Matt Stewart, the Senior Pastor of South Shore Baptist Church in Crownsville, MD, has reviewed the recently released book PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones. Baptist 21 expects you will find this book a helpful addition to your ministry of engaging and articulating to others the grace of God and your own sanctification in being transformed by this great and glorious grace.
Check out this video where Daniel Montgomery explains the inspiration and purpose, the review below, and the book, PROOF.
Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones. PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 224 pp. $16.99
In a performance-driven world, grace has the tendency to offend. But contained within the offense of grace is the power of God for salvation. As authors Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones note, “The purpose of PROOF is to be an alarm clock that awakens you from the delusion that your destiny depends on you and frees you to discover the intoxicating joy of God’s wild and free grace” (16).
In PROOF, Montgomery and Jones team up to bring clarity to an old debate for a new generation in a way that focuses less on emotional rhetoric and more on scriptural evidence. The “doctrines of grace”, often labeled as “the five points of Calvinism,” have been a source of contention for centuries. But Montgomery and Jones set a new course in PROOF by eliminating unhelpful terminology that has been confused and misapplied. Bypassing the historically troublesome acronym TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints), the authors put forth their own acronym, PROOF (Planned Grace, Resurrecting Grace, Outrageous Grace, Overcoming Grace, Forever Grace).
While PROOF will not end the debate over the doctrines of grace, it will serve to clarify many well-intended, but unhelpful labels used to describe God’s sovereignty in salvation (Chapter 7 is especially helpful in clarifying some historical misunderstandings concerning the people and circumstances surrounding the Reformation). In fact, regardless of where the reader stands on some of the finer points of the plan of salvation, everyone can benefit from Montgomery and Jones’ contribution to the subject.
Grace for All of Life
It’s sometimes wrongly implied that only until recent days did the church rediscover the gospel of God’s grace. Godly, faithful men have been preaching the glories of God’s grace in salvation throughout the course of church history. What has emerged in a fresh way, however, is a renewed sense of the gospel of grace for all of life. That is, God’s grace isn’t relegated to conversion only, but to the entirety of the believer’s journey through life, from start to finish. Montgomery notes, “But this same outrageous grace is also the key that opens the door to freedom and joy because it reveals the truth that our standing before God has never depended on how well we perform” (78). God’s grace lavishes every aspect of the believer’s existence, so that all boasting before God is excluded, and all despair at not measuring up is replaced with the righteousness of Christ.
The Priority of Scripture
Dialogues over the doctrines of grace too often lead to emotional arguments that prove distracting and unhelpful. PROOF, however, is filled with reference after scriptural reference, leading the reader to wrestle with the biblical text itself. An entire appendix is devoted to simply laying out the passages associated with each point of PROOF (147-153). Even where there may be disagreement over interpretation, the reader is left to consider what the Bible has to say.
Mystery and Paradox
No matter how polished one’s theological system may be, no one has a corner on God or his ways. Montgomery and Jones do not shy away from this point, even when they argue passionately for what they believe Scripture has clearly revealed, “We must approach God with awareness that he is beyond us and that we will never fully understand him,” and, “Like children, we are called to accept things that perhaps don’t make logical sense to us when we first encounter them. Maybe they won’t make logical sense to us on this side of heaven” (141). Regardless of which side of the discussion we may fall on, this sort of humility is needed if we are to assess the Scriptures honestly and maintain unity.
From beginning to end, the authors emphasize that God has tethered the accomplishment of his sovereign plan with the obedience of Christians in proclaiming the gospel. Even in describing how God single-handedly calls “spiritual zombies” to life, the authors state, “God powerfully sends his church to proclaim the gospel in every nation. As the gospel is shared, God’s Spirit pierces the lives of particular people who are spiritually dead and exchanges their death for his life” (58-59). The authors go on to point out how missionaries such as William and Dorothy Carey, Hudson and Maria Taylor, and Ann and Adoniram Judson embraced God’s sovereign grace (142). The more convinced one becomes of God’s sovereignty in salvation, the more they should be driven to preach the gospel, not less. Believing God will absolutely save sinners should lead to missionary zeal.
Preserved and Persevering
In these “gospel-centered” days, of which we should all be thankful, some run the risk of emphasizing grace to the detriment of the pursuit of holiness. But as Montgomery and Jones helpfully point out, the radical grace that saves sinners is the same grace that empowers them to strive for godliness. And God has planned to use certain means, even warnings, to preserve his people by his grace. “Our works are necessary for our salvation without being the ground of our salvation. We grow and keep ourselves in God’s holiness, but we know that when we grow, it’s ultimately because God is keeping us and working in us” (116).
Throughout the book, Montgomery and Jones also provide accessible summaries of doctrines, helpful catechism questions for children, refreshing lyrics to theologically rich songs, interesting comparisons of historical Christian confessions, as well as detailed end notes for those interested in digging deeper. The result of PROOF is a book that will help Christians to search the Scriptures carefully, bask in the glory of God’s sovereign grace, and share the gospel faithfully and confidently. No matter where we stand on the doctrines of grace, one thing is certain: God’s grace should induce in us the same response echoed in our own Baptist Faith and Message 2000, “It excludes boasting and promotes humility.”