"The Death of Death in the Death of Christ" by John Owen is a classic work of Reformed theology that presents a compelling and meticulously argued defense of the doctrine of limited atonement. We have updated this timeless work into modernized, updated English so you can easily understand what was written almost 400 years ago.
Owen, a 17th-century theologian and one of the most influential figures in Puritanism, asserts that Christ's sacrificial death on the cross was intended solely for the elect, those chosen by God for salvation. This cornerstone of Reformed thought provides readers with a deeper understanding of the redemptive power of Christ's crucifixion and its implications for the believers.
In this profound work, Owen delves into the biblical foundations for his argument, analyzing key scriptural passages to support his theological stance. He also engages with opposing viewpoints and offers counterarguments, showcasing his intellectual rigor and commitment to the truth of Scripture. The book is both a valuable resource for those seeking to understand the intricacies of limited atonement and a testament to Owen's unwavering faith in God's sovereignty and grace.
Death of Death in the Death of Christ
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Chapter 1: The Purpose of the Death of Christ
When we talk about the death of Christ, we generally mean two things: first, what his Father and he himself intended through it; and second, what was effectively fulfilled and accomplished by it. Regarding both aspects, let's take a quick look at the phrases used by the Holy Spirit:
I. First, do you want to know the purpose and intention of why Christ came into the world? Let's ask him, as he knew his own mind and all the secrets of his Father's heart. He will tell us that the "Son of man came to save that which was lost" (Matt. 18:11) - to recover and save poor lost sinners; that was his intent and design, as is again asserted in Luke 19:10. Ask his apostles, who knew his mind, and they will tell you the same. For example, Paul says in 1 Tim. 1:15, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Now, if you want to know who these sinners are that he has this gracious intent and purpose towards, he tells us in Matt. 20:28 that he came to "give his life a ransom for many." In other places, these people are called us, believers, distinguished from the world: for he "gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Gal. 1:4). That was the will and intention of God, that he should give himself for us so that we might be saved, being separated from the world. They are his church: Eph. 5:25-27 says, "He loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." These last words also express the very aim and end of Christ in giving himself for anyone, even that they may be made fit for God and brought near to him - similar to what is asserted in Titus 2:14, "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." So, it is clear and apparent what the intention and design of Christ and his Father were in this great work, and towards whom - namely, to save us, to deliver us from the evil world, to cleanse and purify us, to make us holy, zealous, and fruitful in good works, to make us acceptable, and to bring us to God; for through him "we have access into the grace wherein we stand" (Rom. 5:2).
The impact and actual result of the work itself, or what is achieved and completed through the death, blood-shedding, or offering of Jesus Christ, is not only clearly shown, but is also fully and often more clearly expressed.
First, Reconciliation with God by removing and overcoming the hostility that existed between Him and us. As it says in Romans 5:10, "when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." God was working through Jesus to bring the world back to Himself, not holding our sins against us, as stated in 2 Corinthians 5:19. In fact, He has "reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ" (verse 18). If you're wondering how this reconciliation was achieved, the Apostle Paul explains that Jesus "abolished in his flesh the hostility, the law of commandments consisting of ordinances; in order to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace; and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility" (Ephesians 2:15-16). Therefore, Jesus is our peace (verse 14).
Secondly, Justification removes the guilt of our sins, secures forgiveness and pardon, and frees us from their power, as well as the punishment and anger we deserve for them. This is because Jesus "entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12). He "redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13) and "bore our sins in his body on the cross" (1 Peter 2:24). We have all sinned and fallen short of God's glory, but we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption found in Christ Jesus. God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood, to demonstrate His righteousness in forgiving our sins (Romans 3:23-25). In Jesus, we have redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 1:14).
Thirdly, Sanctification involves cleansing ourselves from the impurities and stains of our sins, renewing God's image within us, and providing us with the virtues of the Holy Spirit. As it is said, "the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself to God, purges our consciences from dead works so that we may serve the living God," (Hebrews 9:14). Indeed, "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin," (1 John 1:7). "By himself, he purged our sins," (Hebrews 1:3). To "sanctify the people with his own blood, he suffered outside the gate," (Hebrews 13:12). "He gave himself for the church to sanctify and cleanse it so that it would be holy and without blemish," (Ephesians 5:25-27). Among the gifts of the Spirit, "it is given to us," on behalf of Christ, "for Christ's sake, to believe in him," (Philippians 1:29); God "blesses us in him with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places," (Ephesians 1:3).
Fourthly, Adoption involves the incredible freedom and all the wonderful benefits that come with being children of God. This is because "God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons," Galatians 4:4-5.
Fifth, the effects of Christ's death don't stop here; they continue until we are settled in heaven, in eternal glory and immortality. Our inheritance is a "purchased possession," as stated in Ephesians 1:14. And for this reason, Christ is the mediator of the new covenant, so that through his death, he can redeem the sins committed under the first covenant and allow those who are called to receive the promise of eternal inheritance, as mentioned in Hebrews 9:15. In summary, the death and shedding of Jesus Christ's blood has accomplished and effectively secured eternal redemption for all those involved, which includes grace in this life and glory in the next.
The Scripture is so clear and evident about the purpose and effects of Christ's death that one would think everyone could easily understand it. However, there is hardly anything more debated in Christianity than this seemingly fundamental principle. There is a widespread belief in a general ransom paid by Christ for all, meaning that he died to redeem not only many, his church, and God's elect, but also every single person descended from Adam. The proponents of this view realize that if the purpose of Christ's death is as we have described it from Scripture, and if the effects we have mentioned are its direct results, then one of two things must necessarily follow: either, first, God and Christ failed to achieve their intended goal, and the death of Christ was not an appropriate means for achieving that goal (which we find blasphemous and offensive to God's wisdom, power, and perfection, as well as diminishing the value of Christ's death); or else, all people, all of Adam's descendants, must be saved, cleansed, sanctified, and glorified, which they surely won't argue for, as Scripture and the tragic experience of millions won't allow it. Therefore, to make their belief seem more reasonable, they must and do deny that God or his Son had any such specific aim or goal in Jesus Christ's death or that anything like what we have described was directly obtained and purchased by it. Instead, they argue that God intended nothing, and Christ achieved nothing, that no benefit comes to anyone directly from his death except what is common to all people, even those who are unbelieving and eternally damned, until an act of faith (which is not provided for them by Christ, because if it were, why don't they all have it?) sets them apart from others. This view seems to me to weaken the power, value, and effects of Christ's death and serves as the foundation for a dangerous, unsettling, and mistaken belief. With the Lord's help, I will explain what Scripture teaches about both the claim being made and the evidence used to support it, asking the Lord to guide us into all truth, give us understanding in all things, and reveal the truth to anyone who may think differently.
Chapter 2: Understanding the nature of goals in general, and some important distinctions
1. The end goal of anything is what the person involved intends to achieve through their actions, based on their nature and what they apply themselves to. This is what someone aims for and desires in their current situation. For example, Noah's goal in building the ark was to save himself and others. He built the ark according to God's will to protect his family from the flood: "According to all that God commanded him, so did he," (Genesis 6:22). The actions or efforts a person takes to achieve their goal are called the means. These two aspects, the end goal and the means, make up the whole reason for action in free-thinking individuals who make choices. For instance, Absalom wanted to overthrow his father and take the crown and kingdom for himself. To do this, "he prepared him horses and chariots, and fifty men to run before him," (2 Samuel 15:1). He also used kind words and flattery to "steal the hearts of the men of Israel" (verse 6). Then, he pretended to offer a sacrifice at Hebron, where he formed a strong conspiracy (verse 12). All of these actions were the means he used to achieve his ultimate goal.
2. Between both the end and the means, there is a relationship where they are mutually causes of one another in various ways. The end is the first, main driving force of the whole process. It is the reason for the entire work. No one takes action without an end goal in mind, and if it weren't for that specific goal, they wouldn't choose one action over another. For example, the people of the old world wanted unity and cohabitation, possibly for safety against future disasters. So they said, "Let's build a city and a tower that reaches the heavens, and make a name for ourselves so we won't be scattered across the earth" (Genesis 9:4). They first set their goal and then figured out the means to achieve it. It's clear that the whole reason and method of affairs that a wise person proposes to themselves comes from the end goal they're aiming for. This is the beginning of all the order in their actions. Now, the means are all the things used to achieve the end goal - like food for preserving life, sailing in a ship to cross the sea, or laws for maintaining peace in society. They are the cause of the end in one way or another. Their existence is for the sake of the end, and the end comes from them, either morally as their deserved outcome or naturally as their result.
First, in a moral sense, when the action and the end are considered in relation to a moral rule or law given to the person, then the means are the deserving or meritorious cause of the end. For example, if Adam had stayed innocent and followed the law given to him, the end result would have been eternal happiness. On the other hand, the end of any sinful act is death, the curse of the law.
Secondly, when the means are considered only in their natural relation, they are the instrumentally efficient cause of the end. For instance, when Joab intended to kill Abner, he struck him with a spear, causing his death (2 Samuel 3:27). And when Benaiah, by Solomon's command, attacked Shimei, the wounds he inflicted were the cause of his death (1 Kings 2:46). In this regard, there is no difference between murdering an innocent person and executing an offender. However, when considered morally, their ends follow their deservings in terms of conformity to the rule, and there is a huge difference between them.
3. The previous consideration, due to the flaws and stubbornness of some individuals (otherwise, these things would coincide), presents a dual purpose for things - first, the purpose of the work, and secondly, the purpose of the worker; of the action and the actor. When the means used to achieve a goal are not suitable or well-matched for it, and do not follow the rule that the actor should work by, then it's inevitable that the person will aim for one thing and something else will happen, in terms of the morality of the work. For example, Adam was tempted to desire being like God; he made this his goal, and to achieve it, he ate the forbidden fruit, which led to guilt that he didn't intend. However, when the actor acts correctly and appropriately - when they aim for a goal that is suitable for them, related to their own perfection and situation, and use means that are appropriate for the intended goal - then the purpose of the work and the worker are the same. For instance, when Abel intended to worship the Lord, he offered a sacrifice through faith, which was acceptable to God; or when a person, desiring salvation through Christ, tries to gain a connection with him. The main reason for this difference is that secondary actors, like humans, have a purpose set for their actions by God, who gives them an external rule or law to follow, which will always accompany them in their actions, whether they want it or not. Only God, whose will and pleasure is the sole rule for all the works that come from him, can never deviate in his actions, nor have any unintended consequences follow his acts.
4. Again, the goal of every free agent is either the outcome they achieve or the reason for which they achieve it. When someone builds a house to rent out, the outcome they achieve is the construction of a house, while the motivation behind it is the desire for profit. A doctor heals a patient and is motivated to do so by their payment. The goal Judas had in mind when he went to the priests, negotiated with them, led the soldiers to the garden, and kissed Christ, was to betray his Master. However, the reason behind the entire plan was to obtain the thirty pieces of silver: "What will you give me, and I will do it?" The outcome God achieved through Christ's death was the satisfaction of his justice. The reason for which he did it was either supreme, for his own glory, or subordinate, for our benefit alongside him.
5. Furthermore, there are two types of means:
First, there are those that have inherent goodness without needing to be connected to any further purpose. However, when we use them as means, we don't consider them good in themselves, but only in how they lead to a further goal. As a means, it's not considered good in itself, but only in how it contributes to the desired outcome. For example, studying is a noble activity for the soul in itself, but when we aim for wisdom or knowledge, we see it as good only insofar as it leads to that end. Otherwise, it's just "a weariness of the flesh" (Ecclesiastes 12:12).
Second, there are those means that have no inherent goodness when considered on their own, but only in how they contribute to the goal they are meant to achieve. They get all their goodness (which is only relative) from the purpose they serve, and are not desirable in themselves. Examples include cutting off a leg or an arm to save a life, taking a bitter medicine for the sake of health, or throwing cargo overboard to prevent a shipwreck. The death of Christ is also of this nature, as we will discuss later.
6. With these general ideas laid out, our next task is to apply them to the current topic at hand. We will do this in an orderly manner by examining the agent working, the means used, and the end achieved in the great work of our redemption. We must consider these three aspects in a clear and orderly way to fully understand the whole concept. With God's help, we will begin exploring the first aspect in the next chapter.
Chapter 3: The main person responsible for our redemption, and the first thing specifically attributed to God the Father.
1. The main architect and driving force behind our redemption is the entire blessed Trinity, as all external works of the Deity are indivisible and shared equally among each person, while maintaining their unique manner of existence and order. It's true that there were various other contributing factors in Christ's sacrifice, or rather his suffering, but the work cannot be attributed to them in any way. This is because, in relation to God the Father, the outcome of their efforts was vastly different from their intentions, and in the end, they only did what the "hand and counsel of God had before determined should be done" (Acts 4:28). As for Christ, they were not capable of achieving their goal, since he willingly gave up his life and no one could take it from him (John 10:17, 18). Therefore, they should be excluded from this discussion. In the individual persons of the Holy Trinity, who together are the joint creators of the entire work, the Scripture presents distinct and various actions or operations specifically attributed to each of them. According to our limited understanding, we should examine these actions separately and individually, starting with those attributed to the Father.
There are two unique actions in this work of our redemption through Jesus' blood, which can be and are accurately attributed to God the Father: First, sending His Son into the world for this purpose. Second, placing the punishment for our sins upon Him.
The Father loves the world and sends his Son to die for us. He "sent his Son into the world that the world through him might be saved," as stated in John 3:16-17. By "sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us," as mentioned in Romans 8:3-4. He "set him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood," as written in Romans 3:25. For "when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons," as told in Galatians 4:4-5. In the Gospel of John, there are more than twenty mentions of this sending. Our Savior describes himself as "Him whom the Father has sent" in John 10:36 and the Father as "He who sent me" in John 5:37. This action of sending is unique to the Father, as he promised to "send us a Savior, a great one, to deliver us" in Isaiah 19:20. Our Savior also professes, "I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, has sent me" in Isaiah 48:16.
The Father is sometimes called our Savior, as seen in 1 Timothy 1:1, "According to the commandment of God our Savior." Some copies read it as "of God and our Savior," but the addition of "and" likely arose from the misunderstanding that only Christ is called Savior. This is similar to the passage in Titus 1:3, "According to the commandment of God our Savior," where no addition of "and" can be found. The same title is also given to him in other places, such as Luke 1:47, "My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior." In 1 Timothy 4:10, it says, "We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe," although this last passage refers to his saving and preserving all through his providence rather than redeeming us through Christ. The same title is also found in Titus 2:10, 3:4; Deuteronomy 32:15; 1 Samuel 10:19; Psalms 24:5, 25:5; Isaiah 12:2, 40:10, 45:15; Jeremiah 14:8; Micah 7:7; and Habakkuk 3:18. Most of these passages refer to his sending of Christ, which can be divided into three separate acts that
(1.) An authoritative assignment of the role of Mediator, which Christ accepted willingly by taking it upon himself voluntarily. In this role, the Father had and exercised a sort of superiority, which the Son, although "in the form of God," humbled himself to, as seen in Philippians 2:6-8. This concept can be divided into two parts:
[1.] The intended implementation of God's counsel, or His eternal plan, involves setting apart His incarnate Son for this role, saying to Him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession," (Psalm 2:7-8). God told Him, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet;" for "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek," (Psalm 110:1, 4). God appointed Jesus to be "heir of all things," (Hebrews 1:2), having "ordained him to be Judge of the living and the dead," (Acts 10:42); for this purpose, He was "chosen before the creation of the world," (1 Peter 1:20), and "declared to be the Son of God with power," (Romans 1:4), "so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters," (Romans 8:29). I understand that this is an act eternally established in the mind and will of God, and so it should not be compared with the other acts, which are all temporary and began in the fullness of time. This first act is the source and foundation of all the others, according to James in Acts 15:18, "God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us." However, it is not uncommon for the purpose to also be included in the accomplishment of it, aiming for truth rather than exactness, so we present it this way.
[2.] The actual inauguration or solemn admission of Christ into his office involved "committing all judgment unto the Son," (John 5:22); "making him both Lord and Christ," (Acts 2:36); and "appointing him over his whole house," (Heb. 3:1-6). This is referred to as the "anointing of the most Holy," (Dan. 9:24) and God "anointing him with the oil of gladness above his fellows" (Ps. 45:7). The actual setting apart of Christ to his office is said to be by anointing, because all those holy things which were types of him, like the ark and the altar, were set apart and consecrated by anointing (Exod. 30:25-28). This also includes the public testimony by countless angels from heaven of his birth, announced by one of them to the shepherds. "Behold," he said, "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord," (Luke 2:10-11). This message was accompanied by the triumphant exultation of the heavenly host, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men," (Luke 2:14), along with the repeated voice from the excellent glory, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; 2 Pet. 1:17). If we were to distinguish and place these events in order, they can be considered in three separate acts:
First, the glorious proclamation of his birth when he "prepared a body" for himself (Heb. 10:5), bringing his Firstborn into the world and saying, "Let all the angels of God worship him" (Heb. 1:6), sending them to announce the message we mentioned earlier.
Second, sending the Spirit visibly in the form of a dove to descend upon him at his baptism (Matt. 3:16), when he was filled with the Spirit to accomplish the work and fulfill the office he was assigned, accompanied by the voice from heaven acknowledging him as his beloved Son.
Third, the "crowning of him with glory and honor" in his resurrection, ascension, and sitting down "at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3); setting "him as his king upon his holy hill of Zion" (Ps. 2:6); when "all power was given unto him in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18), with "all things being put under his feet" (Heb. 2:7-8); and he was highly exalted, receiving "a name above every name, that at," etc. (Phil. 2:9-11).
God appointed witnesses of all kinds for these events: angels from heaven (Luke 24:4, Acts 1:10); the dead rising from their graves (Matt. 27:52); the apostles among the living (Acts 2:32); and more than five hundred brethren to whom he appeared at once (1 Cor. 15:6). In this way, Christ was gloriously inaugurated into his office, with God saying to him, "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth", Isa. 49.6.
I admit that between these two acts, there is a double promise from God. First, He promises to give a Savior to His people, a Mediator, according to His earlier plan, as stated in Genesis 3:15, "The seed of the woman shall crush the serpent's head;" and, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall the gathering of the people be," in chapter 49:10. God also foreshadowed this through various sacrifices and other symbols, along with prophetic predictions: "Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring about the person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories."
To whom it was revealed that they were not serving themselves, but us, when they shared the things now reported to you by those who have preached the gospel to you through the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; even the angels long to look into these things," 1 Peter 1:10-12. The other is a promise to apply the benefits purchased by this Savior to those who believe in Him, to be given in the fullness of time, according to the previous promises; telling Abraham that "in his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed," and justifying himself by the same faith, Genesis 12:3, 15:6. However, these things relate more to the application, which was equal both before and after His actual mission.
(2.) The second action of the Father sending the Son involves equipping him with a full range of gifts and graces necessary for the role he was to take on, the work he was to carry out, and the responsibility he had over God's house. Indeed, Christ possessed a dual fullness and perfection of all spiritual qualities:
Firstly, the natural, all-sufficient perfection of his divinity, as he was one with his Father in terms of his divine nature. His glory was "the glory of the only-begotten of the Father" (John 1:14). He was "in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God" (Philippians 2:6), being the "fellow of the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah 13:7). This is demonstrated in the magnificent scene in Isaiah 6:3-4, where the seraphim cry out, "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke." The prophet then exclaims, "Mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts" (verse 5). The apostle John confirms that Isaiah saw Jesus and spoke of his glory (John 12:41). For a time, Jesus set aside this divine glory when he took on the form of a servant and humbled himself to the point of death (Philippians 2:7-8). During this period, he outwardly appeared to have "neither form, nor beauty, nor comeliness, that he should be desired" (Isaiah 53:2). However, we are not discussing this fullness, as it was not given to him but essentially belonged to his person, which is eternally begotten of the Father's person.
The second type of fullness in Christ was a communicated fullness, given to him by his Father to prepare him for his role as the "Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). This fullness wasn't related to his role as the "LORD of hosts," but rather as "Emmanuel, God with us" (Matthew 1:23) and the prophesied "Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). This fullness is a fullness of grace, not the essential nature of the Deity, but an infused grace into his humanity. Although it's not absolutely infinite, it extends to all aspects and degrees of grace. Every type of grace is present in Christ, and each grace is in its highest degree. This fullness was given to him by his Father to accomplish the work of redemption. This fullness is like the light in the sun's rays and the water in a never-ending fountain. Christ is the source from which grace flows into all who belong to him (Zechariah 4:12). In Christ, all fullness dwells (Colossians 1:18), and all wisdom and knowledge are hidden (Colossians 2:3). The fullness of the Godhead dwells in him (Colossians 2:9), so that we might receive grace upon grace (John 1:16).
When Christ began his work of redemption, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord (Isaiah 61:1-2). This anointing with the oil of gladness set him apart from others (Psalm 45:7). The Spirit of the Lord rested upon him, giving him wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2). He didn't receive the Spirit in small portions like us, but in fullness (John 3:34). However, this fullness was revealed and given to him gradually, as he "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:51). In addition to this fullness, Christ was given "all power in heaven and earth" (Matthew 28:18) and "authority over all people, granting eternal life to those he chose" (John 17:2). This power could be divided into many aspects, but this brief explanation should suffice to illustrate the second act of God in sending his Son.
(3.) The third aspect of this mission involves God entering into an agreement with his Son regarding the work to be undertaken and the outcome or result of it. This agreement has two parts:
First, God promised to protect and assist Jesus in accomplishing and fulfilling the entire mission he was given or had to undertake. The Father committed himself to provide Jesus with all the necessary support in trials, strength against opposition, encouragement against temptations, and strong consolation amidst terrors, to help him overcome all difficulties and complete this great work of redemption. Upon this commitment, Jesus took on this heavy burden, filled with misery and trouble.
For the Father required Jesus to become a Savior and be afflicted with all the suffering of his people (Isa. 63:8, 9). Even though Jesus was the companion of the Lord of hosts, he had to endure the sword drawn against him as the shepherd of the sheep (Zech. 13:7), treading the winepress alone until his clothes were stained red (Isa. 63:2, 3). Jesus had to be struck, smitten by God, and afflicted; wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities; to be bruised and put to grief; to offer his soul as a sacrifice for sin and bear the iniquity of many (Isa. 53). He even had to experience the absence of comfort, crying out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps. 22:1). It is no surprise, then, that upon undertaking this mission, God promised to make Jesus' words like a sharp sword, to protect him in the shadow of His hand, to make him a polished arrow and hide him in His quiver, and to make him His servant in whom He would be glorified (Isa. 49:2, 3). Even though the kings and rulers of the earth would conspire against him, God would laugh at them and establish Jesus as king on His holy hill of Zion (Ps. 2:2, 4, 6). Although the builders would reject him, Jesus would become the cornerstone, astonishing the world (Ps. 118:22, 23; Matt. 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, 12, 1 Pet 2:4). God would make him a foundation, a tested and precious cornerstone, a sure foundation (Isa. 28:16), so that whoever opposed him would be broken, and whoever he opposed would be crushed (Matt. 21:44). This is the source of Jesus' confidence during his greatest trials, as he was assured by his Father's commitment in this covenant, made during their discussion about the redemption of humanity, that God would never leave him nor forsake him. Jesus said, "I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting" (Isa. 50:6). But with what confidence, blessed Savior, did you endure all this shame and sorrow! It was because "The Lord GOD will help me; therefore, I will not be confounded: therefore, I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed. He is near who justifies me; who will contend with me? Let us stand together: who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that condemns me? Indeed, they shall all grow old as a garment; the moth shall consume them," (Isa. 50:7-9). With this assurance, Jesus was led like a "lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth," (Isa. 53:7). For "when he was insulted, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but entrusted himself to him who judges justly," (1 Pet. 2:23). So, the foundation of our Savior's confidence and assurance in this great undertaking, and a powerful motivation to exercise his received graces in the most extreme endurance, was his Father's commitment to assist and protect him in this agreement.
Secondly, the promise of success, or a good outcome from all his sufferings, and a happy achievement and attainment of the end of his great undertaking. Now, among all the other considerations, this one is especially important, as it directly contributes to the proposed business. However, it wouldn't have been so clear without the previous considerations. Whatever God promised his Son would be fulfilled and attained by him, that was certainly the goal the Son aimed for in the whole undertaking. He designed it as the end of the work that was entrusted to him, and which only he could and did claim upon the accomplishment of his Father's will. What this promise was, and the promises by which it is extensively set forth, can be found in Isaiah 49: "You shall be my servant," says the Lord, "to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give you as a light to the Gentiles, that you may be my salvation to the ends of the earth. Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord who is faithful." And he will certainly fulfill this commitment: "I will preserve you, and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the earth, to cause them to inherit the desolate heritages; that you may say to the prisoners, 'Go forth;' to those who are in darkness, 'Show yourselves.' They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun strike them: for he who has mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim," verses 6-12. By all these expressions, the Lord clearly and evidently commits himself to his Son, that he should gather a glorious church of believers from among Jews and Gentiles, throughout the world, who would be brought to him and certainly fed in full pasture and refreshed by the springs of water, all the spiritual springs of living water which flow from God in Christ for their everlasting salvation. This, then, is what our Savior aimed for, as it was the promise upon which he undertook the work - the gathering of the sons of God together, their bringing to God, and passing to eternal salvation. When this is carefully considered, it will completely overthrow the general ransom or universal redemption, as will be shown later. In the 53rd chapter of the same prophecy, the Lord is more explicit and specific in these promises to his Son, assuring him that when he "made his soul an offering for sin, he would see his seed, and prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord would prosper in his hand; that he would see the result of his soul's travail and be satisfied; by his knowledge, he would justify many; that he would divide a portion with the great, and the spoil with the strong," verses 10-12. He was, as you can see, to see his seed by covenant and raise up a spiritual seed for God, a faithful people, to be prolonged and preserved throughout all generations. This is difficult to reconcile with the belief of those who have affirmed "that the death of Christ might have had its full and utmost effect and yet none be saved," although some have boldly asserted it and all the proponents of universal redemption tacitly admit it when they come to assign the proper ends and effects of the death of Christ. "The pleasure of the Lord" was also to "prosper in his hand," which is explained in Hebrews 2:10 as "bringing many sons to glory;" for "God sent his only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through him," 1 John 4:9, as we will later demonstrate more abundantly. But the promises of God made to him in their agreement, and consequently, his own aim and intention, can be seen most clearly in the request that our Savior makes upon the completion of the work for which he was sent. This request was certainly for neither more nor less than what God had committed himself to. "I have," he says, "glorified you on earth, I have finished the work which you gave me to do," John 17:4. And now, what does he ask for after the manifestation of his eternal glory, of which he had temporarily emptied himself, verse 5? Clearly, a full flow of God's love and the fruits of that love upon all his chosen ones, in faith, sanctification, and glory. God gave them to him, and he sanctified himself to be a sacrifice for their sake, praying for their sanctification, verses 17-19; their preservation in peace, or communion with one another, and union with God, verses 20-21, "I do not pray for these alone" (that is, his apostles), "but for those also who will believe in me through their word; that they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us;" and finally, their glory, verse 24, "Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me." All these various requests are undoubtedly based on the previously mentioned promises made to him by his Father. And in this, there is not a single word about all and every one, but rather the opposite, verse 9. Let it be carefully noted, then, that the promise of God to his Son, and the request of the Son to his Father, are directed to this specific end of bringing sons to God. And this is the first act, consisting of these three particulars.
2. The second aspect involves God placing the punishment for sins upon Jesus, which is often attributed to the Father. In Zechariah 13:7, it says, "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man that is my fellow, says the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." This is interpreted in the Gospel as, "I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad" (Matthew 26:31). Jesus was struck, punished by God, and afflicted; indeed, "the LORD laid upon him the iniquity of us all" and "it pleased the LORD to bruise him, and to put him to grief" (Isaiah 53:4, 6, 10). In 2 Corinthians 5:21, it says, "He made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." This means that Jesus, who did not deserve punishment, had the punishment for sin placed upon him. Perhaps "sin" in this context refers to an offering or sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. The Lord allowed this to happen, as seen in Acts 4:27-28, where it states that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel only did what God had already determined would happen. Jesus' greatest struggle was with his Father's wrath and the burden placed upon him. Before any outward suffering or torment, he was already in deep sorrow, even to the point of death (Matthew 26:37-38). In the garden with his closest apostles, before the traitor appeared, he was greatly distressed and overwhelmed (Mark 14:33). This was the time when he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to God, who could save him from death (Hebrews 5:7). Luke 22:43-44 describes how an angel appeared to strengthen him, but in his agony, he prayed even more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Certainly, Jesus underwent a close and intense trial, directly from his Father. He submitted meekly and cheerfully to all the cruelty of humans and the violence inflicted on his body until the conflict was renewed, and he cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This observation helps us understand who our Savior primarily dealt with and what he endured for sinners. It also sheds light on the crucial question concerning the individuals for whom he undertook all this suffering. His sufferings were far more than just physical pain and affliction, or the effects on his soul and spirit that resulted from them. It was nothing more nor less than the curse of God's law that he underwent for us. He freed us from the curse by becoming a curse himself (Gal. 3:13), which included all the punishment due to sin, either in the severity of God's justice or according to the demands of the law that required obedience. It is true that the curse of the law was only temporal death, as the law was considered an instrument of the Jewish government and served that particular dispensation. However, to say that it was nothing more, as it is the universal rule of obedience and the bond of the covenant between God and humanity, is a foolish notion. In dying for us, Christ not only aimed at our well-being but also directly died in our place. The punishment due to our sin and the chastisement for our peace was upon him. This punishment involved the pains of hell in their nature and intensity, though not in their duration (since it was impossible for him to be held by death). To deny this would be unjust to God's justice, which will inevitably inflict those pains eternally upon sinners. It is true that there is some relaxation of the law concerning the persons suffering, as God allows for substitution. This is similar to the old law, where in sacrifices the life of an animal was accepted (in relation to the physical aspect of the ordinances) for the life of a person. We fully believe this, but there is no indication of any change in the nature of the punishment itself. We conclude, then, this second act of God, in placing the punishment on Jesus for us, with the words of the prophet: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6). We also observe that it seems strange that Christ would undergo the pains of hell on behalf of those who were already in the pains of hell before he experienced those pains and will continue in them for eternity, for "their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched." I may also present this dilemma to those who believe in universal salvation: God imposed His wrath, and Christ suffered the pains of hell for either all the sins of all people, all the sins of some people, or some sins of all people. If it is the last option, some sins of all people, then all people have some sins to answer for, and no one will be saved. If God were to judge us all for even one sin, no one would be justified in His sight: "If the LORD should keep a record of sins, who could stand?" (Ps. 130:3). We might all hide in fear of the Lord and the glory of His majesty (Isa. 2:20, 21). If it is the second option, which is what we affirm, Christ suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world in their place. If it is the first option, why are not all people freed from the punishment of all their sins? Some might say it is because of their unbelief; they will not believe. But is this unbelief a sin or not? If it is not, why should they be punished for it? If it is, then Christ either suffered the punishment for it or did not. If He did, then why should unbelief hinder them more than their other sins for which He died, from partaking in the benefits of His death? If He did not, then He did not die for all their sins. They must choose which option they will accept.
Chapter 4: Regarding the aspects of redemption that are specifically attributed to the role of the Son.
Secondly, the Son played a crucial role in this great work, willingly taking on the responsibility given to him. When the Lord said, "Sacrifice and offering he would not: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin he had no pleasure," Christ responded, "Lo, I come, (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God," (Hebrews 10:6-7). With all other methods deemed insufficient, Christ took on the task, being the only one in whom the Father was well pleased (Matthew 3:17). As a result, Christ declared that he came not to do his own will, but the will of the one who sent him (John 4:38). In fact, he said that doing his Father's will and completing his work was like food and drink to him (John 4:34). The first words we find recorded of him in the Scripture convey the same message: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49). At the end of it all, he said, "I have glorified you on earth; I have finished the work which you gave me to do" (John 17:4). Throughout, he referred to it as his Father's work that he was doing, or his Father's will that he came to fulfill, in relation to the responsibility we discussed earlier. Now, the Son's undertaking can be divided into three parts. The first part serves as a foundation for the other two, acting as a means to achieve their ends. Yet, it also has its own distinct action and goodness in relation to the main goal of all three. We will consider this part separately, and that is:
First, we usually refer to Jesus' incarnation, or his taking on human form and living among us, as described in John 1:14. His "being made of a woman," as mentioned in Galatians 4:4, is commonly called his incarnation. This is the "mystery of godliness," that God would be revealed in human form, as stated in 1 Timothy 3:16. By doing this, Jesus didn't just become a specific person, but rather united our human nature with himself. As Hebrews 2:14 explains, Jesus took on human form because we, the children, are made of flesh and blood. He did this so that through his death, he could defeat the one who has power over death, which is the devil. Jesus was thinking about the children, the "children whom the Lord gave him," as mentioned in verse 13. Their participation in flesh and blood motivated him to do the same – not for the sake of everyone in the world or all of Adam's descendants, but specifically for the children. For their sake, he sanctified himself. Now, this act of emptying the divine nature, humbling himself, and living among us was solely carried out by the second person of the Trinity, Jesus. The Father and the Holy Spirit were not directly involved in this act, but they supported, approved, and planned it from eternity.
Secondly, Jesus' sacrifice, or "offering himself up to God for us without spot, to cleanse our consciences from dead works," (Heb. 9:14); "for he loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood," (Rev. 1:5). "He loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it," (Eph. 5:25, 26); taking the cup of wrath from his Father's hands that was meant for us, and drinking it all, "but not for himself," (Dan. 9:26): for, "for our sakes he sanctified himself," (John 17:19), meaning, to be an offering, a sacrifice for sin; for "when we were still powerless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly," (Rom. 5:6); -- this being what was symbolized by all the institutions, ordinances, and sacrifices of old; which when they were to end, then Christ said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." Now, although the completion of this sacrifice is described in the Bible mainly in terms of what Christ suffered, and not so much in terms of what he did, because it is primarily considered as the means used by these three blessed agents to achieve a further goal, yet in terms of his own voluntary giving up of himself to be such a sacrifice and offering, without which it would not have had any value (for if Christ's will had not been in it, it could never have cleansed our sins), therefore, in that regard, I refer it to his actions. He was the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world," (John 1:29); the Lamb of God, which he himself had provided as a sacrifice. And how did this Lamb behave in this situation? With unwillingness and struggle? No; he did not open his mouth: "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth," (Isa. 53:7). That's why he says, "I lay down my life. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it up again," (John 10:17, 18).
God might have crucified him, but his death wouldn't have been an offering if his will hadn't agreed. "But he loved me," says the apostle, "and gave himself for me," Gal. 2:20. Only a gift from a free and willing mind deserves that name, like Christ's when "he loved us and gave himself for us as an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma," Eph. 5:2. He did it happily: "Here I am, I have come to do your will, O God," Heb. 10:9; and so "he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree," 1 Pet 2:24. Now, I wouldn't limit this offering of Christ to just one thing, action, or passion, performance, or suffering; but it includes the entire plan and work of God revealed in the flesh and interacting with us, along with everything he did during his time on earth, when he offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, until he had completely "purged our sins by himself and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high," Heb. 1:3, "waiting until his enemies are made his footstool," chap.10:13, - the entire process of his coming and ministering, until he gave his soul as a ransom for many, Matt. 26:28. As for his entry into the holy of holies, sprinkled with his own blood, and appearing for us before God's majesty, which some consider as the continuation of his offering, we can refer to that as well.
Thirdly, Jesus intercedes for each and every person for whom he sacrificed himself. He didn't suffer for them and then refuse to intercede for them; he didn't do the greater thing and neglect the lesser. The price of our redemption is too valuable in the eyes of God and Jesus for it to be wasted on souls that perish without any concern for their future. In fact, this responsibility is given to Jesus, along with a promise: "Ask of me," says the Lord, "and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession," (Psalm 2:8). Jesus even tells his disciples that he has more work to do for them in heaven. "I go," he says, "to prepare a place for you, so that I may come back and take you to be with me," (John 14:2-3). Just as the high priest entered the inner sanctuary alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and the people's sins (Hebrews 9:7), so Jesus, the high priest of the good things to come, entered the heavenly sanctuary once and for all by his own blood, securing eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:11-12). What is this heavenly sanctuary that Jesus entered, sprinkled with the blood of the covenant? And why did he enter it? Well, he didn't enter a man-made sanctuary, which is only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, to appear in God's presence on our behalf (Hebrews 9:24). And what is he doing there? He is our advocate, pleading our case with God, so that the benefits he obtained through his sacrifice can be applied to all those for whom he was an offering. As the apostle John tells us, "If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," (1 John 2:1). How does this happen? "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins," (1 John 2:2). His sacrifice for our sins is the basis of his intercession, and therefore, both apply to the same people. Now, we know that Jesus refused to pray for the world, as opposed to his chosen ones. "I pray for them," he says, "I do not pray for the world, but for those you have given me," (John 17:9). So, there was no basis for interceding for the world, because he wasn't an atoning sacrifice for them. Also, we know that the Father always hears the Son ("I knew that you always hear me," John 11:42), meaning he grants his requests according to the promise in Psalm 2:8. Therefore, if Jesus interceded for everyone, everyone would undoubtedly be saved, because "he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them," (Hebrews 7:25). This is why the apostle Paul confidently says, "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us," (Romans 8:33-34).
We can't help but notice that those for whom Jesus died can confidently believe that he intercedes for them, and that no one can accuse them of anything. This idea goes against the concept of a general ransom, which suggests that Jesus died for millions who have no connection to his intercession, and who will ultimately be held accountable for their sins and perish. This could be further explained by looking at the nature of Jesus' intercession. It's not a humble, downcast plea, which wouldn't be fitting for his glorious position at the right hand of God. Instead, it's an authoritative presentation of himself before God's throne, covered in his own blood, ensuring that his people receive all the spiritual blessings that his sacrifice has made possible. He says, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am" (John 17:24). So, whoever Jesus suffered for, he represents them in heaven with his satisfaction and merit. We should also remember what God promised Jesus when he took on this mission. There's no doubt that Jesus' intercession is based solely on that promise, which was essentially to be the leader of salvation for all who believe in him and to effectively bring many people to glory. This is why, with Jesus as our high priest, we can approach God with complete confidence in our faith. Because through his one offering, he has made perfect forever those who are set apart (Hebrews 10:14). We'll discuss this more later on.