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)
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).
- 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
- every man may know the sufficiency of salvation that is in Jesus Christ to all that believe on him
- 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)
- every man may know that whosoever performs the one [faith] shall surely enjoy the other [salvation]
What would it look like if Black Sabbath’s hit song Iron Man was written as a tribute to Martin Luther and the Reformation? I’m glad you asked.
It might go something like this:
Has he lost his mind
Luther is now in a bind
In the sight of all
95 thesis on the wall
People being led
By wrong things the Pope has said
You must pay the fare
To ascend heavenly stair
That is works based zeal
And a faith that is not real
Reform so sublime
Faces quite an uphill climb
Pope Leo wants him
Papal Bull is unfurled
Planning his vengeance
Kick him out of the fold
He stands without fear
Diet of Worms is now here
Writings he won’t waive
Why can’t Luther just behave
Nobody wants him
They just turn their heads
Nobody stops him
So Rome can’t get it’s revenge
Thesis has been read
Reform fever now has spread
Telling all the men they can
By faith alone we live again
In a prior post the idea that faith is a gift was explored (link). There are not many passages that describe faith as a gift, but in that post we did note two passages that do (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:9). In this post we will look at how a number of scholars understand the phrase “God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith” found in Romans 12:3.
For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3 NET)
Does the measure of faith given by God in Romans 12:3 mean that saving faith is a gift?
via Wikimedia Commons
There are two primary ways to understand the phrase “God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith”. One
view is to understand “the measure of faith” as saving faith, which has been the focus of the letter to the Romans up to chapter 12.The other view is to understand this faith as being related to our spiritual gifts and how we use them as this fits the immediate context of the passage (see also Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:9; Eph 4:7). Continue reading