Although vicarious atonement as the acquisition of salvation in its totality cannot therefore be expanded to include all persons individually, this is not to say that it has no significance for those who are lost. Between the church and the world there is, at this point, not just separation and contrast. It is not the case that Christ has acquired everything for the former and nothing for the latter. In rejecting universalism one may not forget that Christ’s merit has its limits even for the church and its value and meaning for the world. In the first place, it must be remembered, after all, that though Christ as such is indeed the Re-creator, he is not the Creator of all things. Just as the Son follows the Father, so re-creation presupposes creation, grace presupposes nature, and regeneration presupposes birth. Not included in Christ’s merits, strictly speaking, is the fact that the elect are born and live, that they receive food, shelter, clothing, and an assortment of natural benefits. One can say that God would no longer have allowed the world and humankind to exist had he not had another and higher purpose for it. Common grace is indeed subservient to special grace, and along with salvation God also grants the elect many other, natural, blessings (Matt. 6:33; Rom. 8:28, 32; 1 Tim. 4:8; 2 Pet. 1:3). Still it is wrong, with the Herrnhuter and Pietists, to erase the boundaries between nature and grace, creation and redemption, and to put Christ in the Father’s place on the throne of the universe. Even election and the covenant of grace, presupposing as they do the objects of the one and the participants of the other, were not acquired by Christ but precede his merits. With his creation the Father lays the groundwork for the work of re-creation and leads toward it. With his work, on the other hand, the Son goes back deeply–as far as sin reaches–into the work of creation. Still the two works are distinct and In the second place, Christ did not, for each of his own, acquire the same thing.
There is diversity among believers before they come to the faith, difference in gender, age, class, rank, character, gifts, and so on, and also in the measure and degree of wickedness and corruption. And when they come to the faith, there is diversity in the grace given them. Grace is given to each according to the measure Christ has bestowed (Rom. l2:3; 1 Cor. 12:11; Eph. 3:7; 4:7). The natural diversity among people, though cleansed by grace, is not erased. By the diversity of spiritual gifts, it is even increased, for the body of Christ consists of many members in order that it may be one organism, God’s own creation and masterpiece.