What did the death of Jesus on the cross accomplish for the non-elect? Anything?
It's amazing how frequently that question is coming up recently. Somebody asked me after church last week, "Did Christ purchase common grace?" And we were talking about it at Table Talk with the students just a few weeks ago.
I'll tell you my reflection just as briefly as I can. Frankly, I'm not sure how to answer the question. But I think in telling you why I'm not sure you'll be able to get a grasp on it.
In one sense, as soon as we sin we should be punished eternally. We shouldn't get another breath. There should be no reprieve. There should be no time given to us. So clearly then, in some sense, the time given to us is grace. And grace for a sinner requires some kind of payment or purchase or warrant from a holy God. And Christ would be the one who provides that.
So I'm inclined to say, "Yes, the fact that the non-elect, the unbelievers all over the world are still breathing and have another chance to believe is a gift, just like the offer of the gospel is a gift. And that offer is provided by the cross."
Now here's the catch. Romans 2:4 says, "Don't you know that the patience of God is meant to lead you to repentance? But you, by your hard and unrepentant heart, are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when the righteous judgment of God is revealed."
So if a non-elect person spurns—which they do—they spurn this grace, the grace itself becomes added judgment. Which makes me wonder, "In what sense was it grace?" In some sense it is. It's a real offer, it's a real opportunity. But if you spurn it, if you reject it, it backfires and mounts up with greater judgment.
It's like the more kindness is shown to a person that they resist, then the more wicked they show themselves to be. And the more wicked they show themselves to be, the more judgment falls upon them.
I think the answer is yes. I think real grace, real common grace, real offer of salvation—right now, just watching this—is grace. And if you're a non-Christian, grace is being offered you at this very moment in my warning you that, if you spurn this, judgment will be greater.
And that's a gift to you right now that God may be pleased to then use to awaken you to say, "Whoa. I don't want to multiply my judgment. I want to respond to this moment of grace."
That's what I think the upshot of this conversation should be: respond to the grace. You're alive! There's still a chance to believe and be saved.