The Gift of God. By Richard A. Seymour. Kissimmee, FL: Clarity Publications, 1985. 117 pp. Paper, $3.00.
As many will attest, searching for an objective treatment of the subject of “how to be saved” today can be frustrating indeed. Richard Seymour, Dean of the Florida Bible College (Orlando), has no doubt sensed this same frustration. His response, The Gift of God, provides an answer which fills the void and offers readers an excellent study of this important subject. Although Seymour’s prime focus is on the clear passages of Scripture on salvation, he carefully examines a significant number of problem passages and capably weaves them into a consistent biblical theology.
After a personal word, Seymour begins the book by reviewing principles of interpretation which he follows. He insists on taking Scripture at face value (literal grammatical interpretation) except where the text is clearly figurative (e.g., John 7:38). He regards thorough lexical study, contextual harmony, grammar, and consistent biblical theology as essential to discovering the meaning of a passage. Stressing common sense and patience, Seymour notes that clear statements should never be interpreted by unclear statements. He views this approach, along with subjectivity, i.e., interpreting Scripture based on experience, as springboards to false doctrine. Overall, his interpretive method is healthy, and critics will strain to find fault with it.
Seymour groups his first five chapters under the title “Important Doctrines to Understand.” This section approaches salvation from the positive side, covering the essentials of the Gospel and the soteriological significance of the new birth and indwelling Holy Spirit. Because these topics point to a free and eternally secure salvation, by addressing God’s loving nurture and discipline toward believers, Seymour anticipates the age-old charge that a free salvation encourages antinomianism. He covers this subject in three chapters on chastening, growth, and rewards.
Next the author turns to problem passages, i.e., those which some claim to teach that salvation once attained can be lost. He examines a remarkable number of these texts and treats them thoroughly. This is the longest chapter in the book, which reflects the author’s concern over their frequent misinterpretation in evangelical literature.
Seymour concludes the book by providing an in-depth discussion of two of the clearest passages in Scripture on salvation, Eph 2:8–9 and Rom 4:1–5. He points the reader to the forthright meaning of grace and works in these passages, and then highlights Rom 11:6 to show that in biblical theology they are mutually exclusive. Much confusion could be lifted if Christians could grasp this important truth, and thus, Seymour’s emphasis is warranted.
In summary, The Gift of God is an excellent treatment of salvation by a writer with a special sensitivity toward those who are struggling with doubts about the freeness of God’s offer of eternal life. He focuses upon the clear passages of Scripture relating to salvation by pointing readers to their obvious meaning, and ably handles “problem texts” by integrating them into the “soteriological” big picture. Because the book is inexpensive, it may be used as a ready tool in both evangelism and in helping those who struggle with grace/works controversies. All in all, the book is a valuable contribution to those writings which favor God’s free offer of eternal life.
Raymond M. Isbell
Lt. Col., United States Marine Corps