Routine grace, how monotonous the sound? Sadly, that's the reality for many believers, too inured to the wonders of grace to live each day in utter amazement. This new book by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson provides a fresh infusion of joy and wonder for believers who've fallen into the trap of taking God's undeserved riches for granted. Join Dr. Ferguson as he delves into God's Word and comes away with a deeper understanding that can help enrich your faith--each and every day.
“This is a beautiful book—a providential confluence of two pastors’ hearts (separated by time and culture) on the theme of grace. First, there is the pulsing heart of an obscure African pastor, Emmanuel T. Sibomana, who, many years ago, penned the magnificent seven-stanza hymn ‘O How the Grace of God Amazes Me.’ Then there is the grateful and responsive heart of well-known pastor-theologian Sinclair Ferguson, who has taken the seven dazzling facets of the African hymn and held them up to the manifold light of God’s Word so that they further grace and enlighten our souls. By Grace Alone is a book that will fire your heart.”
R. Kent Hughes, Senior pastor emeritus, College Church Wheaton, Illinois
“Most of us have books lying on a table or bookshelf somewhere, waiting for us to get around to reading them. Please don’t let this book be in that category. Sinclair Ferguson is one of the clearest, brightest lights in evangelical Christianity today. This book will point you to the freedom and exuberance of living in the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Read this book for your own encouragement, and pass it along to a new disciple or an (as yet) unbelieving neighbor.”
Russell D. Moore, Dean, School of Theology, Vice president for academic administration, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Louisville, Kentucky
“Rich in biblical exposition and in theological depth, By Grace Alone is a series of great messages by one of today’s greatest preachers on some of the greatest Scripture texts—all on one of the greatest themes of the Bible: amazing grace! This book will excite your mind, stir your affection, convict your soul, win your heart, and move you to action. It will evangelize, disciple, and mature all kinds of readers. Dr. Ferguson has given us another feast, and there is food here for all—saved and unsaved, ministers and laypeople, young and old.”
Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan
“Sinclair Ferguson’s biblically insightful and pastorally profound meditations on the manifold grace of God are strung like pearls on the stanzas of the African hymn ‘O How the Grace of God Amazes Me.’ Christ is at the very center, as He must be: in Him, our enslaved hearts find freedom, our guilty hearts find forgiveness, our troubled hearts find a Defender in the darkness, and our embattled hearts find strength to resist the enemy’s enticements. Thirsty hearts, come to Jesus and drink deeply from His fountain of amazing, life-giving, joy-imparting, hope-sustaining grace.”
Dennis E. Johnson,Professor of practical theology, Westminster Seminary California, Escondido, California
Foreword - In his book, Sinclair reveals the amazing surprises of God that we call “grace.” He shows us how God stoops low to reach a longing lost soul, a soul that has walked a path of loneliness and darkness, a soul that, like Ana, would never consider that a change was possible. God comes because He watches with great love and moves with unspeakable tenderness. His desire is to rescue the broken and the bleeding, the lost and the lonely. Sinclair provides a glimpse of this grace to the inquisitive mind and hungry soul. I commend his book to the one who is longing to know the truth of God searching for us. Your soul will be nourished and your faith strengthened. —The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi Archbishop, (Anglican) Church of Uganda Kampala, Uganda
Page xiv - A chief reason for the weakness of the Christian church in the West, for the poverty of our witness and any lack of vitality in our worship, probably lies here: we sing about “amazing grace” and speak of “amazing grace,” but far too often it 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. With the help of Pastor Sibomana’s hymn, these pages reflect on God’s grace from seven angles. Tasting the power of the grace of God can refresh the inner sanctuaries of our being, and banish the spiritual lethargy and indifference that take God’s goodness and love for granted. After all, if we are not amazed by God’s grace, can we really be living in it? By its very nature, God’s grace astonishes those who taste it and amazes those who receive it.
Page 3 - “Most assuredly, I say to you,” Jesus said, “whoever commits sins is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). Does this really need to be underlined? Jesus thought it did, and perhaps someone reading these pages may need a little help to understand what Jesus was saying here: • We do not become sinners by committing specific acts. • We commit specific acts of sin because we are sinners. In short, my problem is not the isolated actions that I see as aberrations from what I really am. I am deceiving myself if I think that way. These actions are not aberrations but revelations of what is in my heart. They show that I commit sin because I am in bondage to it.
Page 8 - 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.
Pages 24, 25 - The elder brother was Jesus’ portrayal—indeed, His unmasking—of these Jewish leaders. He had poured out grace on sinful men and women, and they had responded to His message about the kingdom of God. They came to Him to receive love, forgiveness, welcome, and restoration. But the Pharisees were repelled by the grace the Lord Jesus displayed and utterly demeaned Him for it—as well as despising those who received it.
Jesus vividly portrayed the spirit of these men in the elder brother. When he hears the sound of celebration, he comes in from the fields, grits his teeth, and demands to know what is happening. He learns the news, but he refuses to go in or share any part of the celebration. Grace, you would think, would make him happy. But it makes the elder brother miserable. He seems incapable of either receiving or rejoicing in grace. What irritates the older brother about grace is precisely that it is grace. In his eyes, the younger son does not deserve what he is receiving. Has his father no sense of justice? The tragedy is that he himself has never enjoyed a relationship of grace with his father.
What a picture of a person whose religion has no place for grace, and who therefore never experiences it. His religion is his bondage, not his freedom. He is held captive by what Paul calls a “spirit of bondage” (Rom. 8:15). He is a tragic figure indeed.
Page 25 - Religion can be bad for your spiritual health. Engaging in religious duties (even good ones) can be very deceptive. It can dis-grace grace.
Page 50 - Contemporary men and women find it almost impossible to conceive that they were made to glorify and to enjoy God. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that the very idea of living for the glory of God appears to be many people’s idea of hell. We might rework the famous words in Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit, “Hell is other people.” To many, hell is the presence of God. But to live for ourselves, that is heaven. Or is it? Tragically, instead of finding profound and lasting pleasure in God’s world, we find only increased alienation there.
Page 59 - Can we really be righteous in God’s sight? Yes, but the truth is even more remarkable—in Jesus Christ, I am as righteous in God’s sight as Jesus Christ Himself. How can that be? The only righteousness with which I am righteous is Jesus Christ’s righteousness. It is as if He has said to me: “Here is my righteousness. Wear it; it is yours. It fits your needs perfectly and completely.” As I stand in God’s presence and He looks at me, I hear Him say: “Where have I seen that righteousness before? Come near. I recognize it now. That is My Son’s righteousness you are wearing. Enter! You are welcome—and safe—here.”
Page 65 - You would not expect a non-Christian to find the grace of God amazing. Sadly, we Christians, who sing about “amazing grace,” sometimes lose sight and sense of its graciousness. It ceases to amaze us. To the extent this is true, we have lost our grip on the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to rediscover how amazing the grace of God is.
Page 71 - Here is the heart of the plan of God and the wonder of the gospel. The best of all men dies as though He were the worst of all criminals. This is not merely a matter of human wickedness destroying a good man. It is the heart of the purpose of God, as Isaiah had long before prophesied (Isa. 53:4–6, 10). Behind the handing over of the Lord Jesus—by Judas Iscariot, by Herod, by the priests, by Pontius Pilate—stood the purposes of His heavenly Father handing Him over to the cross in order to die in the place of sinners. He bore God’s judgment and wrath against our sin. What inexpressible love this is.
Page 84 - Satan cannot ultimately destroy a Christian believer. But he is well able to destroy our assurance and our joy—our pleasure in the gospel. So we need to find in the grace of God a defense against those fiery darts of the Evil One. But the next verse of the hymn speaks about “Satan’s art”: “When evil thoughts arise through Satan’s art.” What is “Satan’s art”? The “art” of Satan is his ability to produce sinister thoughts in the mind of the Christian believer. By this I do not mean what the Bible regards as the works of the flesh or the lust of the eyes. Satan, of course, does work through the “eye gate” and the “passion gate” to produce evil thoughts and deceive believers, as he did in David’s sin with Bathsheba. But ultimately, the most sinister thoughts that Satan insinuates into our minds are not enticements to sin but suspicions about God Himself. He always plots to cause us to “exchange the truth of God for the lie” (Rom. 1:25).
Page 110 - But when you begin to understand that in Christ you died to sin and have now been delivered from the dominion of sin; that you are no longer under its bondage; that you no longer need to be a victim of its subtle paralysis—then you find yourself saying not only “Isn’t this amazing grace?” but “What glorious freedom Jesus Christ has bought for me on the cross.”
Listen to Dr. Ferguson talk about why he wrote this new book.
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About the Author
Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is senior minister of the historical First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the author of some two dozen books, including In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life, The Holy Spirit, Grow in Grace, and Let's Study Philippians.