What is Common Grace?

I’m a 7 point Calvinist if you will. One issue that often comes up is the idea of common grace. Civil government is often pointed to as an aspect of common grace: a means by which God restrains evil.

But what is Common Grace? Does it exist?

Most people think that common grace is an outpouring of good will on the unbelieving. But if we believe that God has predestined the reprobate to damnation, and has given over those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness to a downward spiral of depravity and judgment, why would he show them good will?

I rather think of common grace as a positive externality of the good will God has for the elect.

“God is patient toward you not willing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance”.

This is a commonly misunderstood verse. It’s often used by arminians to undermine Calvinist.

However, pay careful attention. Peter says “towards you” meaning this verse is about the elect. God’s patience in withholding judgment is meant in order that the elect will be saved.

And so the reprobate receive some temporary benefit like scraps from the table. But never think that this is because God is directly intending to do them good. It’s a form of judgment, actually, because it leads them to deny their need for salvation.

Civil government is indeed a form of this common grace. The sword was given to government to punish those who persecute the church, to punish those who assault God by assaulting his image bearers, to prefigure the judgment of God on all evildoers, and to restrain the full scope of human depravity such that the days of Noah when the whole world would need to be judged would not arrive again until God has saved all of his elect.

Governments will be judged by whether they have born the sword according to God’s will.