What does Prepared By Grace, For Grace (Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley, Reformation Heritage Books, 2013) promise?
Beeke and Smalley address “the question of how God ordinarily brings sinners to the point of trusting in Christ alone for salvation. Specifically, is conversion an event or a process?” (pg 15)
They believe that the answer to this question is vital for Gospel presentation: “Should we portray God as nothing but love, and try to woo people to this loving God who can ease their pain and fill the emptiness of their lives? Or should we also tell people that emptiness and pain are symptoms of sin, and God hates sin with a burning, righteous fury?”(pg 15)
Since contemporary evangelicalism seems to embracing the first of those two patterns of Gospel, and are motivated to do so on the basis that it is congruent with the concept that salvation is by grace alone, Beeke and Smalley seek to demonstrate preaching law and judgment to those who are not Christians is a means by which their minds and hearts are graciously prepared to receive God’s gracious salvation.
What did I like?
Beeke and Smalley allow their historical sources to speak for themselves. The copious use of source materials could be overwhelming, but the authors guide the reader along through their survey.
Their overall aim, though, is not to ultimately defend the puritans as upholding the letter of Calvin’s thought, as to hold all of their subjects up to the Bible and point out where they best align with Scripture’s teaching, and are not afraid to observe instances where the bounds of biblical warrant have been overstepped.
It is difficult to summarise a book of this depth and complexity, but I appreciated their demonstration that the puritans were concerned to preach in a way that prepared souls for conversion, while being careful not formularise the experiences which lead up to the new birth.
What I’m not sure about.
A subject for another book would be an exegetical and homiletical theology which applies these principals to contemporary preaching.
While the subject matter could seem centuries and continents distant, the central theme of Prepared By Grace, For Grace is strikingly topical. If you’ve ever attended an outreach rally where people are invited to receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour on the basis of their lack of fulfilment, broken relationships, or personal need for healing or material provision; and where His death and resurrection are not explicitly explained as having been in our place to receive God’s judgment for our sin, then you can understand how contemporary Prepared By Grace, For Grace really is.
Recommended for pastors and those who have a heart for seeing the church present the Gospel with biblical integrity.