James Mongomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken
Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2002
The authors of this book are well qualified to write a book on the doctrines of grace, what some people (unfortunately in my opinion) refer to as “Calvinism.” Both James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken were powerful preachers of the Word of God for many years in a historic downtown church in Philadelphia, Tenth Presbyterian. (By the way, since 2010 Dr. Ryken has served as the eighth President of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.)
It is hard to summarize briefly this book as it covers so much ground, but I like the following statement by the authors, “The doctrines of grace together point to one central truth: salvation is all of grace because it is all of God and because it is all of God, it all for his glory.” At a later point the authors write, “The heart of Reformed theology is a passion for God’s glory, not simply in redemption but in all of creation. The doctrines of grace teach that God is sovereign in the salvation of an individual sinner, but this is only one implication of the all-encompassing truth that God rules over all.”
THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel is a 226 page, nine chapter book. The first chapter makes a case for the biblical doctrines of grace so needed amidst the shallow evangelicalism of many churches in America. Chapter two goes back in time to men of God who faithfully taught the doctrines of grace over the years – the Reformers, the Puritans, preachers like Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon, evangelists like George Whitfield, missionaries like David Brainerd, writers like John Bunyan, as well as statesmen like Abraham Kuyper.
Chapters three through seven set forth the biblical basis of radical depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, efficacious grace, and persevering grace. In each of these chapters the authors also deal with verses that are often brought against these doctrines. The eighth chapter shows how belief in these truths affects the Christian life, and the ninth chapter shows the implications of these truths in many domains of life, e.g. science, politics, compassion for the poor, evangelism, etc.
As someone who is passionate about evangelism I’d like to close this short book summary with a common objection to Calvinism: Why pray for the lost? Why preach the gospel? Why send missionaries? Won’t God save the elect whether we do or not?
“Evangelism is still necessary, because no one can possibly be saved without the proclamation of the gospel. Evangelism is still urgent, because whatever we may happen to believe about election, the fact remains that without Christ, sinners are lost. Frankly, God’s purpose in election is none of our business. What is our business is a passionate commitment to proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ to those who need to hear it. Nor do the doctrines of grace diminish the genuineness of the gospel invitation. The offer of the gospel is well meant, for in it God really does offer Jesus Christ to anyone who will receive him, with the promise of eternal life for those who believe. Finally, the sovereignty of grace does not in any way undermine the responsibility of sinners for their response to the gospel. Whatever we may believe about predestination, the fact remains that anyone who rejects Christ is the cause of his own condemnation, and ultimately of his own damnation. J.I. Packer writes in Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, ‘The Bible never says that sinners miss heaven because they are not elect, but because they ‘neglect the great salvation’, and because they do not repent and believe.’”
“The final thing to say on this subject is that only the sovereignty of grace can give evangelism the slightest possibility of success. If the doctrines of grace are false, then preaching the gospel is a complete waste of time, for without sovereign grace sinners cannot possibly be delivered from their lost and deadly condition.”
Below are some of the Bible verses dealt with in chapter four on the subject of unconditional election:
Deuteronomy 7:7-8 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last
Acts 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
Romans 9:11-24 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
Romans 11:5-6 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Ephesians 1:4-5 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will
1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.