The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man. By Joseph C. Dillow. Miami Springs, FL: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992. 649 pp. Cloth, $24.95; paper, $19.95.
This outstanding presentation and defense of the Free Grace position covers nearly every passage and subject in the Gospel debate. Each chapter is almost a book in itself. Here are the titles of the various chapters:
Chap 1: Introduction; Chap 2: Interpretation and Perseverance; Chap 3: The Inheritance: Old Testament; Chap 4: The Inheritance: New Testament; Chap 5: The Inheritance-Rest of Hebrews; Chap 6: So Great A Salvation; Chap 7: Inheriting Eternal Life; Chap 8: Justification and Sanctification l; Chap 9: Justification and Sanctification 2; Chap 10: The Possibility of Failure; Chap 11: From Calvin to Westminster; Chap 12: Faith and Assurance; Chap 13: Self-Examination and Assurance; Chap 14: The Carnal Christian; Chap 15: Apostasy and Divine Discipline; Chap 16: Life in the Spirit; Chap 17: Conditional Security: The Gospels; Chap 18: Conditional Security: The Letters of Paul; Chap 19: Conditional Security: Hebrews 6; Chap 20: Hebrews, Peter, and Revelation; Chap 21: Eternal Security; Chap 22: Tragedy or Triumph?; Chap 23: Negative Judgment and the Believer; Chap 24: The Final Significance of Man; and Chap 25: The Partakers.
Here are some of the many strengths of Dr. Dillow’s magnum opus:
First, the book strongly and repeatedly defends absolute 100% assurance of salvation. Dillow cogently argues that assurance is of the essence of saving faith.
Second, the author’s presentation of the doctrine of eternal rewards is thorough, highly motivating, and biblically accurate.
Third, in terms of the Gospel, “absolutely free” is the watchword of this book. Dillow repeatedly shows why this view of the Gospel is the only one which is supported by Scripture.
Fourth, love for God’s Word permeates this book. Anyone reading it will see the high view the author has towards it. Clearly Dillow considers careful Bible study essential to any believer’s growth.
Fifth, the distinction between justification and progressive sanctification is drawn sharply and clearly; there is no fuzziness in the line.
Sixth, what a resource this book is for the pastor, elder, deacon, Sunday School teacher, Bible college or seminary professor! The Scripture index allows the reader to turn quickly to the discussion of a specific passage. So, too, the topical index permits immediate access to a host of subjects. These indexes are invaluable for preparing lectures, sermons, and lessons. And, of course, they are wonderful for personal Bible study and for answering questions which others pose.
As excellent as this book is, there are several areas which may cause readers difficulty.
First, the book’s length is intimidating. With small print and over 600 pages, some readers may be frightened off. This, however, would be a mistake. I suggest that the reader view the book as a series of small books. With an average length of only 26 pages, the chapters themselves are not at all intimidating.
Second, as might be expected in a book dealing with many problem issues and texts, some of the writing is a bit hard to follow. The reader may find himself or herself needing to re-read certain sections to get the author’s point. Nevertheless, as with any mining operation in a good location, the prospector who is patient will find a lode of ore.
Third, being an original exegete who does not depend on the commentary tradition, Dillow sometimes comes up with novel interpretations that some will find questionable. For example, he suggests that 2 Pet 1:10 is teaching that believers are to work out their election and calling. In this reviewer’s opinion, however, he fails to prove that this is the correct interpretation. A more reasonable interpretation seems to be that of Hodges in Absolutely Free! and The Gospel Under Siege. Hodges suggests that this verse means that we should validate our election and calling before others. We know that we are saved by the promises of God’s Word. However, we demonstrate to others that we are saved by our actions.
Fourth, the author fails to lay out the various interpretive options on problem texts. It would be helpful to have different Free Grace interpretations set forth, rather than just the option which Dillow adopts. (Of course, with the book already so long, this would have been impractical. I would suggest that future editions split the book into three or four volumes and incorporate alternative Free Grace interpretations.)
I highly recommend this book. It is must read for every person who has an interest in the Gospel, assurance, and discipleship-and that should be all of us. Even Lordship Salvation advocates should want this book for its sheer amount of information.
Robert N. Wilkin
Grace Evangelical Society