This morning I was lifeguarding and letting my mind wander, like I do, and my mind wandered right on over to limited atonement, like it does (I’m glad the two of us are so predictable). I’ve been thinking for a few months about what comfort the doctrine of limited atonement holds for believers, and this morning I thought about something John Owen said in his book The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Owen said, in speaking of holiness, faith, and grace, “Now, where should a soul look for these things, but in the purchase of Christ? Whence should they flow but from his side? Or is there any consolation to be had without them? Is not the strongest plea for these things at the throne of grace, the procurement of the Lord Jesus?” (p. 307).
Indeed it is, John.
Thinking of that, I was struck by how sure the promise of holiness is to the believer, rooted in the death of Christ for him. When I’m struggling with sin and feel as though I’m fighting a losing battle, a general atonement will not help me. If Christ died for all without exception, then he has done all he’s going to do, and the rest is up to me. Even if I get some help from the Spirit, it is still my will which has to effect the benefits Christ purchased on the cross. But if Christ died for his elect, not so as to make them salvable but to actually save them, then his elect will be holy. I will grow and progress in sanctification, if I am his own, because he bought me for his own.
Of course this is not to say I don’t have choices, or that I don’t have any responsibility. It is to say, however, that even my right choices, my sweat, blood, and tears for the sake of holiness, were bought by his choice, his sweat, his blood, his tears. And that’s good news.