"The Truth About Forgiveness", by Dr. John MacArthur

John MacArthur is batting 3 for 3 in this "Truth About..." series.  While his approach is simply basic, it is extremely necessary.  He, once again, doesn't shie away from what needs to be addressed.  He hits hard and he hits where it hurts.  In this little book, he clearly articulates our need for forgiveness from a God whose forgiveness is undeserved and unwarranted.  This short 114-page book is premised upon two major events recorded in the Bible: The healing and forgiving of a paralytic; and the parable of the prodigal son. 

First, MacArthur details the miracle healing and forgiveness of the paralytic, providing insight into the culture and society at the time of the miracle, as well as what the onlookers and Pharisees were likely thinking.  The reason for the inclusion of the miracle in the gospels is that "healing is actually a perfect metaphor for forgiveness..." (p.37).  It is the forgiveness of the man's sin -- not the physical healing -- that is the climax of the miracle.  "But only God can forgive sin!", was the Pharisees' rebuttal.  And that's exactly what the miracle proved -- that Jesus, being God in flesh -- was not only able to heal, but had authority and the desire to forgive.

Which leads us into the next section.  In chapter 3, utilizing the parable of the prodigal son, MacArthur demonstrates how God WANTS to forgive.  If any chapter is going to anger readers, it's likely to be this one.  The bulk of the content of this chapter flies in the face of today's post-modern mindset that suggests we are all inherently good and lovable.  At the outset of the chapter, MacArthur writes, "We must understand that there is nothing in any sinner that compels God's love.  He does not love us because we are lovable.  He is not merciful to us because we in any way deserve His mercy.  We are despicable, vile sinners who, if we are not saved by the grace of God, will be thrown on the trash heap of eternity, which is hell.  We have no intrinsic value, no intrinsic worth -- there's nothing in us to love" (p.49).  Is it just me, or does this passage seem to be a direct attack against the concept of a book written recently by a pastor who suggests "love wins", where there is no judgment, where there is no hell?

But MacArthur doesn't stop there; He doesn't leave us lingering in woe.  Instead, he describes God's love for us and how he desires to forgive.  Here's what he has to say: "God's love for the reprobate is not the love of value; it is the love of pity for that which could have had value and has none.  It is a love of compassion.  It is a love of sorrow.  It is a love of pathos.  It is the same deep sense of compassion and pity we have when we see a scab-ridden derelict lying in the gutter.  It is not a love that is incompatible with revulsion, but it is a genuine, well-meant, compassionate, sympathetic love nonetheless" (p.50).

So, not only has God proven His willingness and desire to forgive, but He has actually done something about it.  Once again, substitutionary atonement enters the picture.  Skeptics hate the thought of it, but MacArthur doesn't back down.  He concludes the book with a firm nudge to his Christian audience: "Those who have the greatest sense of forgiveness are quickest to forgive others.  The people who know they've been forgiven much are able to forgive much.  I hope that's true of you" (p.108).  Additionally, "unbelievers might pay more attention to our gospel message if we gave them something special to notice" (p.110).

Without a doubt, I give "The Truth About Forgiveness" 5 stars!  It is truthful, hard-hitting, and necessary.  Buy it, read it, and give it to someone who needs to know the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Booksneeze/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for my unbiased review of it. I was not threatened or coerced or promised favors in exchange for a favorable review of it. All opinions are mine.

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