishly, brings enormous benefits to many. The same can be said for the care exercised despite the risks, of nursing and medical staff, along with school teachers and many others.
- The slowing down of normal activities for many of has given us opportunities to smell the roses and enjoy a consistent supply of food. This has not been the lot of many around the world, especially persecuted believers, but it has been the case, through common grace kindnesses for most of us in Australia. Put another way we are able to enjoy the beauties of God’s varied creation. These common grace gifts (Acts 14:16-17) are meant to lead to thanksgiving and render every person without excuse, if they exchange this truth about God, for the idolatry of ascribing this gift to ‘mother-nature’ or our own ingenuity (Rom 1:21-23).
- Those of us who experience both common grace and saving grace (Eph 2:8-9) are wise to ponder what God might be saying to us at this time. Is the pandemic a wake-up call for our nation, our denomination, our local church, ourselves? We would be wise to take stock, especially as believers in Australia, since we have been given so much common grace from God’s hands as inhabitants of earth, and as members of Heaven by new-birth, the saving grace of adoption, pardon and the Holy Spirit. We may even have become more concerned with common grace gifts than His salvation gifts which sees us drifting back into the idolatry of Phil 3:17-21. The good common grace gifts of work, thrift and saving might lead us away from the saving grace trust and security in our Saviour, keeping us from the generous giving that this hour invites (demands?) of us.
- Like all of our Father’s gifts, common grace gifts can easily terminate upon ourselves rather than flow through us. It is too easy to become cattle trough Christians rather than living spring Christians. Cattle troughs run dry whereas living springs keep fresh as God’s gifts flow through us to others (1 Thess. 3:12). Just as farmers pay a premium for land with springs, so our salvation has been purchased at the premium of our Lord’s substitutionary atonement (Mark 10:45, 1 Cor 6:19-20, Heb 13:11-14, 1 Peter 3:18, 1 John 4:9-12).
- On Landline we saw the kindness and enterprise of a flower grower, who rather than plough back her unsold abundant harvest of flowers, with the help of crowd funding, gave away much of her crop to medical and front line workers as thank you gifts. Common grace is seen at every level of this generosity. It will not save the lady, only faith in Christ can do that, but it was the kind of display of largesse that enriches our community. We believers, saved by that remarkable grace of God to us in Christ, must surely thank God for such displays of kindness, and be stimulated to an even increasing generosity, of the kind encouraged by Paul for the famine stricken Judean believers (2 Cor. 8-9) and motivated primarily by our Saviour (8:9).
Peter Brain 16th May, 2020