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A Long Line of Godly Men

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Yesterday, after much anticipation, I received the first book in what promises to be an outstanding series. Foundations of Grace, by Steve Lawson is the first of five volumes in Lawson’s forthcoming series A Long Line of Godly Men and only the second title published by Ligonier’s new publishing division, Reformation Trust Publishing. The purpose of the series is to prove that the doctrines of grace are not the invention of synods, councils or theologians, but are taught in the pages of Scripture and have been taught through the history of the church. “The teaching of sovereign grace literally stretches from cover to cover in the Bible,” writes Lawson.

Foundations of Grace traces the doctrines of grace through the writers of Scripture, from the first to the last–from Moses to the apostle John. “From the lawgiver Moses to the apostle John, and from the early church fathers to modern defenders of the faith, there has marched onto the stage of human history a long line of godly men, a triumphant parade of spiritual stalwarts who have upheld the doctrines of grace. In this book, the first in the five-volume A Long Line of Godly Men series, Dr. Steven J. Lawson takes readers on a heart-stirring survey of the Scriptures to show that the Bible in its entirety teaches the doctrines of grace.”

A series of this magnitude deserves a strong Foreword and John MacArthur does not disappoint. In fact, I read and reread the foreword to try to absorb the depth of the theology MacArthur writes about under the heading of “Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace.” MacArthur affirms God’s unchanging character and shows that any discussion of the doctrine of election must begin not with what humans consider fair, but with divine justice. “Because the justice of God is an outflow of His character, it is not subject to fallen human assumptions of what justice should be… To say that election is unfair is not only inaccurate, it fails to recognize the very essence of true fairness. That which is fair, right, and just is that which God wills to do.”

After further discussion of the doctrine of election, MacArthur discusses the reason behind election–a critical and often-overlooked point. “There was a moment in eternity past (if we might so feebly speak of eternity in temporal terms) when the Father desired to express His perfect and incomprehensible love for the Son. To do this, He chose to give the Son a redeemed humanity as a love gift–a company of men and women whose purpose would be, throughout all the eons of eternity, to praise and glorify the Son, and to serve Him perfectly.” We are thus drawn by the Father and can have confidence that we will never be rejected by the Son, for He would never refuse those who are a love gift from His Father. In the same way and for the same reason, we can have confidence that we will never fall away from the Son. “Salvation, then, does not come to sinners because they are inherently desirable, but because the Son is inherently worthy of the Father’s gift. What then is Jesus’ role in all this? “When the whole love gift of a redeemed humanity has been given to Jesus Christ, then He will take that redeemed humanity and, including Himself, give it all back to the Father as a reciprocal expression of the Father’s infinite love.” Jesus died for us because He so loved the Father and because He desired to accept this love gift from the Father. He considered it precious to the point that He gave His life for it. MacArthur concludes by saying “A Long Line of Godly Men is not primarily about men at all, but rather about the God to whom the lives of these men testify.”

In the Preface, Steve Lawson writes about the “Continental Divide of Theology,” suggesting that just as water from one side of the Continental Divide will flow into the Pacific and water from the other side will flow into the Atlantic, there is a great divide of doctrine that “separates two distinctly different streams of thought that flow in opposite directions. To be specific, this determinative high ground is one’s theology of God, man, and salvation. This is the highest of all thought, and it divides all doctrine into two schools.” Whether we call these schools Augustinianism and Pelagianism, Calvinism and Arminianism or Reformed and Catholic, these streams are separated by the Continental Divide of theology. “On one side we find solid highlands of truth. On the other side there are precipitous slopes and half-truths and full error.” “Over the centuries, seasons of reformation and revival in the church have come when the sovereign grace of God has been openly proclaimed and clearly taught. When a high view of God has been infused into the hearts and minds of God’s people, the church has sat on the elevated plateaus of transcendent truth. This lofty ground is Calvinism-the high ground for the church. The lofty truths of divine sovereignty provide the greatest and grandest view of God. The doctrines of grace serve to elevate the entire life of the church.”

This looks like it will be an excellent defense, both historical and biblical, of the doctrines of grace. Rarely have I been as excited about a series as I am about this one.

Here is an overview of each of the five volumes:

1400 bc – ad 100
From the first biblical author, Moses, to the last, the apostle John, the writers of Scripture recorded one standard of salvation in the doctrines of grace. From Genesis to Revelation, more than forty authors over a period of fifteen hundred years wrote the transcendent truths of God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation. As a result, the Bible in its entirety teaches that God saves sinners-the Father choosing His elect, the Son redeeming these chosen ones, and the Spirit calling, regenerating, and preserving them throughout all the ages to come.

2ND – 16TH centuries
Standing squarely upon the Scriptures, the early church fathers-among them Irenaeus, Jerome, and Augustine-writing in the second through fifth centuries, affirmed the biblical truths of sovereign grace. The proclamation of these doctrinal distinctives quieted somewhat in the medieval church, but it was renewed during the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century through such stalwarts as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and the members of the Synod of Dort. Europe was suddenly ablaze with the doctrines of grace.

16TH – 17TH centuries
The Reformation reached Scotland with John Knox and influenced England under the English Reformers and the heroic martyrs during the reign of Bloody Mary. In their struggle with the Church of England in the seventeenth century, the English Puritans-the Westminster divines, the Scottish Covenanters, Particular Baptists, and Independents-mightily upheld the biblical distinctives articulated in Reformed theology. Scotland and England burned brightly with the truth of sovereign grace.

17TH – 19TH centuries
The history-altering impact of the Reformation soon crossed the Atlantic with the Pilgrims. In America, the truths of God’s sovereign grace were proclaimed by the American Puritans, who witnessed the Great Awakening under the influence of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and others. The Second Great Awakening followed, with Timothy Dwight and Asahel Nettleton. Nineteenth-century America also saw the emergence of Princeton Seminary, with Charles Hodge and Benjamin B. Warfield, and the Southern Baptist Convention, with James P. Boyce. Distinguished Presbyterian figures such as Robert L. Dabney, James H. Thornwell, and William G. T. Shedd also stood tall. These godly men infected the American consciousness with biblical Calvinism.

19TH century – the present
Emboldened by the truths of sovereign grace, strong Calvinists such as William Carey launched the modern missions movement to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. In the nineteenth century, England, Scotland, and Holland became Reformed strongholds for powerful proclaimers of grace such as Charles H. Spurgeon, J. C. Ryle, Charles Simeon, Robert Murray McCheyne, and Abraham Kuyper. In more recent times, a resurgence of the doctrines of grace has come through the prolific pulpits and pens of men such as A. W. Pink, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, James Montgomery Boice, R. C. Sproul, John Piper, and John MacArthur. Through these eminent expositors, the long line of godly men has extended triumphantly to this present hour.

At this time, the book is available only through Ligonier’s store (link). In the coming weeks it will become available through a variety of online retailers, though sadly, it will not be sold through Amazon. To learn more about the series, you can visit Ligonier’s site for sample chapters and an interview with Steve Lawson. While the publication dates for subsequent volumes have not yet been set, it seems that the second volume will be available in late 2007 and subsequent volumes will follow at one-year intervals.

Here are a few of the book’s endorsements:

“Steven Lawson clearly and comprehensively lays the scriptural groundwork for the doctrines of grace.” – Dr. John MacArthur

“The doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of God are joy-giving, life-changing, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying, missions-motivating, evangelism-encouraging, and discipleship-promoting truths. If you think that the teaching of God’s sovereignty in sinners’ salvation is a man-made idea, you’ll think again after you’ve walked through the Bible with Dr. Lawson.” – Dr. J. Ligon Duncan

“The doctrines of grace are often misunderstood and mischaracterized. This helpful new book explains them thoughtfully and well. May God use it for His glory and others’ good.” – Dr. D. James Kennedy

I am eager to read this book and the four that follow it. You know I’ll have a review as soon as I can make my way through this title’s 565 pages.

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