Galatians is all about the gospel. It’s obvious, I guess, and yet many people seem to miss the sheer gospel-centeredness of the book with all the joy and freedom it holds out. Perhaps more than any other book of the Bible it shows with utter clarity that the gospel is not only the message that saves us, but the message that underlies and empowers all of the Christian life.
Galatians For You is a new book from Tim Keller that simply opens up the epistle to the Galatians, teaching it verse-by-verse. It is the first in a new series of expository guides from The Good Book Company—a series I’m excited about. These are books that can be used to read, to feed and to lead—to read on your own, to feed you devotionally and to help you lead others through Galatians. It can be read from cover-to-cover as any other book; it can be read as a personal Bible study; it can be a curriculum for a group study. It will prove excellent in any of those contexts.
Keller wants the reader “to see Paul showing the young Christians in Galatia that their spiritual problem is not only caused by failing to live in obedience to God, but also by relying on obedience to Him. We’re going to see him telling them that all they need—all they could ever need—is the gospel of God’s unmerited favor to them through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. We’re going to hear him solving their issues not through telling them to ‘be better Christians’, but by calling them to live out the implications of the gospel.”
With all the talk of being gospel-centered today, this book takes us to Galatians and clearly, helpfully illustrates exactly how Paul called on the people he loved to center their lives and their church upon the gospel.
As with all of Keller’s books, this one is full of the gospel and full of powerful quotes. Here are just a few favorites:
- “This is the humbling truth that lies at the heart of Christianity. We love to be our own saviors. Our hearts love to manufacture glory for themselves. So we find messages of self-salvation extremely attractive, whether they are religious (Keep these rules and you earn eternal blessing) or secular (Grab hold of these things and you’ll experience blessing now).”
- “If you add anything to Christ as a requirement for acceptance with God—if you start to say: To be saved I need the grace of Christ plus something else—you completely reverse the ‘order’ of the gospel and make it null and void. Any revision of the gospel reverses the gospel.”
- “The Bible judges the church; the church does not judge the Bible. The Bible is the foundation for and the creator of the church; the church is not the foundation for or creator of the Bible. The church and its hierarchy must be evaluated by the believer with the biblical gospel as the touchstone or plumb line for judging all truth claims.”
- “Christians tend to motivate others with guilt. We tend to say: You would do this if you were really committed Christians, indicating that we are committed and all that is needed is for others to become as good as we are! This is why so many churches quench the motivation of people for ministry. In our shoes, Paul would say: Remember the grace God has showered on you—what does living out and enjoying that grace look like in this situation?”
- “For a promise to bring a result, it needs only to be believed, but for a law to bring a result, it has to be obeyed.”
- “Without the gospel, we may obey the law, but we will learn to hate it. We will use it, but we will not truly love it. Only if we obey the law because we are saved, rather than to be saved, will we do so “for God” (Galatians 2:19). Once we understand salvation-by-promise, we do not obey God any longer for our sake, by using the law-salvation-system to get things from God. Rather, we now obey God for His sake, using the law’s content to please and delight our Father.”
That is just a small taste of what is a fantastic book.
I read the book at a moderate pace and enjoyed it thoroughly. I intend to go right back and read it again, this time much more slowly, and this time with Aileen, as a part of our morning devotions together. I learned a lot the first time, and I know that I will learn a lot more as I read it again.
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About Tim Challies
Tim Challies, a self-employed web designer, is a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere, having one of the most widely read and recognized Christian blogs anywhere (www.challies.com). He is also editor of Discerning Reader (www.discerningreader.com), a site dedicated to offering thoughtful reviews of books that are of interest to Christians. He is author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, published by Crossway.
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