John Owen on Apostasy – Part Five

IV. The reasons and causes of apostasy from the truth or doctrines of the gospel, and the inclination of all sorts of persons thereunto in all ages, inquired into and declared


“The reasons and causes of apostasy from the truth or doctrine of the gospel, and the inclination of all sorts of persons thereunto in all ages, inquired into and declared — Uncured enmity in the minds of many against spiritual things, and the effects of it in a wicked conversation, the first cause of apostasy.”[1]


            Chapter four begins with Owen giving detailed reasoning that lies behind apostasy and how one leaves the gospel. This chapter reveals how one forsakes the gospel after having previously claimed to be a believer. Owen shows from Scripture a number of different areas in which man forsakes the gospel, brought about by reasoning in their own minds that leads them to work for themselves and not for the obedience of the gospel. In this, Owen looks at the fact that man’s nature falls in line with that which the natural revelation shows him… that man often doesn’t see the importance of special revelation, and because of this, they easily doubt the gospel which had once enlightened them. Here Owen gives examples of this from the Old Testament (with dealing with Israel), and from the Roman Catholic Church.

            However, this area of sin that Owen talks about – that which causes apostasy – is not where he leaves the chapter. He then goes further and gives his opinion of how one can refrain from becoming an apostate. Owen explains how one is to place the gospel at the very center of the heart, keeping it always close to the mind, in order to keep from falling away into apostasy. Moving forward in this, Owen shows that when this is done, the heart will see the true knowledge of the gospel, which results in falling in love with the gospel truly, and not just momentarily or for an undetermined span of time.

Owen ends this chapter by pointing out a number of important things. First, he gives two areas in which the Church of Rome continues to make apostates: by their force and by their accommodation of religion to appeal to many. He then gives two examples of ways that apostates live: continuing to deny God and continuing to indulge in their own sinful lust.


I. Why Apostasy Happens

A.   Apostasy in the Old Testament

B.    The Reasoning for Apostasy

C.    The Truth Given to Men

1.     Natural Revelation

2.     Supernatural Revelation

D.   Examples of Apostasy

1.     The Example of the Jews

2.     The Example of the Church

E.    Preventing Apostasy

1.     By the Truth of the Gospel

2.     By the Gospel reaching the Heart

F.    How Rome Continues to Press Forward

1.     By Force

2.     By Accommodation

1.     Denying God

2.     Denying Sin

     [1] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 7 (Banner of Truth Trust: London, 1965), p. 79. 


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