"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Owen: Important Question on the Death of Christ

From "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ." by John Owen. The words are from Book 1, chapter 3. Only the two headings are mine.

[1 - Christ suffered hell for us]

He cries, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And this, by the way, will be worth our observation that we may know with whom our Saviour chiefly had to do, and what was that which he underwent for sinners; which also will give some light to the grand query concerning the persons of them for whom he undertook all this. His sufferings were far from consisting in mere corporal perpessions and afflictions, with such impressions upon his soul and spirit as were the effects and issues only of them. It was no more nor less than the curse of the law of God which he underwent for us: for he freed us from the curse “by being made a curse,” Gal. iii. 13; which contained all the punishment that was due to sin, either in the severity of God’s justice, or according to the exigence of that law which required obedience. That the execration of the law should be only temporal death, as the law was considered to be the instrument of the Jewish polity, and serving that economy or dispensation, is true; but that it should be no more, as it is the universal rule of obedience, and the bond of the covenant between God and man, is a foolish dream. Nay, but in dying for us Christ did not only aim at our good, but also directly died in our stead. The punishment due to our sin and the chastisement of our peace was upon him; which that it was the pains of hell, in their nature and being, in their weight and pressure, though not in tendence and continuance (it being impossible that he should be detained by death), who can deny and not be injurious to the justice of God, which will inevitably inflict those pains to eternity upon sinners?...

[2 - Then how can any that Christ suffered hell for still go to hell? ]

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” Isa. liii. 6: and add thereunto this observation, that it seems strange to me that Christ should undergo the pains of hell in their stead who lay in the pains of hell before he underwent those pains, and shall continue in them to eternity; for “their worm dieth not, neither is their fire quenched.” To which I may add this dilemma to our Universalists:— God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God enter into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: “If the Lord should mark iniquities, who should stand?” Ps. cxxx. 3. We might all go to cast all that we have “to the moles and to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty,” Isa. ii. 20, 21. If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why, then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.” But this unbelief, is it a sin or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will.


Andrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jared Nelson said...

I don't know why you removed your questions Andrew, they were good. I would say to the first question on the alienation of the Father and Son:

Every Christian Tradition has to deal with this problem. We are told that Christ "became sin for us" in 2 Corinthians 5:21. I believe that this means that the penalty of sin was imputed to Christ, not that Christ changed in His nature to be sinful, for then He would cease to be God. That also has helpful implications for thinking about how we obtain Christ's righteousness, which I believe is also by imputation. The exactl happenings and metaphysics of what was happening at that moment, however, I think are a mystery.

On whether logic and reason are trumping Scripture I would say no. A hollistic view of the Scripture's teaching is in view. We ought to look at what pas and kosmos mean in Greek rather than thinking we know what they mean by their common glosses in English of "all" and "world." If we look at those words, we see not only can they mean something other than "every single one," they almost never mean "every single one." Let's look at 1 John's use that you alluded to. 1 John 4:14 says "the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world"

I understand that in the way world was understood by Polycarp's followers "The world of the elect." You may be a Universalist but I am not.

We do not say that God is the savior of those who are not saved. If I talked about saving the life of a person that drowned, that is nonsense. If God is the savior of those who are not saved, salvation means nothing, for it has no essense, it communicates an action that has not taken place. When God told Israel that he was their savior from the Egyptians, this was not because he let them drown in the sea. Such a statement would call for no praise, but merely ridicule.

The real question, then, is not at heart lexical, but theological. The question is did Jesus die for the actual accomplishment of salvation, or for the potentiality of salvation? If it is the actuality of salvation, then Christ died specifically for those whom the Father gave Him. If for potentiality, then Christ died for no one, but is dependent and bows to the sovereignty of the human person, for as many as sovereignly choose to allow Christ to assist them in their own salvation of themselves.

Of what Christ died for, it was the accomplishment and purchase of all things pertaining to salvation, of acquital before God, of regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification, faith, and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon man. All things necessary and all things pertaining to salvation for His bride, who is/are those whom God has sovereignly elected to be the benficiaries of salvation, despite however much humans may not trust God with this decree and wish to grab the scepter from His hand.