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Can believers work with non-believers?

For most of us, our jobs and everyday activities bring us in contact with non-believers. We work alongside them day after day. How do we think biblically about this situation?

The answer is found in the biblical doctrine of common grace.

I’ve defined common grace more in-depth in other posts, so here it will suffice to define common grace using this insightful quote from theologian John Murray, who defined it 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.

Common grace is common because it is universal; it is grace because it is undeserved and given by a gracious God.

It is crucial that Christians understand common grace if we are to understand how God want to use us at our job.

Gaining an Appreciation of Common Grace

Common grace gives us  both a theological and practical answer to how  we can work to fulfill the cultural mandate with those who are not followers of Christ, while also not becoming “of the world.”

It is also a means by which Christians serve the common good of their neighbors and transform the culture. It allows us to work alongside non-Christians for a common purpose.

In this regard, Abraham Kuyper writes,

God is glorified in the total development toward which human life and power over nature gradually march on under the guardianship of “common grace.”

In thinking about the purpose of common grace, I have found Wayne Grudem’s thoughts on this question very helpful. His book Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith suggest four reasons for common grace.

Four Purposes of Common Grace

1. Common Grace Serves God’s Greater Purpose of Saving Grace

Common grace serves the purpose of special or saving grace. Saving grace has as its specific end the glorification of the whole body of God’s elect, which in turn has its ultimate end in the glory of God’s name.

It is through common grace that God restrains both sin and his wrath against sinful mankind. Without common grace, redemptive grace would be impossible because there would be nothing left of the human from which to make children of God. Either we would have been destroyed by God, or else we would have destroyed ourselves.

2. Common Grace Demonstrates God’s Mercy and Goodness

God’s mercy and goodness are seen not only in the gift of salvation to believers but also in the blessing he gives to all people.

  • David said that, “The Lord is good to all; his compassion is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9).
  • The Apostle Paul tells us that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

By delaying his punishment, God shows that he finds no pleasure in executing his final judgment, but rather delights in the salvation of men and women.

3. Common Grace Demonstrates God’s Justice

Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans that,

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them (Romans 1:18-19).

Through God’s common grace, all people know the truth about God, yet they have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25).

Paul went on to warn sinful people,

Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed (Romans 2:25).

In the light of such rejection of God’s revealed truth, we see the justice of his condemnation more clearly.

4. Common Grace Demonstrates God’s Glory

God’s common grace actively operates in the lives of all human beings in many ways.

Grudem writes that as mankind exercises dominion over the earth, through common grace they:

…demonstrate and reflect the wisdom of their creator, demonstrate Godlike qualities of skill and moral virtue and authority over the universe and so forth.

Unbelievers can still reflect the excellence of their creator and bring glory to God in an imperfect but significant way.

Seeing through the Lens of Common Grace

The Christian employee, surrounded by non-Christians at work, can take great hope from the doctrine of common grace. As Scott Kauffmann writes, in an article entitled The Problem of Good,

Common grace helps us to acknowledge that there are times to embrace culture warmly, and times to be in stark opposition to it. And the only durable, biblical way to do both is to see culture through the lens of common grace.

This doctrine helps us make a strong biblical case for engaging the culture while embracing the gospel.

Wherever we work, we can rest assured that God can use us through our callings to influence our fellow employees, our company, our city, our nation, and the world for the glory of God.

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Hugh Whelchel

About Hugh Whelchel

Hugh Whelchel is Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and author of "How Then Should We Work?: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work." Hugh has a Master of Arts in Religion and brings over 30 years of diverse business experience to his leadership at IFWE. Read More...

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