Just read the story of the Roman Centurian from Luke 7:1-10, and was struck by the huge depiction of common grace I found there. A Roman leader has a sick servant whom he loves very much (common grace #1 – all love comes from God). This Centurian hears about Jesus and sends “some elders of the Jews” to ask him if he’d come and heal his servant. When those elders came to Jesus they said, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue (common grace #2 – God cared for his Jewish people through a representative of the occupying empire). Common grace came via an “enemy”. That’s cool. And then it kind of rebounded in a ‘quid pro quo’ way. The elders, obviously feeling a love for this Centurion (common grace #3), agreed to be his advocates before Jesus (a fellow Jew). God used the people Jesus was trying to reach with the gospel to reach out to a representative of the occupying empire (common grace #4). Those Jews, for all we know, may not have believed in Jesus themselves at all, or yet.
And then, trumping all of these common graces, the Centurion blows everyone away by demonstrating more faith than anyone Jesus has ever met before (common grace #5) (read the story for the details). And yet, for all we know, his reaching out to Jesus could have been nothing more than a pragmatic request born out of desperation. We don’t know. And maybe that’s all it takes when it comes to expressing faith in Jesus. There’s no 4 step process you need to undergo, or a particular prayer you need to pray , just that thing inside of you that loves a good friend, that knows some people who know this guy who may be able to help.
Where is the line between God’s Spirit moving in commonly gracious ways and special/saving ways? How can an early move of the Spirit building a synagogue be any less saving than that same Spirit leading a person to pray, “How can I be saved?”