While at the Shepherds’ Conference in Los Angeles, in March, I purchased a copy of Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance. I devoured it in a couple days, finishing it before our plane landed back in Cleveland. It’s been a long time since I have read a book that has impacted me as much as this one. I hope to post some thoughts later, but for now here’s just a few sentences that I underlined.
“The benefits of the gospel are in Christ. They do not exist apart from him. They are ours only in him. They cannot be abstracted from him as if we ourselves could possess them independently of him.”
If we, as believers, do not think of ourselves as being in Christ, “If this is not the overwhelmingly dominant way in which we think of ourselves, we are not thinking with the renewed mind of the gospel.”
“[T]he gospel offer is Christ himself in whom the blessings are found.”
When the focus is mainly on the benefits of the gospel, “this focus on benefits has a profound impact on how we understand and preach the gospel, and, almost imperceptibly, Christ himself ceases to be central and becomes a means to an end.”
Under the section, “Believing the Lie,” Ferguson writes: “The lie by which the Serpent deceived Eve was enshrined in the double suggestion that
- this Father was in fact restrictive, self-absorbed, and selfish since he would not let them eat from any of the trees, and
- his promise of death if they were disobedient was simply false.
Thus the lie was an assault on both God’s generosity and his integrity. Neither his character nor his words were to be trusted. This, in fact, is the lie that sinners have believed ever since—the lie of the not-to-be-trusted-because-he-does-not-love-me-false-Father. The gospel is designed to deliver us from this lie. For it reveals that behind and manifested in the coming of Christ and his death for us is the love of a Father who gives us everything he has: first his Son to die for us and then his Spirit to live within us….The reason our Lord’s severest words were addressed to [the Pharisees] was that they shared the theology of the Serpent.” (Jn 8:44).