Book Review – The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness

by Joe Quatrone, Jr.
When it comes to the process of sanctification, who is responsible for what? Teachings on personal holiness range from a “God is in control so don’t worry about your own conduct” approach to a legalistic rules and regulations approach that on a practical level leaves holiness entirely up to the individual. Which is it? On the surface it may seem that grace and the personal discipline to pursue holiness are opposed to one another, but Jerry Bridges argues that they are not. In fact, they go hand in hand. Bridges provides a balanced approach to sanctification that emphasizes both God’s grace and human responsibility. Indeed, God is in control and His grace is the ingredient that empowers our efforts to become more holy. This book provides a balanced understanding of how grace and personal, vigorous effort work together for a life-long pursuit of holiness.

A foundational point that Bridges makes is that Christians must constantly preach the gospel to themselves. The conventional paradigm is that the gospel is relevant to unbelievers, and that after they come to the Lord, the essential focus becomes one of discipleship. However, Bridges reminds us that daily recognition of the saving grace of the gospel message is necessary if discipleship is not to become a matter of performance and of empty striving.

Those who read the first part of the book and begin to think (as I admittedly did) that Bridges is soft-peddling sin by exalting grace need to read through the entire book. The last six chapters really bring a solid balance to the presentation of pursuing holiness. Bridges puts practical application on God’s grace and develops several biblical disciplines that all Christians should heed in their lives. Particularly insightful was his comment that many folks who practice certain disciplines can get into a legalistic mindset because they do not practice the disciplines out of a love for God, but out of a fear of guilt or out of loving the disciplines themselves but not loving God.

I would strongly recommend this book to all Christians at any stage of their Christian walk. There is some very good meat in here that personally convicted me, and I think many Christians who are trapped either in a legalistic or antinomian mindset will find the biblical balance set forth by Bridges to be very refreshing. Those who struggle with understanding their role versus God’s role in sanctification will find in this book a God focused perspective that affirms human responsibility in the context of God’s sovereignty, and that these truths are complementary in the area of Christian living and pursuing holiness. I believe this book, which grapples with many of the central issues of the Christian walk, should be required reading for all believers. When it comes to the area of Christian living, this book is a must read.

One Response

  1. Love Jerry Bridges writing! I have particularly enjoyed his book Pursuit of Holiness.

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