In praise to God for Common Grace
by Patte Smith on Friday, February 10, 2012 at 10:50am ·
For when Gentiles, who do not have the Law, by nature do what the Law requires...
They show that the work of the Law is written on their hearts,
while their conscience also bears witness,
and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them..
The various aspects of God’s common grace to all mankind may be generally gathered under three heads:
Providential care in creation
Providential restraint of sin
In man’s conscience
While I love God's providential kindness of common grace in creation, today I am meditating upon His common grace as it manifests in restraint of sin and through the conscience of human beings.
By God’s common grace fallen mankind retains a conscience indicating the differences between right and wrong. Did you know that the word conscience means: 'with knowledge'. So, as the scripture declares, when we do wrong, we know that we are doing wrong because our God-given conscience accuses us. When we do right, we know that we are doing right because our God-given conscience excuses us of wrong. Though fallen in sin, every person retains a semblance of the “image of God” with which they were originally created (Gen. 9:6: 1 Cor. 11:7). Therefore, we have nothing to boast about, for even our conscience is a gift of His common grace.
Common grace is seen in God’s His restraining human society from becoming altogether intolerable and ungovernable, His making it possible for mankind to live together in a generally orderly and cooperative manner, and maintaining man’s conscious sense of basic right and wrong behavior.
How wonderful that unregenerate boys and girls, and every single lost man and woman, all enjoy the bestowal of the gift of God's common grace. They are given the knowledge of right and wrong, through their Creator's having written His moral Law (the ten commandments) upon their stony hearts with His powerful finger. This is why, when we speak any commandment to a wayward sinner, a chord is struck deep within them, which they are unable to deny, although they suppress God's just demands in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18)
John Murray defined common grace; "... as every favour of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God.”
Even while sinners deny their Maker and rebel against His holy authority over their lives, God allows them to enjoy His providential blessings in the joys of creation (their own and the wondrous world around them) and in their guilty knowledge of Him and their conscience which gives them discernment between right from wrong. How kind of God to be so good to the thankful and unthankful alike!
In his powerful sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Jonathan Edwards explains how common grace works even in the souls of God's enemies:
“There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell-fire, if it were not for God’s restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell: there are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are the beginnings of hell-fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments in them as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in Scripture compared to the troubled sea, Isaiah 57:20. For the present God restrains their wickedness by His mighty power, as He does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further;’ but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is a thing that is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God’s restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so, if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.”
As we consider the way in which God restrains evil we can observe how He sovereignly works through circumstances to limit a person's sinful behavior, both in the believer and unbeliever. We can look at Biblical examples of God's providential work to restrain wickedness in Gen. 20:6 and 1 Sam. 25:26. We know that God common grace is powerfully administered to humanity through what is known as the biblical doctrine of general revelation:
...what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
~ Romans 1:19
This excerpt from JI Packer's concise definition of general revelation will help you to understand this beautiful aspect of God's common grace:
Scripture assumes, and experience confirms, that human beings are naturally inclined to some form of religion, yet they fail to worship their Creator, whose general revelation of himself makes Him universally known...
Scripture explains this state of affairs by telling us that sinful egoism and aversion to our Creator’s claims drive humankind into idolatry, which means transferring worship and homage to some power or object other than God the Creator (Isa. 44:9-20; Rom. 1:21-23; Col. 3:5). In this way, apostate humans “suppress the truth” and have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom. 1:18, 23). They smother and quench, as far as they can, the awareness that general revelation gives them of the transcendent Creator-Judge, and attach their ineradicable sense of deity to unworthy objects. This in turn leads to drastic moral decline, with consequent misery, as a first manifestation of God’s wrath against human apostasy (Rom. 1:18, 24-32).
Nowadays in the West people idolize and, in effect, worship secular objects such as the firm, the family, football, and pleasant feelings of various kinds. But moral decline still results, just as it did when pagans worshiped literal idols in Bible times.
Human beings cannot entirely suppress their sense of God and His present and future judgment; God Himself will not let them do that. Some sense of right and wrong, as well as of being accountable to a holy divine Judge, always remains. In our fallen world all..have a conscience that at some points directs them and from time to time condemns them, telling them that they ought to suffer for wrongs they have done (Rom. 2:14ff.); and when conscience speaks in these terms it is in truth the voice of God.
Fallen humankind is in one sense ignorant of God, since what people like to believe, and do in fact believe, about the objects of their worship falsifies and distorts the revelation of God they cannot escape. In another sense, however, all human beings remain aware of God, guiltily, with uncomfortable inklings of coming judgment that they wish they did not have. Only the gospel of Christ can speak peace to this distressful aspect of the human condition.
(http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/packer/04guilt.html) His Law to address the conscience of human beings
We can rejoice that even wicked people are not as wicked as they could be, because, by God's common grace, their conscience accuses them when they go to do wrong and they have uncomfortable inklings of coming judgment which they know they deserve. This is why you will meet many nice folks who follow God's commandments, which approve of them when they do right. They like the feeling of being under less guilty shame! Who wouldn't?
When we withhold the truth of the Law (the Ten Commandments) and the accompanying curses which follow those who disobey the demands of Christ, we deny the very means which God has appointed to educate and confirm the knowledge that which He has already placed within human beings. After all, the moral Law has a three-fold use and the second use is: 'restraint of evil'. RC Sproul explains this aspect of the benefit of the commandments:
A second purpose for the Law is the restraint of evil. The Law, in and of itself, cannot change human hearts. It can, however, serve to protect the righteous from the unjust. Calvin says this purpose is “by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice.” The Law allows for a limited measure of justice on this earth, until the last judgment is realized.
As a missionary for Jesus to women who are killing their babies I am constantly grateful for the powerful means of addressing the conscience of murder-minded mothers outside abortuaries through God's Word, His Law and His fearful denunciations of those who willfully transgress His reasonable commands. This is why I am such an advocate for using the authoritative counsel of scripture over the humanistic-therapeutic model of 'ministry'. The Law of God is His gracious common grace tool which has the power to protect the weak and innocent (the little babies in the womb) from their unjust adversary (the mothers who have murder in their hearts against them) by reawakening in the women a sense of legitimate guilt for their evil plans against their pre-born child. We understand that by sin and continual suppression of the truth in unrighteousness (which is encouraged applauded by her flesh, the sin of others in the world and the devil) the abortive or post-abortive mom has a measure of darkness of mind and some impairment to her conscience. The truth of God's Word is a light that shines in the darkness and penetrates deep within her soul, causing something like an alarm bell to go off.
For the Word of God is quick, and powerful,
and sharper than any twoedged sword,
piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit,
and of the joints and marrow,
and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Anything else is like a feather-duster which tickles the mind and emotion, but does not cause reasonable alarm nor elicit fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. (Ps 111:10;Pr 1:7,9:10)
Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to depart from evil is understanding.
Let us remember that the Sword of the Spirit is our only offensive weapon in our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:17) When we withhold, obfuscate, water down, change, adjust or deny the Law of God before men and women, we are guilty of suppressing the very truth which God has ordained to be the means of HIs common grace in restraining evil and His means of saving grace to the perishing. In other words, we SIN against God and our neighbor. God forbid that we should interfere with the holy means of opening the way of salvation to aborting mommies and their babies!
Psalm 19, verse 7 declares, “The Law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul.” What is it that the Bible says is perfect and actually converts the soul? Why scripture makes it very clear: “The Law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul.”
Woe unto us if we deny murdering women and their children the perfect Law of God, which He has appointed for such a time and such a people as this.
For a thorough and biblical teaching on the use of the Law in evangelism please grab your Bible, a notebook and pen & listen to Ray Comfort's powerful message "Hell's Best Kept Secret": http://www.livingwaters.com/learn/hellsbestkeptsecret.htm