Sunday, August 5, 2012

Book Review: Putting Amazing Back Into Grace

Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace. Michael Horton. 1994/2011. Baker Books. 272 pages.

I was so happy to read the revised and updated edition of Michael Horton's Putting Amazing Back Into Grace. The original was one of my first theological reads a little over a decade ago, and I remembered it as being an amazing book, a true must read!  What I remember most about Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace was the clear presentation of the gospel, of imputation, of what salvation truly means. I had never understood before, and so it was life-changing to discover it. 

Who should read it? Anyone and everyone who is interested in the gospel, in grace, in the doctrines of grace, in salvation, who wants to understand more about sin, justification, and sanctification. It is also great at presenting the big picture of the Bible. Horton is one who realizes that the proper starting place for the gospel is in God's creation. That one has to understand or comprehend the beginnings to grasp the gospel. One has to understand the perfection of creation AND the fall. One has to grasp just how horrible sin is before one can appreciate grace. 

The chapters include:

  • Jumping Through Hoops Is for Circus Animals
  • Created with Class
  • Rebels Without a Cause
  • Grace Before Time
  • So What?
  • Climbing Jacob's Ladder
  • Mission Accomplished
  • Intoxicating Grace
  • Righteous Sinners
  • No Lost Causes
  • Two Keys to Spiritual Growth
  • A Kingdom of Priests

Each chapter concludes with study questions. Putting Amazing Back Into Grace is a book I'd recommend to everybody. It is an amazing, amazing read. 

Favorite quotes:
The focus of the Bible is not on the question, "What would Jesus do?" but on, "What has Jesus done?" From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is an unfolding story of God's eternal purpose to glorify himself in the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. (14)
It is not that Jesus Christ makes up for whatever we lack in the righteousness department but that his righteousness alone is sufficient to stand in God's judgment. (15)
God does not give us the grace to save ourselves with his aid. He declares us righteous the moment we give up our own claims to righteousness and our own struggles for divine approval and recognize the sufficiency of Christ's righteousness as our own. (16)
Grace is the gospel. The extent to which we are unclear about who does what in salvation is the degree to which we will obscure the gospel. At a time when moralism, self-righteousness, and self-help religion dominate in much of evangelical preaching, publishing, and broadcasting, we desperately need a return to this message of grace. (26)
Error always piggybacks on truth. Sin cannot create; it can only distort, corrupt, and deform. (52)
I have often thought that one good defense for the inspiration of Scripture is the doctrine of election, for no mortal man or woman could have invented an idea that so glorifies God and so humbles the human ego... You see, we can talk about grace, sing about grace, preach about grace, just so long as we do not get too close to it. Election is too close. When we give in to election, we finally give up on ourselves in the matter of salvation. (63)
When we choose God, it costs us nothing compared to the cost of his choosing us. His choice of us signed his Son's death warrant. (65)
Though planted in a specific time and place in our history, the cross was in God's heart before the world began. His love has always been sacrificial, liberal, and costly. (69)
Knowing that God has chosen us reminds us that we are loved, though not lovely; chosen, even though we're not necessarily choice in the eyes of the boss, the spouse, the parents, or the folks at church. We are accepted--not because we are acceptable ourselves, but because "he hath made us accepted in the beloved." (Ephesians 1:6) (79)
One of the church's greatest problems today is that it has come to the place where it takes God's grace for granted. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it "cheap grace" and said, "Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves." (80)
Ultimately, salvation must be understood vertically--in terms of being reconciled to an offended God. Election brings the focus back to God, for whom we exist, rather than the other way around. It is often suggested that a doctrine like this one will drive sinners to despair; that they will simply give up. But this is what is required in gospel evangelism! We must despair of our own efforts; we must give up on ourselves before we can place all of our hope and confidence in someone outside of us. If we don't drive sinners to despair, we have not properly preached the law: they are not yet at the end of their rope. (87)
Today we are trying to reconcile God to humanity instead of reconciling humanity to God. Our converts are weak because they depend on their own will and their own ability to trust and keep the thing going. Their faith is weak because they are constantly looking at themselves. God is pleased with the chosen because he is pleased with the Beloved in whom they are chosen, but this emphasis is missing today. With election as the backdrop, the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the focus of attention. (88)
Outside of Christ, there is only wrath; in Christ, there is only forgiveness, life, and joy. If you believe, you can be certain that your sins were covered at the cross and that you are saved from God's everlasting judgment. (117)
No one would choose God unless he had chosen them, no one would be redeemed if its effectiveness depended on them, and no one would believe unless God had given them faith. (128)
Everything we lost in the fall, Jesus Christ purchased back for us by his death. (132)
Grace does not free us to live to ourselves; it frees us to trust God and serve our neighbors sincerely for the first time. (171)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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