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Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification Paperback – October 18, 2016
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Devoted to God
Christians are transformed by the renewing of their minds. They understand that in large measure how they think about the gospel will determine how they will live for God’s glory. They learn to allow the word of God to do its own work, informing and influencing the way they think in order to shape the way they live.
In a series of Scripture-enriched chapters Sinclair B. Ferguson’s 'Devoted to God' works out this principle in detail. It provides what he describes as ‘blueprints for sanctification’—an orderly exposition of central New Testament passages on holiness. Devoted to God thus builds a strong and reliable structural framework for practical Christian living. It stresses the foundational importance of fundamental issues such as union with Christ, the rhythms of spiritual growth, the reality of spiritual conflict, and the role of God’s law. Here is a fresh approach to an always relevant subject, and a working manual to which the Christian can turn again and again for biblical instruction and spiritual direction.
|From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading and Applying the Bible||Ichthus: Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour||Child in the Manger: The True Meaning of Christmas||Deserted by God?|
|Topic||Spiritual Growth, Church Life, Scripture||Christian Living, Jesus Christ||Christian Living, Jesus Christ||Life Issues, Encouragement, Salvation, Assurance|
Sinclair Buchanan Ferguson retired in 2013 as Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, and returned to his native Scotland. Prior to this he held the Charles Krahe chair for Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and served Church of Scotland congregations in Unst (Shetland) and Glasgow (St George’s Tron). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen (1971).
Dr Ferguson has authored several books published by the Trust, of which he is a trustee, and a former editor. He retains his position as Professor of Systematic Theology at Redeemer Seminary, Dallas, Texas, and serves as a Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries. He continues to preach God’s Word in churches and at conferences.
About the Author
Sinclair Buchanan Ferguson retired in 2013 as Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, and returned to his native Scotland. Prior to this he held the Charles Krahe chair for Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and served Church of Scotland congregations in Unst (Shetland) and Glasgow (St George s Tron). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen (1971).
Dr Ferguson has authored several books published by the Trust, of which he is a trustee, and a former editor. He retains his position as Professor of Systematic Theology at Redeemer Seminary, Dallas, Texas, and serves as a Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries. He continues to preach God's Word in churches and at conferences.
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Dr. Ferguson writes in the “Introduction” that the book has a goal of providing a manual of biblical teaching on holiness developed on the basis of extended expositions of ten foundational passages in the New Testament that serve as biblical blueprints for building an entire life of holiness. These passages (which are printed in Appendix 5), create the possibility for exponential growth in our understanding of what sanctification is, and how it is nurtured. Each chapter in the main portion of the book focuses on one of these passages, which the author recommends we meditate on, and even memorize them.
The passages focus on teaching that is given in the indicative, rather than the imperative mood – passages that describe sanctification, rather than passages that command it. As such, this is not so much a “how to” book, but a “how God does it” book. It is not dominated by techniques for growing in holiness. He states that the book is a manual written to encourage those who read it to “strive….for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”. (Hebrews 13:14).
The author writes that holiness is unreserved devotion to the Lord. He tells us that the biblical teaching on holiness, a life devoted to God, is simply an extended exposition of 1 Corinthians 6:1-20.
Holiness means belonging entirely to him. He tells us that from beginning to end being a Christian and being holy are virtually synonymous. Sanctification is the fruit of the Spirit’s ministry and likeness to Christ is the ultimate goal of sanctification. Sanctification is holiness, and therefore the ultimate fruit of being devoted to God.
As there has been some controversy regarding justification and sanctification in recent years, he writes that justification (God counting us as righteous in Christ) and sanctification (God making us more and more righteous in ourselves) should never been confused. Nor is the former dependent on the latter. He states that we are not justified on the basis of our sanctification; yet justification never takes place without sanctification beginning.
Themes covered in this wonderful book include union with Christ, sin, God’s grace, election, the Trinity, flesh and Spirit, putting to death the old, and putting on the new and the Christian and the Law.
The 5 appendices included in the book nicely supplement the main text, which is bathed in Scripture. And as with all of his books, the author often quotes from old hymns of the faith.
I cannot recommend this book too highly.
The title to Ferguson's work on sanctification is not merely a pious expression that sounds good as a title for a book on sanctification, but points us in the direction of what Scripture says about sanctification. The emphasis of Scripture is on the fact (indicative) that God has devoted (sanctified) us to himself by Christ's death for his sheep. Ferguson follows the biblical-theological work of NT Westminster prof. John Murray. While he does not reference him, he is in agreement with David Peterson's work on sanctification entitled "Possessed by God" (notice the similarity to Ferguson's title.)
Each of the 10 chapters are an exposition of a NT passage about sanctification. These passages are:
ch. 1, 1 Pet 1:1-2
ch. 2, Rom 12:1-2
ch. 3, Gal 2:20
ch. 4, Rom 6:1-14
ch. 5, Gal 5:16-17
ch. 6, Col 3:1-12
ch. 7, Rom 8:13
ch. 8, Mt 5:17-20
ch. 9, Heb 12:1-14
ch. 10, Rom 8:29
The first chapter, however, actually has two parts with the first being a theologically rich introduction to sanctification where he re-orients how we define 'holiness' in light of God existing before there was any evil. In other words, instead of thinking of holiness as separation (negative) from evil, holiness is devotion (positive) to God. God's holiness is therefore his trinitarian love (devotion) between the Father, Son, and Spirit. This is helpful because it connects holiness and love (he points out that 1 John says God is light and God is love to say they are not unrelated).
In line with the Westminster Standards, Ferguson contends that sanctification is through faith in Christ. In other words, sanctification is NOT by works (i.e., keeping the law). As Paul argues in Galatians, sanctification is not through performing works of the law (Gal 3:10-12; 5:23b). The Spirit works in us in the same way as we were justified - by faith alone (Gal 3:1-6). Therefore, "God has made provision for our sanctification in the gospel" (p.31) and that "growing in holiness requires that we put down deep roots into the soil of gospel" (p.32). This means we do not progress in sanctification by simply hearing exhortations to "be godly, be righteous, be obedient" (bare imperatives) but by hearing Christ preached to us as crucified and risen for the forgiveness of our sins (again, Gal 3:1). This is not to say preaching can be devoid of or pay little attention to the imperatives of Scripture (what I call an ethical gap). Rather, it means the indicative of the gospel (grace) precedes and is the foundation of the imperative (apostolic commands). The Spirit belongs to the realm of grace/promise, not works/law, so he works in us through faith, not through the power of the flesh.
Unfortunately there is no bibliography, no author index, no Scripture index, and the dull cover artwork is not representative of the book's brilliance. Oddities include biblical references being spelled out in full and relegated to the bottom of the page. I suspect these were added by an editor as I found a couple of errors. Citations of Calvin's commentaries provide the page number instead of reference to the biblical verse within his commentary. It is also unfortunate that Banner did not publish this in hardback.
Ferguson is a model of biblical-theological interpretation and spiritual wisdom and he would not be able to be so if he were not also a model of piety. If you would like to read more from Ferguson on sanctification, he contributed an excellent chapter to "Christian Spirituality: Five Views on Sanctification" eds. Alexander and Forde. Also see his book "The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction."