Good Read – “By Grace Alone,” by Sinclair Ferguson


This morning at our Men’s prayer breakfast we finished discussing the last chapter of By Grace Alone. What a marvelous little book this is! In seven chapters, Sinclair Ferguson unpacks the riches of God’s grace in a clear and readable style, in a pastoral manner (really Puritan-esque), and with penetrating insight into various passages of Scripture.

Ferguson’s concern is that “amazing grace” no longer amazes us. He writes:

Being amazed by God’s grace is a sign of spiritual vitality. It is a litmus test of how firm and real is our grasp of the Christian gospel and how close is our walk with Jesus Christ. The growing Christian finds that the grace of God astonishes and amazes…but far too often [grace] has ceased to amaze us. Sadly, we might more truthfully sing of “accustomed grace.” We have lost the joy and energy that are experienced when grace seems truly amazing. (pg. xiv)

Ferguson takes inspiration from, and structures the book upon, a hymn by an African baptist pastor named Emmanuel T. Sibomana. The first stanza is:

O how the grace of God

Amazes me!

It loosed me from my bonds

And set me free!

What made it happen so?

His own will, this much I know,

Set me, as now I show,

At liberty.

Ferguson takes as his starting point for each chapter a stanza from Sibomana’s hymn. But, the hymn is a starting point only. Ferguson then dives into some particular aspect of the grace of God as revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Topics include bondage to sin, unconditional love, the cross of Christ, the security of our salvation, freedom from evil, and union with Christ. This last topic Ferguson handles in chapter 7, and I believe it is his best chapter of all. If for no other reason, read this book for Ferguson’s discussion on Romans 6 and what it means for us as believers to be united with Christ.

Though he writes in the sort of direct and clear style you would expect of a preacher, what he says is anything but simplistic or superficial. Rather, his words always have behind them rock-solid biblical exegesis and profound theological reflection. Ferguson writes out of his Reformed tradition, quoting the likes of Luther, Calvin, Bunyan, Owen, and Warfield. He also adorns his thought with many good illustrations and citations from more modern authors. The result is a book that is as engaging as it is profound, practical as it is theological. Any believer can profit from this book, and it could lead an unbeliever to discover for the first time the wonderful grace of God.

If you read By Grace Alone – and you should! – read it slowly and meditatively, with Bible in hand. You just may be amazed again at the grace of God!

Pastor Scott