For Who Did Christ Die?

Today I am posting a little bit of puritan logic by John Owen, on the question in the title. I hope you find it helpful

FOR WHO DID CHRIST DIE?

John Owen


The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

  1. All the sins of all men.
  2. All the sins of some men, or
  3. Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:

  1. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
  2. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
  3. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

You answer, “Because of unbelief.”

I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!”

  4 comments for “For Who Did Christ Die?

  1. November 7, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Hey Tyrell,

    Some enjoyable posts. I haven’t read Owens on the redemption, so I’m curious regarding his logic here. If the unbelief of the elect is a forgiven sin (which I agree it must be), and the reason the punishment of the non-elect is that (by implication) their sin of unbelief is not atoned for, when is the atonement for the sin of unbelief applied to the elect, in Owen’s reasoning? That is, is there any distinction between the provision of atonement for the elect, and the application of that atonement? Or are the elect justified eternally, as John Gill believed?

    • tyrellh
      November 11, 2013 at 9:55 am

      Hi David

      Thanks for the comment and encouragement. Allow me to think out loud on the subject.

      Gill erred in his view of justification. We are eternally chosen in Christ to receive the benefits of salvation at there appointed time. Justification is a forensic declaration by God at the point of regeneration having been given faith to believe the promises of God on Christ. Not before that time, or there is nothing about salvation by Faith, through grace in Christ that applies. The atonement was provided in Christ, but even then it had not taken place. The only time that the atonement can be applied is when personal redemption takes place. Eternal justification changes the dynamic of personal redemption and the need for Christ’s incarnation. I hope that this is helpful. No reformed confession maintains eternal justification. According to what I know and can find out Owen did not hold to Gill’s position, but to the historic reformed understanding.

  2. November 11, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Thanks, I agree with your assessment. I agree that redemption is applied at the moment of regeneration. But if so, then there is a period of time during which the atonement has been provided, but not yet applied. Until an elect one believes, Christ’s atonement is for him, but not yet applied to him, including his sin of unbelief. Thusfar, I think we agree.

    Here’s my thinking out loud: if atonement is not automatically and eternally applied (as Gill suggests), then there is a period of time when one’s unbelief may have been paid for, but not yet applied.

    If so, then Owen’s logic misses the point. One is not saved because your unbelief is atoned for, or unsaved because the unbelief is not atoned for. One is saved because that provided atonement (including atonement for unbelief) is applied to you, and one is unsaved because atonement is not applied to you. If the distinction between provision and application can be held up in the life of the elect, what is the logical or theological problem with it being upheld in the life of the non-elect? If an elect man can have atonement provided and not applied for eighty years of his life (when the man finally trusts Christ), what stands in the way of a provision of atonement that is not applied at all (in the life of a non-elect)?

    • tyrellh
      November 12, 2013 at 7:25 am

      I find Hebrews to be very helpful on this issue. Christ’s work is like a testimony a will, in the will, legally that which is bequeathed to those who are named there in are going to receive what is promised at that time. Christ the benefactor has died, the will is sealed in His blood, to be given at the appointed time when the elect are to be regenerated. We must think first in forensic terms in order to understand the nature of application. There is no provision for redemption of the non-elect. He was chosen before the foundation of the world to be condemned. Reprobation. There is no grace which applies to the non-elect, grace only applies to the elect of God.

      “16 For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” 21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. 23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another — 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”

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