I did not expect to enjoy reading The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson. After all how exciting is a theological debate from centuries ago among Scottish Presbyterians involving Thomas Boston and arguments over a forgotten book called The Marrow of Modern Divinity? As a 21st century Southern Baptist, I have enough problems and disputes without borrowing from the past. Instead of being disappointed, I very much enjoyed a timeless discussion of grace, the place of the Law in the Christian life, and what freedom from the law means.
Ferguson, a well-known Reformed theologian and pastor, writes in a very readable style making the complex simple for those who lack an extensive background in these issues. One often hears people say that a book is written with pastoral care, but this book seems to flow with such concern.
I speculate that the timing of this book relates to recent arguments in Reformed circles regarding if the Law has a role in the Christian life or not. Even if one does not fall into the Reformed Calvinist camp (and I am among those who do not quite fit there), the book still provides valuable insights and truth to consider. Ferguson, convincingly, in my opinion, argues for the place of the moral law in the Christian life. Even more interesting for me was his explanation of assurance of salvation. I was particularly impressed as explained the balance between the work of Christ, faith, and obedience as sources of assurance.
For the nit-picky, parts of the book may seem repetitious, but one may argue they are not unnecessarily so. Ferguson repeats ideas as he places others upon them. How one feels about the repetition probably depends upon if one feels they grasped them adequately the first time they were stated. For the most part, I found that the repetition helped me as a reader, but I can understand if others do not.
Valuable Insights Gained
The primary insight gained is the importance of preaching Christ and his work on the cross as sufficient for our salvation and as a sufficient warrant for believing in Him. Ferguson emphasizes that our response does not make us more meritorious of salvation.
As a Baptist, assurance of salvation is a major concern for me. The cliché “once saved, always saved,” while on one hand correct, is an inadequate statement of what it means that all saints persevere to the end. Ferguson covers the topic thoroughly. The next time I have the opportunity to teach on the subject, I will have deeper and more biblical insights to share.
(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book from Crossway Books through the Beyond the Page review program. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.)