Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Tag: salvation

The Whole Christ: A review

I recently watched a breakout session from The Gospel Coalition 2021 National Conference (TGC21) discussing grace and works in the Christian life. Specifically, the question that was posed was “Does grace oppose hard work?”. However, the breakout session did not resolve the issue. Sinclair Ferguson’s book, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters provides helpful guidance. Because these issues are vital for evangelism and discipleship, this book is an important resource for missionaries.

The Marrow Controversy

The historical background of Ferguson’s book is a debate in the Church of Scotland in the early 18th century. Now, the term “marrow” seems a bit strange to our ears today. Yet, in the 17th and 18th centuries, it described the seat of a person’s vitality and strength, the essence of a subject matter.1Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ, Crossway, 2016, p.22. The controversy acquired its name from Edward Fisher’s book, The Marrow of Modern Divinity, written in 1645. As Tim Keller points out in the foreword, the author “does a good job of recounting the Marrow Controversy in an accessible and interesting way”2 (p. 11).

Yet, The Whole Christ is not simply about an obscure debate in 18th century Scotland. Rather, the controversy serves as the background for current application. Ferguson explains:

Meditation on Sin and Salvation

We have been working our way through the SEND International Statement of Faith asking how these statements hold our thoughts, affections, and actions. The fifth statement deals with sin and salvation:

We believe that all people are sinful and can be saved only by grace through faith in the shed blood of Christ.

Should We Find Joy in Our Ministry Achievements?

“Do not rejoice in that this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

Over the years, I have heard various missionaries and Christian leaders say that these words of Jesus indicate that he intends that his disciples should find their joy and satisfaction not in their ministries but rather in their personal salvation (justified status with God). I found a recent example of this thinking in a book I am reading, The Emotionally Healthy Leader.

Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples two by two. When they return, they are excited to report significant numerical impact and that the demons submit to them in his name. Jesus affirms their activity of kingdom building, but he also reminds them of something more important: “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10: 20). In other words, he wants them to remember that their joy comes from their relationship with him, not their achievements for him.  (Scazzero, Peter. The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World (p. 37). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)

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