July 17th, 2019

This post is also available in: Português Nederlands

Responding to Non-Believers

How should we understand and relate to those who do not yet believe? Is salvation a black and white thing – before I knew Yeshua I was evil and now I am good? ‘Yes’ and ‘no’! Yes, of course we were ‘once darkness’, but now we are ‘light in the Lord’ (Ephesians 5:8)

In Acts 10, however, we read of a Roman centurion, Cornelius, who was, “devout and God-fearing… gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly”. We learn this in the first verses of the chapter, but it is only later that his family believes in Yeshua and is baptized. This is not the pattern of evil behaviour suddenly becoming good. How can this be, unless the Holy Spirit is active in peoples’ lives before new birth?


Common grace, also known by theologians as ‘prevenient’ grace, is that unmerited generosity of God active in people before they are saved. It is ‘common’ because it is available to everyone. Some of this God activity takes the form of conscience, although our consciences can be refused, subdued, or become twisted. Many non-believers of course do sometimes behave in an evil way, as of course so do we believers until we are fully sanctified.

We also see God’s common grace active in the many myths and legends of ancient cultures that point tribal peoples towards God even before they hear the gospel message – especially in the form of legendary ‘Messiah’ figures who die on a tree and so save their people somehow. It seems that God placed within the culture itself such ‘hooks’ which enable people to respond to the Gospel when they hear it.

Why do so many Muslim people receive and respond to dreams of Yeshua, even long before they are saved?

Similarly, why did the sea captain in the boat in the storm with Jonah implore him to pray to his Hebrew God? Because the sailors were receiving revelation as to the powerlessness of their own gods and the potency of Jonah’s God. Later in the chapter they demonstrate the fear of the Lord.

So, understanding common grace:

  1. Shows us that non-believers are not held at point zero in revelation of God until the point of salvation, but rather accumulate revelation and experience of Him along the way, and are presented with choices to respond. Understanding this helps us to have a higher view of those who are not yet saved and enables us to evangelise in a less patronising and more appropriate manner.
  2. Helps us avoid being proud by comparing ourselves wrongly with others, especially non-believers.
  3. Gives us a higher view of newly saved people and helps us in the discipling process.
  4. Helps us avoid a confused ‘spiritual’ / ‘unspiritual’, or ‘secular’ / ‘sacred’ distinction.
  5. Helps us Jews understand that God is also active in the Gentile world.
  6. Helps the Christian Church understand that God has a plan and purpose for Israel.
  7. Help us all understand the work of God in all creation.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
By | 2019-09-03T08:13:32+00:00 July 17th, 2019|6 Comments


  1. Caleb July 17, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    I my self did always have problem with Yeshua, because I was thinking that He was not important at all. My starting point where more of evolutionist and God where some maybe some human made thing or something, In one point I did believe in New-age movement thoughts, but one day, cause I was always wanted to know what is real and what is not, in 2000 spring Power come upon me and said “I AM” in plain Finnish. So that point it where like lights where turn on in my whole existence. It was like more than any experience could offer in this whole world. Well I my self believe that when you are searching the real and only answer and don’t satisfy in half. He will come. I my self have studied so called Old Testament from my childhood through stories and in older other part. Only thing from New Testament where Revelation Book that I was interest. I was practicing some point my faith as Bible believing Rasta headed own road follower, but in this point when I met I AM I was lead to His Son.

  2. Shavi July 19, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    I have always felt that I could not really witness to how I came to full faith to unbelievers. I grew up in a “Christian home” with basic knowledge of God and Jesus since I was a child. I mostly tried to live a good life. And only slowly by reading the Bible and seeing the difference between what I read and what I experienced and saw in myself and other “Christians” did I realize that something was missing. The promised Holy Spirit was not part of my life (at least nothing like what I read in the Bible). Slowly a dissatisfaction grew. I understood that we are saved through faith in Jesus, but experienced none of the promised fruit of such a faith. Until the day of desperate prayer when God filled me with his Holy Spirit and my life turned around. But I never had a day or date of when I came to faith… Only of the day I was first filled with the Spirit. This piece reminded me that there are others who did not have a typical repentance experience in the Bible. And it should not cause me to keep quiet.

  3. ed Barnes July 20, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    Excellent— keep on writing and witnessing in Israel=== ed barnes in usa

  4. Yegile Gizaw July 20, 2019 at 6:24 pm

    Thank you for this article, praise God I really need hear this. God is gracious He specks to me through your article. He has been with as all our life ever when we didn’t know It. And the amazing grace we received mercy and our salvation.

  5. Blue Ballinger July 23, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    This is so well put. God is a God full of love and grace and mercy. Those of us who have a full understanding of this should not keep it to ourselves but share the gift that God so willingly gave through his son, Jesus the Messiah. Thank you so much for sharing this article

  6. Glenn J August 15, 2019 at 12:03 am

    Common Grace and Prevenient Grace are not the same. Are you seeking to redefine these two categories into one?

Comments are closed.