Apostasy from the Gospel
The subject of apostasy – that is, the study of what leads one who has professed faith in Christ to change his mind and return to living for the world of sin, is not on most people’s list of pleasant subjects to meditate upon.
The idea that one who confesses Christ may in time prove not to be a true Christian is too gloomy a prospect for many in our “positive-thinking” age. But it is a Biblical truth that requires some consideration, if only for the sake of watching guard over our own souls. Owen’s work, as usual, is a masterpiece of penetrating discernment to the very roots of the matter.
Now, in this updated English abridgement of John Owen’s Apostasy From the Gospel, Dr. R. J. K. Law makes its powerful teaching readily accessible to modern readers. Some will find its pages deeply soul-searching; others will be struck with the clarity of Owen’s insight; all will find a work which wounds in order to heal.
Few subjects have received less attention from contemporary Christian writers than that of apostasy. The idea that professing Christians may prove not to be true Christians is, in many respects, too serious a prospect for our facile age. But, for Owen, such avoidance of the issue was itself a pressing reason for writing on it at length and in great depth of spiritual analysis. His exposition is a masterpiece of penetration and discernment.
Review by Terry Delaney
John Owen was known as a leading pastor of the Puritans and one of their greatest minds. He served Oliver Cromwell as chaplain and later was appointed as Dean of Christ Church in the University of Oxford. He is most known today for his work on waging war with sin. Regardless, his books remain influential. This particular book, Apostasy from the Gospel is just as much needed today as it was when he wrote it some 400 years ago.
R.J.K. Law was a medical doctor at St. Thomas’ Hospital but later accepted a calling to the ministry and served the Anglican church in four parishes in Devon, England. He has edited a number of Owen’s works.
Law divided this work into 13 chapters over 166 pages of text. Owen began with a look at the nature and cause of apostasy from the gospel before moving into the particulars of apostasy. The book can further be divided into 4 sections. The first section discusses the two different forms of apostasy: partial (ch. 2) and apostasy from the truth of the gospel (ch. 3).
Chapters four through ten detail the reasons and causes of apostasy (ch. 4) from darkness and ignorance (ch. 5) and pride, neglect, and worldliness (ch. 6) to apostasy from the doctrines (ch. 7), and the commands (ch. 8) of the gospel. Chapter nine deals with the apostasy of those in the ministry while chapter ten offers a small treatise on further causes of apostasy.
Chapters eleven and twelve wrestle with apostasy from true worship (ch. 11) and the danger of widespread apostasy (ch. 12). Owen concludes the work with how we, as believers, can defend against apostasy (ch. 13).
“s I read this book here in the 21st century, I realized we no longer consider the Roman Catholic Church the great apostasy. For many of us today, we view the same-sex marriage issue and pro-life challenges as the great apostasy. In the end, the reality is that anything that is against Christ is apostasy and until Christ returns, we will deal with the issue of apostasy. Though Owen harps on the Roman Catholic Church, his words are invaluable for us today here in the 21st century as we deal with storm after storm of challenges to the Biblical, Christian faith.
Not everyone will want to read John Owen and that is to their detriment. Owen wrote in as timeless a manner as any of the great theologians before and after his time. Men like Augustine and Spurgeon. Owen deserves to be read by all believers and this work deserves to be read by any who are working “out their salvation with fear and trembling.” I highly recommend this book to all Christians.” — Terry Delaney