Tag Archives: John Owen

The Person of Christ by John Owen

The Person of ChristOwen, John. The Person of Christ: Declaring a Glorious Mystery – God and Man. Scotland: Christian Heritage Imprint, 2015. 416 pp. $19.99. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle.

Introduction

I have reviewed a few works by John Owen (1616-1683) in the past. Those reviews can be found here. This particular book is part of a series that Christian Heritage (you can purchase a 5-volume set, minus this book, for $70.00) than  has been publishing as part of an emphasis on the works of John Owen. Additional titles include The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace, The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power, Communion with God: Fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Assurance: Overcoming the Difficulty of Knowing Forgiveness, and The Priesthood of Christ: Its Necessity and Nature.

For those who may be wondering, this is also the first volume in the 16-volume Works of John Owen published by The Banner of Truth Trust.

Summary

This entire book is centered on what theologians call Christology – the study of Christ. This massive 400+ page book is divided into 20 chapters with each chapter building on the previous. He begins the twofold foundation of Christ and begins moving meticulously through a complete theology of the person of Jesus Christ as the God-Man.

Some of the chapters include a look at the foundation of the counsels of God, Jesus as the great representative of God and His will, and the repository of sacred truth. A few other chapters look at love from the understanding of who Christ is. We see that love is the principle of obedience (chapter 12) as well as our motives to love Christ because of what He has accomplished (chapter 14).

Yet another section of chapters looks to the wisdom of God in Christ as well as the wisdom of Christ as shown to us in Scripture and His willingness to obey His Father unto death. The final three chapters look at the nature of the person of Christ, the exaltation of Christ, and finally, His mediatorial office.

If you are confused by this summary, here is what the publisher offered as a summary of the book:

John Owen sought to illustrate the mystery of divine grace in the Person of Christ. Regarded as one of the most important post-Reformation works, Owen’s Christology illustrates the mystery of divine grace in the Person of Christ.

In other words, this is a very difficult work to succinctly summarize!

Review

The theological strength of this book is its focus on the person of Jesus Christ. This is key as Owen wrote individual treatise on the office of Christ and the priesthood of Christ as well as the work of Christ. All that to say, this particular book looks solely at the person, that is the man, of Jesus Christ.

Obviously, the subject matter will bleed into other disciplines and there will be great overlap in theological and doctrinal conversation, but Owen peels back layer upon layer in his quest for understanding and explaining to the masses who the Christ is.

One reason a modern reader would prefer this edition over the first volume of the works is the updated language and chapter divisions. This includes a change from roman numerals to the more commonly used Arabic numbers. Also, as those who have read Owen know, he can get very verbose. This, too, has been restructured such that the modern reader can readily follow his train of thought.

Quite frankly, this volume is worth its price for the preface alone.

Recommendation

Mark Jones, author of the recently published Knowing Christ, stated in his endorsement, “If there is a richer book on Christology in the English language, I am not aware of it.” All I can add to that is a hearty Amen. I highly commend The Person of Christ to every believer who has called upon the name of Christ as Lord and Savior.

Indwelling Sin in Believers by John Owen

Indwelling SinOwen, John. The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2010. 174 pp. $9.00. Purchase at Westminster for less or for Kindle.

Introduction

Note: I actually read this from Volume VI of The Works of John Owen published by The Banner of Truth Trust. The book I am picturing, and the one most commonly read, is the “abridged and made easy to read” version.

This now completes the “triology” of books penned by Owen in the 17th century concerning sin and temptation. I have reviewed the first two, On Mortification and On Temptation. You can read my reviews of other books by John Owen here.

Recall that you can purchase the trilogy in one book that has been modernized and edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor for Crossway entitled Overcoming Sin and Temptation.

Summary

This volume was also published in 1668 though it was published after On Temptation. This is work is the largest of the three and proved to be the most in depth concerning theological information. Divided into seventeen chapters over 174 pages, it still remains very readable.

The text of Scripture in which this work is rooted is Romans 7:21, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” He expounds on the necessity of understanding what kind of law it is that demands that sin always be present.

Each chapter is as if he is pouring into a funnel in that he continues to focus in from the general to the particular. As he moves from defining indwelling sin to explaining the heart of sin, he offers explicit theological definitions and examples from Scripture that shows the importance of recognizing the truth of this daily war we must wage.

He pretty much concludes the book with a most sound treatment of what sin does to the believer’s mentality and strength and how it drives him farther from God and one’s duties.

Review

Again, I am a bit hard-pressed to really review this book as it has been so helpful to so many generations of Christians since it was first published in 1668. I do so, however, to be able to offer information about this book, and the theologian who wrote it, to a new group of Christians.

Owen does a phenomenal job of peeling back the layers of the person and showing how devious and devastating sin is. Note: I did not say can be. Rather, I said “is.” That is significant since many of us think we can play with sin and escape (I know I do from time to time only to fail…Every. Single. Time.).

Chapter ten was extremely helpful as Owen shows how sin draws the mind from duties and then he explicitly lists the duties being neglected. All of this drives home the emphatic point in the final chapter where he explains that the sin gains its strength from being fed by us in order that it might resist the graces and mercies of God.

As I have noted with every review of John Owen, he is a difficult read. I have also said that it is best if you do read him even if you struggle at first. His insight is great and timeless and his application for and to the Christian life is as much needed today as it was in the 17th century.

Recommendation

Though this may be the longest of the three books on sin and temptation, it is also worth owning. I highly recommend it to everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

On Temptation by John Owen

TemptationOwen, John. Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It; the Danger of Entering Into It; and the Means of Preventing That Danger with a Resolution of Sundry Cases Thereunto Belonging. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2007. 128 pp. $9.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle.

Introduction

Note: I actually read this from Volume VI of The Works of John Owen published by The Banner of Truth Trust. The book I am picturing, and the one most commonly read, is the “abridged and made easy to read” version.

I have been reading quite a bit of John Owen of late and have reviewed a few of the books I have read. You can find those here.

This particular book is the second of what amounts to a trilogy of dealing with sin in the life of a believer. Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor brought these three together in a book published by Crossway a few years back.

Summary

Based on Revelation 3:10, John Owen continues his discourse against sin in the lives of believers. This work originally appeared in 1658, two years after On Mortification of Sin. This work is comprised of a mere nine chapters and begins with a look at what it is to “enter into temptation.”

The third chapter offers many advices on how to avoid falling into temptation. They include prayer and consideration of the temptation. Further, in this chapter, he takes a hard look at the self and considers how weak we are as humans but also how we can safeguard our self from sin.

Degrees of temptation comprise the fourth chapter while chapter six looks at various seasons of temptation. Chapters five and seven and eight offer insight into particular methods of avoiding sin. The ninth chapter concludes with a short, but powerful exhortation to the duty of avoiding temptation.

Review

I finally got around to reading this work, again in Volume VI of the Complete Works, because I was personally struggling with temptations and, quite frankly, wanted to read one of the most recommended books on the topic of temptation.

Of the three in the “set,” I probably took the most notes in my notebook and wrote the most in the margins of the book than the others. Chapter three was most helpful as he really gave a solid outline of “a consideration of the self.” He offers a general look at the heart and how it must be a heart of flesh and not a heart of stone.

He then moves into particulars of how to actually safeguard your heart from entering into temptation. Looking over this list (after having read it a few months back!) I can see his wisdom in everything he writes.

Again, it must be noted that the language is a bit difficult, but it is definitely worth persevering in order to glean the wisdom from the pen of arguably one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this book to all Christians. It might be easier if you purchased the previously mentioned Overcoming Sin and Temptation instead of this by itself. Regardless, if you are breathing and you are a Christian, you need this book.

Mortification of Sin by John Owen

Mortification of SinOwen, John. On the Mortification of Sin in Believers. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004. 144 pp. $9.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle.

Introduction

Note: I actually read this from Volume VI of The Works of John Owen published by The Banner of Truth Trust. The book I am picturing, and the one most commonly read, is the “abridged and made easy to read” version.

For many, John Owen is a common name from the Puritan era. Even those who are not in the so-called Reformed camp are familiar with Owen largely in part because of this particular work. He was born in 1616 in Stadhampton, Oxfordshire and died in Ealing, West London, in 1683. During his sixty-seven years he lived out a life full of spiritual experience, literary accomplishment, and national influence so beyond most of his peers that he continues to merit the accolade of ‘the greatest British theologian of all time.’

Summary

In fine literary and Puritanical form, John Owen states succinctly the need to always be killing sin this side of eternity. The primary verse from which this small work is rooted is found in Romans 8:13, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (I quote the KJV because that is more typical of the language Owen spoke.)

After laying the foundation of the command to kill sin, Owen proposes a number of general principles as to the means by which the Christian ought to be engaged in this daily struggle. These general principles comprise the ensuing three chapters. The first is the necessity of mortification. The second is the means by which one may engage in this battle. The third is the usefulness of mortification.

He then moves into particulars as regards how we are to actually combat sin – a total of nine “directions.” The final chapter. the fourteenth, offers the encouragement that all of this is for the Christian’s assurance of salvation but shows that it is actually the Holy Spirit working in you to mortify sin in your body.

Review

How does one review a work that 1. has been monumental within Christendom concerning the topic of sanctification and 2. has withstood the test of time (it was published in 1656)?

Obviously, Owen writes in an form of English that most today are no longer familiar. Hence, the necessity to make this book easier to read in the Puritan Paperback. Also, it must be noted that the style of writing, as well as their preaching, is lost on many today. They do not follow a simple 3-point outline as we do today. Rather, they would look at one particular point of application and then break it down into a number of subsets and then break those down even further!

What you wind up with is a very thorough dealing with a particular topic that, once you have read the work, you have pretty much read all there is on the topic. Though that is hyperbole, it is safe to say that the treatment with which the Puritans dealt with their topic leaves the no stone unturned. It is from this work where the axiom, “be killing sin or it will be killing you” originated.

It is worth persevering through the language barrier and the length of the treatment of each point and consequent subpoint to read this excellent work.

Recommendation

I have reviewed this classic work in order to introduce it to those who read this website in the even that they have never heard of John Owen or this classic work. I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about dealing with the sin in their life.

 

Apostasy From the Gospel by John Owen (edited by R.J.K. Law)

Apostasy from the GospelOwen, John (1616-1683). Apostasy from the Gospel. Abridged and Made Easy to Read by R.J.K. Law. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1992. 178 pp. $9.00. Purchase as WTS Books for less.

Introduction

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.

Summary

R.J.K. 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).

Review

Again, it must be noted that this particular edition has been both abridged and made easier to read by R.J.K. Law.  I state this because many believe John Owen to be too difficult to read given the use of Elizabethan English from the 17th century.  That being said, Law has definitely done a service to modern day Christians with his work in updating the language of John Owen as well as abridging his larger works for the modern reader to be able to read and, consequently, understand.

Ultimately, however, the review is not about the editor’s ability.  Instead, we must focus on what Owen wrote.  In this particular work, Owen deals with the idea of apostasy.  This is a conversation that is rarely discussed in the church today.  For many believe in the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” and while this perseverance of the saints is a true doctrine of Scripture, many are left scratching their head as they watch numerous teens and adults leaving the church in droves.  Countless books have been written recently to understand why this is the case, but John Owen dealt with this very problem in the 1600’s.

Owen places the reality of apostasy on the truth of regeneration.  If one is truly regenerated and born again in Christ, then they will not apostasize.  If, however, there is merely a spoken faith, that is, a faith in word only and not backed up by deed, then apostasy is going to be the norm.  Owen offers many reasons why people turn their backs on Christ and His bride, the church.  Specifically, and while he does not say this explicitly, it is the idea of an easy believism.  For Owen, this is what enabled the Roman Catholic Church to grow so large — members were able to live any way they wanted to and yet confess sins and give an offering that would satisfy a holy God.  This is wrong and heretical, Owen argues.

As 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.

Recommendation

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 Ausgustine 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.