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“True faith takes its character and quality from its object and not from itself. Faith gets a man out of himself and into Christ. Its strength therefore depends on the character of Christ. Even those of us who have weak faith have the same strong Christ as others!”
~ Sinclair Ferguson, The Christian Life
“Since the letter to Hebrews specifically urges Christians to ‘fix your thoughts on Jesus’ (Heb. 3:1, NIV; cf. 12:2), it should not surprise us that the author describes Him in more than a dozen different ways. Jesus is:
- “Son” (1:2)
- “Lord” (2:3)
- “Apostle and High Priest” (3:1)
- “Christ” (5:5)
- “Source of eternal salvation” (5:9)
- A priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” (7:11)
- A descendant of Judah (7:14)
- “A Minister… of the true tabernacle” (8:2)
- “The Mediator of the new covenant” (9:15; 12:24)
- “The same yesterday, today and forever” (13:8)
- “The Great Shepherd of the sheep” (13:20)
But perhaps the most intriguing title for Jesus in the letter is ‘author’. He is called the ‘author… of salvation’ and the ‘author… of our faith’ (Heb. 2:10; 12:2, NIV).”
~ Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone, 29
Sinclair Ferguson. By Grace Alone: How The Grace Of God Amazes Me. Reformation Trust, 2010. 123 pages.
As a pastor and professor of theology, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson has probably encountered hundreds of un-amazed Christians in his classes and congregations. In fact, myriads of Christian men and women do not find the grace of God amazing. Do you? Or have you become accustomed to it?
By Grace Alone is Dr. Ferguson’s account of how the grace of God amazes him. Based on seven stanzas of a remarkable African hymn, “Umbuntu Bg Imana” (“O How the Grace of God Amazes Me”), Ferguson provides not only devotional reflections on the hymn’s lyrics, but a study on the foundational biblical material of the hymn. His purpose is clear: By encountering afresh the power of God’s amazing grace, readers can refresh their joy and banish the “spiritual lethargy and indifference that take God’s goodness and love for granted.”
A few strengths deserve mention. Ferguson takes two sobering and wonderful chapters to lead readers into the depths of Jesus’ sufferings and the immense cost of God’s great grace to sinners, bringing reconciliation. He carefully and methodically presents the wonder and mystery of the cross, namely that the Innocent One was falsely abused, accused, tried and condemned to a brutal, slow death, one that He could not save Himself from if He was to save others. Ferguson does an excellent job connecting the charges brought against Jesus to those all sinners will face before the judgment seat of God, namely blasphemy and treason. Every person, beginning with Adam, is guilty of these two charges. “We are all guilty. But Jesus has come!”
Writing on the believer’s guaranteed security in Christ, Ferguson takes up the spiritual battle Christians face and delivers a helpful description of Satan: “Satan can attack but never ultimately destroy true Christian faith, because we are preserved by grace. Therefore, he seeks to destroy our enjoyment of the grace of God. In this, sadly, he frequently succeeds.” With a brilliant, pastoral exegesis of Romans 8:31-35, Ferguson unveils the four “Fiery Darts” Satan uses to destroy our enjoyment of God’s grace: 1) God is against you, 2) Satan has accusations that you are defenseless against, 3) you will be defenseless on judgment day, and 4) your track record in life shows that you cannot persevere to the end. Satan targets Christians with these well-aimed lies, but Romans 8 shows us the “wonder of the gospel”—that you can be sure “God is for us because this God, the God of the Bible, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up to the cross for us all.” This truth is the “wonder of the gospel” and “inexpressible love.” Our security is guaranteed because God cannot be thwarted in His goal of conforming us to the image of His Son. The cross accomplishes for us everything we need to get through the Job-like experiences of life and to be transformed from one degree of glory to another. Ferguson helps readers see that the gospel can be brought to bear on every aspect of the Christian life, especially when they are in the midst of intense spiritual battles.
Ferguson fills the pages with wisdom and his pastor’s heart shines through as you feel as if he were meeting with you, bringing the Word and gospel to bear on the corners of your life. Consider how you would answer the question, what is God really like? Ferguson says, “The question of God’s nature is foundational for the Christian life. In a sense, every failure in the Christian life can be traced back to a wrong answer to this question. How we live the Christian life is always an expression of how we think about God.” He then shows that Satan wants to distort our view of God and our understanding of His gracious character. Ferguson’s exegesis of the narratives of Adam and Eve and Job reveals that Satan wants to deceive us into believing lies about God’s love, character and purposes. Understanding the reality of this ongoing spiritual attack, he reminds readers that the answers to all the questions and tempting deceptions are “found in a single word: Jesus.” By Grace Alone wonderfully and continually points to grace, not discounting personal responsibility in sanctification but emphasizing more than anything else Jesus Christ and God’s grace to men through Him.
By Grace Alone proves a worthy companion volume to his earlier work, In Christ Alone. I heartily recommend it. Every chapter concludes with an exhortation to the reader or a probing question—better than some study guides found in other books. By Grace Alone would enhance personal devotions and prove very helpful in mentoring relationships with new and old Christians. Church staffs could benefit from reviewing this book during weekly staff meetings—remembering and rejoicing in the power of God’s amazing grace in Jesus. “Grace is not a ‘thing’”, Ferguson says. “It is not a substance that can be measured or a commodity to be distributed. It is ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor. 13:14). In essence, it is Jesus Himself.” Come read, relish and revel in the amazing grace of Jesus Christ!