There are some Bible verses that seem to go just a little bit too far. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children… he cannot be my disciple” comes to mind, or “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” And then there’s this one: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” (Philippians 1:27). We read a verse like that and rightly ask, “Is it actually possible to live a life that’s worthy of the gospel? Is that a realistic goal? And what would it even look like to say ‘my life is worthy of the gospel?’”
Help comes in the form of Sinclair Ferguson’s new book Worthy: Living in Light of the Gospel, which is the second volume in a series. Ferguson begins the work by explaining why Christians can find the command “live worthy of the gospel” a confusing one. And really, the answer is quite obvious: “the gospel teaches us we are unworthy. We are saved by grace, not by worth.” Besides that, we are rightly attuned to the creep of legalism and can fear that a call to “live worthy” can be a call to emphasize outward actions ahead of an inward posture of the heart. Yet “Paul well knew that emphasizing God’s grace in Christ in reaction to legalism is not necessarily the same thing as understanding the grace of God in Christ.” In fact, “the richer and fuller the exposition of the grace of God in Christ, the safer it is to expound the all-demanding commands that flow from it as a result.” It is when we have the fullest and most confident understanding of the gospel that we will understand what it means to live a worthy life and be most eager to do so.
Those who are familiar with Ferguson’s writing will recognize how he helps the reader understand the way grace relates to obedience. With that groundwork in place, he writes about “The Grammar of the Gospel,” explaining the role of moods (focusing on imperatives and indicatives), prepositions (focusing on Paul’s way of speaking about believers as being “in Christ”), tenses (focusing on what the gospel has done in us and what it will do), and then, finally, the role of negatives and positives—what the gospel tells us to do and not to do and what the gospel tells us to be and not to be.
Ferguson’s book briefly but oh-so-helpfully explains how this is possible and what this should look like. Written briefly and simply, it’s a book I gladly recommend to any Christian.