The past few years have seen an explosion of conversation about the relationship of justification to sanctification, along with a discussion about a whole host of topics related to sanctification. This conversation is an important one to have—especially in light of the resurgence of the resurgence of talk about what the gospel is and what it demands. When I saw Dr. Sinclair Ferguson wrote The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters, I knew I needed to read it.
The Whole Christ is not your average book on sanctification. This book has aimed to help us to understand the relationship of the law and the gospel. The Marrow Controversy originated as an 18th-century debate related to the proper relationship between God’s grace and our works. As Ferguson writes, he opens our understanding to the central issues in this discussion and writes to help us understand their significance today. The author along the way helps us understand the relationship between the law and the gospel which will assist us in our approach to evangelism, sanctification, and our view of God Himself.
Chapter one considers the history surrounding the Marrow controversy. The second chapter examines God’s grace while chapter three looks at preparation and distortion of the gospel. Chapter four walks us through the dangers of legalism. Chapter five considers the order of grace. Chapter six through eight looks at the faces and symptoms of antinomianism, along with cures for it. Chapters nine through eleven look at assurance. The book offers a helpful conclusion which nicely wrapping up the book. The book concludes with an appendix by Thomas Boston one of the “Marrow Men” who wrote on faith.
There was so much I enjoyed about The Whole Christ. From the diagnostic manner, the author writes to understanding what legalism and antinomianism are to the balance the author displays as he sets forth the gospel. The Whole Christ is one of the finest books on sanctification I’ve ever read. Ferguson writes as a surgeon to clear away the confusion surrounding the gospel and it’s implications, and as he does—he opens our eyes to the beauty and grandeur of God’s grace. While it’s highly likely you won’t agree with every point of Ferguson’s presentation; every reader will have to deal with the weightiness and skill of the author as he shepherds all of us in this book.
The best pastors I’ve ever known are shepherds who care about God’s people. They have “it” and it’s hard to define what “it” is but you know it when you experience it. That’s how I felt as I read The Whole Christ. I felt like I was being shepherded by the author right into the heart of this issue and it’s relevance for today. Whether you are a new Christian or a seasoned Christian, this book has something for you. The Whole Christ requires slow and careful reading. It requires thinking about what the author writes for the purpose of digesting and applying what he has written into your life.
I highly recommend this book and believe if you are at all interested in this conversation you must read this book. The author writes to help clear away the confusion on a whole host of topics and amazingly in my opinion he succeeds. Reading this book will leave you with a greater understanding of the gospel for all of your life and equip you to serve God for His glory.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021) and The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.