Saved from What?

By R. C. Sproul
Wheaton, IL : Crossway (2002). 128 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Trevor Craigen
14.1 (Spring 2003) : 135-136

 A sermon preached, then scripted and printed, led up to this little book, which could be described as an extended gospel tract. It could also serve the purpose of being a primer on the doctrine of salvation, prompting further detailed study of just what salvation is. The book makes for easy reading—an hour or so will do it. The use of personal anecdotes and a number of Scriptures from different settings as illustration adds color to the book. It is neither textbook nor commentary nor exposition of a specific passage, but a topical sermon delivered at a Christian Booksellers Convention, a sermon sparked by a survey which showed that many evangelical believers could not give an adequate definition of the gospel (15).

Eight chapters arranged under three obvious questions—“Saved from What?,” “Saved by What?,” and “Saved for What?”—nicely cover the points the author wished to emphasize and the different terms he chose to bring forward and define, such as “reconciliation” and “redemption,” “expiation” and “propitiation,” and “justification” and “adoption.” Sin and man’s depravity, as well as the absolute necessity of substitutionary atonement, God’s holiness, Christ’s righteousness, and the believer’s blessed future in eternity are also concisely presented.

Interestingly enough, the sermon which gave rise to the book was based on that graphic description of the great day of the Lord in Zeph 1:14-18. However, given the audience and the occasion, the author had a certain amount of freedom in deciding what to use as the launching pad for his subject matter. As he himself indicated, this passage certainly does highlight the outpouring of God’s wrath, and as he also noted, the end of this minor prophet’s book does give the promise of redemption. His theological system forced him to overlook that this redemption relates to Israel’s millennial future. Further, one would have to question the citing of Deuteronomy 28 as having some application for people or church today (73-75). And certainly, one would have to question whether or not the NT teaching of the church as the bride of Christ really does look back to Exodus 21 and the law on indentured servants (87-88). Strange! Inadequate or incomplete comments can always be found when an extensive topic is being so concisely surveyed. Yes, a mental note was made of other points to be explained in more detail were this book to be used in having someone think further about the gospel and salvation.

Provocatively, Sproul answers his first question by stating that the need is to be saved from God. As he puts it, “God in saving us saves us from Himself” (25). This unusual way of expressing it makes the reader pause and think a little before nodding okay and moving on.

This book, unless the reader determines to make use of it, is likely to be placed on the shelf with a murmured “that was a nice read” and perhaps thereafter remembered on occasions. The publisher’s foreword shows a real desire that readers would have the most important question in life answered for them as they read Saved from What? If it serves that purpose, then rejoicing would certainly be in order.