Are the Blessings that Unbelievers Enjoy from God Given Through the Holy Spirit?

Emmanuel Okpor from Nigeria writes:

Hello Pastor Confex,

I have a pressing question. We have seen and heard of unbelievers experiencing something of God’s mercy. Things like healing; escaping death by the whiskers; having a premonition of impending doom and being able to make the right decision just in time to escape tragedy and many more. On the positive side, these unbelievers also enjoy success and come up with innovative solutions that alleviate human suffering and make communities healthier and more peaceful.

Sir, will it be correct to say these unbelievers were being led by the Holy Spirit to accomplish these things (even though it is clear from scriptures that they don’t possess the Spirit of Christ)? Yes, God’s mercies extend to them too, but is it through the agency of the Holy Spirit? If not, then what categories are there to help us explain the goodness they experience and express?

Dear Emmanuel,

In answering your question let me start by highlighting that the Bible is clear as you have already pointed out that the Holy Spirit does not indwell unbelievers (John 14:16, 17). Nevertheless, he can still work in them. One work that is clearly explained in the Scriptures is to convict them of sin, righteousness, and judgement (John 16:8).

Now as for unbelievers experiencing God’s blessings like healing, protection, and success in their work or in the world we need to consider God’s grace. The Bible shows us that there are two types of God’s grace. Theologians describe them as God’s common or non-saving grace and Gods’ special or saving grace. God’s common grace is the one he gives even to unbelievers and enables them to enjoy his blessings that are not attached to salvation in Christ. Some examples of these blessings from God’s common grace include sunshine, rain, fruitful seasons, food, God’s kindness and many good things (Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:17; Luke 6:35; 16:35). I believe we can also add to the list God’s protection, healing, and success as you have mentioned in your question. God’s special grace on the other hand is his saving grace which Paul describes well in Ephesians 2:8, 9 when he writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 

So according to the Bible, the blessings that unbelievers receive and enjoy in this world are a result of God’s common grace. But the Bible is silent on whether they are given directly through or by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I would not say that they are given through him without any scriptural support. Having said that let me also add this caveat: unbelievers should not be content with God’s common grace. They should cry out to God for his special grace in their lives because the blessings of God’s common grace can become a curse if they blind them to their need for God’s saving grace in Christ. A good example that readily comes to mind is the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21. The rich man was pumped up with worldly blessings and never sought spiritual blessings of salvation in Christ. In the end God called him a fool for he worked so much for the bread that perishes while neglecting the bread of life that lasts forever (John 6:27). He laid up for himself treasure in this world but was not rich toward God (Luke 12:21).

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If you have any question for me, please email it to confex@refomationmalawi.org. With your consent it might be featured in “That’s a Good Question Series.”

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