- Daniel Klassen
Book Review: The Whole Christ
The Whole Christ is a history lesson, theological treatise, and pastoral application combined to create a compelling case for the centrality of Christ. Totus Christus - The Whole Christ.
This book starts 300 years ago in a small Scottish town named Auchterarder with an answer to a question posed to a young man hoping to become a Presbyterian minister. During this time, a book was discovered. Both the question and the book were much like the town at the time; no one had really thought much of it.
The question was whether or not the aspiring minister would accept a certain statement.
The book was noticed by a local pastor visiting someone from his church.
Both seem like ordinary events, but they caused great controversy in the Church of Scotland. The Marrow Controversy, named after the book this minister found, The Marrow of Modern Divinity, became a defining moment for the Church of Scotland, and the controversy still reverberates to this day in churches all around the world.
With this as the starting point, Sinclair Ferguson relentlessly drives the point of Christ's centrality deep into the reader's mind (and hopefully heart). Ferguson takes us through the misuse of Christ in both our legalistic and antinomian attitudes. While legalism and antinomianism look like polar opposites, they are more like conjoined twins when it comes to Christ. Both are direct affronts to the work of Christ.
This message is for our day because, sadly, this most necessary doctrine of Christ is often neglected for partial versions. We are naturally prone to either legalism or antinomianism.
What Stuck Out to Me
Do we need to repent before we come to Christ, or do we come to Christ before we repent? A simple difference can make a world of change. Ferguson does a splendid job in working through each option before making a clear case that we come to Christ before we repent. This is called the ordo salutis or 'the order of salvation,' and it matters for us today.
Does Christ receive us unconditionally? Is God merciful to us in Christ? If we need repentance before we come to Christ, the answer has to be no. Repentance is the result of faith in Christ.
The importance of being "in Christ" also became apparent as the book progressed. Everything we have as Christians is "in Christ," not through Him. We do not leave Him at the front door to experience the benefits of the house, He is the house, and we experience all His blessings in Him alone.
This book also emphasizes the importance of grace alone. As Ferguson makes clear, we do not do away with grace for the law, nor do we push grace beyond the law to make the law of none effect. Grace works. It saves us and changes us to love the law and do what it commands. This grace is found "in Christ," and it requires "the whole Christ."
We need the message of this book today, for it presents the cure for the majority of our 21st-century Christian ills. We do not need practical advice for all our little personal problems when we can have the source of health Himself. In fact, the reason we are so preoccupied with our individual circumstances is that we have forgotten what matters most. Christ, and Christ alone is our life.
I highly recommend this book to pastors to shepherd their flocks with gospel care. I highly recommend this book to parents to disciple their children with gospel focus. And I highly recommend this book to all Christians to live gospel lives.
The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance - Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters
By: Sinclair Ferguson, Crossway, 2016