This post is an excerpt from the book review of Death of Death in the Death of Christ.
Owen’s Argument 1:
P1: The new covenant saves only believers
P2: God only intended the elect to believe
C1: Therefore, God intended the new covenant for the elect
Owen fortifies P2 by this argument:
P3: God effectually gives the elect faith
P4: No one else can have faith without God’s effectually giving it
C2: therefore, God only intended the elect to believe.
Scriptures Owen uses to Defend His Argument
Jeremiah 31:31-32 “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, though I was an husband to them, saith the Lord;”
Hebrews 8: 9–11 “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws in their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.”
P2 is false, because it assumes God doesn’t want everyone to believe. For more see reason 5 of the top 10 reasons Christ died for all. (link)
P3 & P4 are also false. They assume God’s grace operates irresistibly. While it’s true that we need God’s grace to be able to believe, it’s not true that His grace necessitates that we believe. The passage in Hebrews Owen cites demonstrates that man needs God’s grace to change them, but it doesn’t show that God’s grace can’t be resisted. Resistance can be seen in the passages provided in reason 5 of the top ten reasons Christ died for all, such as Luke 13:34, and also passages which talk about man’s resisting, such as:
Luke 7:30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Psalms 81:13 Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!
Isaiah 5:4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
So Owen’s argument fails.
It’s true that the new covenant only saves believers, but all people are invited into the Kingdom. God has prepared salvation for those who come, but not all will come.
1And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,
2The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
3And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
4Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
5But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
6And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
7But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
8Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
9Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
10So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
11And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
12And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
13Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The food is prepared and laid out: “all things are ready”. People need to come to enjoy it.