John Owen on Apostasy – Part Nine

VIII. Apostasy from the Holiness of the Gospel; The Occasion and Cause of It- Of that which is gradual, on the pretence of somewhat else in its room


“There is… a falling away from the gospel with respect unto the holiness of its precepts, which are to be the matter, as they are the rule, of our obedience… yea, an apostasy from the holiness of the gospel is, on many accounts, more dreadful and dangerous than a partial apostasy from its truth; for as it is more spreading and catholic than that is, and of less observation or esteem, so it is usually more irrecoverable, most men under it being greatly hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”[1]


In chapter eight Owen deals with how man does not follow the commands that the gospel makes clear, which then results in apostasy. In several sections, Owen begins the chapter with explaining the dangers that lie in apostasy when one leaves the gospel. He makes his case with showing, first, how the gospel calls one to live a life of holiness, and secondly, how living a life of holiness is a requirement of the gospel. Owen then discusses several topics: the forms in which apostasy can occur, different areas of the Roman Catholic Church, issues in human morality, and how man tries to make himself perfect in order to live for the gospel, but falls without the Spirit of truth of the gospel. He uses these points to show the way that man lives in order to tell themselves that they are in right standing with the gospel, and yet fall short of what it requires. That is why once again Owen ends with gospel- gleaming truths that bring the believer to read the importance of the gospel and what it requires in the heart and in the life of ones who claims to know it. To finish, Owen brings forth three areas that are required by the one who confesses to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ:

1. The gospel requires maintaining a life of holiness in the world.
2. The gospel requires maintaining a continual life that lives out holiness.
3. The gospel requires maintaining a life that fights for holiness in the world.[2]


I. Apostasy from the Commands of the Gospel

A.   The Dangers of Apostasy from the Gospel

1.     Living for the Gospel leads to Holiness

2.     Holiness is Required From the Gospel

B.    Two Forms of Apostasy

C.    Apostasy in the Church of Rome

D.   Apostasy from Morality

E.    Apostasy from Perfectionism

F.    Holiness Required from the Gospel

1.     Not Loving the World

2.     Habitual Obedience

3.     Leaving the Gospel, becomes closer to the World

     [1] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 7 (Banner of Truth Trust: London, 1965), p. 159.

     [2] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 7 (Banner of Truth Trust: London, 1965), p. 177-82.


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