December 19, 2011

Alistair Begg: Pathway to Freedom

  Pathway to Freedom: How God’s Laws Guide Our Lives by Alistair Begg (2003) - 5 out of 5 Stars

I’ve benefited from the work of many Christian authors and preachers in my life, but Alistair Begg has a special place in my heart. It was through listening to his sermons, podcasted through Truth For Life, that I discovered a whole new world of expository preaching. For the first time that I can remember, I was listening to the Bible taught and applied on its own terms rather than marshaled to make someone else’s point. I had developed somewhat of a mistrust for most contemporary preachers, but Alistair Begg taught me that there were still some men preaching in churches who considered it their duty to remain faithful to proclaim what the Bible says. For that I am grateful.

This book, Pathway to Freedom, is an exposition of the Ten Commandments and an attempt to show their importance to the Christian life. Since it is based on a series of sermons he preached, it might be surprising that I didn’t rush to read through this book when I first received it. Ultimately, I guess I had concluded that I already knew what he was going to say, so there wasn’t much more to be gained from reading it. I’m glad to say that I was mistaken. Having read through it now, I can say this is an excellent book and one that I’d recommend heartily.

Decrying the lack of a sense of Christian duty among modern evangelicals, Begg traces our “moral flabbiness” to a neglect of God’s law. This neglect represents a clear departure from the pattern found throughout historical Christianity. The purpose of this book is to demonstrate that, far from being irrelevant or legalistic, the moral law of God as expressed in the Ten Commandments is foundational to living out our freedom in Christ.

When dealing with the topic of the law in the Bible, we must avoid the dangers of both legalism and license. We must also recognize the proper place of the law in the Christian life, and understand how we should and should not use the law. Building on Romans 6:14, he explains the ways that a Christian is not under the law, and then goes on to expound the classic Reformed view of the threefold use of the law.

The next 10 chapters work one by one through the 10 commandments, explaining and applying them to contemporary issues in manner that is both interesting and convicting. In each chapter I found myself challenged and convicted, and the mirror of God’s law was turned towards me. Underlying his exposition are these 3 principles of interpretation:

  1. The commandments are spiritual and require that we obey from the heart. A mere outward conformity to the commandments does not constitute obedience.
  2. There is a positive and negative aspect to each commandment. Where a sin is forbidden, a duty is commanded. In other words, the “thou shalt not” implies a contrary “thou shalt.” For example, the command against bearing false witness implies a command to uphold the truth.
  3. Each commandment forbids not only the act but also the desires and inclinations which lead to the act. Not only is adultery forbidden, but also the lust that precedes it (Matt. 5:27-30)

Following the exposition, Begg concludes with a chapter on the good news for all lawbreakers – that in the death of Jesus Christ the penalty for disobedience has been paid for whoever will put their trust in him, that his righteous obedience is counted as our righteous obedience, and that his resurrection to life is counted as our resurrection to life, and that through the Holy Spirit which he gives we have been filled with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and are free to begin walking in ever increasing obedience to him.

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