Common grace is a wonderful thing to sing about, and we have no shortage of worship songs that help us to do just that — praise God for the common grace He bestows upon all mankind. But Christian worship must go far beyond this, and must center on the special grace that God has shown to His Church.
What? Common grace and special grace? If you’re new to these terms, here are brief definitions:
Common grace: God’s common patience or forbearance with sinners … the non-saving, sustaining grace of God that benefits all humankind.
Worship songs celebrate common grace when their lyrics praise God for things like:
- Giving us the sun, the stars, the moon, the wind and rain.
- The beauty of mountains, oceans, fields and streams.
- Breath in our lungs.
- All forms of health that we enjoy, until the day of death.
These are good things to sing about. They particularly make for effective Call To Worship songs — songs that celebrate the attributes and actions of God, which we typically sing at the beginning of a service. Further, songs that acknowledge God as creator of the universe are useful in an age that doesn’t believe in a creator.
“Special” or “saving” grace: Forgiveness of sin, adoption as sons and daughters of God, heirs with Christ in God’s eternal kingdom because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. While all humankind benefits from common grace until the moment of death, only those redeemed in Christ benefit from special grace, which lasts forever.
Worship songs that celebrate special grace are those which praise God for the cross, that sing of our redemption, that remind us who we were and who we now are, in Christ. These songs differentiate Christianity from every religion. They reveal the fullness of God’s character, His plan, and His triune nature. They magnify Jesus, our redeemer. We can never have enough of these kinds of songs.
So does this mean we should do away with common grace songs? Of course not. But worship leaders and songwriters, take a look at your repertoire. If you’ve got more “common grace songs” than “special grace songs,” then consider how you can correct this imbalance.
“… worship must be in Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world and brought salvation to us. Because he is the full revelation of the Godhead and the one way of access to the Father, he must be the focal point of worship. If he is not and we try to worship God without reference to the divine Son of God, then we have failed to follow God’s revelation through to its culmination in the plan of redemption. Believers should come away from a worship service with a renewed assurance of the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, of forgiveness through his blood, of acceptance into his eternal kingdom, and with a fresh commitment to give him the preeminence (Col. 1:18).”
— Allen P. Ross, Recalling The Hope Of Glory