There is a great deal of ignorance and confusion regarding the subject of sanctification in our day. Perhaps that has always been the case. There are, however, some very helpful books on the subject that are available to the modern reader. (See here.) Thankfully, you can add this recent book by Sinclair Ferguson to that list as well.
The title of the book points the reader to Ferguson’s working definition of holiness or sanctification as primarily involving devotion. He writes:
“To be holy, to be sanctified, therefore, to be a ‘saint’, is in simple terms to be devoted to God.” (p.4)
This is not exactly your typical book on sanctification (not that books on that particular subject are by any means common to begin with). As Ferguson himself puts it in his Introduction:
“This is not so much a ‘how to’ book as it is a ‘how God does it’ one. It is not one dominated by techniques for growing in holiness.”
What sets this book on holiness apart (Yes, that was a pun!) is that Ferguson provides us with what he calls a “manual of biblical teaching on holiness” (xi) that is almost entirely passagetical and exegetical. In other words, each chapter deals with a particular passage of Scripture on the subject of sanctification, and largely consists of an exegesis or interpretation of that passage.
That is not to say that there is not a systematic bent or logical progression of topics from one chapter to the next, merely that the overall thrust of the book is exegetical rather than strictly systematic. This, I think, is one of the real strengths of the book.
The passages that he deals with are as follows:
- 1 Peter 1:1-25
- Romans 12:1-2
- Galatians 2:20
- Romans 6:1-14
- Galatians 5:16-17
- Colossians 3:1-17
- Romans 8:13
- Matthew 5:17-20
- Hebrews 12:1-14
- Romans 8:29
You may notice that the above list consists exclusively of passages from the New Testament. While that is the case, Ferguson does refer to the Old Testament quite a bit throughout the book. If I were to nitpick, the only (admittedly small) thing that I would question would be the absence of a text from the epistles of the Apostle John.
Exegetical books can at times be a bit tedious to read, especially for the lay person, but this volume is not written like an exegetical commentary. Instead, it is both scholarly and accessible, which is one of the many strengths of this book. It serves as a basic introduction to the subject of sanctification, all the while teaching or modeling for the reader the ‘how to’ of exegesis or interpretation as a bonus of sorts.
So if you are looking for a helpful book on the subject of holiness or sanctification, and one that drives you more directly into a study of the Scriptures themselves, this is just the book for you! Read it devotionally, one chapter at a time. Read it with your Bible open in front of you as well. Either way just read it – you will be glad that you did!
You can order a copy for yourself here: Devoted to God