by S.B. Ferguson
Being refreshed by a time of rest and recreation over the summer holiday break, we are able to take up our task with renewed energy and vigour. This not only applies to our studies and daily vocation, but also to the beginning of new season of church activities. What better way than to start the new bible study season with a good Reformed book that helps one remain focused on the Author and Founder of our Christian faith – our Lord Jesus Christ!
One such book that can be found on the shelves of Pro Ecclesia Bookstore is entitled ‘In Christ Alone’ and has the explanatory subject line: ‘Living the Gospel Centered Life.’ The author is Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson, a Presbyterian minister and professor at the Westminster Theological Seminary (where he teaches systematic theology). Dr. Ferguson is a renowned author and a contributor to a number of Reformed and Evangelical magazines. Reformation Trust, the publication arm of Ligonier Ministries founded by Dr. R.C. Sproul, published this new book from Dr. Ferguson.
Essentially the book is a collection of fifty concise articles that focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ. While these articles were written over a period of time, it does come together beautifully under six broad theological themes regarding the person and life of Jesus Christ. These themes dealing with Christ’s incarnation - (The Word became Flesh), His work as intermediator – (The Heart of the Matter), Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit – (The Spirit of Christ), the indwelling of Christ – (The Privileges of Grace), living for Christ – (A life of Wisdom) and finally growing in Christ – (Faithful to the End).
While this list of themes appears to be heavy in the theology and doctrine of Christ, it would be presumptive to think that this book is not readable. On the contrary, it is very readable with pastoral and practical content that is stimulating and distinctly Reformed. Consider these excerpts:
‘Today there is a plethora of literature on the church – mainly of a pragmatic kind. From this smorgasbord, one can select anything from user-friendly to purpose-driven to we-at-least-do-it-right manuals.
It is characteristic of distinctly Reformed Christians to regard these trends with a jaundiced eye. Reformed believers tend to have a better-than-average sense of church history. We have seen it all – or at least read some of it – before.’ (Page 93, emphasis in original.)
Later in the same chapter that deals with the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives that must bear witness to Christ’s indwelling, Dr. Ferguson asks:
‘So, how about the empowered Reformed church? How about the Spirit-filled Reformed church? Is the Reformed church these things by definition? Only if there is first the crucified Reformed Church.’ (Page 96, emphasis in original.)
Perhaps another example that would highlight how practical and pointed the teaching of this book are, can be seen in the chapter of Sabbath rest. Dr. Ferguson writes:
‘But one may ask, “How does this impact my Sundays as a Christian?” For one thing, this view of the Sabbath helps us regulate the whole week. Sunday is “Father’s Day,” and we have an appointment to meet Him. The child who asks, “How short can the meeting be?” has a dysfunctional relationship problem – not an intellectual, theological problem. Something is amiss in his fellowship with God.’ (Page 229)
Yes, the book delves into great theological truths, but it does so in a rather pastoral and personal way. Perhaps what I like about this book is that the chapters are short and pointed (about 3 to 5 pages in length) and therefore makes it ideal to use as a weekly devotional. Each chapter will give you enough substance to fuel your mind and your thoughts, and sufficient instruction that can be readily applied into daily living.
‘In Christ Alone’ is a solidly Reformed book worthy to be read and studied by all as it achieves its goal of directing our attention and deepening our devotion to Christ Alone.
Review by W. Pleiter