Book Review: The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance–Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still MattersThe Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair B. Ferguson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had heard of the Marrow Controversy, though knew little about it before reading this book. Ferguson acknowledges that an eighteenth century controversy that arose among Scottish Presbyterians in an obscure village in rural Scotland hardly seems to arrest our attention today. He is right about that and he is also right about the fact this controversy should get our attention. He deals with some of the historical issues and persons involved, which was interesting and informative. However, he focus on the issues at stake in the controversy since the issues of legalism, antinomianism, and assurance of salvation are such issues as are common to all men.

Ferguson’s insights into the root of both legalism and antinomianism are keen. Both at root are a separating of Jesus Christ in the fullness of his person from the benefits received by faith in him. The point may seem subtle, but the issues are enormous. Failure to grasp them leads us into one or the other of the two errors mentioned, which ultimately obscure the person of Christ and, at best, hinder the Gospel of God’s free grace. We are often flippant in our thinking of both legalism and antinomianism, and consequently fail to grasp core issues and fail to see how they negatively affect the ministry of the word.

This book needs to be read carefully and thought through. Some of the history may fail to grip and there are also some issues of intramural Presbyterianism and covenant theology debates that weren’t unexpected. I think every Christian should read this book, though I know they won’t. I don’t say this often, but I believe every pastor, preacher, and teacher must read this book and grapple with the issues raised. If you are ministering the Word, then you have already dealt with these issues to some degree. Ferguson will help clarify and get to the root of the issues. I would also recommend reading The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur and God is the Gospel by John Piper. Those two books deal more explicitly with the Gospel issues of separating Christ from his benefits.

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Book Review: Gospel-Centred Church: Becoming the Community God Wants You to Be

Gospel-Centred ChurchGospel-Centred Church by Steve Timmis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a practical treatment of Gospel-centeredness in a church. “Gospel-Centered” is a buzz word you see and hear a lot. Not everyone means the same thing by it and there are reasons to be very cautious with the approach. Though not agreeing with everything, I think Timmis and Chester are using it mostly right–how the Gospel shapes and directs the community of the church, including discipleship, evangelism, etc.

The book is designed as a study, so there are questions for discussion and such. It would be a good study for groups to work through. Some things will seem outlandish, but hear them out. I assure you will be challenged and convicted. The authors goal is not to give a church template but to help direct focus and provoke strategic thinking.

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Review: Conversion: How God Creates a People

Conversion: How God Creates a People (9Marks: Building Healthy Churches)Conversion: How God Creates a People by Michael Lawrence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is an excellent, brief treatment of the subject. Christians in general wobble between extremes on what conversion is and does in the life of a convert. Michael Lawrence speaks clearly on repentance, faith, change of life, holiness, etc. He treats conversion as the life and death matter it truly is. Lawrence also places conversion in the context of the local church, which is rarely done.

The author has called us to a clearer presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the cost of discipleship. It’s a book I would want every Christian to read and consider, but especially pastors.

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Review: The Trellis and the Vine

The Trellis and the VineThe Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disciples of Jesus make disciples of Jesus, who in turn make disciples of Jesus. I think you see where this is going. What is a church? A church is a called out assembly of disciples joined together in making other disciples. More could be said, but this is vital. Pastors make disciples but are also tasked with training disciples to make other disciples, and so on. This is the Gospel work churches are called to do. It’s so easy to get off point and begin to be about many other things.

I wish I had read this book years ago. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. This is what pastors and church members are to be about.

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Review: The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ

The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of ChristThe Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It sounds correct to speak of being Gospel centered. I wonder how well we understand what it actually means to be a Gospel centered church. The author makes a case for what it looks like to be Gospel centered in practice as well as profession. Every church has a culture, whether it is deliberately shaped or more organic. Having the Gospel correct in our doctrinal statement does not mean our church body is Gospel centered in practice. Ortlund brings out that Gospel centeredness can happen, but it doesn’t happen by a plan or program. A church must adorn the Gospel preached with a community of disciples who live out the Gospel in their lives.

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