on February 28, 2013
Timothy Keller in 'Galatians For You' offers an easy-to-read, accessible, and informative study and commentary into the book of Galatians. I say study AND commentary because it is his exposition and commentary on the letter and, yet, it is formatted as a study, with helpful reflection questions, sidebar summaries, and a glossary.
Timothy Keller (D.Min., Westminster Theological Seminary) is founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, 'The Reason for God,' and is ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
In typical Keller fashion, his focus is on the centrality of the gospel through which one enters the kingdom of God, but also through which one continues to live out his or her Christian life. The gospel, as he puts it, is the A to Z of the Christian life. Keller also refreshingly stays close to the biblical text. He doesn't wander off into lots of personal stories or anecdotes. He attempts to bring out relevant application by looking at the meaning of the text in light of its historical, literary, and redemptive contexts.
The book is well organized and very easy to navigate. The content is superb; you can't go wrong with Keller's treatment of the text. My only criticism is that he seems a bit too philosophical and ethereal at certain points. I found myself wanting a few more "handles" to grab a hold of what he was trying to communicate. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book for the pastor, student, or lay reader.
on March 21, 2013
Galatians for You by Timothy Keller
In this new series of commentaries published by the Good Book Company (U.K.), the design is to give readers a snapshot of biblical books with an eye towards solid commentary on application. In Galatians for You, Pastor Timothy Keller expounds the book of Galatians around the central theme of the gospel. He writes, "But in this short letter, Paul outlines the bombshell truth that the gospel is the A to Z of the Christian life. It is not only the way to enter the kingdom; it is the way to live as part of the kingdom. It is the way Christ transforms people, churches and communities" (9). Living out the gospel and the consequences in believing the gospel helps address the main contextual aspects of Galatians from the Jewish/Gentile arguments to racial division. Furthermore, what is apparent throughout the book is that the permanent nature of the gospel being central to all things runs right through the heart of every page, helping the reader to focus on the main thesis.
In Keller fashion, the commentary breathes through with a theology that is both edifying and Christ-centered. Commenting on Galatians 1:4a, Keller writes, "He did all we needed to do, but cannot do. If Jesus' death really paid for our sins on our behalf, we can never fall back into condemnation" (16). The notion of substitutionary atonement gives the Christian real hope because there is no reason to be condemned anymore, the full burden and weight of sin and its destructive power has been vanquished. What I greatly enjoyed in each chapter, including this one, is Keller's insistence in outlining the universality of the gospel and its implications while continually drawing us toward the particularity of the meaning of the gospel for Paul and us. How does Keller do this? Broadly speaking, he writes, "But the biblical gospel - Paul's gospel - is clear that salvation, from first to last, is God's doing" (17). With the reader in mind, he writes, "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" (17). The work of God in salvation has global ramifications because it is the same God who saves sinners by the work of Christ regardless of their status, place of birth, or economic level. Yet, there is a dissonance, we all as individuals love to hold out for own glory, our own day in the sunshine where others sing our praises. In each chapter, Keller brings together the core points of his writing by placing
I thought the format of the book was a positive and negative aspect of the commentary. Positively, the commentary was not overburdened with technical minutiae to the point of wearing the reader out (Northern/Southern Galatian hypothesis). For all purposes, the commentary was eminently practical, able to be used in small group study due to its short chapters, key insights, and wrap-up questions at the end of each chapter. The large type gray sections in the book were a reminder of key statements that were indicative of the major themes of the commentary. Negatively, I thought the way the actual Scripture text was included was an eyesore and hard to follow. Instead of having bracketed sections of the Scripture at the beginning in a memorable type, phrases and bits of the pericope were scattered throughout the commentary as a running dialogue. But, I think the advantage here is that the reader isn't forced to constantly turn back the page to see the Scripture, but has the passage or sections of it before them.
Overall, I would give this book to anyone wanting to dig into Paul's letter to the Galatians. Gospel-centered, focusing on the major issues of the text with an eye towards applications, Keller has done a marvelous job in writing this commentary. If you want a little bit of the current debate on Galatians, Keller provides a three page section on the New Perspective and the meaning of "works of the law" in Galatians. I was greatly encouraged by the work and look for more in the same series like this one.
Thanks to The Good Book Company and Cross Focused Reviews for the copy of the book in exchange for review.
on May 18, 2013
Keller excels at explaining Galatians in plain language. I generally find it difficult to find decent expositions that handle Scripture texts well, but treat them like texts. That is, one can find word studies and theological meanderings by the dozen. But explanations that make sense of the literature - while remaining true to the faith once delivered to the saints - are precious.
If you're looking for something that will help you understand Galatians, Keller's work is a gem. Get it and soak it in.
My only beef is with where Keller takes Galatians 5 & 6. He moves on to moral exhortation, but without connecting those exhortations (very carefully, at least) to the main issues of the epistle. When Paul contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit, he's showing the outworking of the two belief systems addressed in the first 4 chapters (justification by law or by faith). He's not simply describing Christian (or licentious) behavior.
It's a small quibble, and it shouldn't distract from your desire to read this volume.
on March 16, 2013
In his newest book, Galatians for You, Tim Keller wants readers to have the powerful message of Galatians explode in their hearts. Why? Galatians is all about the gospel, and the gospel is something everyone needs everyday.
Galatians for You is the first in a series being published by The Good Book company out of the U.K. These books are meant to serve as a guide to understanding books of the Bible, as devotional helps, or as a leader's guide for preaching or small group study. I'm excited about this, as it looks to be an exciting and beneficial series.
In the simplest terms, Galatians for You is a layman's commentary of Galatians. Keller tackles a section of Galatians per chapter (the six chapters of Galatians are spread out over thirteen chapters in the book), seeking to draw out the meaning of the text. Thankfully, the contemporary application is not a tack-on at the end of each chapter; rather, applications are helpfully woven throughout the exposition. Every chapter also includes three questions for personal reflection.
Keller includes a short, but insightful introduction to Galatians, and a very handy glossary that readers will find helpful, particularly if they are unfamiliar with Christianity in general or biblical language in particular. There is also a three-page appendix on the recent debate concerning "the new perspective" on Paul and justification. Academic types may find Keller's solution too abbreviated, but it is a helpful explanation and the average reader will benefit from its simplicity.
As you would expect, anything produced by Tim Keller is going to have biblical, culturally-aware, gospel-centered content. Galatians for You is no different. Keller hammers home the idea that the gospel is not the ABCs of the Christian life. It is the A-Z of the Christian life. This book makes God-entranced, Bible-based, gospel-soaked material accessible to everyone in the church. Believers and nonbelievers alike will have a clearer picture of the gospel and how it affects every area of life. I highly recommend Galatians for You to you!
on October 13, 2013
I think most people who have dedicated their lives to The Lord Jesus Christ have learned that though this is the only way to truly experience God's promises, the path a challenging one.
Galatians is an inspiring Book, but one that requires careful prayer and study. There are so many powerful messages that each time the book is read, a new level of insight is gained.
What I appreciate most about Keller's study is the clarity he presents to some of the most challenging verses and points from Paul's letter. He gives just the right amount of context and history to make the point that we have been given this wonderful and free gift by a loving and personal Father.
Read a lesson first thing each morning and let it settle in your heart for the rest of the day. A truly wonderful study!
on October 31, 2015
I have not previously read any of Timothy Keller's books or Bible commentaries and I am delighted with my choice. This is exactly what I was hoping it would be. Based on God's word, solid, thorough and exhaustive work on the deeper explanation of Galatians. Dr. Keller not only shares his devotional insights, wonderful information about each person in the book but add practical, down to earth helps for living the christian life today. I will for sure be purchasing another of Dr. Keller's Bible commentaries.
on December 13, 2015
The book was sold as a companion for the study guide, but I don't think they really go together. Questions at the ends of the chapters aren't very deep. He makes some assumptions and draws conclusions about the passages that we all struggled to follow at times. The was some food for thought, but would say skip the book and just use the study guide for conversation starters.
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.
on May 16, 2016
** spoiler alert ** So far, Tim does a pretty good job bringing out heart dynamics a la Jack Miller, but he is still dismissive of new scholarship on Galatians emphasizing the contextual nature of the letter. Through chapter 2, he has missed a lot of details in the text, even if he has done a decent job re-contextualized the message into our context.
He still is pretty driven by a Lutheran "works-righteousness" reading of Judaism, though, which is problematic.
For someone as missiologically informed as Tim Keller, I would have expected a more careful delineation between our contemporary Christian reading of Judaism (which, from the perspective of the cross of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit, recognizes returning to Judaism as a failure to remain faithful to YHWH, and thus can somewhat fairly call the judaizing gospel "works righteousness") and a reading of Judaism from 1st century, which wouldn't have been wrestling with works-righteousness but with wrestling to understand what remained at the center of their identity as YHWH's people, given the new situation of Jesus's resurrection & the emergence of his church.
The Jewish Christians weren't trying to earn their way into God's favor; Torah was God's *grace* to them. Paul was trying not to argue that they were being legalists, but that they hadn't fully understood JESUS. They hadn't actually gone all the way in embracing who Jesus was and how he fulfilled Israel in God's redemptive purposes, so that they could no longer go back towards defining Israel in the old way. Jesus was now the way Israel was defined. In other words, Paul is saying that the Jewish Christians weren't taking JESUS seriously; Jesus was placed within their old covenantal-nomistic system. Law was primary, not Jesus. Paul wants to show them that Jesus is the conclusion of Israel's story,. and that because of that, Jewish practices are no longer necessary for being included among God's covenant people.
// after reading: very disappointed. I usually find Keller so illuminating, especially when he is writing topically. His exegesis of Biblical text, here, was constrained by systematic-theological categories that he was reading into the text. Though I always appreciate his way of pastorally drawing out heart-motivation implications of the good news, this book is essentially that - a psychologized reading of Galatians, which in the end, I think, fails to do justice to the real occasion and purpose of the letter. It jumps too quickly past the original contextual meaning of the letter to try to address contemporary audiences & by doing so misses the deeper point of Galatians.
For more, see my comments on my review at goodreads.
on December 4, 2014
Timothy Keller has great insights on Galatians. The book pushes you to consider the practical implications of theological principles. I've read Galatians many times before, and this book made me see so many treasures I missed. The nuance, depth, and richness of Galatians is staggering. Truly, once a person understands what Jesus has done for him/her, s/he can never be the same again. We are justified by faith and we are sanctified by faith. Christ died to free us AND made us heirs of God. What incredible news.