Finding Forgiveness by Stanley Gale is a new book about the nature and practical working out of forgiveness in the life of the believer. If I could summarize the book in a few words I would say that it is both wonderfully practical and profoundly theological– it is theologically pastoral. The first chapter focuses on the place of forgiveness within the big picture of the gospel. It is, as Gale describes, the “jewel of justification”. Using WCS Q33 as a basic outline, Gale demonstrates that our justification is a once and for all pronouncement of guiltlessness before God.
Q. What is Justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 33
This is an important starting point because it sets the question of forgiveness squarely within the context of gospel grace and not as a transactional and meritorious exchange with God. This is important for the reader to grasp because the following chapter (called Forgiveness as Kingdom Currency) could make any reformed reader sweat bullets if the author hadn’t already set the context within the gospel.
The second chapter is critical for the reader to understand before moving into such practical applications of forgiveness as forgiving others as well as ourselves. If you skip this chapter you will miss the theological foundation for the task of living out forgiveness. Don’t skip this chapter. I have to confess, when I first received the book in the mail and read through the chapter titles I was a bit nervous when I saw a chapter with the word “currency” in the title. I was not familiar with the author and wasn’t sure where he stood on the Reformed understanding of grace. I was comforted by the fact that Finding Forgiveness is published by Reformation Heritage Books and that held my worry at bay while I worked my way through the chapter. Having just read chapter 1 in which Gale affirmed that our justification is by grace alone, I was confident that he would resolved the tension and end up at a theologically orthodox position — the way in which he did this was masterful to say the least.
Confession would be opening an accounts receivable ledger, looking up the debt of the sin we confess, and finding it has already been paid. We don’t draw on Christ’s blood to pay. We draw up to the ledger to discover it has already been paid by Him; the debt is wiped clean. God calls us to the throne of grace not to be forgiven but to find forgiveness.
This distinction is important because the predominant concept of how believers relate to ongoing confession is that we confess our sins in order to be forgiven all over again. In this understanding of confessing our sins, we are told that though we are made clean upon justification, we must return to the cross continually in order for God to dust off the residual sin that accumulates between confessions. In this view, confession is a currency which we pay to God in order to for Him to be able to forgive us. Gale leaves no room for this and is thoroughly Reformed in his explanation of forgiveness.
With the theological stage set, Gale rounds off the book with a brilliantly pastoral treatise on the practicalities of forgiveness. Here he deals with such issues as how to practice forgiveness with others, the “alter of forgiveness” that we have in the Lord’s Supper, and forgiving ourselves.
Finding forgiveness helps the believer understand his/her own forgiveness rooted in the gospel and understand how and why we forgive others. This book is just for a subset of Christianity- it is a book that the entire Church would benefit from reading. The grace of forgiveness and its continuing role in the Christian life is central to Christianity and the character and nature of God and the issue of forgiveness is important for us to get right. This is a book that you will want to read, set down, and come back to after a while. Forgiveness is a life-long grace that we partake of and in. I would absolutely recommend this as a part of a homeschooling curriculum as many of the existing character formation units tend to focus more on behavior modification rather than addressing character as something that God works in us through the gospel. The questions at the end of each chapter are perfect for family discussions if this book is read as a family.
Where to purchase Finding Forgiveness
About the Author
Stanley D. Gale (MEd, MDiv, DMin) has served Christ and congregation as a pastor for thirty years. He has authored books on prayer, spiritual warfare, the Christian life, evangelism, and biblical worldview (Ecclesiastes). His ministry website is www.CHOPministry.net.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Reformation Heritage Books in exchange for an online review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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