In a series of chapters full of Biblical teaching and then especially the teaching of the New Testament Sinclair B. Ferguson former professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and former minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia unfolds what he calls blueprints for sanctification. He emphasizes the primary meaning of to be holy is to be devoted to God.
United to Christ in a living faith we are both justified and sanctified. We must not confuse these two blessing, but neither are we allowed to separate them. Sanctification is God setting us apart for Himself. Ferguson shows that the sanctification of a Christian is inseparably connected to the reality that the living God is the triune God. The Father had commanded us to pursue. The Son had died to effect is and the Holy Spirit work in us to bring forth the fruit of it. The ultimate goal of complete conformity to the image of Christ is realized in the new Jerusalem. There God is all in all.
A Christian lives by the faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for him. United to Christ in faith we are crucified with Him and walk in newness of life. Baptism is a sign and seal of our union with Christ. We are named for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Baptism is not in the first place about faith but to faith. Reminding our baptism we are encouraged the realize that we belong to Christ and share in the fruits of his death, resurrection and ascension. That must shape our whole life.
Ferguson point to John Owen. According to Owen the first task of a pastor is persuading those who are under the power of sin that this is the truth about them in order that they ask go for grace and come to Christ to be accepted in Him. The second task of a pastor is to persuade those who are no longer under the dominion of sin, that this is there real status.
Important is the insight that ‘Flesh’ and ‘Spirit’ are not only two aspects of the Christian’s being, they are also the two epochs in which he lives. A Christian lives in the old realm of the flesh a someone who already belongs to the new realm of the Spirit. The life of a Christian is a battle between flesh and Spirit. In this battle we must continually look to Christ.
Loving Christ who redeemed us to the curse of the law, we keep his commandments. These are essentially the same of as the Ten Commandments now seen under the perspective of serving God in thankfulness. Ferguson quotes in this context a Gospel Sonnet of Ralph Erskine:
When I the gospel-truth believe
Obedience to the law I give.
And when I don’t the law observe,
I from the gospel-method swerve.
Ferguson has given a fresh approach full of biblical teaching and relevant quotations of Scripture on a essential aspect of the Christian life. I can heartily recommend this book. It refre-shed and encouraged me. I hope that other readers have the same experience.
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Devoted to God. Blueprints for Sanctification (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 2016) paperback 277 pp. £8,– (ISBN 9781848716902 )