Common Grace - Part 5

Theme: When Bad People Misuse Good Things

This week’s lessons teach the doctrine of common grace, and how it should lead people to the praise of God and, through saving grace, to faith in Jesus Christ.

Scripture: Isaiah 26:10


This brings us to the final text I want to consider in this study of common grace. It is Isaiah 26:10:

Though grace is shown to the wicked,
they do not learn righteousness;
even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil
and regard not the majesty of the Lord.

I think here of something Jesus said in comparing his ministry and that of John the Baptist. John was an austere figure who lived in the desert and preached a sober message of repentance from sin. Jesus moved among the masses and participated in such joyful affairs as weddings. But the people did not listen either to John or Jesus. So Jesus said: “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to others:

‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘He is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners”’” (Matt. 11:16-19).

It is the exact point I have been making. People do not respond to common grace. It does not matter whether common grace expresses itself in the good things of life that should lead us to seek out and thank God who is the source of all good things, or whether it expresses itself in bad but good things, like natural disasters, that are intended as a warning of the even greater disaster of God's final judgment. The wicked respond to neither, as Isaiah says. Therefore, if anyone is going to be saved from sin and brought to true faith in God and obedience, it is going to be by special grace and not by common grace, that is, by the electing grace of God, which reaches down to lost sinners and regenerates them from their destructive ways.

I return to the situation at Lystra. After Paul and Barnabas had stopped the crowd from sacrificing to them as if they were gods, they taught them the Word of God. But enemies of the gospel from Antioch and Iconium came to Lystra and turned the crowd against the two missionaries. As a result, the same crowd which days before was ready to worship Barnabas as Zeus and Paul as Hermes, now stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city where he was left for dead. What fickle people these were! Yet they were no different than people in our time. People are always fickle until God brings true stability into their lives through the gospel. If anything of any permanence is to happen—if lives are to be changed, if the seed of the Word is to fall into good soil and bear fruit, and do it year after year—it is only going to be by the special electing and regenerating grace of God.

But this is what happened in Lystra, as well as in the other cities Paul was visiting. Because of the stoning Paul left Lystra the next day. He went to Derbe and taught there. But shortly thereafter, we read that Paul and Barnabas went back through the cities they had visited, including Lystra, “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:22). This means that God had worked in the lives of some of these unstable, pagan people to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ.

Common grace saves no one. But although common grace saves no one, the special grace of God operating by the preaching and teaching of the Word of God does, which is why we must study it carefully, as we will do.


Study Questions:

  1. Explain the difference between common grace and electing grace. Give examples of each.
  2. Look up any passages that talk about God’s electing grace. What do they teach about it?

What does it show us about God?

Application: Praise the Lord today for bestowing upon you the blessings of his electing grace.

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