“This is the flood tide that drowns legalism in its tracks.” by Sinclair Ferguson

“What, then, is the remedy for legalism?

At the stage we have reached in reflecting on the Marrow, it scarcely needs to be said.

It is grace. But it is not ‘grace’ as commodity, grace as substance. It is grace in Christ. For God’s grace to us is Christ.

Yes, it is the atonement; but not atonement as theory, or as an abstract reality, something that has an identity of its own outside of and apart from the Lord Jesus. For Christ himself, clothed as he is in his gospel work, is the atonement—’He is the propitiation for our sins.’

The remedy therefore is the one that healed Paul of the deep disease of legalism. It is not difficult to imagine that he too knew what it was to be beaten by Moses. He was after all ‘the chief of sinners.’ But here is what he discovered:

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes though faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

The remedy is that prescribed by Charles Wesley, discovering that these words are true:

‘O Jesus, full of truth and grace,—More full of grace than I of sin . . .’

Where sin abounds, where the law condemns, there grace abounds all the more even to the chief of sinners. Indeed especially to the chief of them, for the more sin there has been, the more God’s grace has abounded. This is the flood tide that drowns legalism in its tracks.”

-Sinclair Ferguson The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters


“Do not look down on another person—including another Christian.” by Sinclair Ferguson

Surely the Pharisee was God’s man, the righteous one who could leave the temple assured he was justified before God. It could not be the miserable tax collector, could it? For, apart from being a tax collector and therefore by definition associated with “sinners,” he:

Could not even lift his eyes to heaven—which was expected in prayer etiquette. Beat his breast in the light of his obvious sinfulness. Cried out to God to be “merciful” (literally, “propitiated”) to him—since no sacrifice was prescribed for his high-handed transgressions. Acknowledged he was “a sinner.”

There was, surely, only one answer to Jesus’s implied question: “So which of these two men went home from temple worship that day justified, righteous in the sight of the Holy God of heaven?”

We are over-familiar with this parable. We know “the right answer.” We have been immunized against the unexpected, indeed stunning truth. It was the tax collector. How can contemporary Christians recapture the sense of shock at hearing Jesus’s conclusion?

In one sense the answer is simple. It should shock us because evangelical Christians may existentially have more in common with the Pharisee than with the tax collector. Those into whose temperaments justification by grace has fully permeated:

Do not look down on another person—including another Christian. The instinct to do so is one of the most obvious telltale signs of a heart from which legalism has not yet been fully or finally banished; for it implies that we have merited grace more than another.

Do not assume that there is anything in our devotion to the Lord that is the reason for God’s acceptance of us rather than of somebody else who lacks it.

Do not assume that it is on the grounds of a decision we made, or for that matter our years of commitment to Christ, that we are accepted before God.

Do not despise (“ treat with contempt,” in Luke’s expression) an embarrassing breach of etiquette, or outward show of sorrow, in another person.

So, when did you last beat your breast and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”?

-Sinclair Ferguson The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

“Salvation is by grace, but grace never stands alone without good works.” by Graeme Goldsworthy

“The relationship of good works to salvation is essentially the same in both Old and New Testaments. In both salvation is by grace, but grace never stands alone without good works. To put it another way we may say that no-one (in Old or New Testaments) is saved because of good works, but no-one is saved without good works. This is one aspect of the unity of the two Testaments which makes the Old Testament so applicable to Christians. The same unity underlies Paul’s use of the exodus situation in I Corinthians 10: 1-12.”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom

“All Old Testament passages which deal with the Lord’s battles against Israel’s foes must be evaluated in the light of the saving work of God for us.” by Graeme Goldsworthy

“We must be careful not to make too much of incidental details which belong to the immediate life-situation described in the text. David’s taking of food to his brothers in the army hardly demands interpretation any more than the dimensions of Goliath’s armour. Some areas of the narrative, on the other hand, spell out what is significant in theological terms (e.g. verses 45-47). Other details form a pattern within the wider context which again emerges in the gospel events. David is declared king in God’s eyes (I Samuel 16) but is despised, scorned and rejected. He wins his victory at the point where he seems to be about to suffer total defeat, and his people continue a fight against an already defeated foe. All Old Testament passages which deal with the Lord’s battles against Israel’s foes must be evaluated in the light of the saving work of God for us.”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom

“The gospel is not simply ‘forgiveness of sins’ and ‘going to heaven when you die'” by Graeme Goldsworthy

“Jesus Christ (as we have seen) contains in himself the Kingdom of God. The gospel is a gospel of man restored to proper relationships in Christ. Now, these relationships involve the whole of reality: God, man, and the created order. As Eden and Canaan are in Christ, so God’s perfect World is in Christ. This truth has one vital implication often forgotten by evangelicals, but which the Old Testament reinforces by its historicity. The gospel is not simply ‘forgiveness of sins’ and ‘going to heaven when you die’. The gospel is a restoration of relationships between God, man and the world. The typology of the Bible and the transformation of Old Testament imagery by the gospel should not be misused to lift us completely outside the created world. The gospel involves us not only with God, but with our fellow men and with the world. How this fact should affect the Christian’s view of the world, politics, culture, the arts, ecology and science, should be our continuing concern.”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom

“Wherever you read LORD in your English Old Testament as the name of God remember it is his special personal name…” by Graeme Goldsworthy

“Exodus begins with the story of Moses’ birth, preservation and preparation for his mission. These events are not only favourite subjects in Bible teaching programmes for children but are also frequently mishandled. The story of Moses in the rushes must be related to the declared purpose of God in Exodus 2: 23-25, which shows us that Moses is to be the mediator of God’s acts in fulfilling the covenant promises made to the patriarchs. Notice the stress given to the identification of the God who sends Moses to be Israel’s leader. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 2: 24, 3: 6, 13, 15 and 16, 4: 5, 6:2-5).

That the God of Israel is the God who is faithful to the covenant with Abraham is a fact now associated with the personal name of God. In most English versions of the Bible this holy name is translated LORD. Wherever you read LORD in your English Old Testament as the name of God remember it is his special personal name, and not merely a title – it expresses the character of God which has been revealed in his acts to redeem his people. The act and the knowledge of the name are frequently related: I will take you for my people.., and you shall know that I am Jehovah (the LORD) your God (Exodus 6: 7, compare 7: 5).”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom

“Every man is born outside the garden; every man is born an active rebel…” by Graeme Goldsworthy

“The judgement involves firstly the disruption of the relationship between man and God. This is most clearly seen in the ejection of man from the Garden. Secondly there is the disruption of the relationship between man and woman, as the perfect harmony of male and female gives way to rivalry and accusation (Genesis 3: 12, 16). Thirdly there is a disruption of the relationship of man to his environment as the physical creation is no longer seen to be under the dominion of man (Genesis 3: 17-19). The word ‘disruption’ is not intended to detract from the seriousness of the sentence of death. Man outside the Kingdom is not merely under the sentence of death, but he is dead. The real meaning of death lies in the separation of man from the willing relationship of the Kingdom. Autonomous man is God-denying and therefore life-denying as well. Fallen man is dead spiritually. Outside of Eden there is no return. Man has made his choice to be a rebel and he is bound by his decision. Nor is there any free choice for the posterity of Adam. Adam’s fall from the Garden Kingdom is a fall of the whole human race. Every man is born outside the garden; every man is born an active rebel asserting autonomy and independence of the God of life. Human history and Scripture will show that man’s death state means that he infallibly chooses to hate God, for that is his ‘outside Eden’ nature. It is no longer a question of freedom to choose right or wrong, for man is free now only to be what he is- a sinner who hates God (cf. Romans 3: 9-18, 8: 6-8). Man has become a slave to sin- a slavery that is death.”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom

Creation, God’s Sovereignty, and His Word by Graeme Goldsworthy

“The creation story must never be regarded merely as a sort of biblical ‘once-upon-a-time’. The fact that God is Creator and that man is his creature establishes at the outset the basis for understanding the Kingdom of God. When we speak of the sovereignty of God, we use a word which means his kingship, a kingship which is absolute and uncompromised. The creature is ruled and belongs, as a creature, within the sphere of God’s perfect rule. In making all things by the power of his word (II Peter 3: 5), God shows the right he has as Creator to rule all things. The only perfect existence for the creature is that which is found within the framework of the rule of God.

The creatorship of God tells us that all reality is God’s reality; all truth is God’s truth. Nothing exists except by the will and word of God. One could write whole books on the implication of creation for a Christian approach to education, politics, economics, family life, moral values, or scientific research. If we believe in God as Creator, we may not divide the world into spiritual and secular. The fact that all reality depends upon the creative word of God means that the word of God must judge the ideas of men about truth and error, not the other way round. Thus the Christian doctrine of the authority of Scripture has its roots in the Creation. The famous comment about the Bible’s authority made by the nineteenth century preacher C.H. Spurgeon (‘Defend the Bible? I’d as soon defend a lion!’) is wellknown and appropriate. But we also need to be reminded of the relationship of God’s word to the reasoning of man the creature about what is true- one does not take a pocket flashlight and shine it on the sun to see if the sun is real! The truth of God’s word cannot be subject to the puny light of man’s self-centred reason. God’s word created what is and must interpret what is.”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom

“A text without a context is a pretext…” by Graeme Goldsworthy

“Let us think of this question of relationships in another way. There is a well-used saying: ‘A text without a context is a pretext’. This sound wisdom reminds us that the Bible is not a collection of isolated sentences or verses to be used at random in establishing doctrine. One of the unhappy results of the division of the Bible into chapters and verses (which did not take place until the late Middle Ages) is an unnatural fragmenting of the text. Paul wrote one letter to the Romans, not sixteen separate chapters containing a varying number of units called verses. Most of us recognize this fact to a point- we know that anyone can prove almost anything by lifting a few verses out of context. We recognize also that the basic literary unit for conveying thought is the sentence. But do we always understand how much the meaning of a sentence is governed by its place in a larger unit of communication?

How wide must we stretch the context in order to gain a good understanding of one sentence? We might arbitrarily set a paragraph as the limit – if we could only be sure what the equivalent of a paragraph would be in the Hebrew or Greek text, which used neither paragraphs nor punctuation. But a paragraph usually occurs in the context of a number of other paragraphs. We could go from paragraphs to chapters (also units unknown to the authors), and then to the complete books. It may not always be necessary to go this far in providing the context needed for the understanding of a given verse or sentence, but any supposition of unity in the given book means that knowledge of the whole and knowledge of the parts are inseparable. The logical conclusion to be drawn is that, if the unity of the Bible has any meaning at all, the real context of any Bible text is the whole Bible. Any given text is more meaningful when related not only to its immediate context, but also to the entire plan of redemption revealed in the whole Bible.”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom

“The danger in the ‘character study’ approach” to Bible Study by Graeme Goldsworthy

“The danger in the ‘character study’ approach is that it so easily leads to the use of the Old Testament characters and events as mere illustrations of New Testament truths, while at the same time giving the appearance of being a correct exposition of the meaning of the Word of God. But if the real substance is drawn from the New Testament, and it alone, we may well ask what is the point of applying ourselves to the Old Testament; why we may not just as well use non-biblical material to illustrate the New Testament. To make this criticism is not to deny the value of Old Testament narrative in illustrating New Testament principles; but we should not assume that such an approach uncovers the primary meaning of the text.

To press this point even – it should be recognized that the ‘character study’ approach is frequently used in a way that implies quite wrongly that the reader today may identify with the character in question. But we must reckon with both the historical and theological uniqueness of the characters and events if we are not to misapply them. Is it in fact true that if God took care of baby Moses, God will take care of me? Such application simply assumes that what applied to the unique figure of Moses in a unique situation applies to all of us, and presumably all the time. But why should our children be privileged to identify with Moses rather than with other Hebrew children at the time who may not have escaped Pharaoh’s wrath? The theological significance of Moses and of his preservation is all but ignored in this case.

With whom may the Christian identify in the narrative of David and Goliath- with the soldiers of Israel or with David? (Certainly not with Goliath!) But, someone will say, there is a lesson for us in both the soldiers and in David. The former show us the Christian who lacks faith, and the latter exemplifies the man who truly trusts God and overcomes against great odds (never mind the ingenious bit with the stones!). To a point this is true; the soldiers are afraid and David is a man who trusts God. But is that all? It certainly is not all when we read the narrative in its context, for then we find that there is something unique about David which cannot apply to us. David is the one who, immediately prior to the Goliath episode (I Samuel 17), is shown to be God’s anointed king. He receives the Spirit of God to do mighty deeds for the saving of Israel, according to the patmm of saviours already established in the book of Judges. So when it comes to his slaying of Goliath it is as the unique anointed one of God that he wins the battle.

The application of this truth to the believer is somewhat different from a simple identification of the believer with David. Rather we should identify with the ordinary people of God, the soldiers, who stand and watch the battle fought on their behalf. The same point may be made about the lives of all the biblical characters who have some distinct office bestowed on them by God. If their achievement is that of any godly man the lesson is clear, but if it is the achievement of a prophet, a judge or the messianic king, then to that extent it no more applies to the people of God in general than does the unique work of Jesus as the Christ.”

-Graeme Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom