John Owen Concerning the Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ

Puritan John Owen (1616 – 24 August 1683) proposed the following concerning Christ’s substitutionary atonement for the sins of all for whom Christ died.

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 (according to Owen).
  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!”

Of course, if you do not believe in Jesus Christ’s death as our substitute, for our sins,  but subscribe to another view of the atonement, what John Owen proposed is not a matter of discussion you are interested in. But if you do believe in Christ’s substitutionary atonement, you might find Owen’s three possibilities worthy of thoughtful consideration and discussion. 

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A Question of Logic?

IF it is true that God sends no one to Hell, but they send themselves by rejecting Christ (damn themselves), is it also true that by accepting Christ the sinner sends himself to Heaven (saves himself)?

Please note that I posed a hypothetical question relating to consistent logic and could be relaying a question I was asked by an atheist.

What We Must Do

HT: Truth For Life

Gideon ordered his men to do two things: Covering up a torch in an earthen pitcher, he had them, at an appointed signal, break the pitcher and let the light shine. Then he had them blow the trumpet, crying, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”

This is precisely what all Christians must do. First, you must shine: Break the pitcher that conceals your light, throw aside the container that has been hiding your candle, and shine. Let your light shine before men; let your good works be such that when men look at you, they will know that you have been with Jesus.

Then there must be the sound, the blowing of the trumpet. There must be active exertions for the gathering of sinners by proclaiming Christ crucified. Take the Gospel to them. Carry it to their door; put it in their path; do not allow them to escape it; blow the trumpet right against their ears. Remember that the true battle-cry of the church is Gideon’s watchword, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” God must do it; it is His own work.

But we are not to be idle; He uses instruments–“A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” If we only cry, “A sword for the LORD!” we will be guilty of idle presumption; and if we shout, “A sword for Gideon!” alone, we shall display an idolatrous reliance on man: We must blend the two in practical harmony: “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” We can do nothing in ourselves, but we can do everything by the help of our God; let us, therefore, in His name determine to go out personally and serve Him with our flaming torch of holy example and with our trumpet blasts of sincere declaration and testimony, and God will be with us, and the enemy will be put to confusion, and the Lord of hosts will reign forever and ever.

Who Seeks Whom?

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

“The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.” – Psalm 14:2-3

“as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.” – Rom 3:10-11

Any Questions?

Personal Evangelism 101

By John MacArthur

Jesus would have failed personal evangelism class in almost every Bible college and seminary I know. Matthew 19:16-22 describes a young man who looked like the hottest evangelistic prospect the Lord had encountered so far. He was ripe. He was eager. There was no way he would get away without receiving eternal life.

But he did. Instead of getting him to make a decision, in a sense Jesus chased him off. He failed to draw the net. He failed to sign the young man up. Should we allow our ideas of evangelism to indict Jesus? I think we need to allow His example to critique contemporary evangelism. Christ’s confrontation of this young man gives us much-needed insight into reaching the lost.

Turmoil of the Heart

Though rich and a ruler while still a young man, he was undoubtedly in turmoil. All his religion and wealth had not given him confidence, peace, joy, or settled hope. There was a restlessness in his soul–an absence of assurance in his heart. He was coming on the basis of a deeply felt need. He knew what was missing: eternal life. His motivation in coming to Christ was faultless.

His attitude was right as well. He wasn’t haughty or presumptuous; he seemed to feel his need deeply. There are many people who know they don’t have eternal life but don’t feel any need for it. Not this young man. He was desperate. There’s a sense of urgency in his question, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I might have eternal life?” He did not have a prologue; he didn’t warm up; he just blurted it out. He even allowed such an outburst in public and risked losing face with all the people who thought he was a spiritual giant already.

A lot of people, in seeking to understand this passage, have taken the young man to task for the question he asked. They say his mistake was in asking “What good thing shall I do?” But he asked a fair question. It wasn’t a calculated bid to trap Jesus into condoning self righteousness. It was a simple, honest question asked by one in search of truth: “What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”

The Issue of Sin

But here’s where the story takes an extraordinary turn. Jesus’ answer to the young man seems preposterous: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (v. 17). Strictly speaking, Jesus’ answer was correct. If a person kept the law all his life and never violated a single part of it, he would have eternal life. But no one can. Since he had come with the right motive to the right source, asking the right question, why didn’t Jesus simply tell him the way of salvation?

Because the young man was missing an important quality. He was utterly lacking a sense of his own sinfulness. His desire for salvation was based on a felt need. He had anxiety and frustration. He wanted joy, love, peace, and hope. But that is an incomplete reason for committing oneself to Christ.

Our Lord didn’t offer relief for the rich young ruler’s felt need. Instead, he gave an answer devised to confront him with his sin and his need of forgiveness. It was imperative that he perceive his sinfulness. People cannot come to Jesus Christ for salvation merely on the basis of psychological needs, anxieties, lack of peace, a sense of hopelessness, an absence of joy, or a yearning for happiness. Salvation is for people who hate their sin and want to turn away from it. It is for individuals who understand that they have lived in rebellion against a holy God and who want to live for His glory.

Jesus’ answer took the focus off the young man’s felt need and put it back on God: “There is only One who is good.” Then He held him against the divine standard so he would see how far short he fell: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” But the young man ignored and rejected the point. He was utterly unwilling to confess his own sinfulness.

Evangelism must take the sinner and measure him against the perfect law of God so he can see his deficiency. A gospel that deals only with human needs, feelings, and problems is superficial and powerless to save since it focuses only on the symptoms rather than sin, the real issue. That’s why churches are filled with people whose lives are essentially no different after professing faith in Christ. Many of those people, I’m sad to say, are unregenerate and grievously misled.

A Call for Repentance

The rich young ruler asked Jesus which commandments he should keep. The Lord responded by giving him the easy half of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.” Then He adds, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (vv. 18 19).

Scripture says, “The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?'” (v. 20). That demonstrates his shallow perception of the law. It’s possible that on the surface he did all those things, but God looks for an internal application. There was no way he could honestly say he had always kept that law. He could not have been telling the truth–he was either lying or totally self-deluded.

And so there was no way the rich young ruler could be saved. Salvation is not for people who simply want to avoid hell and gain heaven instead; it is sinners who recognize how unfit they are for heaven and come to God for forgiveness. If you are not ashamed of your sin, you cannot receive salvation.

At this point, Mark 10:21 says, “And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him.” That statement paints a pathetic picture. The young man was sincere. His spiritual quest was genuine. He was an honestly religious person. And Jesus loved him. However, the Lord Jesus does not take sinners on their own terms. As much as He loved the young man, He nevertheless did not grant him eternal life merely because he requested it.

Submission to Christ

Jesus lovingly tried to help the young man see another essential element of salvation: “Jesus said to Him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’ (v. 21). Challenging him, Jesus was basically saying, “You say you love your neighbor as yourself. OK, give him everything you’ve got. If you really love him as much as you love yourself, that should be no problem.”

Jesus was simply testing whether he was willing to submit himself to Christ. Scripture never records that He demanded anyone else sell everything and give it away. The Lord was exposing the man’s true weakness–the sin of covetousness, indulgence, and materialism. He was indifferent to the poor. He loved his possessions. So the Lord challenged that.

Verse 22 says, “When the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.” He wouldn’t come to Jesus if it meant giving up his possessions. It’s interesting that he went away grieved. He really did want eternal life; he just wasn’t willing to pay the price of repenting of sin and submitting to Christ.

The story has a tragic, heartbreaking ending. The rich young ruler came for eternal life, but left without it. He thought he was rich, but walked away from Jesus with nothing. Although salvation is a blessed gift from God, Christ will not give it to a man whose hands are filled with other things. A person who is not willing to turn from his sin, his possessions, his false religion, or his selfishness will find he cannot turn in faith to Christ.

By John MacArthur. © by Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission

The Old Gospel and the New Gospel

1. The old gospel was about an offended God, the new gospel is about wounded us.

2. The old gospel was about sin, the new gospel is about felt needs.

3. The old gospel was about our need for righteousness, the new gospel is about our need for fulfillment.

4. The old gospel was offensive to the perishing, the new gospel is attractive.

HT: Gary Gilley, Pastor, Southern View Chapel, Springfield Illinois

“. . .snatching them from the fire. . .”

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. – Jude 1:17-23 (emphasis mine)

Jude 1 is a call to perseverance in the midst of false teachers and scoffers who arise from within the church. It is also a call to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (v. 13)

The emphasized portion above tells us how to treat others. The call to ‘snatch them out of the fire’ describes the condition of unsaved unbelievers. It might be the perfect biblical description of the familiar ‘burning building’ analogy we are familiar with, but that is seldom used these days in our evangelistic efforts. We would rather ‘attract’ people to a Jesus they will surely love because of all of the blessings afforded the believer. The truth of the matter is that they are already in the fire, according to the above passage.

We aren’t called to help people with their self-esteem, promise them their ‘best lives now’, a wonderful plan, or their special purpose. We are called to ‘snatch them from the fire of the wrath of God under which they live and breathe, and which offers a gloomy eternity. .