Simply put, common grace is the protection and care that God gives to all creatures, and to all people, regardless of their relationship with Him. The grace that God gives to those who believe in Jesus Christ and are saved by His work on the cross is called, alternately, "particular" grace. It is given to a particular group of people, namely those who have faith. Common grace, on the other hand, includes all the beneficial and good things God does for all people, even if they choose to reject Him. God loves His creatures and does not wish harm to any. He "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). Common grace is evidence of that fact.
There are three recognized forms of common grace. The first is a general beneficence from God toward all creatures. Jesus pointed out that God "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). The Psalmist also said "The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made" (Psalm 145:9). His kindness is evident through the simple, good things that all men enjoy: the rain, the harvest, joy in the heart (Acts 14:17). These things are not reserved only for those who trust God, but are given to all people, even those who are enemies of God. He is patient, merciful, and longsuffering (Nahum 1:3) towards those who reject Him.
The second form of common grace is God's intervention in society, and in the lives of people within society. He proactively restrains sin and protects people from doing evil (Genesis 20:6). On the other side of the coin, God intervenes by allowing bad things to happen, or revoking His restraint of evil. This appears to be for the purpose of "giving them over" (Romans 1:28; Psalm 81:11–12). Why is this an example of common grace? How could this possibly be anything but a judgment? Paul, in his letter to Timothy, mentioned two men who were "handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme" (1 Timothy 1:20). The lure of sin is powerful, but when an individual is given over to the dark side, they find themselves in the grip of a cruel master. God's common grace at times works to "give people over" to sin, in an attempt to show them the truth. The servant of God is then instructed to be gentle with these people, in the hope that "God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" (2 Timothy 2:25–26).
The third form of common grace comes in civil righteousness. God gives all men the ability to function within a society, to care for one another, to understand good and evil, and to show love and compassion to their fellows. As Paul said, "For when Gentiles [the unbelieving], who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law" (Romans 2:14). The heart of man understands innately that some things are good and some things are evil and harmful. If this form of common grace did not exist, and this understanding was reserved only for those who trust the Lord, society would be utter chaos.
It has been said that a Christian is just a beggar who knows where to find the bread. Believers and unbelievers are essentially the same. Under common grace, we all have the same experiences, and enjoy the same blessings from God, and endure the same hardships. The only difference is that a believer agrees with God and trusts in Him. Despite common grace, there is no cure for evil, either in society or in the individual. Believers are awakened to this knowledge, and seek relief and rescue in Christ (Romans 5:1–11).
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