The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

by John Owen


Book III

Chapter 3

Containing, two other arguments from the person Christ sustained in this business.

ARG. VI. For whom Christ died, he died as a sponsor, in their stead, as is apparent, Rom. 5:6-8, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" Gal. 3:13, "He was made a curse for us." 2 Cor. 5:21, "He hath made him to be sin for us." All which places do plainly signify and hold out a change or commutation of persons, one being accepted in the room of the other. Now, if he died as the sponsor or surety of them for whom he died, in their stead, then these two things at least will follow:- First, That he freed them from that anger, and wrath, and guilt of death, which he underwent for them, that they should in and for him be all reconciled, and be freed from the bondage wherein they are by reason of death; for no other reason in the world can be assigned why Christ should undergo any thing in another's stead, but that that other might be freed from undergoing that which he underwent for him. And all justice requires that so it should be; which also is expressly intimated, when our Saviour is said to be [ENGUOS], " a surety of a better testament," Heb. 7:22; that is, by being our priest, undergoing the "chastisement of our peace," and the burden of our "iniquities," Isa. 53:5, 6. He was "made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. 5:21, But now all are not freed from wrath and the guilt of death, and actually reconciled to God,--which is to be justified through an imputation of righteousness, and a non-imputation of iniquities;--for until men come to Christ "the wrath of God abideth on them," John 3:36; which argueth and intimateth a nonremoval of wrath, by reason of not believing. He doth not say, it comes on them, as though by Christ's death they were freed from being under a state and condition of wrath, which we are all in by nature, Eph. 2:3; [MENO], "it remaineth," or abideth: it was never removed. And to them the gospel is a savour of death unto death,--bringing a new death and a sore condemnation, by its being despised, unto that death the guilt whereof they before lay under. Some have, indeed, affirmed that all and every one are redeemed, restored, justified, and made righteous in Christ, and by his death; but truly this is so wretched, I will not say perverting of the Scriptures, which give no colour to any such assertion, but so direct an opposition to them, as I judge it fruitless, and lost labour, to go about to remove such exceptions (More, p. 45). Secondly, It follows that Christ made satisfaction for the sins of all and every man, if be died for them; for the reason why he underwent death for us as a surety was to make satisfaction to God's justice for our sins, so to redeem us to himself, neither can any other be assigned. But Christ hath not satisfied the justice of God for all the sins of all and every man: which may be made evident by divers reasons; for,--

First, For whose sins he made satisfaction to the justice of God, for their sins justice is satisfied, or else his satisfaction was rejected as insufficient, for no other reason can be assigned of such a fruitless attempt; which to aver is blasphemy in the highest degree. But now the justice of God is not satisfied for all the sins of all and every man; which also is no less apparent than the former: for they that must undergo eternal punishment themselves for their sins, that the justice of God may be satisfied for their sins, the justice of God was not satisfied without their own punishment, by the punishment of Christ; for they are not heated by his stripes. But that innumerable souls shall to eternity undergo the punishment due to their own sins, I hope needs, with Christians, no proving. Now, how can the justice of God require satisfaction of them for their sins, if it were before satisfied for them in Christ? To be satisfied, and to require satisfaction that it may be satisfied, are contradictory, and cannot be affirmed of the same in respect of the same; but that the Lord will require of some "the uttermost farthing" is most clear, Matt, 5:26.

Secondly, Christ by undergoing death for us, as our surety, satisfied for no more than he intended so to do. So great a thing as satisfaction for the sins of men could not accidentally happen besides his intention, will, and purpose; especially considering that his intention and good-will, sanctifying himself to be an oblation, was of absolute necessity to make his death an acceptable offering. But now Christ did not intend to satisfy for the sins of all and every man for innumerable souls were in hell, under the punishment and weight of their own sins; from whence there is no redemption before, nor actually then when our Saviour made himself an oblation for sin. Now, shall we suppose that Christ would make himself an offering for their sins whom he knew to be past recovery, and that it was utterly impossible that ever they should have any fruit or benefit by his offering? Shall we think that the blood of the covenant was cast away upon them for whom our Saviour intended no good at all? To intend good to them he could not, without a direct opposition to the eternal decree of his Father, and therein of his own eternal Deity. Did God send his Son, did Christ come to die, for Cain and Pharaoh, damned so many ages before his suffering? "Credat Apella?" The exception, that Christ died for them, and his death would have been available to them if they had believed and fulfilled the condition required, is, in my judgment, of no force at all; for,--First, For the most part they never heard of any such condition. Secondly, Christ at his death knew full well that they bad not fulfilled the condition, and were actually cut off from any possibility ever so to do, so that any intention to do them good by his death must needs be vain and frustrate; which must not be assigned to the Son of God. Thirdly, This redemption, conditionate, if they believe, we shall reject anon.

Neither is that other exception, that Christ might as well satisfy for them that were eternally damned at the time of his suffering (for whom it could not be useful), as for them that were then actually saved (for whom it was not needful), of any more value. For--First, Those that were saved were saved upon this ground, that Christ should certainly suffer for them in due time; which suffering of his was as effectual in the purpose and promise as in the execution and accomplishment. It was in the mind of God accounted for them as accomplished, the compact and covenant with Christ about it being surely ratified upon mutual, unchangeable promises, (according to our conception); and so our Saviour was to perform it, and so it was needful for them that were actually saved: but for those that were actually damned, there was no such inducement to it, or ground for it, or issue to be expected out of it. Secondly, A simile will clear the whole:--If a man should send word to a place where captives were in prison, that he would pay the price and ransom that was due for their delivery, and to desire the prisoners to come forth, for he that detains them accepts of his word and engagement; when he comes to make payment, according to his promise, if he find some to have gone forth according as was proposed, and others continued obstinate in their dungeon, some hearing of what he had done, others not, and that according to his own appointment, and were now long since dead; doth he, in the payment of his promised ransom, intend it for them that died stubbornly and obstinately in the prison, or only for them who went forth? Doubtless, only for these last. No more can the passion of Christ be supposed to be a price paid for them that died in the prison of sin and corruption before the payment of his ransom; though it might full well be for them that were delivered by virtue of his engagement for the payment of such a ransom. Thirdly, If Christ died in the stead of all men, and made satisfaction for their sins, then he did it for all their sins, or only for some of their sins. If for some only, who then can be saved? If for all, why then are all not saved? They say it is because of their unbelief; they will not believe, and therefore are not saved. That unbelief, is it a sin, or is it not? If it be not, how can it be a cause of damnation? If it be, Christ died for it, or he did not, If he did not, then he died not for all the sins of all men. If he did, why is this an obstacle to their salvation? Is there any new shift to be invented for this? or must we be contented with the old, namely, because they do not believe? that is, Christ did not die for their unbelief, or rather, did not by his death remove their unbelief, because they would not believe, or because they would not themselves remove their unbelief; or he died for their unbelief conditionally, that they were not unbelievers. These do not seem to me to be sober assertions.

ARG. VII. For whom Christ died, for them he is a mediator: which is apparent; for the oblation or offering of Christ, which he made of himself unto God, in the shedding of his blood, was one of the chiefest acts of his mediation. But he is not a mediator for all and every one; which also is no less evident, because as mediator he is the priest for them for whom he is a mediator. Now, to a priest it belongs, as was declared before, to sacrifice and intercede, to procure good things, and to apply them to those for whom they are procured; as is evident, Heb. 9., And was proved before at large: which confessedly, Christ doth not for all. Yea, that Christ is not a mediator for every one needs no proof. Experience sufficiently evinceth it, besides innumerable places of Scripture. It is, I confess, replied by some, that Christ is a mediator for some in respect of some acts, and not in respect of others; but truly, this, if I am able to judge, is a dishonest subterfuge, that hath no ground in Scripture, and would make our Saviour a half mediator in respect of some, which is an unsavoury expression. But this argument was vindicated before.

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