Sinclair Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2017, 802 pp. $45.00
The day that Sinclair Ferguson’s new book, Some Pastors and Teachers arrived, I was like a kid in a candy store; a monkey in a banana factory; a shark in blood-infested waters. Gazing at the table of contents caused my heart to race, which is a testimony of my deep love for the church, theology, and pastoral ministry.
It was immediately apparent that Dr. Ferguson was attaching a high degree of importance to the past by acknowledging some of the great pastor-teachers in church history – men like John Calvin, John Owen, John Murray, and the Puritans.
Some Pastors and Teachers is a mixture of biography, systematic and biblical theology, and pastoral theology. Ferguson writes with theological precision and pastoral compassion and experience. He writes with a gravitas that is both weighty and inspirational.
While each of the thirty-nine chapters are commendable in their own right, chapter thirty-seven, was especially meaningful to me. Ferguson argues with great force that “all truly biblical preaching is preaching to the heart.” This kind of preaching is marked by several characteristics:
- A right use of the Bible which must first be directed to the mind. Ferguson adds, “When we preach to the heart, the mind is not so much the terminus of our preaching, but the channel through which we appeal to the whole person, leading to the transformation of the whole life.
- Nourishment of the whole person. Ferguson makes it clear that spiritual nourishment must be carefully defined: “There is a difference between a well-instructed congregation and a well-nourished one.”
- An understanding of the condition of hearers.
- The use of the imagination.
- Grace in Christ.
This behemoth of a book is filled with rich material that promises deep pastoral encouragement, comfort, and instruction. This “doxological Calvinism” is the best of all worlds. Such a theological framework strengthens minds, nourishes hearts, and ultimately equips pastors to feed, lead, love, and protect the flock – all for God’s glory.
“Justification is the article upon which the church stands or falls.” So said Martin Luther as he battled for reform in the eye of the sixteenth-century storm that we know as the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers rediscovered the truth and beauty of the gospel message and proclaimed it faithfully and forcefully. Their allegiance to the gospel inform and inspire us as we strive to follow in their footsteps.
Nate Pickowicz beautifully summarizes the spirit of the Reformers in his most recent book, Why We’re Protestant: An Introduction to the Five Solas of the Reformation. First, the author clearly describes the “gospel crisis” that emerged in the sixteenth century. The crisis involves a fundamental disagreement on how sinners are justified. The answers proposed by Rome and the sixteenth century Protestants are clear. The answer proposed by Rome falls short of the biblical benchmark and leads sinners to a pathway of destruction. The Protestant reply is faithful to Scripture and leads sinners on a pathway to the Celestial City.
The essential message of the Reformation is captured in the five solas – grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, and to God alone be the glory. Pickowicz guides readers on a journey that unfolds these remarkable truths in a way that is winsome, historically accurate, and faithful to Scripture.
Why We’re Protestant is a veritable battering ram and a boon for the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we draw near to the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, I commend this fine work and trust that God will use it to fortify a new generation of reformers who exalt the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Some books are worth reading again and again. John Piper’s excellent work is such a book. God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards is composed of two parts. Part One is a Personal Encounter with Jonathan Edwards. Part Two is a republication of Jonathan Edwards magisterial work, The End for Which God Created the World.
The Personal Encounter with Edwards includes the rationale behind Piper’s book, a brief but powerful biography of the Puritan divine, a survey of Edwards’s inner life as it relates the life of the mind, and the relationship between Edwards and culture.
Central to the thought of Part One is the Piper’s assertion (that he credits to the hard work of Edwards) is this: “the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing.” Or to state it another way, “God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy are not at odds.” Piper builds on this reality by presenting fifteen critical implications that he has drawn for Edwards’s life and writing. The final Edwardsean insight is in reality that thesis of Part Two, namely – that “God created the world to exhibit the fullness of his glory in the God-centered joy of his people.”
Part Two, then, is the complete text from Edwards book, The End for Which God Created the World. The complex argument may be summarized in one critical sentence: “Hence it will follow, that the moral rectitude of the disposition, inclination, or affection of God CHIEFLY consists in a regard to HIMSELF, infinitely above his regard to all other beings; in other words, his holiness consists in this.” Readers should struggle through the text to see the weight of biblical evidence that Edwards provides. It is a humbling, earth-shattering, Christ-exalting stick of dynamite. I first read this tremendous book over fifteen years ago in seminary at Starbucks – in one sitting. It continues to affect me the same way it did so many years ago. Readers will be struck with the depth of insight that emerges from the pen of the Puritan divine. But readers will mostly be in awe at the glory which belongs to God and God alone!
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36, ESV)
“God communicates himself to the understanding of the creature, in giving him the knowledge of his glory; and to the will of the creature, in giving him holiness, consisting primarily in the love of God: and in giving the creature happiness, chiefly consisting in joy in God. These are the sum of that emanation of divine fullness called in Scripture, the glory of God.”
– Jonathan Edwards, The End For Which God Created the World (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, p. 119)
“The ultimate reason that suffering exists in the universe is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in himself to overcome our suffering. The suffering of the utterly innocent and infinitely holy Son of God in the place of utterly undeserving sinners to bring us to everlasting joy is the greatest display of the glory of God’s grace that ever was, or ever could be.”
– John Piper, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Crossway Books, 2006), p. 82