Ferguson’s Decalogue

The second table of Ferguson’s Decalogue for preachers. Points 8 and 9 particularly noteworthy.

Interestingly for me, Dr. F contradicts a comment I made on a similar topic in my previous post. He says this under point 6,

Spiritual surgery must be done within the context of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

So far so good. This makes sense. I take this to mean that the theatre must be prepared by laying out the grace in Christ before surgery can begin. But then in the next sentence he says,

Only by seeing our sin do we come to see the need for and wonder of grace.

This seems to be the wrong way round. Surely, light drives out darkness, rather than darkness looking for and welcoming the light.

What say ye?

Ferguson’s Decalogue

7 thoughts on “Ferguson’s Decalogue

  1. Johnhttp://john.pettigrew.org.uk/blog/ says:

    I think the two are talking about different things. We need light to drive out our darkness – and so before we know Christ, Christ must break into our world.

    However, _after_ we know Christ, we already have some light. The task of the preacher (well, part of it) is surely to use that light to illuminate some of the dark places and point out sin – and hence to point out our need for grace, and the wonder of it.

    Sounds reasonable to me, anyway!

    pax et bonum

  2. Paul says:

    Didn’t Johnathan Edwards talk somewhere about men and women needing to be aware of just how bad sin and their condition was before they were likely to repent? Don’t have the books to hand just now. Mind you, that applies to the situation where there is no light as yet. Not the sort of specific surgery you originally had in mind?

  3. Patrick says:

    Perhaps another way of looking at it is that faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. True faith is a penitent faith and true repentance is a believing penitance.

    Candid confession comes in the context of belief in God’s grace (Ps. 130). Yet belief requires a change, a repentance toward God and His Word. So knowledge of sin and of grace are interdependent; they go hand in hand.

    So to ask which comes first, repentance or faith, is to ask a flawed question. For the answer is both.

    Ferguson speaks on this I believe in his book “Christian Life” as well as on the Marrow tapes.

  4. Marion says:

    Very new to the discussion and perhaps not quite understanding the issue at hand. However, if you’re talking about a person who isn’t a christian, then isn’t conviction of sin the only way they come to see their need for grace?

    As for a preacher talking to believers… hearing about the need for grace has often reminded me to appreciate how great my own needs are, engendering thankfulness and humility.

    But, like I said, I may be misunderstanding the question. Thought provoking though. Thanks!

  5. Johnhttp://john.pettigrew.org.uk/blog/ says:

    Speaking from my own experience and that of several friends, I’d say that that’s not the only way. Rather, God can break into our lives in different ways. Conviction of sin will eventually come into it, I agree with you there, but needn’t be “the” way that God reveals Godself to nonbelievers.

    pax et bonum

  6. Stephen says:

    Thanks for all the comments over the last few days. I think this question has taken me by surprise and I realised that I have never really thought about enough.

    I have heard sermons, though thankfully not many, where the preacher has railed at length against sin. I vividly remember hearing a Free Presbyterian in Glasgow ranting against the evils of Roman Catholicism. While I agreed with his point, I couldn’t see that it was a winsome way to preach. The point could have been made much more simply and then spent most of the time preaching Christ.

    Patrick, I agree with your comment that repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. However, it still leaves the question of how we should preach. Is preaching about sin and grace two sides of the same coin also? Should the weight of the sermon be equally balanced? I can’t get away from the evidence in Acts and other places that the weight of preaching is on the explanation of Christ and his work, and that in doing so the hearers who respond seem to be aware of their need of salvation and their sin without it being spelled out to them. It seems to knock on the head the idea that we should first preach sin that grace may be seen to be truly gracious.

    As you can see, I think I side with John (what!? agreement?? (with the exception of the weird “Godself”)) and Chris on the whole over Paul and Marion!

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