EDITOR’S NOTE: Here is a book review written by Dr. Robert L. Sumner, editor of The Biblical Evangelist. Dr. Sumner is a skilled and gifted writer on spiritual matters and no where is his writing more pungent and helpful than when he is writing his review of a book. After reading this review I thought it good to share with my readers and I especially wanted to call your attention to the discussion on REPENTANCE. While brief, it is a wonderful study on that important Bible doctrine. I doubt you would be able to find this material in such succinct and well stated and true to the Bible teaching anywhere else. But here it is. Dr. Sumner offers his paper free to those who wish to subscribe. Go to: www.biblicalevangelism.org for more info. You will find you can read the entire issue online and many of his back issues. Always a wealth of spiritual resources, free.
SHALL NEVER PERISH by Dennis M. Rokser; Grace Gospel Press, Duluth, MN; 5 Parts, 32 Chapters, 335 Pages; $19.95, Paper
This volume has the same title, Shall Never Perish, as a book by John Frederick Strombeck that helped this reviewer so tremendously as a young minister well over a half-century ago. As I recall now, Strombeck was a layman/businessman who financed it and two other books he had written – one was Grace and Truth: The True Relationship Between Law and Grace; and the other one, while I’ve forgotten the title, was, I believe, on prophecy – sending them free to ministers of the gospel. While I didn’t have a problem with security at that time, the good biblical study in Never helped strengthen my faith in the teaching. I believe Kregel later republished it.
This book will do the same for you!
If you weren’t sharp enough to know by the title that this deals with the believer’s eternal security in Christ, the subtitle will enlighten you, Is Salvation Forever or Can It be Lost? Rokser’s five major sections are Part I, “Identifying the Issue of Eternal Security”; Part II, “The Scriptural Support for Eternal Security”; Part III, “The Absolute Assurance of Eternal security”; Part IV, “The Consequences of Carnality”; and Part V, “Probing the Perplexing Passages.”
Up front the author defines what he means by eternal security: “Eternal security means that those who have been genuinely saved by God’s grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone shall never be in danger of God’s condemnation or loss of their salvation, but God’s grace and power keep them forever saved and secure.”
We agree totally with that evaluation.
Eternal security does not mean that every person who ever made a profession of faith in Christ, or got baptized, or joined a church is sure of Heaven. Of course not! It is only for those who have been truly born again.
Probably the main part of Rokser’s book is in the dozen chapters of Part II, where he evaluates in some detail the biblical statements guaranteeing to the child of God he ‘shall never perish.’ The Bible, of course, is the key. Most ‘losers’ (teaching you can lose salvation) base their main arguments on experience – they will tell you by the hour of people they’ve known who were “the greatest Christians this side of Heaven,” but who backslid and lost it all. But experience is not the criterion; the Bible is!
Critics of the biblical teaching of security invariably say, “If what you say is true, everyone would go out and live like the devil,” confident they would go to Heaven anyway. In the first place, real Christians don’t want to ‘live like the devil.’ In the second place, it is very unhealthy for a Christian to ‘live like the devil’ or anything close to it. It has to do with what the Bible calls chastening and Rokser has two chapters dealing with this (it is Part IV, “The Consequences of Carnality”).
In his final section the author looks at the ‘perplexing passages’ that some seem to think teach that one can lose his salvation. While we think this section will be very helpful to readers, we are frank to say the author understands the Hebrews passages (6:4-6; 10:26-30) differently than we do in our Hebrews commentary.
Our problem with this book is the same as others we have reviewed in this group: putting down Lordship Salvation (due to a misunderstanding of its teaching, in our judgment) and a false view of repentance (see our review of Freely By His Grace), all of whom dismiss it as merely “a change of mind.”
Regarding repentance, there is more than one word translated “repent” and/or “repentance” in the New Testament. The first one is in Matthew 3:2 regarding the cry of John the Baptist, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The word for repent here is metanoeite and the great Greek scholar A. T. Robertson, after discussing its mistranslations, says, “The tragedy of it is that we have no one English word that reproduces exactly the meaning and atmosphere of the Greek word.” Then he adds, “The Greek has a word meaning to be sorry (metamelomai) which is exactly our English word repent and it is used of Judas (Matt. 27:3).”
The Dallas Seminary commentary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, calls it a change of heart as well as a change of mind. That is, of course, more than changing your mind about what you want for breakfast. Later, in Mark 1:14, 15, it says, “To ‘repent’ (metanoeō; cf. Mark 1:4) is to turn away from an existing object of trust (e.g., oneself). To call it merely a change of mind does not do it justice. You see, real repentance has “fruits” (Matthew 3:8, in same context as above).
In a message published in this magazine (May 1, 1987), Evangelist Harold Vaughan quoted Dr. Alan Redpath, “Faith that is not grounded in repentance and followed by obedience is not saving faith” (italic in original; boldface added). Vaughan went on to say, “In false repentance there is sorrow for sins, but it is not a ‘godly sorrow.’”
Probably no finer English dictionary of Greek words is available than W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. When he took up ‘Repent, Repentance’ he looked at verb, adjective and noun forms. In conclusion, he noted how repentance was used in the Old Testament and then summed up its New Testament use, starting the latter by saying, “In the N.T. the subject chiefly has reference to repentance from sin, and this change of mind involves both a turning from sin and a turning to God. The parable of the prodigal son is an outstanding illustration of this. Christ began His ministry with a call to repentance, Matt. 4:17, but the call is addressed, not as in the O.T. to the nation, but to the individual. In the Gospel of John, as distinct from the synoptic Gospels, referred to above, repentance is not mentioned, even in connection with John the Baptist’s preaching; in John’s Gospel and 1st Epistle the effects are stressed, e.g., in the new birth, and generally in the active turning from sin to God by the exercise of faith (John 3:3; 9:38; I John 1:9), as in the N.T. in general” (emphasis added).
The ‘Great Charlie,’ as C. H. Spurgeon was called, wrote this on the subject:
“No remission of sin can be given without repentance; the two things are so joined together by God, as they are in our text, that they cannot be separated. Many mistakes are made as to what true evangelical repentance really is. Just now, some professedly Christian teachers are misleading many by saying that ‘repentance is only a change of mind.’ It is true that the original word does convey the idea of a change of mind; but the whole teaching of Scripture concerning repentance which is not to be repented of is that it is a much more radical and complete change than is implied by our common phrase about changing one’s mind. The repentance that does not include sincere sorrow for sin is not the saving grace that is wrought by the Holy Spirit. God-given repentance makes men grieve in their inmost souls over the sin they have committed, and works in them a gracious hatred of evil in every shape and form. We cannot find a better definition of repentance than the one many of us learnt at our mother’s knee,
‘Repentance is to leave
The sin we loved before,
And show that we in earnest grieve
By doing it no more.’
I am always afraid of a dry-eyed repentance; and mark you, if forgiveness could be granted to those who were not sorry for their sin, such forgiveness would tend to aid and abet sin, and would be no better than the Romish heresy that, when you have sinned, all you have to do is confess it to a priest, pay a certain sum of money according to the regular Roman tariff, and start again on your career of evil.
God forbid that we should ever fall into that snare of the Devil! If I could keep on living in sin, and loving it ever as much as I did, and yet have remission of it, the accusation of the blasphemer that Christ is the minister of sin would be a just one; but it is not so. On the contrary, we must loathe sin, and leave sin, and have an agonizing desire to be clean delivered from it; otherwise we can never expect the righteous God to say to us, ‘Your sins, which are many, are all forgiven.’”
Spurgeon called an alleged repentance that didn’t turn from sin ‘heresy.’ Alas, in our day – just as 100 years ago in his – some religious leaders are insisting that repentance is “only a change of mind.” How Spurgeon would be grieved. Even more, how the dear Lord is grieved with such teaching and preaching!
But we have already said more about repentance than a book review deserves, especially when the book is basically sound.
Summed up: a good book with helpful material, but don’t choke on the chaff!