Book Review: By Grace Alone by Sinclair B. Ferguson

Title: By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me
Author: Sinclair Ferguson
Publisher: Reformation Trust (2010)

Does the grace of God amaze you?

Does the salvation that comes through faith in Christ overwhelm you with excitement and joy?

It did Emmanuel T. Sibomana, inspiring him to write they hymn, “Umbuntu Bg Imana,” translated into English as, “O How the Grace of God Amazes Me.” Sibomana’s hymn is a beautiful and powerful exposition of the story of salvation and the grace of God.

It’s also the inspiration for Sinclair Ferguson’s latest book, By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me. Following the structure of Sibomana’s hymn, Ferguson reflects on God’s grace from seven angles and shows us why the grace of God should amaze us.

A question that may come to mind when considering this book is, “Why do we need (another) book on grace?”

“Being amazed by God’s grace is a sign of spiritual vitality. . .  Yet we frequently take the grace of God for granted. . . . We have lost the joy and energy that are experienced when grace seems truly amazing,” writes Ferguson (Introduction, p. xiv).

In other words, if our amazement at God’s grace is a sign of our spiritual wellbeing, to take it for granted is an indicator that, spiritually speaking, we’re desperately sick. To regain our health, we must regain a sense of wonder when considering His grace.

So what does grace do, exactly?

Ferguson breaks it down quite effectively. Grace… [Read more…]

Cling to Christ and Nothing Can Sink You

Cross in Winter

Remember that you are not saved by increased levels of holiness, however desirable it is that you should reach them. Indeed, while we often say that we are “saved by faith” or by “faith in Christ,” as Benjamin B. Warfield shrewdly comments, it is not even faith in Christ that saves us. It is Christ who saves us—through faith.

Your faith is a poor and crumbling thing, as is your spiritual service. Jesus Christ alone is qualified and able to save you because of what He has done. Cling to anything else and you are relying on flotsam and jetsam floating on a perilous sea. It will bring you down under the waves. If you should ever experience anything like the satanic attack Bunyan’s Christian endured, you will be lost. But cling to Christ Jesus and His righteousness, and nothing can sink you.

When you grasp that, you begin to realize why and how it is that you can live in the face of such demonic attacks as these [accusation]. You are not pushed back on your own resources or spiritual qualities. You are able to rest exclusively on what Jesus Christ has done for you. For what He has done for you is absolutely perfect.

What Christ is doing in you is still incomplete. But in what Jesus Christ has done for you there is not a single tiny crack that the satanic arrows can penetrate. Jesus Christ is your shield. You can say, with David, “The Lord is . . . my deliverer; my God . . . in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies” (Ps. 18:2–3)…

Here is our refuge: In Christ, we are as righteous before God as Jesus Christ is righteous, for the only righteousness we have before God is Jesus Christ’s righteousness, to which we contribute nothing.

Faith contributes nothing to that righteousness. The years we may have lived the Christian life contribute nothing to that righteousness. Conversely, our sins cannot diminish that righteousness.

Is that not a dangerous thing to say? It would be if it were distorted. But the truth is that no other kind of righteousness can justify us.

But because this is the righteousness by which we are justified, Paul can say: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (v. 33).

Sinclair Ferguson, By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me, pp. 75-76

Only the Truth Can Set Us Free

Cross in Winter

We can never atone for our own sin. We can never break its power. We can never come to God and say, “God, surely what I have done is enough to compensate for my sins.” Nothing we can do can possibly compensate. But God sent His own Son—think of it, His own Son—who stood in for us, in our place. He lived a perfect life. Since He had no sins of His own to atone for, He was qualified to make a sacrifice for our sins. No sacrifice we could make could ever be adequate to atone for sin. But He was able and willing to do it. Because of that, we can be set free from guilt and from the bondage it creates.

Christ also sets us free in another way: through the truth about God—and about ourselves—that He reveals. If we believe in Him, we will come to know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). That is His promise.

I have met some exceptionally intelligent people who cannot understand the Christian gospel. They hear its message as if it were a lecture on morality. Yet the gospel is not difficult to understand. The problem lies within us—in our spiritual blindness. If there is resistance in the heart to loving God, there will be resistance in the mind to knowing God—and therefore to listening to and seeking God. Only the truth can set us free.

Sinclair Ferguson, By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me, p. 8