Book Review: Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur

The Common Definition

If you were to describe a hero, what words would you use? Courage, conviction, passion, strength, selflessness—these character traits and others like them are probably the ideas that quickly spring to mind. In our culture (and most others), we think of heroes as individuals who distinguish themselves from all the average joes of the world through their extraordinary lives and reputations.

In his new book, Twelve Unlikely Heroes, John MacArthur provides a completely different perspective on what it takes to be a true hero in this life. He says, “The greatest heroes are those who are the human means God uses to change people forever—for their good and His glory. And these true heroes who make an eternal impact are invariably the most unexpected and ordinary people—God makes unlikely heroes.”

The Unqualified Candidates

Twelve Unlikely Heroes follows MacArthur’s two previous titles, Twelve Ordinary Men and Twelve Extraordinary Women, as the newest addition to his popular series of books focusing on the lives and legacies of biblical characters. In his latest book, MacArthur features the biographies of both familiar and lesser known names in Scripture—Enoch, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon and Samson, Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James (brother of Jesus), and Mark and Onesimus.

As MacArthur expounds on the biblical accounts of these individuals, he makes it clear that on their own, none of them is actually worthy of being called a hero. In the end, there would be nothing notable about the lives of these men and women, if not for the God they served.

The Ultimate Hero

MacArthur recently explained the overriding theme of Twelve Unlikely Heroes:

In truth, God is the real hero of every story. He relished choosing and using the most unlikely people to make spiritual impacts far beyond their own imagination or inherent usefulness. These aren’t lessons about human potential, positive thinking, or how to do the miraculous; they’re about how God, in His providence, deals in the circumstances of lives to accomplish His purpose. They show how God can order the affairs of ordinary people—the flawed, weak, and faltering—for His own significant spiritual outcomes.

My Humble Opinion

I greatly enjoyed reading Twelve Unlikely Heroes and found myself repeatedly thinking, “I never knew that!” In this book, MacArthur not only provides the reader with skillful explanations of the Scriptures, but he also sheds light on the text by sharing numerous cultural and historical insights. Additionally, I also appreciated the way that MacArthur brought his teaching down to a practical level, helping readers to see what the life of each biblical character reveals about God and how it should make a difference in their lives today.

Twelve Unlikely Heroes is both interesting and insightful, and as such, is a book I would gladly recommend.

More from Dr. MacArthur on the unlikely heroes of Scripture…

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through a blogger review program. 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 

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