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JOHN OWEN’S OUTLINE OF CHRIST’S SATISFACTION
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
I have been reading Dr. Michael Horton’s book, Christless Christianity (Baker Books, 2008). The subtitle of the book is “The Alternative Gospel of the American Church” (ibid., cover). Dr. Horton says that many American evangelicals have turned to “moralistic therapeutic deism” – and have given up preaching “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).
It seems to me that the main reason for this “Christless Christianity” is that Christ really isn’t needed when the doctrines of sin (hamartiology) are not emphasized. Without the radical view of sin presented in Scriptures there is no real need for the doctrine of salvation in Christ Jesus (soteriology). Without an emphasis on the doctrine of sin, there is only a “sentimental” reason left to mention Christ at all! The whole purpose of Christ coming into the world was to save men from sin.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
(I Timothy 1:15).
So, to turn the churches away from “Christless Christianity,” we must have a reemphasis on hamartiology – the Biblical doctrine of sin.
John Owen, the 17th century theologian, is a good person to consult on the doctrine of sin, and Christ’s work in saving sinners. In volume II of The Works of John Owen (Banner of Truth Trust, 2004 edition) Owen gave a section titled “The Satisfaction of Christ” (pp. 419-439). I am giving an abbreviated, updated version of what Dr. Owen said on this subject.
A summary of what the Bible teaches on the “satisfaction and substitution of Christ” can be reduced to the following points.
1. First, that Adam, being created upright [righteous], sinned against God; and all mankind, all his posterity, sinned in him. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him” (Genesis 1:27). “And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Genesis 3:11)… “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12)… “By one man's disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19).
2. Second, that by this sin of our first parent, all men are brought into an estate [a state] of sin and apostasy from God, and of enmity [against] Him. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). “Being dead in your sins” (Colossians 2:13).
3. Third, that in this state all men continue in sin against God, and by themselves they cannot do otherwise. “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12).
4. Fourth, that the justice and holiness of God, as the supreme governor and judge of all the world, requires that sin be punished. “The Lord God…will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6,7)… “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity” (Psalm 5:5)… “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isaiah 33:14)… “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). [“Then shall he say…Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41)].
5. Fifth, that God…in the sanction of the law, shall not leave sin unpunished. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (Deuteronomy 27:26). In this condition all mankind would have eternally perished without God’s “aid and help.”
6. Sixth, that God out of His infinite goodness, grace, and love to mankind, sent His only begotten Son to save and deliver them [men] out of this condition. “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)… “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10). “Even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (I Thessalonians 1:10).
7. Seventh, that this love was the same in [the] Father and Son, acting distinctly in the manner that shall be declared [in the next point].
8. Eighth, that the way the Son of God, when He came in the flesh, was to save sinners, was by a substitution of Himself, according to the [purpose] of God, in the [place] of those He came to save. “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21). “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)… “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (I Peter 2:24). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18).
All these verses undeniably show that Christ suffered as a substitute in the place of those who are saved. This is what we mean by “satisfaction” – that Christ was made “sin for us,” a “curse for us,” “died for us,” that is, in our place, so we could be saved from the wrath to come.
“The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
However, it is not enough to simply believe the Scriptures Dr. Owen gave. You must “Behold” the Lamb of God. You must enter in to Christ. You must come to Christ and rest in Him. Dr. Owen said that he himself preached these Scriptures for “some years” before he went through “horror and darkness” and then found “peace…through the mediator” Jesus (Comments of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Owen, ibid., front jacket cover).
(END OF SERMON)
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