The Truth About Forgiveness Paperback – Apr 30 2012
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About the Author
John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, president of the Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry. In more than four decades of ministry, John has written dozens of bestselling books, including The MacArthur Study Bible, The Gospel According to Jesus, and Slave. He lives in Los Angeles.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
From the first page, I found myself screaming "Yes!" I assumed that this was going to be a basic book, but MacArthur hits the nail on the head when dealing with reasons we don't want forgiveness. He starts by rallying against the sin as sickness mentality in one of the best presentations I've ever read (this is coming from a Biblical Counseling student. I've read about it before.) Granted, it is a few years dated (cites the DSM III-R, DSM IV-R is current [p. 5]), but it is true none the less. He describes the ways man tries to obtain forgiveness, through the law or through Christ. He cites studies and scripture, and is poignant and eloquent in doing it. I'm in love with this book... and I haven't even started chapter two.
Now chapter two: MacArthur speaks of the fact that only God can forgive sins. And Jesus forgave sins, which means that Jesus is God and forgives sins. He uses the case study of the quadriplegic lowered through the ceiling's healing to show this. He presents the story and it's meaning and implications well - he is helpful in showing the connections between healing and forgiveness, and offers a fresh (read: biblical) take on the story (not "what will you do to bring your friends to Jesus.")
Chapter three then deals with God's forgiveness in spite of who we are, not because of who we are. MacArthur speaks clearly about confession and repentance as necessary. He continues in chapter 4 to show from the Prodigal Son and story of Joseph how God actually wants to forgive. MacArthur is faithful to present the full truth of the scriptures on the issue of forgiveness. I'm glad I didn't skim like I wanted too! Chapter five finishes up the story of the Prodigal Son focusing on the father's desire to forgive.
Chapter six speaks of the narrow and wide paths, and speaks against Finny-esque easy believism. He does not (unfortunately) outline a doctrine of substitutionary atonement, but rather focuses on man's role in forgiveness with God. Which is the point of the book - and it is brief - which is why I'm keeping my "unfortunately" comment in parenthesis. Chapter seven concludes with our response: Seek forgiveness from God and forgive others.
Final Thoughts: throughout my summary, you get some of my opinions. Here are the rest. I really do like this book. Run, don't walk, to the internet and consider buying it. It's a really good book. It's very practical and not theology heavy. You can read the book quickly, I did it in one day. This is somewhat peripheral, but the binding is a little bit cheap. I'll probably have some loose pages in it because I'm bound to be lending this book out and reading it over again.
The author started off with 12 pages (out of 112 pages) ranting about modern psychology. His points in relation to forgiveness could have been handled in 2 pages. I was hoping to be able to hand this book to unbelievers, but the rant came across to me as off-putting unless you already agreed with him (and I did), so I doubt that the people who need to know about forgiveness the most would even get past those pages.
I was surprised at how often the author made comments--and even built his case for forgiveness--on things not actually mentioned in the Bible. And he could have easily stuck with the plentiful Scriptures that talk specifically about forgiveness.
For example, the author stated with certainty that the Pharisees had come in Luke 5:17-26 to condemn Jesus and thwart his popularity (page 23). This was early in Jesus' ministry, and nowhere in the 3 gospel accounts of this event does it state that this was their intention. And the Bible doesn't hesitate to say when it was someone's intent.
The author also portrayed the Pharisees as the main Bad Guys of the gospel, which books like "Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus" clearly demonstrate isn't true. Even in the Luke 5:17-26 event, two of the three gospel writers that talked about this event only mention the Scribes showing unbelief. Yet MacArthur focused on the Pharisees instead.
While I recognize that this wasn't meant to be a scholarly work, it would have been nice to know where he got his information about what Pharisee's believed (like his comments on page 61), the cultural information behind the parable of the prodigal son, and so on. He seemed to be making a lot of assumptions and even added to the Bible in an attempt to increase the impact of what was actually given in the Bible. For example, the Bible doesn't even mention a village in Luke 15:11-31, but the author spent several pages making a major point out of how the father saved his prodigal son from the shame of having to walk through the village (pages 72-80). If his information is correct (and see my other comments for why I'm uncertain of this), then it's an interesting undercurrent to Jesus' parable, but it obviously wasn't Jesus' main point if He didn't even see fit to mention the existence of a village.
He also commented several times (for example, pages 18, 86) on how the Pharisees had made all these rules so that they could earn their way into rightness with God. Yet, as I understood it (and, unfortunately, I'm not sure which places I read this), the people came to those who knew the Law really well and asked them to make these boundaries so that they wouldn't sin accidentally.
It'd be like a young woman who wants to be modest asking her mother what, exactly, makes up modest clothing. Yes, it could easily turn into being all about necklines and hem lengths, but that doesn't mean the mother originally made those rules to make her daughter earn her righteousness.
Basically, I think there are books out there on the topic of forgiveness that are more focused on what the Bible actually does say on the topic, and I'd recommend them instead. (For example, "Forgiveness: Breaking the Power of the Past" by Kay Arthur).
I received this book as a review copy through the BookSneeze program.
"No amount of tears can atone for sin. No number of good deeds can make amends for wrong we have done against God."
In a world where sin is written off as sickness, and psychologists advise patients not to blame themselves, MacArthur begins his book by showing how we are helpless to atone for our sin, thus also helpless to be forgiven. "In the human realm there is nothing in time or eternity that can free us from the guilt of our sin," MacArthur writes. The theme of this book is a forgiveness despite our efforts, not as a result of our efforts. This book tells of a wonderful forgiveness that is offered to us.
"The only way to find real forgiveness and freedom from our sin is through humble, contrite repentence."
MacArthur then tackles repentance, which must necessarily go hand in hand with forgiveness. We can't escape our guilt, so it is necessary to repent of it. In his own words, "we must come face-to-face with the exceeding sinfulness of our sin." He then proceeds to lay out the gospel of salvation in clear terms: Jesus Christ came to earth as a man, and died for our sins, so that those who repent may have everlasting life.
This is a fantastic book. It's short, it's sweet, and it's simple. MacArthur goes head to head against very entrenched ideas on today's society and interprets them all within the lens of the gospel. Like its predecessor, The Truth about the Lordship of Christ, this book has an incredibly Gospel-focused message that doesn't waste your time needlessly. I highly recommend this book to all readers, particularly those who want to know or be reminded of what the core of Christianity is all about.