John Owen on Apostasy – Part Two

For the next 13 to 14 weeks, my plan is to go through John Owen’s work on Apostasy and address each Chapter the following way:

Thesis – Will be John Owens own thesis from taken from each individual section.

Outline – Will be an outline showing the importance of John Owens points tin each chapter in dealing with apostasy.
Summary – Will be a brief summary giving a rundown over each individual chapter.


I. The nature of apostasy from the gospel declared, in an exposition of Hebrews 6:4-6


“Intending an inquiry into the nature, causes, and occasions of the present defection that is in the world from the truth, holiness, and worship of the gospel, I shall lay the foundation of my whole discourse in an exposition of that passage in the Epistle of Paul the apostle unto the Hebrews, wherein he gives an account both of the nature of apostasy and of the punishment due unto apostates; for as this will lead us naturally unto what is designed, so an endeavor to free the context from the difficulties wherewith it is generally supposed to be attended, and to explain the mind of the Holy Ghost therein, may be neither unacceptable nor unuseful.”


In his first chapter, John Owen gives an introduction to the background and history of the Nature and Cause of Apostasy from Hebrews 6:4-6. Out of all 13 chapters, this is the longest and the one with the most substance due to its framework which it lays out for the continuing 12 chapters. He begins with giving the context and the description of how apostates had once been touched by the gospel, but leaving it in this way they could never come back to constitutional rights of the gospel. Owen then gives the characteristics, obedience, and faithfulness that one is to live by as a believer, and continues on to the rights, privileges, and blessings that the believer is to have – including illumination, a tasting of the gospel, receiving the Holy Spirit, receiving the Word of God, and being able to stand against the powers of the world.

            Owen then begins dealing with the text of Hebrews 6:4-6 itself, detailing a number of areas that are often mentioned in debate, such as: are these true believers, spiritual privileges, and if they fall away. Here Owen works with exactly what this text says of apostasy and how it is impossible to bring one back from it to repentance. He focuses on three major areas in this section: all events depend on God, things are impossible because of who God is, and, things are possible and impossible with God who appoints all things to happen. In these sections Owen deals with both issues of how it is possible for one to come back to the gospel after leaving it, and how one cannot come back to the gospel, both emphasizing God being in control over all things for His reasoning only. Lastly, Owen ends with an explanation about the fact that if man alone tries to bring the one who has left the gospel back to it, no matter what man may do, it is impossible. He points out that one cannot “renew” another back to right relationship with God, unless God Himself has done the work of the gospel inside the one who had tasted it. Owen finishes with 2 final thoughts: to continue always to preach the gospel and make that gospel clear to all men, and how man alone cannot come to repentance of his apostasy.  


I.               The Nature of Apostasy (Exegesis of Hebrews 6:4-6)

A.   The History of Apostasy

B.    Exegesis of Hebrews 6:4-6

1.     Context of the Passage

2.     Apostasy Described

1.     Characteristics of Salvation

2.     Believers Follow in Obedience

3.     Believers Live by Faithfulness of God

C.    The Great Privileges

1.     Having Spiritual Illumination

2.     Tasting the Heavenly Gift

3.     Partakers of the Holy Spirit

4.     Tasting the Word

5.     Powers Over the Coming Age of this World

D.   Apostasy and the Text of Hebrew 6:4-6

1.     All Future Events Depend Alone on God

2.     Some May never Return to the Gospel

3.     The True Believer Should Help to Renew Those who Fall

E.    Bringing Apostasy to Repentance

1.     Preaching the Gospel Clear

2.     Renewing Fallen Individuals to the Gospel

     [1] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 7 (Banner of Truth Trust: London, 1965), p. 11.



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