John Owen on Substitutionary Atonement and the Lord’s Supper

7 03 2012

Below is an excerpt from Owen’s Sacramental Discourse #8.  Here he puts an interesting twist on the notion of representation.  In some understandings of the Lord’s Supper, the sacrifice of Christ is represented to God.  Owen on the other hand sees the sacrifice of Christ as represented to us, to soothe our consciences and lead us to worship.  One final note, for Owen “representation” means really and truly present by faith.  Thus for Owen, taking communion makes the substitutionary atonement of Christ really and truly present to us by faith.  Think about that next time you take the Lord’s Supper!

Consider truly and really this great substitution of Jesus Christ (the just suffering for the unjust) in our stead, in our room, – undergoing what we should have undergone.  The Lord help us to admire the infinite holiness, righteousness, and truth, that is in it.  We are not able to comprehend these things in it (Christ’s substitution); but if God enables us to exercise faith upon it, we shall admire it.  Whence is it that the Son of God should be substituted in our place?  Pray remember that we are now representing (in the Supper) this infinite effect of divine wisdom in substituting Jesus Christ in our room, to undergo the wrath and curse of God for us.

Owen, Sacramental Discourse 8