Owen (The Death of Death in the Death of Christ) also responds to the use of 2 Peter 2:1 as a text in favor of universal atonement. Peter writes of false teachers who “deny the Lord who bought them.” This seems straightforward enough, but Owen sees only obscurities:
“All things here, as to any proof of the business in hand, are exceedingly dark, uncertain, and doubtful. Uncertain, that by the Lord is meant the Lord Christ, the word in the original being despotes, seldom or never ascribed to him; uncertain, whether the purchase or buying of these false teachers refer to the eternal redemption by the blood of Christ, or a deliverance by God’s goodness from the defilement of the world in idolatry, or the like, by the knowledge of the truth, — which last the text expressly affirms; uncertain, whether the apostle speaketh of this purchase according to the reality of the thing, or according to their apprehension and their profession.”
It seems to me that Owen creates difficulties where there are none, but the first point he makes (for which he claims certainty) gives us some hints toward a better reading:
“that there are no spiritual distinguishing fruits of redemption ascribed to these false teachers, but only common gifts of light and knowledge, which Christ hath purchased for many for whom he did not make his soul a ransom.” Here Owen recognizes a wider set of benefits purchased by Christ than he does elsewhere, and acknowledges that there are some “common gifts,” purchased by Christ, that do not amount to the gift of eternal salvation. (He later argues that despotes doesn’t in fact refer to Christ, saying that the purchase in view is “a deliverance, by God’s dispensations towards them, from the blindness of Judaism or paganism.”)
Owen’s initial answer implies this scheme: Christ ransoms souls by His death; but Christ also purchases benefits that are more widely distributed. Perhaps, referring to the earlier post on Hebrews 10, “sanctification” is one of these benefits more widely distributed.