Sinclair B. Ferguson
Reviewed by: Glen J. Clary
Date posted: 06/07/2009
In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life, by Sinclair B. Ferguson. Published by Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007. Hardback, 241 pages, list price $18.00. Reviewed by OP pastor Glen J. Clary.
The Reformers believed that every spiritual blessing we receive from God comes to us by virtue of our union with Christ. "Our whole salvation and its every single part is found in Christ," said Calvin. Sinclair Ferguson has brought together a collection of articles in which he expounds this truth. Being the fruit of many years of pastoral reflection, these fifty short chapters were written in a warm, personal style and are easy to read, even for young Christians.
The book is divided into six sections. In the first two, he explores the person and work of Christ. His chapter entitled "Santa Christ" was particularly interesting to read during the Christmas season. "We celebrate a reworked pagan Saturnalia.… It is the feast of indulgence, not of the incarnation." Most of the chapters are brief expositions of passages from John and Hebrews. He refutes the modern-day Arianism of Jehovah's Witnesses, explains the biblical concept of Christ as the last Adam, and demonstrates how he is the key to interpreting Scripture. These and many other things are explained.
Section 3 is on the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from and was sent by the Father and the Son. The proceeding is eternal; the sending is economic. Ferguson examines the Upper Room discourse and the opening chapters of Acts. Was the Pentecost event once for all, or should we seek further outpourings? How does one distinguish true revival from false? What about the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and miracles? As a former Pentecostal, I read these chapters with great interest.
Section 4 elaborates the privileges of grace we enjoy in Christ and the life of faith we live through him. Ferguson explains the difference between living by faith and a "Chinese fortune cookie approach to the Christian life." There is also a chapter on the prayer of faith, which has been misunderstood as "name it and claim it." Section 4 concludes with a look at "The Greatest of All Protestant Heresies." One might be surprised at what the opponents of the Reformers believed this to be.
Sections 5 and 6 continue to elaborate the Christian life as the way of wisdom and perseverance. The errors of "Boy Scout Christianity," on the one hand, and easy believism, on the other, are noted. In a chapter entitled "Eating Black Pudding," he explains our liberty in Christ, which was not given to us to indulge ourselves, but to serve others. He also points out the dangers of worldliness, deception, and apostasy. In the conclusion, there is a beautiful letter written by Al Groves for those who attended his memorial service. "I am in Christ," he writes, "as you are in Christ. So let us live out of the grace we have received. Let us live out of Christ." This is the message of In Christ Alone.