The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

by John Owen


Book III

Chapter 5

Being a continuance of arguments from the nature and description of the thing in hand; and first, of redemption.

ARG. XI. That doctrine which will not by any means suit with nor be made conformable to the thing signified by it, and the expression, literal and deductive, whereby in Scripture it is held out unto us, but implies evident contradictions unto them, cannot possibly be sound and sincere, as is the milk of the word. But now such is this persuasion of universal redemption; it can never be suited nor fitted to the thing itself, or redemption, nor to those expressions whereby in the Scripture it is held out unto us. Universal redemption, and yet many to die in captivity, is a contradiction irreconcilable in itself.

To manifest this, let us consider some of the chiefest words and phrases whereby the matter concerning which we treat is delivered in the Scripture, such as are, redemption, reconciliation, satisfaction, merit, dying for us, bearing our sins, suretiship,--his being God, a common person, a Jesus, saving to the utmost, a sacrifice putting away sin, and the like; to which we may add the importance of some prepositions and other words used in the original about this business: and doubt not but we shall easily find that the general ransom, or rather universal redemption, will hardly suit to any o them; but it is too long for the bed, and must be cropped at the head or heels.

Begin we with the word REDEMPTION itself, which we will consider, name and thing. Redemption, which in the Scripture is LUTROSIS sometimes, but most frequently APOLUTROSIS, is the delivery of any one from captivity and misery by the intervention LUTRON, of a price or ransom. That this ransom, or price of our deliverance, was the blood of Christ is evident; he calls it LUTRON, Matt. 20:28; and [it is called] ANTILUTRON, I Tim. 2:6,- that is, the price of such a redemption, that which was received as a valuable consideration for our dismission. Now, that which is aimed at in the payment of this price is, the deliverance of those from the evil wherewith they were oppressed for whom the price is paid; it being in this spiritual redemption as it is in corporal and civil, only with the alteration of some circumstances, as the nature of the thing enforceth. This the Holy Spirit manifesteth by comparing the "blood of Christ" in this work of redemption with "silver and gold," and such other things as are the intervening ransom in civil redemption, l Pet. 1:18,19. The evil wherewith we were oppressed was the punishment which we had deserved;--that is, the satisfaction required when the debt is sin; which also we are, by the payment of this price, delivered from; so Gal. 3:13: for we are "justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," Rom. 3: 24; "in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins," Eph. 1:7; Col 1:14. Free justification from the guilt, and pardon of sin, in the deliverance from the punishment due unto it, is the effect of the redemption procured by the payment of the price we before mentioned: as if a man should have his friend in bondage, and he should go and lay out his estate to pay the price of his freedom that is set upon his head by him that detains him, and so set him at liberty. Only, as was before intimated, this spiritual redemption hath some supereminent things in it, that are not to be found in other deliverances; as,--

First, He that receives the ransom doth also give it. Christ is a propitiation to appease and atone the Lord, but the Lord himself set him forth so to be, Rom. 3:24, 25; whence he himself is often said to redeem us. His love is the cause of the price in respect of its procurement, and his justice accepts of the price in respect of its merit; for Christ "came down from heaven to do the will of him that sent him," John 6:3 8; Heb. 10:9,10. It is otherwise in the redemption amongst men, where he that receives the ransom hath no hand in the providing of it.

Secondly, The captive or prisoner is not so much freed from his power who detains him as brought into his favour. When a captive amongst men is redeemed, by the payment of a ransom, he is instantly to be set free from the power and authority of him that did detain him; but in this spiritual redemption, upon the payment of the ransom for us, which is the blood of Jesus, we are not removed from God, but are "brought nigh" unto him, Eph. 2:13,--not delivered from his power, but restored to his favour,--our misery being a punishment by the way of banishment as well as thraldom.

Thirdly, As the judge was to be satisfied, so the jailer was to be conquered; God, the judge, giving him leave to fight for his dominion, which was wrongfully usurped, though that whereby he had it was by the Lord justly inflicted, and his thraldom by us rightly deserved, Heb. 2:14; Col. 2:15. And he lost his power, as strong as he was, for striving to grasp more than he could hold; for the foundation of his kingdom being sin, assaulting Christ who did no sin, he lost his power over them that Christ came to redeem, having no part in him. So was the strong man bound, and his house spoiled.

In these and some few other circumstances is our spiritual redemption diversified from civil; but for the main it answers the word in the propriety thereof, according to the use that it hath amongst men. Now, there is a twofold way whereby this is in the Scripture expressed: for sometimes our Saviour is said to die for our redemption, and sometimes for the redemption of our transgressions; both tending to the same purpose,--yea, both expressions, as I conceive, signify the same thing. Of the latter you have an example, Heb. 9:15. He died EIS APOLUTROSIS PARABASIS which, say some, is a metonymy, transgressions being put for transgressors; others, that it is a proper expression for the paying of a price whereby we may be delivered from the evil of our transgressions. The other expression you have, Eph. 1:7, and in divers other places, where the words LUTRON and APOLUTROSIS do concur; as also Matt. 20:28, and Mark 10:45. Now, these words, especially that of ANTILUTRON, I Tim. 2:6, do always denote, by the not-to-be-wrested, genuine signification of them, the payment of a price, or an equal compensation, in lieu of something to be done or grant made by him to whom that price is paid. Having given these few notions concerning redemption in general, let us now see how applicable it is unto general redemption.

Redemption is the freeing of a man from misery by the intervention of a ransom, as appeareth. Now, when a ransom is paid for the liberty of a prisoner, is it not all the justice in the world that he should have and enjoy the liberty so purchased for him by a valuable consideration? If I should pay a thousand pounds for a man's deliverance from bondage to him that detains him, who hath power to set him free, and is contented with the price I give, were it not injurious to me and the poor prisoner that his deliverance be not accomplished? Can it possibly be conceived that there should be a redemption of men, and those men not redeemed? that a price should be paid, and the purchase not consummated? Yet all this must be made true, and innumerable other absurdities, if universal redemption be asserted. A price is paid for all, yet few delivered; the redemption of all consummated, yet few of them redeemed; the judge satisfied, the jailer conquered ,and yet the prisoner inthralled! Doubtless, "universal" and "redemption," where the greatest part of men perish, are as irreconcilable as "Roman" and "Catholic." If there be a universal redemption of all, then all men are redeemed. If they are redeemed, then are they delivered from all misery, virtually or actually, whereunto they were inthralled, and that by the intervention of a ransom. Why, then, are not all saved? In a word, the redemption wrought by Christ being the full deliverance of the persons redeemed from all misery, wherein they were inwrapped, by the price of his blood, it cannot possibly be conceived to be universal unless all be saved; so that the opinion of the Universalists is unsuitable to redemption.

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