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From John Owen’s incredible treatise: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

“The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

1. All the sins of all men

2. All the sins of some men, or

3. Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:

a. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so none are saved.

b. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.

c. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

You answer, ‘Because of unbelief.’ I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins.”


It is clear that 1 John 2:1-2 that Christ is the propitiatory sacrifice for not only the sins of believers, but also of the whole world. It then is logical to ask, "Then why are not all men saved, if Christ died for all sin?" The answer lies in the fact that Christ was the satisfaction to God for the penalty for sin...death. God was satisfied and thus Christ cried, "It is finished". The work was done, never to be repeated. However, Scripture is clear that unless one accepts the work of Christ, he is lost...John 1:12. Only to those who recieve Christ have the right to be called the Sons of God. Christ's death was what was demanded to pay for all sin, but only those who receive the free gift of salvation possess it. It is like having a large deposit in a bank in your name, but unless you actually take it, it is not possessed, even though it is provided apart from any effort on your part.

I have a question in response to point c. What about the fact that before believers were justified, we were called "children of wrath" (Eph 2:3). If believers who Christ certainly died for could be under God's wrath before believing and being justified, then couldn't it be true that Christ died for the whole world, but until one repents and believes they are under God's wrath? This is an issue I've always had with Definite/Limited atonement and I've not yet found a response to it, though I'm certain there is one. I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this!

I put Owen's book on hold when I purchased "Kingdom Come"

Your ministry is a big blessing for me.
Thanks from my heart.

This is known as "Owen's Dilemma." It is not a dilemma for Owen but rather a dilemma authored by Owen for his opponents, the Arminians, who affirm that, in some sense, Christ died for all. In my opinion Owen's Dilemma is correct, logically sound, compelling, and irrefutable.

Great excerpt. Had this one on the reading list for too long now. Perhaps I'll bump it to the top of the list after I finish your Convergence ;) Thanks, Sam!

Oh so good. That little book is very dense, but completely worth the effort.

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