The first reading for our class is J. I. Packer's introductory essay to John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (1648). Owen's treatise is considered one of the most complete works ever on the saving work of Christ and fully promotes the truth and excellency of what has unfortunately been called "limited atonement." I've been very on-again, off-again regarding this notion--that Jesus only effectively died for a finite and fixed number of people whom God has, in his ineffable wisdom, marked out for glory before the universe even began. But consider this paragraph from Packer's preface:
Calvinism that insists on taking seriously the biblical assertions that God saves, and that He saves those whom He has chosen to save, and that He saves them by grace without works, so that no man may boast, and that Christ is given to them as a perfect Saviour, and that their whole salvation flows to them from the Cross, and that the work of redeeming them was finished on the Cross. It is Calvinism that gives due honour to the Cross. When the Calvinist sings:
“There is a green hill far away, Without a city wall, Where the dear Lord was crucified, Who died to save us all; He died the we might be forgiven, He died to make us good; That we might go at last to Heaven, Saved by His precious blood.”
—he means it. He will not gloss the italicised statements by saying that God’s saving purpose in the death of His Son was a mere ineffectual wish, depending for its fulfilment on man’s willingness to believe, so that for all God could do Christ might have died and none been saved at all. He insists that the Bible sees the Cross as revealing God’s power to save, not His impotence. Christ did not win a hypothetical salvation for hypothetical believers, a mere possibility of salvation for any who might possibly believe, but a real salvation for His own chosen people. His precious blood really does “save us all”; the intended effects of His self-offering do in fact follow, just because the Cross was what it was. Its saving power does not depend on faith being added to it; its saving power is such that faith flows from it. The Cross secured the full salvation of all for whom Christ died. “God forbid,” therefore, “that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Emphasis added)
Amazing to think, eh? Not easy--but amazing grace indeed.