Simply by Grace: An Introduction to God’s Life-Changing Gift. By Charles C. Bing. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2009. 160 pp. Paper, $18.00.
As the subtitle suggests, this book is directed to people who are new or relatively new to Free Grace issues. The author’s style is significantly different from many of the Free Grace books (e.g., by Hodges and Dillow), which have been heavy on exegesis. This book is easy to understand and very reader friendly.
The so-called crossless gospel controversy is not mentioned or directly discussed. While Bing does cite 1 Cor 15:3-4 (which he mistakenly cites as 1 Cor 15:4-5, see p. 147), he does not wade into the discussion of what the minimum content of saving faith is (though see p. 41 where he says one must believe in Jesus and in His death and resurrection in order for Him to give us everlasting life). Instead, he rejects many faulty invitations like “Ask Jesus into your heart,” “Give your heart to God,” “Invite Christ into your life,” “Receive Christ as your Savior,” “Make Christ Lord and Savior,” “Make Christ Lord of your life,” “Put Jesus on the throne of your life,” “Confess your sins,” “Repent of your sins,” and “Pray this prayer” (pp. 149-53). This is all very helpful and timely.
There is a strong emphasis on the promise of everlasting life in this book. Chapter 6 deals with eternal security and Chap. 7 deals with assurance of eternal security. Bing doesn’t repeatedly say that one must believe in Jesus for everlasting life in order to be born again, however, he does say this, “The way I understand the Bible, anyone who is a true Christian would at some point have had to believe God’s promise of eternal life, because that’s what it means to be a Christian, a believer” (p. 77, italics his).
The best chapter in my opinion was Chap. 8, “Grace and Good Works.” Bing does an excellent job of explaining why assurance is not based on our works, what James 2:14-26 means, and what the options are in terms of a professing believer whose works show someone in the spiritual far country (he may be a born-again backslider, he may a newer Christian who has not yet matured, or possibly he never understood and believed the gospel message in the first place, pp. 90-92). I also thought that his discussion of theBēma and accountability (Chap. 9: A New Accountability) was excellent.
His discussion of what faith is (pp. 40-41) and of costly grace and of so-called cheap grace (pp. 45-46) is also superb.
The story about his grandparents who came from China to America in the 1870s is quite moving (pp. 131-32). His paternal grandmother came to faith in Jesus Christ after she and her son (Bing’s Dad) were abandoned by the author’s grandfather. Bing says, “I also enjoy her spiritual freedom through Jesus Christ” (p. 132).
There is room to quibble a bit. The lack of a Scripture or Subject index renders this book less helpful than it could have been. That Bing fails to cite other Free Grace books or organizations makes it harder for the person new to the Free Grace position to find other similar books. And, finally, for a book on grace, there is actually only a very superficial discussion of the word grace (pp. 16-18), though this is understandable since the author intentionally avoided becoming overly academic.
That this book is published by Kregel, a major publisher, is certainly encouraging for JOTGES readers. It is heartening to see the Free Grace position receiving attention by a major publisher.
This is a helpful book with which to introduce friends to the Free Grace position. While I would explain a few things a bit differently than the author (e.g., repentance), I found myself in essential agreement throughout. I recommend this book.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society