In continuing on this subject about faith as a gift of the cross, this summarized quote of John Owen’s (summarized by a friend of mine, the actual quote is quite long – I’ll post it at the end) makes a very stark comparison between the Arminian stance of a universal atonement and the historic Reformed stance that Christ’s work on the cross was effectual for specific people with specific results, one being faith:
“If Christ died for all and faith is not a blood-bought gift of the cross, then those that are finally saved have no more to thank Christ for than those that are finally damned.”
Why is that? Because, under a universal atonement (that Christ died for everyone in the same way with the same benefits), those who believe, who possess faith, without the help of God (they themselves produced their faith out of an unregenerated human nature), they finally got themselves in the door. They were the final and ultimate reason they are saved. Christ brought them up to a point, but they took the plunge. In all honesty, they have themselves to thank, not Jesus for why they are ultimately saved. Scripturally, that is all wrong. In the Arminian scheme, Christ has already paid for everyone’s sins, turned away the wrath of God, made everyone heirs of the kingdom with Christ, IF they bring themselves up from the spiritually dead and trust in Christ by their own strength. But what do you have to thank Christ for if you believe versus the person who dies in unbelief? What did Christ do to get you finally, decisively saved? Christ didn’t bring you into His kingdom, you did. With this thinking, Christ merely made all men savable, He didn’t actually save anyone effectually, which would include bringing people to faith by His work in them (i.e. paying for their sin of unbelief).
Now to be fair, I would admit that many Arminians who love Christ in no way want to take credit for any part of their salvation. And so I would say they are not so much boasting, but are theologically inconsistent and teaching others to be the same (which, has it occurred to anyone that maybe one of the reasons so many politically right-wing, conservative, rural-type churches are so arrogant in their approach to the unbelieving world is because they fundamentally believe they got themselves into Christ without His help and work and that the cross itself wasn’t the ultimate reason for their belief to begin with?). The Arminian system logically begs for this thinking. So instead of actually making an accusation that they are in fact being prideful and boastful (which I can’t know their hearts), it is better to say that this system lends itself to that. Why? Because, as the quote states, “If Christ died for all and faith is not a blood-bought gift of the cross, then those that are finally saved have no more to thank Christ for than those that are finally damned.” That just reeks to me of boasting and pride if the scheme of a universal atonement is true … especially in light of Paul’s statement in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why was Paul saved while on the road to Damascus to kill Christians? The sovereign, loving work and hand of God miraculously giving him faith, eyes, ears, renewed/regenerated heart is the only explanation, and this itself a work of the cross. Faith is indeed a gracious gift of the cross so that no man may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Saved by Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone.
Here is Owen’s quote in its totality from pg. 131 of The Death of Death in the Death of Christ:
[If it be answered], “God bestows faith on some, not on others,” I reply, Is this distinguishing grace purchased for those some comparatively, in respect of those that are passed by without it? If it be, then did not Christ die equally for all, for he died that some might have faith, not others; yea, in comparison, he cannot be said to die for those other some at all, not dying that they might have faith, without which he knew that all the rest would be unprofitable and fruitless. But is it? not purchased for them by Christ? Then have those that be saved no more to thank Christ for than those that are damned; which were strange, and contrary to Rev. 1:5, 6, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father,” etc. For my part, I do conceive that Christ hath obtained salvation for men, not upon condition if they would receive it, but so fully and perfectly that certainly they should receive it. He purchased salvation, to be bestowed on them that do believe; but withal faith, that they might believe. Neither can it be objected, that, according to our doctrine, God requires any thing of men that they cannot do, yea, faith to believe in Christ: for,—First, Commands do not signify what is God’s intention should be done, but what is our duty to do; which may be made known to us whether we be able to perform it or not: it signifieth no intention or purpose of God. Secondly, For the promises which are proposed together with the command to believe:—First, they do not hold out the intent and purpose of God, that Christ should die for us if we do believe; which is absurd,—that the act should be the constituter of its own object, which must be before it, and is presupposed to be before we are desired to believe it: nor, secondly, the purpose of God that the death of Christ should be profitable to as if we do believe; which we before confuted: but, thirdly, only that faith is the way to salvation which God hath appointed; so that all that do believe shall undoubtedly be saved, these two things, faith and salvation, being inseparably linked together, as shall be declared.[