In recent years, few issues have caused as much ink to be spilled as the conversation on the gospel. Whether it has occurred in books, blogs or at conferences, much of the conversation has tended to lean towards only answering the question, “What is the gospel?” Thankfully recent days have seen a refocusing of efforts on understanding the relationship between justification and sanctification. This conversation on the nature of sanctification has left many confused on the topic and many more up in arms. It has even caused some in the Church to have serious disagreement to the point where they no longer work together because they differ over the topic. Seeking to bring clarity to a confused topic Douglas Bond wrote Grace Works! And Ways We Think It Doesn’t).
Doug’s book is not your typical book on the gospel. First, Doug isn’t a pastor but he is an elder. Doug isn’t a professor but he is a teacher who speaks at conferences and leads history tours. He is perhaps most well-known for his excellent biographies. Doug’s approach in Grace Works! is to bring his considerable knowledge of church history to bear on a topic where many are confused. As he does so, he opens the Scriptures to help God’s people understand not only what the Bible teaches but what the Church has taught on the gospel.
There are two ditches to avoid when talking about sanctification. The first ditch to avoid is overemphasizing our effort to the exclusion of grounding that effort in the finished work of the gospel. When this happens people hear messages that are moralistic—that, is do all you can do by your own effort. This isn’t the gospel. The second ditch is legalism. We demand that people do things a certain ways. From my experience in Reformed churches the second ditch is the one that is most prevalent, because while doctrine is rightly emphasized, love for one another is neglected. The Bible teaches the indicative (what Christ has done) and the imperative (what we are to do) in tension for a reason. The indicative is to inform how we obey the Lord (the imperative). When we emphasize instead the doing part of the gospel divorced from what Christ has done we are preaching not just half a gospel but a different gospel entirely. This is why we need books like Grace Works! to remind us of not just what the gospel is but the power and authority of the gospel.
Grace Works! has seven parts to it. In part one, the author considers how the gospel can be undermined. In part two the author considers how the gospel is distorted and how we should understand the grace of God. In part three the author looks at law and gospel. In part four the author considers how to understand grace and works. Part five helps readers understand how to interpret the Bible and how we often misinterpret the central message of the Bible. Part six contributes to the goal of the book by helping readers understand the importance of confessions to the life of the Church. The book concludes with a call to embrace the gospel in every facet of the Christian life and the ministry of the local church.
Grace Works! is a very important book for two reasons. First, this book clears the air on not only what the Bible teaches about the gospel and what it demands but also what the Church has taught on this topic. Finally, this book is written in such a way that every Christian can understand what it’s saying. Whether you are a lay person new to the gospel-centered conversation or a long-time participant, Grace Works! has something for you. This book will orient you to the conversation through it’s able handling of the Word of God and emphasis on what the Church has taught. I highly recommend this book and pray the Lord will use it powerfully to awaken God’s people to the truth of His Word on what the gospel is and what it demands.
Author Douglas Bond
I received this book for free from P&R for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”