Several months ago, I titled a sermon Grace Works, based on Titus 2:11-14. Verse 11 reminds us that grace has appeared in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This grace has saved us. This grace has transported every believer from death to life. This grace saves us, sanctifies us, and secures our future with Christ. Indeed, grace works! So when I learned about the new book by Douglas Bond, entitled Grace Works I requested a copy from a company I write reviews for. It was a great decision!
Douglas Bond is concerned; deeply concerned. He along with a handful of evangelicals including R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, Jerry Bridges, John Piper, and Tim Keller are concerned that the gospel is being eclipsed by works-based righteousness. John Calvin had a similar concern in the 16th century: “We must exercise the utmost caution lest we allow any counterfeit to be substituted for the pure doctrine of the gospel.”
Douglas Bond alerts Christ-followers to this gospel counterfeit in his latest book, Grace Works. The author shows how this counterfeit gospel has emerged throughout church history. He demonstrates the subtle shift that took place in European churches that once glowed with Reformation fervor. He cites several examples of how the gospel has been distorted and continues to be distorted in the contemporary church.
At the heart of the book lies a concern that many believers appear to be confused about the biblical gospel. While many give lip-service to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, many continue to add requirements which muddy the “waters of grace” in the final analysis.
The author cites Tim Keller approvingly who says, “It is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance.” Bond adds, “Every other religion requires performance before the verdict. But in the gospel, Christ has stooped down and perfectly obeyed for us, as our substitute. Jesus the righteous one was righteous in our place. By the grace of the gospel, performance will follow, but in justification the verdict is already in: we are forever righteous in Christ. That is immeasurably good news!”
Yet, a stunning number of professing evangelicals are repudiating justification by faith alone by adding requirements which is tantamount to a works-based approach. The road back to Rome may be paved with good intentions, but thoughtful observers can hear the gnashing of teeth.
Bond warns readers of the subtle ways that law creeps into the gospel, especially when pastors and Christian leaders make obedience a requirement for justifying grace. Bond adds, “Serious error arises when trusting and obeying are required as concurrent actions the sinner must do in the context of his justification. Trusting is not sufficient – which is the same as saying that faith alone is not sufficient; you must also obey the law to win God’s final favor.” Several examples are cited and once again readers are warned to flee from the works-based system of Rome.
Douglas Bond is to be commended for writing a book that is timely, especially in light of the so-called New Perspective on Paul movement. The gospel shines brightly in Grace Works. The doctrines which were rediscovered by the Protestant Reformers are put on display. The law is put in its proper place as a tutor which leads us to Christ. Readers are reminded that the law cannot justify; nor can the law sanctify.
My hope is that Grace Works receives a wide readership and that thousands of people will be equipped in gospel-centered reality. My hope is that many will see the errors of the Roman road; that they will turn back and swim in the waters of free grace and be refreshed by the sola’s of the Reformation!
I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review.