New City Catechism 27.3
Question 27: Are all people, just as they were lost through Adam, saved through Christ?
Answer: No, only those who are elected by God and united to Christ by faith. Nevertheless, God in his mercy demonstrates common grace even to those who are not elect, by restraining the effects of sin and enabling works of culture for human well-being.
The salvation that comes through Jesus Christ comes only to those united to him by faith. But that does not mean God has no blessings at all for those who remain outside of Christ. Though they are not saved from his coming judgment, they nevertheless do experience many temporary blessings of his grace and love in this present age.
The doctrine of “common grace” concerns God’s blessings that are given to believers and unbelievers alike in this present age. Why is common grace necessary? It is because, in this present age, before those in Adam and those in Christ are finally separated from one another, believers and unbelievers alike live together in society, working at the same businesses, living in the same neighborhoods, even dwelling in the same households. Until Christ comes, the church’s calling in this present time is to take the gospel to all nations and attempt to bring unbelievers in all places to faith (Matt. 28:18-20). But in order for this mission to be able to play out, there must be an ordered society, where evil is restrained by law and government and where blessings of God’s care and provision for his creation can go on. This “common grace order,” which was established in God’s covenant with creation just after the flood (see Gen. 8:15-9:17) will last until Christ returns, and at that point, unbelievers will pass through the final judgment and outside the reach of God’s grace forever. That makes it all the more important for we who believe to share the gospel with them now while God patiently gives them time to repent.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Matthew 5:43-48. Where do you see God’s common grace in this passage? How does Jesus appeal to God’s common grace in order to instruct us? What are we supposed to do in imitation of God in this passage?
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