No such ‘thing’ as grace

Sinclair Ferguson has a new book coming out soon, By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me. Can’t wait to read it. Whenever I think of grace I am reminded of his message on John 15 from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference in Grantham, PA. Sitting in a sweltering chapel listening to him preach for the first time in person my understanding of grace was shaped and I came to discover the depth and riches of our union with Christ. I’ll never forget when Ferguson said this:

“The union with Christ we have is not that we somehow share His grace. Because–follow me carefully–there actually is no ‘thing’ as grace. That actually is a Medieval Roman Catholic teaching, that there is a ‘thing’ called grace that can be separated from the person of Jesus Christ, something Jesus Christ won on the Cross, something He can bestow on you, and there are at least seven ways it can be bestowed on you and they all, as it happens, turn out to be in the hands of the church. And you can have this kind of grace, and this kind of grace, and this kind of grace …

There is no such ‘thing’ as grace! Grace is not some appendage to His being. Nor is it some substance that flows from us: ‘Let me give you grace.’ All there is is the Lord Jesus Himself. And so when Jesus speaks about us abiding in Him and He abiding in us–however mysterious it may be, mystical in that sense–it is a personal union. Do not let us fail to understand that, at the end of the day, actually Christianity is Christ because there isn’t anything else; there is no atonement that somehow can be detached from who the Lord Jesus is; there is no grace that can be attached to you transferred from Him. All there is is Christ and your soul.”

7 thoughts on “No such ‘thing’ as grace

  1. Tony,
    I don’t know the full context of Ferguson’s teaching on this, but this snippet seems very bad and very dangerous. According to the use of words, grace is a thing. It is a noun, it is said to come from the Father and from the Son. We are saved to Christ by grace. And I understand the desire to keep grace from becoming a commodity that can be purchased at church vending machines – but we do not have to deny the “thinginess” of grace to accomplish this. There are at least two places in Scripture where the argument for doctrine is based on the specific nature of language (Jesus speaking to the Saducees on the resurrection – “I AM the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob”, and in Galatians 3 when Paul argues about the implications of the word “seed” being singular) By this same type of argument, grace is described to us in words as a spiritual thing and while I have no love for Roman Catholic perversion and will gladly join with you in fighting it at every turn, I cannot see how we can say it is not a “thing”.

    If I’m missing the nature of Sinclair Ferguson’s argument then I apologize, I’m basing it solely on the quote here.


  2. Just as a follow up to my own comment. Doing a bit of research, my guess is that Ferguson’s comments above were made against those who say that “the Lord’s Supper IS grace”, and I would wholeheartedly agree with him.

    I would still say that the statement “grace is not a thing” is a bad statement that will cause a whole other set of heresies. Grace is not a physical thing, grace is not a thing in our control, grace is not something that the church can dispense or that man can summon with a ritual. All of these I agree with.

  3. Thanks for the comments Charles. What I like about Calvin/Ferguson is their appropriate stress on the fact that all of the believer’s spiritual benefits originate in their union with Christ. That informs Ferguson’s perspective. All the benefits we receive, all of the grace we are given, is a result of our union with Christ. The key to the quote is that grace is not a “appendage” to Christ as if it’s just a treasure chest of gold that gets distributed. No; our spiritual riches are a result of being rooted in Christ. He is the vine and we are the branches. Does that make sense? I should have given this background. Blessings! Tony

  4. Tony,
    Absolutely! After re-reading it a couple of times and talking to one of my elders, I figured this was what Ferguson must be after. It was just the phrase “there is no such thing as grace” that scared me. Sorry for being such a pain!


  5. You are not a pain at all. Ferguson has a new book coming out where he writes: “Grace is not a ‘thing.’ It is not a substance that can be measured or a commodity to be distributed. It is “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 13:14).” That’s basically what you said in your second comment. Thanks for reading!

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