John Owen (1616–1683): Is faith a condition of salvation?


Is faith, strictly speaking, a condition of salvation? In other words, did Jesus die on the cross, doing 99%, and now leaves it up to us to believe, doing the last 1%? In still other words, did Jesus’ death make salvation possible, or did he actually efficaciously accomplish redemption? John Owen (1616–1683) puts it so well:

“Christ did not die for any upon condition, ‘if they do believe;’ but he died for all God’s elect, ‘that they should believe,’ and believing have eternal life. Faith itself is among the principle effects and fruits of the death of Christ… It is nowhere said in Scripture, nor can it reasonably be affirmed, that if we believe, Christ died for us, as though our believing should make that to be which otherwise was not – the act create the object; but Christ died for us that we might believe. Salvation, indeed, is bestowed conditionally; but faith, which is the condition, is absolutely procured.”

– John Owen (1616–1683), The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, p. 123

I especially love the line above where Owen says that faith is one of the greatest effects and fruits of Christ’s death – saving faith is “absolutely procured.” Jesus actually accomplished salvation for his people when he died on the cross. So we must believe to be saved, but if we have true faith, it is a gift given by God through the death of Christ by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.

3 thoughts on “John Owen (1616–1683): Is faith a condition of salvation?

  1. […] John Owen (1616 – 1683): Is faith a condition of salvation? […]

  2. John Owen said, “But now the justice of God is not satisfied for all the sins of all and every man, which also is no less apparent than the former: for they that must undergo eternal punishment themselves for their sins, that the justice of God may be satisfied for their sins, the justice of God was not satisfied without their own punishment, by the punishment of Christ; for they are not healed by his stripes, but that innumerable souls shall to eternity undergo the punishment due to their own sins, I hope needs with Christians no proving. Now how can the justice of God require satisfaction of them for their sins, if it were before satisfied for them in Christ. To be satisfied, and to require satisfaction that it may be satisfied, are contradictory, and cannot be affirmed of the same respect of the same; but that the Lord will require of some the utmost farthing is most clear; Mat. V. 26.” The Works of John Owen, Vol. V, published in 1826, p. 338-339

    Yet right before this John Owen said, “for until men come to Christ, ‘the wrath of God abideth on them;’ John iii. 36.” The Works of John Owen, Vol. V, published in 1826, p. 338.

    So Christ satisfied the wrath of God, but until men come to Christ, the wrath of God is not satisfied but abideth on them or remains? The same argument that Owen used to defend limited atonement and refute unlimited atonement, can also be turned on Owen to refute his theory of the nature of the atonement, thus leaving his defense of limited atonement and denial of unlimited atonement unsubstantiated, as his view of the nature of the atonement is shown to be false given his own principles.

  3. Thank you for the comment, and yes, on the surface it is a valid concern. In reply, here is a link to an earlier post on the blog which answers that objection:

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