Book Review – On the Grace of God
Grace is a dangerous thing. It is something that, when unleashed, can bring the fiercest of men to their knees in tears. No other force has changed the course of human history like Grace. It is responsible for some of the most unfathomable events that the mind can comprehend. In ancient Rome, when the Greeks and Romans regularly practice infanticide, it was the Christians who (empowered by grace) rescued the babies left to die and took them into their families. Grace has motivated ordinary sinners to found orphanages, hospitals, and educational institutions so that family, healing, and education would be available to the less fortunate. So what is it about Grace that produces this sort of reaction?
In On the Grace of God, Justin Holcomb takes a doctrine of the Christian faith and gives it new life. To our detriment, grace has become rather unremarkable in our every day lives. It isn’t that grace has changed, it always has been and always will be the most incredible thing we receive. But in our sophistication, we have convinced ourselves that grace is an elementary doctrine and not as central to the Christian life and mind as it once was. This book changes that. It re-centers the Christian life around the cross of Christ as the central theme of our new life.
Holcomb starts with a definition of grace by Michael Spencer as something that is “inexplicable, inappropriate, out of the box, out of bounds, offensive, excessive, too much, given to the wrong people, and all those things” I love that he started with this definition. There simply is no other kind of grace, and the moment we start to think that grace is appropriate, within bounds, not enough and only reserved for the right sort of people, we have failed to understand what grace truly is.
Moving on from this Holcomb sets out to demonstrate why we need grace. He doesn’t hold back from describing the total disaster that our sin has brought upon this world. He tackles the themes of suffering,evil and violence and places the blame squarely where it belongs; on the backs of sinners like you and I. He goes on to show how God’s grace was woven through the Old Testament and the New Testament and wraps up the book showing how scripture describes the entire Christian life as one of grace. This not only includes our justification, but also our sanctification.
On the Grace of God is the best book I have ever read that attempts to define the Biblical doctrine of grace. Why? Simply because it doesn’t try to defend the audacity of grace. Holcomb doesn’t hold back with the foolish refrain, “If we preach too much grace people will sin”. He understands full well I imagine that some will see grace as a license to sin, but in those cases their response to grace demonstrates that they are not regenerate. The only Christian response to Grace is unfathomable gratitude resulting in a deep desire to please the one who lavished such an undeserving love upon them. Holcomb appears to understand the message of Paul when he wrote that it is grace (not law) that brings salvation (justification) to all people and teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness (sanctification). He understands Paul’s message that the law was powerless to produce righteousness but grace (in the form of sending Christ as a sin offering for us) produces all sorts of righteousness. It is only when we fully understand this sort of grace that we will allow it to reign unrestrained in our lives.
I can’t recommend this book enough. It starts at such a low cost (retails for $9.99) and you can get it cheaper on Amazon (cheaper still if you get the Kindle version). Or if you prefer FREE, why not Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks? This book is so cheap that you can can (and should) buy a few copies to hand out to others who need to hear the good news of God’s grace.
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About the author
Justin S. Holcomb (PhD, Emory University) is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology, philosophy, and Christian thought at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. He serves on the boards of REST (Real Escape from the Sex Trade) and GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments). He also serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition.
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