A study on The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen

Part 1 – The role of the Father in redemption

When we think of redemption we immediately think of the work of Christ on the cross. Jesus taking our place and providing atonement for our sins. However, there is so much more to this sacrificial act then we hear from the pulpits of most churches today. In this study using John Owen’s classic book and the Bible as our guide we will explore the whole work of redemption focusing on the Trinity and the roles, relationships, and actions between them. When we are finished I think it will bring into view the amazing work of redemption as well as bring depth to the readers understanding of this topic that we unfortunately only scratch the surface of in most cases. All verses will be from the ESV translation unless otherwise noted.

Briefly, we look at the Trinity and understand that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God revealed in three persons that are eternally distinct. We will not get into an explanation on the Trinity here except to set it as a basis for what the Bible says it is so we can move forward. What is important to understand is that the Trinity was involved in redemption from before the foundations of the world. Acts 4:28 says For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done (KJV). This is Peter and John before the Sanhedrin explaining how every person and thing involved in the death of Christ was predetermined by the entire counsel and hand of God. Pilate, Herod, the people and many other things can be talked about within the context of Christ’s death, but none of these things took place outside of the predetermined will of God. You can’t take any aspect of the Trinity out of the death of Christ or you have no Gospel.

First we will look at the acts of the Father in redemption. God the Father sends his Son into the world. We don’t want to overlook the importance of this first point. The Father loves the world and he loves his Son, so he sends the Son he loves to save the world he loves. Most people know the verses in John 3:16 and 17 which states twice that God gave his Son to the world, and did not send him to condemn the world but to save it. There is over 20 instances in the Bible alone that talk about this sending of the Father, as well as more instances where the Son says that the Father sent Him (John 10:36, and 5:37). God the Father promised this act in the Old Testament and established this act before the creation of the world. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you (1 Peter 1:20).

Because of this act of the Father there are parts of scripture that refer to the Father as the Savior as well, like in the opening line of 1 Timothy and Titus 1:3 to name just a few. This is done to honor the fact that God loved the world and predetermined that the Son would be sent to be our Savior. In sending the Son we see the Son willingly and humbly condescending to us to be our Savior because of his love for the Father and creation. He also does this because of what the Father promises to him in the eternal covenant between them, mainly that he will give the nations and all things as inheritance and enemies as a footstool. He appointed the Son, once again before the foundations of the world, to be Judge of the “living and dead”.

The sending of the Son by the Father is also shown in the promise made to bring the Son back to the right hand of the Father and exalt the Son back to his glorious state. In the end, all will be handed to the Son for judgment and glorification. We see the how the Father gives his Son to the world, and then gives the world back to his Son in the end out of his eternal love for both. This conclusion is determined as the outcome and the Son takes this assurance with Him to the cross. Peter gives comfort by referring to this in 1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered for a while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, and establish you”. On the road to Emmaus Jesus, after his resurrection, says to the men “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory? With glory assured on the other side of the cross Jesus took his place at the behest of the Father willingly to save those who the Father would give. John 6:39 says “ And this is the Father’s will that hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day

This eternal covenant between the Father and Son also gives comfort to the Son knowing that the Father will comfort Him and watch over Him during His greatest times of trial while on earth. Isaiah 49:3 says He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me. Again in Isaiah chapter 50:6 we read “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those that pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I should not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold the Lord God helps me, who will declare me guilty?” The Father sent the Son to the cross with His blessing and promise that he would never leave Him, and it was within this promise that the Son took comfort and humbled himself to perform the task of redemption for us.

But love is only half of this act as we explore the second act of God the Father in redemption which is to deliver punishment to the Son for the sins of the world in his eternal justice. Isaiah 53 is the most direct on this issue stating that “it was the will of the Lord to crush him” and “the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand”. 2 Corinthians 5:21 also concurs saying “For our sake he (God the Father) made him (The Son) to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. This of course does not mean that Jesus became sin, but that the Father made him responsible for sin so that his sacrifice would be valid in our place. God’s eternal wrath for His people was in the cup that Christ asked that the responsibility for might pass if there be any other way. But of course there wasn’t any other way but for the only perfect man to take responsibility for the sins of His people. At this point some would say God loves the world that he gave his son for the entire world, however based on what we know in this study it can’t be the case. God loved the world and sent his Son to redeem a people out of the world that He would give to his Son in the end out of His eternal love. The rest of people, or whosoever “do not” believe if we take the inverse of that famous passage in John 3:16, will fall under the judgment of the Son and eternal justice or wrath of the Father.

In part 2 of this study we will look primarily at the role and acts of the Son in redemption.

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