Reviewed by: Joe Troutman
Date posted: 09/01/2013
Grace Transforming, by Phil Ryken. Published by Crossway, 2012. Paperback, 128 pages, list price $12.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Joe Troutman.
The concept of grace is alien to fallen human beings—even believers—so regular, ongoing instruction in, and reminders of, God’s grace are essential for God’s people.
Philip Graham Ryken’s recent book, Grace Transforming, is a compilation of chapel messages he has given at Wheaton College, where he serves as president. In it, he does a good job of telling the reader about God’s grace.
He begins by stating our desperate need for grace because of the depth of our depravity. Following his treatment of man’s sinful condition, Ryken uses Scripture to trace God’s grace from the past (God “saved us … not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”—2 Tim. 1:9) to the present (“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work”—2 Cor. 9:8) and into the future (“so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”—Eph. 2:7).
Ryken does this to emphasize that grace is not simply a onetime blessing that God applies to a believer when he or she is regenerated by the Holy Spirit. God’s grace is as much a necessity for living life as a Christian as it is for becoming a Christian. He writes, “Grace is our present need as well as our past experience. The gospel is not just the way into the Christian life; it is also the way on in the Christian life” (p. 14).
In this way, Ryken shows that God’s grace is just as important for a believer’s sanctification as it is for a believer’s justification. “By the truth of his Word, by the power of answered prayer, by the nourishment of the sacraments, through the work of his Spirit—in short, by his sanctifying grace—he will enable you to live a godly and righteous life” (p. 59). Put simply, no part of our salvation takes place apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
Grace Transforming is a brief, simple book, but it is not simplistic. Its simplicity serves to cut through the incessant chatter of works-righteousness that surrounds our Christian walk. Ryken reminds us that our sin is far worse than we care to acknowledge, but also that God’s grace is far more comprehensive than our minds can conceive. This pastor heartily recommends it for personal or group study.