John Owen on Preaching the Gospel to those whom Christ did not die for

This is part 5 of a series of blog posts examining the arguments John Owen makes for and against a limited/particular atonement in his extensive work on the subject: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. 

John Owen was well aware of the arguments against limited atonement regarding the preaching of the gospel. Particularly that the gospel, preached to the non-elect (or reprobate), was vain and useless. Opponents make this claim, Owen rightly admits, because it asks people to believe something that was not true; specifically that Christ died for them.

our adversaries pretending that if Christ died not for all, then in vain are they exhorted to believe, there being, indeed, no proper object for the faith of innumerable, because Christ did not die for them; (Bk IV chap 1)

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Preaching to all is not in vain

Owen will argue that “this offer [of the gospel] is neither vain nor fruitless” when presented to those whom Christ did not die for. Why, you might be asking, should I accept Owen’s premise.

And if any ask, What it is of the mind and will of God that is declared and made known when men are commanded to believe for whom Christ did not die?

Owen provides several reasons in answer to the question (his words in italic).

  1. every man may conclude his own duty, which is to believe in Christ even if it is not God’s purpose to do, or his decree that it should be done
  2. every man may know the sufficiency of salvation that is in Jesus Christ to all that believe on him
  3. every man may know the certain, infallible, inviolable connection that is between faith and salvation (or put more simply that salvation is conditioned on faith)
  4. every man may know that whosoever performs the one [faith] shall surely enjoy the other [salvation]

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Reformation 500 (Some Quick Reads)

October 31 will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther hanging the 95 Theses on the doors of the church in Wittenberg to contest the sale of indulgences.

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 #21 Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.

and

#37 Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

The 95 Theses are considered the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation. Of course the fire of reformation burned on the early work of Wycliffe, Hus, and others. What made Luther different from the reformers that preceded him? According to Roger Olson (link), “Hus was burned at the stake, largely ending his ministry and movement, and Luther was not.

According to Challies definition, I would not be considered Reformed, as he links the term strongly with the theological points captured in TULIP (link). However, I consider myself so in the sense that I identify with the needed break from the errors of the Roman Catholic Church.

[The Protestant Reformation was a] biblical response to the excesses and perversions of the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformers, having returned to Scripture, attempted to carefully and faithfully rebuild the church upon the teachings of the New Testament.

Here are some posts written over the last few years on the Reformation.

 

The Death of John Owen’s Argument: a General Atonement means God failed to achieve His goal (Part 4)

This is part 4 of a series of blog posts examining the arguments John Owen makes for and against a limited/particular atonement in his extensive work on the subject: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. 

In the last post, we explored Owen’s admission that there is a distinction between Christ obtaining spiritual blessings and the application of these blessings, which are given on the condition that a person believes. Owen’s solution, used to defend limited atonement, was to assert that faith is one of the many spiritual blessings obtained by Christ’s death.

faith itself, which is the condition of them, on whose performance [spiritual blessings] are bestowed, that he hath procured for us absolutely, on no condition at all

Faith, a condition of salvation, is acquired for the elect through the cross.  This faith is then unconditionally given to the elect so that the rest of the spiritual blessings can be given to them as well.

How does Owen understand Faith?

In a separate work, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith (1677), Owen seeks to lay out the case that we are saved by faith alone.

faith alone is on our part the means, instrument, or condition … of our justification, all the prophets and apostles [taught this], and were so taught to be by Jesus Christ BoxerOwen

Owen, here admits, that faith is our part of salvation. A truth that is taught by the apostles, who learned it from Christ.

In this treatise he explores the answer to the question: what is saving faith.

the inquiry is, What is that act or work of faith whereby we may obtain a real interest or propriety in the promises of the gospel, and the things declared in them

This question is worth considering, given the assertions about faith, made by Owen, in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.  Continue reading