The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

WHATS SO GREAT ABOUT THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE?

“For many of us, the awakening of our minds to the sovereignty of God is one of these unforgettable moments. “It’s like being born again, again,” many Christians remark after their faith is renewed by an understanding of the doctrines of grace. Everything changes. It is not that they begin to trust God–all believers must trust God–but that they see the truth about the God they trust. And the truth, as Jesus promised, sets us free: free to rejoice in the glory of a divine grace that truly is gracious.” So begins Richard Phillips’ warm and pastoral consideration of the doctrines of grace -“biblical teaching about the sovereignty of God at work in our salvation.”

This is not a systematic theology approach but an expositional one, looking at each of the five truths, often referred to as TULIP, along with the overarching doctrine of the sovereignty of God, from the standpoint of a particular biblical passage.

Isaiah 6 and 7 is the starting point for a study in the sovereignty of God, a recognition of which, says Phillips, leads to a readiness to serve, humble obedience, holy boldness and reliance on sovereign, saving grace.

Total, or perhaps more helpfully, Radical Depravity is grounded in Romans 3:10-18. Phillips rightly says, “”…theology and anthropology are always linked. In order to understand the truth about yourself and other people you have to see the truth about God – and vice versa.” There’s no question in our day but that we have an exalted view of humanity because we have a debased view of God.

Phillips turns to Romans 9:10-24 to look at Unconditional Election and answers the often raised objections about fairness and blame. Correctly understood, the biblical teaching on election and predestination promotes humility not pride, holiness not license, assurance of salvation but not presumption, glory to God alone and not to man.

The ‘black sheep’ of the family is how Phillips describes Limited Atonement. He quotes from John Murray: “The very nature of Christ’s mission and accomplishment is involved in this question. Did Christ come to make the salvation of all men possible, to remove obstacles that stood in the way of salvation, and merely to make provision for salvation? Or did he come to save his people?. . . Did he come to make men redeemable? Or did he
come effectually and infallibly to redeem? The doctrine of the atonement must be radically revised if, as atonement, it applies to those who finally perish as well as to those who are the heirs of eternal life. In that event we should have to dilute the grand categories in terms of which the Scripture defines the atonement and deprive them of their most precious import and glory”. He exposits Hebrews 12:2 and analyses some of the counter claims of Arminianism noting that “both Arminians and Calvinists believe in limited atonement. The question is with regard to what is limited. Arminians believe that the atonement is limited in terms of its efficacy. Calvinists believe the atonement is limited in the scope of people for whom it was intended.”

Matthew, the tax collector (Matthew 9:9) is called on as one of many evidences for Irresistible Grace. “…the doctrine of irresistible grace speaks of the operation of grace in the conversion of sinners. We do not teach that no one resists God’s grace. But we do insist that when a sinner turns to Christ in faith and begins to follow Him, this conversion is the result of the sovereign, effectual, and irresistible operation of God’s grace through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.”

Turning to the Perseverance of the Saints, Phillips draws on Philippians 1:6 and illustrates from the life of ‘Rabbi’ John Duncan whose uncertainty over this issue plagued his soul. “If only Rabbi Duncan had settled his heart on these truths, his misery might have turned to joy. He believed in Jesus and was saved, but he looked to himself for his future hope and was thus overwhelmed with anxiety.”

Each study is rich in biblical exposition and practical application. This is not a polemic for the doctrines of grace but a biblical study that does what all good preaching should do – teaches the mind, touches the heart and targets the will. Read it and be blessed. It may be that you too will feel that you have been born again, again.

For the purpose of review, I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.

EVANGELICAL PRESS (5 Sept. 2008) Review written in 2011

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