Reviewed by: Dan Dillard
Date posted: 10/13/2013
The Gift of Faith: Discovering the Glory of God in Salvation, by Bryan Holstrom. Published by Ambassador International, 2012. Paperback, 197 pages, list price $12.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Dan Dillard.
The Gift of Faith has in view the contemporary American evangelical scene, in which evangelicals affirm that salvation is by God’s grace, while at the same time affirming that exercising faith is man’s part in salvation. In contrast, Bryan Holstrom affirms with Scripture that saving faith is God’s gift:
The issue may be stated in these terms: Does God purpose to save some individuals on the basis of their having first distinguished themselves from others by freely choosing the gospel—a response which all who hear the call are equally empowered to perform? Or is the sinner’s response of faith itself a gift of God’s grace? Stated another way—is God’s grace the distinguishing factor in who will actually believe the gospel call to embrace Christ? (p. 11)
Chapter 1 sets the pace for the whole book. Beginning with Ephesians 2:8–9, the reader is led through a detailed scriptural presentation (a Scripture saturation) of the doctrines of grace. The discussion is solid, but easy to read. Throughout the book, the author’s zeal and love for these doctrines is evident. He clearly wants the reader to embrace and love these doctrines too. For Holstrom, the study of these doctrines is not merely an academic, intellectual exercise. The doctrines of grace lead us to more fully glorify God and enjoy him. They lead us to a deeper understanding of God’s power and his love:
Scripture also makes clear that love is the motivating factor behind God’s decision to grant mercy to those who are estranged from him on account of sin. Thus, we may define grace as God’s loving mercy toward undeserving sinners. (p. 14)
Chapter 2 provides a brief overview of the history of the doctrines of grace from the ancient church debate between Augustine (the defender of monergism) and Pelagius (the synergist) to the revivalist Charles Finney and modern evangelical Arminianism. Holstrom shows that the church down through the ages has found it frequently necessary to defend the doctrines of grace.
Chapters 3 through 7 give a Scripture-packed presentation of the doctrines of man’s total depravity, God’s gracious and unconditional election, the efficacious atonement of Christ, the efficacy of grace, and the perseverance of the saints. Along the way, the author corrects some common misunderstandings of these doctrines and takes up and answers Arminian objections. The concluding chapter 8 speaks of God’s sovereign grace as the basis for assurance.
Throughout the book, Holstrom asks the reader to use a twofold test of doctrine: is the doctrine scriptural, and does it give all the glory for salvation to God? Our testimony to men must be that we are saved by God’s sovereign grace alone to the praise of God’s glory.